And the Gold Medal in Flonkerton goes to…

August 26, 2013 - by: Jaclyn West 0 COMMENTS
Jaclyn West

If you’ve worked in your share of offices, you’ve probably seen at least one coworker post the following sign: “The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves.”

Ah, yes. Morale. It’s six little letters, but it’s a big concept–especially when you start considering all of the ways that employee morale relates to productivity and profitability. Happy employees get more done at work. They bring better attitudes to the job and are able to deal better with problems or issues that pop up during the day. Their higher levels of productivity, and their enhanced abilities to solve problems without losing their cool, add up to more profits for their employers. Not to mention the fact that the happier people are at work, the more likely they are to take care of their health, adding up to big savings on insurance costs. Happy employees are also less likely to take the extreme step of suing their employers, and teams with good morale and positive communication often don’t see the need for third-party union representation, either. Really, the only question is: Why don’t more companies take steps to improve employee morale?

Guidant Financial is one company with a serious commitment to fun. They take team-building and morale so seriously, in fact, that they have an annual Office Olympics in which employees compete for medals and 12-month bragging rights.  According to CEO David Nilssen, the Guidant Financial Olympics are a costly endeavor, both in terms of money outlay and time expenditure, but they’re worth every penny and moment spent.

On our last blog, That’s What She Said, my colleague Adam Klarfeld pointed out that competitive sports in an office environment can sometimes give rise to workers’ compensation claims against the employer or direct injury claims against a fellow competitor…errr, employee.  That’s true, to be sure. And managers certainly want to discourage mean-spirited games like “Pam Pong.” But for Guidant Financial, and for the many other companies that encourage a little team-building through friendly (and hopefully safe!) competition, there are plenty of benefits to be reaped as well.  Revived excitement about the company, and a spirit of friendliness and fun amongst co-workers… well, those are things that bring their own payout. As your lawyers, we’re always warning you about possible pitfalls (and make no mistake, we’ll keep right on doing that). But even your lawyers can’t deny that we’d rather work in an office where employee morale is given some real thought–not just lip service.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go sharpen my Flonkerton skills. You never know when they’ll come in handy.

Categories: Jaclyn West / Uncategorized

Workin’ it in the library

July 25, 2013 - by: Jaclyn West 0 COMMENTS
Jaclyn West

It’s summertime, and the reading is easy. (For many, that is. There are some who like to take advantage of long beach days with a tome they otherwise wouldn’t have time to read; to them, we say more power to you!) As a bookworm, I’m always looking for a good read to take with me, whether that’s to the beach or otherwise—although I do prefer the beach. And as a proud employment law geek, I love it when my pleasure reading gives a nod to my chosen profession. So if you, too, like your summer reading to dish out a generous portion of human resources (I can’t be the only one, now, can I?), here are some of my personal favorites.

Then We Came to the End: A Novel by Joshua FerrisThen We Came to the End was described to me as “Office Space in book form,” and I have to say, that description is apt. The book chronicles a group of employees in a Chicago advertising firm facing deep staffing cuts. It’s narrated in the first-person plural, which is an interesting, little-used perspective, and as a result, it honestly captures the group dynamics of many offices. This dark comedy manages to be simultaneously sad and funny . . . and anyone who has ever looked with an envious eye at a coworker’s office furniture will blush with recognition.

Baker Towers: A Novel by Jennifer Haigh—Employment isn’t the primary focus of Baker Towers, but in a novel sweeping decades of life in a Pennsylvania coal mining town after World War II, you know that labor strife will be part of the picture. When the miners go on strike, the entire town feels the effects—even those who don’t work below ground. Baker Towers is a sensitive, realistic portrayal of life in the Rust Belt, and those of us with a labor bent will find it fascinating.

The Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued Their Bosses and Changed the Workplace by Lynn Povich—If you like your beach reading with a side of subversiveness, The Good Girls Revolt is for you. Lynn Povich was a staffer at Newsweek in the 1970s, when the journalism industry was male-dominated. Povich and her female colleagues filed an EEOC charge alleging “systematic discrimination” by the higher-ups at Newsweek, and this is their story. It’s light on legal arguments but heavy on atmosphere, and you’ll feel as if you were there, sitting with the Newsweek women in tension-filled meetings in apartments, planning their next move.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain—According to Quiet, at least one-third of people are introverts, which means there are almost certainly some in your workforce, if you’re not one yourself. Many introverts struggle to fit into an extrovert-dominated workforce, but Susan Cain has good advice on that score. As an introvert myself, I nodded in agreement with many of her tips and anecdotes—but this book isn’t just for introverts. Quiet should be required reading for managers who want to learn more about how their more introverted employees think and work best. Quiet was one of the most talked-about books of 2012, and for good reason. It’s well-researched and absolutely fascinating.

Enough about me—what about you? Are you reading anything employment-related this summer? Do share!

Editor’s note: Blogger Jaclyn West has not been compensated for her book recommendations.