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Employee & Labor Relations

The Respect Effect
By Paul Meshanko
Dog Ear Publishing, 2012
140 pages
List price: $24.95
ISBN: 978-1-4575-1202-5

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Treating employees and co-workers with respect isn't merely nice, author Paul Meshanko says. It's also smart, because those people's brains will "literally light up and perform at the highest levels" neurologically—and that's good for business.

In The Respect Effect, Meshanko delves into what respect looks like in the workplace and how to create a culture of respect in the organization.

He bolsters his case with findings in neurology, which show that the brain operates better on a diet of steady respect. Brains are wired for survival; where they sense danger (even when it's a bad boss or a scheming co-worker), they focus on self-preservation—not on being creative or productive.

Meshanko links respect with employee engagement, customer satisfaction, the ability to attract and keep good workers, and better information flow. "You don't have to pry information loose from people in respectful workplaces," he adds. He also tells the cautionary tales of how companies have lost business because they were clueless about respect.

Tools include 12 rules of respect, ways of behaving around others that affect how they react to you and how they feel about themselves. These tips include:

  • Becoming aware of the verbal and nonverbal cues you already use, and improving your body language.
  • Developing curiosity about what others think.
  • Improving your communication, especially stopping the use of "Yes, but"—which negates whatever the other person just said.
  • Explaining why you disagree with someone, rather than just shutting that person down. Explanations and open discussions make everyone feel safe enough to voice their concerns—and managers should want to hear employees' concerns.

Meshanko also offers his "blueprint for a respectful organization," giving steps employers can take to gauge where things stand now and to cultivate respect over time.

How to Conduct Internal Investigations

How to Conduct Internal Investigations: A Practical Guide for Human Resource Professionals
By Natalie Ivey, MBA, SPHR
Results Performance Consulting Inc., 2013
243 pages
List price: $69.95
ISBN: 978-1-4839-3524-9

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Responsibility for conducting internal investigations often falls on HR—whether or not HR wants it or is equipped to perform investigations. That’s where this guidebook aims to help: Natalie Ivey lays out the steps for running (and, if possible, preventing) internal investigations.

First, Ivey reminds HR professionals why they need to know how to run an investigation. They might have to handle a sensitive issue such as a harassment or retaliation claim. They could end up involved in equal employment or other claims, especially in today’s workplace with its increasing diversity and generational differences. And the Family and Medical Leave Act has created a need for HR professionals to investigate some FMLA claims to ensure that they aren’t fraudulent.

With such a complex landscape for HR professionals to navigate, this book provides a map in four parts.

In part one, readers look at what causes investigations and how to prevent them. Ivey discusses how leaders often choose to avoid tough interactions when they observe problems, and that avoidance leads to investigations. For example, supervisors ignore inappropriate behavior, are intimidated by employees or see dealing with problematic employee behaviors as unimportant compared to their “real” work.

Prevention strategies include providing leadership training about employment laws; having clear, well-written company policies; and implementing an employee relations policy that specifies the procedure for complaints, rather than having a vague open-door policy.

Part two hands HR a primer on labor relations and employment laws, covering harassment under Title VII, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Equal Pay Act, the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, and more.

Ivey also covers the essential elements of a retaliation claim, with examples, and provides tips for preventing retaliation complaints. She also advises on how to minimize your own personal liability as an HR professional and an investigator.

Part three walks readers through the investigative process, starting with establishing a consistent, formal complaint process for employees to use.

Ivey advises readers on how to decide when it’s appropriate to bring in outside professionals to conduct an internal investigation, as well as when it’s time to call in law enforcement agencies.

Investigative steps include:

  • Preparing, with a 12-step checklist to ensure that you are ready to review a complaint thoroughly and with legal controls in place.
  • Deciding who should handle the investigation.
  • Identifying and gathering both documentary and physical evidence as well as identifying and interviewing potential witnesses. A chapter focuses on how to interview witnesses, including how to prepare questions, interpret body language and deal with hostile witnesses.
  • Controlling documents to ensure evidence is kept safe and confidential.
  • Organizing and evaluating evidence to write an investigative report.
  • Conducting a meeting to inform senior leaders about progress (and dealing with resistance or interference from those leaders).
  • Writing an investigative report that is “court-ready.”
  • Communicating the outcome of the investigation to the complainant, the witnesses and the accused, and dealing with complainants who are dissatisfied.
  • Handling “high-risk terminations” that could lead to legal claims.

Part four is a wrap-up section that covers how to document findings and conclude an investigation and what to put in an investigation report. It also provides information on how to handle post-investigation issues, including the potential for retaliation.

Ivey provides quizzes at the end of each section so readers can test themselves on the material. She also provides templates for a complaint form, an investigative report and evidence logs.

Have a Nice ConflictHave a Nice Conflict
By Tim Scudder, Michael Patterson and Kent Mitchell
Jossey-Bass, 2012
234 pages
List price: $22.95
ISBN: 978-1-118-20276-0

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Written as a fable about a fictional manager’s day-to-day workplace trials, Have a Nice Conflict illustrates what can go wrong between employees and how to move from unproductive conflict toward positive relationships.

Sales manager John Doyle has just heard the news: He didn’t get the promotion he expected. And he’s lost two employees, both of whom said he was the reason they left. With that opening, authors Tim Scudder, Michael Patterson and Kent Mitchell show Doyle’s growth from an abrasive manager to a good listener who understands himself and his co-workers better, and who can turn aside from a brewing dispute.

With his job on the line, Doyle starts meeting with a mysterious advisor who models behaviors Doyle needs to learn—seeing the world from others’ perspectives, interacting differently with different people, finding out what motivates others, and understanding that their motivations may be different from his.

Through Doyle’s story, the authors introduce some big concepts in conflict management:

Understanding your own and other people’s “motivational value systems.” People understand life through seven different filters, and this affects how they react to conflict.

For instance, one party to a conflict might be an “assertive-directing” person whose focus is accomplishing tasks and organizing people and resources to get results but not worrying about how those people feel. Another party might be “altruistic-nurturing,” focused more on the protection and welfare of other people than on tasks.

Recognizing the three stages of conflict. These internal stages are what we experience when conflict begins. First, early on, you can be more objective about the issue and the other person. Second, our focus shifts to ourselves and the problem; we lose perspective on the other person. Third, our focus is just on ourselves—even the problem gets lost as we feel the need to win. The book shows how the ever-narrowing perspective exacerbates conflict.

Making conflict productive and useful. The book offers a five-step process for turning conflict into a way to strengthen relationships.

The five steps include anticipating conflict by understanding others’ different values; preventing conflict by acting in ways that don’t set off others’ “conflict triggers”; identifying your own and others’ approaches to conflict so you can handle situations productively; and managing your way out of conflict, which often means you just take time to see other perspectives.

Tools in the book include a summary of the lessons Doyle learns, references guiding readers to other resources about conflict, and graphics outlining the basics on conflict stages and value systems.

Up, Down and SidewaysUp, Down and Sideways: High-Impact Verbal Communication for HR Professionals
By Patricia M. Buhler, SPHR, and Joel D. Worden
SHRM, 2013
List price: $29.95
130 pages
ISBN: 978-1-586-44337-5

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HR professionals who are good communicators are more valuable to their organizations and more successful in their jobs. Successful workforce management, development and training, compensation and benefits, and labor relations practices all depend on HR’s ability to communicate information effectively.

Patricia M. Buhler, SPHR, and Joel D. Worden offer “high-impact verbal communication for HR professionals” in Up, Down and Sideways. Their detailed advice covers these areas and more:

-- General speaking tips. Readers learn how to use visual aids effectively and how to adjust public speaking for different audiences, particularly audiences of different generations. Cultural differences also should guide speakers; tips include learning what gestures to avoid and eliminating figurative language (such as “Now the shoe’s on the other foot”) that could confuse some audiences.

-- Orientation programs. The book focuses on how to create “inclusiveness and team spirit among newly-recruited employees and current employees.” Learn the details of a truly welcoming orientation speech and how to facilitate meaningful connections between veteran employees and new ones.

-- Training and development. How can HR and trainers best deliver information? Readers learn about preparatory steps, training locations and specific techniques for delivering dynamic, interactive training.

-- Information distribution. Communicating early and often can quash rumors when major change occurs, such as a downsizing, merger or acquisition. Candid, in-person communication from HR and top management are best; face-to-face communications are what employees want at times of change, so they can gauge how truthful they think the top brass are being.

-- Job interviews. Learn how to use language that relaxes job candidates, how to ask questions objectively, how to ask questions that set up a hypothetical scenario and how to avoid questions that could create legal problems. A section looks at alternative interview formats such as team or panel interviews for a single candidate or group interviews for several candidates at the same time.

-- Feedback. Schedule appraisals in ways that involve employees more, let employees know why appraisals matter and how appraisals help the organization, and assess one’s own attitudes and emotional state before reviewing someone else’s performance. HR professionals and managers can learn to use employees’ self-assessments effectively, as well as how to highlight an employee’s strengths while delivering negative observations.

-- Problem employees. When an employee’s behavior requires HR or management to take action, it’s necessary to have some difficult conversations. The authors advise on how to approach these conversations and include examples.

-- Terminations. Get step-by-step guidance on businesslike and brief terminations, as well as advice on informing other employees that someone has been fired.

Is Work Killing You?Is Work Killing You?
By David Posen
House of Anansi Press, 2013
List price: $18.95
357 pages
ISBN: 978-1-77089-275-0

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The right amount of stress can be beneficial, spurring us to better performance. But too much stress quickly degrades performance and brings on a host of other problems, from physical illness to lack of engagement.

In Is Work Killing You?, physician David Posen, writing for both employers and employees, digs into why work-related stress is increasing. He shows readers how to get today’s stresses under control—which benefits both themselves and their workplaces.

Posen identifies three main contributors to workplace stress: Volume of work contributes to overload; “velocity” of work means employees are expected to do more, faster; and abuse at work is the stress created by toxic co-workers. Anyone running a business or organization should care about workers’ stress because chronic stress leads directly to absenteeism, lower productivity, health and safety issues, and behavior problems that make teamwork difficult.

Then Posen details the stresses of the workplace—overload, speed and abuse. Posen looks at the characteristics of a workplace that is the right size to prevent overload—a place where employees are challenged but not overwhelmed, have time and energy left to have personal lives, and have enough staff to deal with crises. He looks at how workplace cultures can promote overwork, deny that stress exists and focus on the bottom line to the exclusion of any consideration for employees.

Posen’s advice for employers includes these steps:

  • Learn the signs and stages of burnout, which often starts with positives (high ideals and high expectations) that can drain energy.
  • Find each individual worker’s optimal performance zone—the number of work hours each week that produce the best outcomes.
  • Help employees set priorities. Posen urges managers to examine and shift workloads, watch for perfectionism that actually slows work down, provide the resources employees really need to get work done, and take other steps to ensure that employees are focused and supported.
  • Review whether job cuts have left employees doing too much to make up for the lower head count, and consider whether you need to do more hiring. Cut costs in ways other than by cutting the workforce.
  • Reconsider expectations. If they’re unrealistically high, they can create a treadmill effect, with employees running faster and longer to meet demands yet never catching up. Posner outlines how to do a reality check on expectations.
  • Root out overuse and misuse of technology. Use e-mail more effectively, develop policies for the use of electronics, and stop expecting employees (and managers) to check devices frequently when they’re not at work.
  • Ensure that the organization or business takes some responsibility for work/life balance and doesn’t just tell employees that striking a balance is their job alone. Focusing on results rather than on hours worked is one way to start.
  • Identify and deal with abusive people. Posen covers how to recognize abusive patterns, warn and monitor offenders, and “find them, fix them, or fire them”—but never just let them continue to work as they are.

The Reality-Based Rules of the WorkplaceThe Reality-Based Rules of the Workplace
By Cy Wakeman
Jossey-Bass, 2013
List price: $27.95
180 pages
ISBN: 978-1-118-41368-5

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Author Cy Wakeman urges readers to take control of their work lives and “choose to be happy” by embracing real accountability. Wakeman’s prescription for better productivity and greater satisfaction includes evaluating your own real worth in the workplace, ditching drama (including the drama you create yourself), realizing that your opinion matters far less than your actions and seeing change as an opportunity rather than a threat.

The Reality-Based Rules of the Workplace focuses on facing reality, starting with how you really contribute to your working world. Wakeman guides readers through a three-step assessment to evaluate their current performance, future potential and “emotional expensiveness”—the tendencies toward venting, negativity, complaining, oversharing or other dramatic behaviors that make an employee a drain on others and himself.

She follows up with rules for thriving at work:

  • “Your level of accountability determines your level of happiness,” Wakeman writes. Employees are personally accountable for both their own attitudes at work and how well they do their work. She notes that companies “have gotten off track by focusing on trying to raise your engagement when they should have been working with you on your accountability.” Employees now expect employers to make their work circumstances ever better, in exchange for the employees deigning to give the employer the “gift” of their work, Wakeman adds.
  • Readers learn how commitment, resilience, ownership and continuous learning all contribute to accountability. The Reality-Based Rules of the Workplace pushes the idea of changing a “Why me?” mindset to an attitude of “What can I do to get the information I need?” or “How can I support the change the boss wants?
  • Drama doesn’t have to exist at work. “Suffering is optional,” Wakeman says, so stop it. She offers strategies to curtail workplace dramatics of your own making: Deal only in facts and not in emotions. Stop assigning motives to other people’s actions. Eliminate “should,” and stop judging how others ought to do things; accept things as they are. Learn to distance yourself from co-workers’ gossip, fear-mongering, venting and general dramatics. With examples and ideas, Wakeman advises readers on handling all these situations.
  • “Your action, not [your] opinion, adds value.” Resist the temptation to offer your opinion; instead, offer your support. People express frustration with having to implement plans for which they didn’t have input, but, unless input is part of your job, you have to implement the plans anyway. The book looks at the value of buying into what the employer wants done and curbing defensiveness and resistance.
  • Change is an opportunity. Wakeman provides steps for embracing change, from staying prepared for change at all times to reframing negatives as positives (what can you gain from the change, rather than what will you lose). Learning to move on after mistakes is a critical skill for handling change.
  • You can succeed in spite of extenuating circumstances. Wakeman covers this in what she dubs her “anti-excuse” chapter. She lays out common circumstances that you might not be able to change but aren’t allowed to use as an excuse: “My boss is a jerk” may be true. But if you can’t change your boss, you have to change how you operate so you still succeed. You may have a truly dysfunctional team or a company culture that is negative or problem co-workers, but the book offers ideas for coping with all those circumstances rather than letting them drive your working life.

The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook
By Charles H. Green and Andrea P. Howe
John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2012
270 pages
List price: $27.95
ISBN: 978-1-118-08564-6

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Trust among those who work together feels good and makes life easier, but does it really have specific benefits for businesses? “Trust may be a soft skill, but its economic results are anything but soft,” say the authors of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook, and they lay out how trust can increase revenue, reduce costs, improve relationships with clients and suppliers, and build employee loyalty and retention.

But making the business case for trust is only part of this workbook’s aim. Writers Charles H. Green and Andrea P. Howe provide practical tools, worksheets, exercises and to-do lists that leaders can start using immediately to build others’ trust in them and to build trust within their organizations.

Green and Howe aim their book at any professional in any industry. They note that being trusted is “a leadership quality that is neither cyclical nor faddish nor role-bound.” They also tell readers to treat this volume as a workbook to be dog-eared and scribbled in, and they urge readers to use the book as a daily resource, picking out whatever applies to their needs of the moment.

Among the lessons in the fieldbook are these:

  • What are the basic skills for building trust? Readers learn five fundamental trust skills and get a self-assessment to evaluate their current skill level.
  • What are the basic rules of trust and trustworthiness between people, and how does influence work?
  • How do you overcome the adversarial relationships of business (buyer and seller, client and consultant, etc.) and conduct business with trust from the start?
  • How do you curb your own ego, the one thing most likely to get in the way of trust in relationships?
  • How can you navigate organizational politics better, build trust from a distance where others aren’t located near you, and work with difficult partners whom you might feel aren’t trustworthy?
  • How do you create an organization where trust is paramount? Learn techniques for creating a culture of trust, building trust among team members, and balancing the urgency of business demands and the need for long-term trust in a business organization.
  • Can you transform a relationship that has soured? Can you deal with people who are simply untrustworthy? Tactics for reframing problems and confronting people constructively teach ways to salvage, or at least deal with, such difficult situations.

The book’s structure lends itself to quick, practical use. Case studies come packaged in short sidebars. Tips and steps are in easy-to-use lists. Worksheets let users apply the book’s lessons to their own situations.

Make Difficult People Disappear
Make Difficult People Disappear
By Monica Wofford
John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2012
196 pages
List price: $21.95
ISBN: 978-1-118-27380-7

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How can you make that bothersome colleague disappear—without going to jail for it? You probably can’t, but you can change how you understand your problem co-workers and how you work with them, says trainer and consultant Monica Wofford of Contagious Companies Inc.

She illustrates her point with a fable. In Make Difficult People Disappear, Wofford tells the story of two days in a manager’s life and how that manager adjusts her attitude to stop seeing difficulty all around her.

“Who … has a voice inside your head that has convinced you that someone you work with is difficult beyond repair?” a fictional trainer asks as the story unfolds. The complainers, the barrier-builders, the indecisive workers, the needy people who want constant attention—they’re the difficult ones, right?

Most people aren’t naturally difficult, Wofford notes. They’re different from us and from each other, and by expecting them to be like us, we make them difficult for us to deal with. We too often expect co-workers to behave as we would—even though we know they won’t. Then we fault them for simply acting like themselves.

Everyone labels other people, so it makes sense to apply labels that are meaningful, useful and positive, Wofford advises.

Wofford’s fictional characters use a real tool, the CORE Multidimensional Awareness Profile, to examine their own and others’ personal traits. Attributes can classify people as assertive, decisive Commanders who can shade into bossiness and anger when stressed; orderly, thorough Organizers who can become narrow-minded or withdrawn; extroverted, spontaneous Entertainers who under stress can become argumentative or impatient; and cooperative, supportive Relaters who can turn passive or overly sensitive under stress.

In the book’s imagined training sessions, employees learn that some people combine traits from different types, and many people suppress their natural tendencies—like natural Commanders who try to fake being Relaters. Some types are simply wired in ways that make them more likely to be in conflict with other types—something it’s useful to know before rejecting co-workers as “difficult.”

Understanding personality types helps you mold how you talk with others so they can understand you better, Wofford notes. Knowing how someone else might react under stress can help you prepare not to take those reactions personally.

The book’s characters learn how to apply the types at work. For example, how does a detail-oriented, logical Organizer with a need to be right communicate to a Relater that the Relater needs to be more professional when talking to customers? The Relater craves reassurance, direction and stability, while the Organizer doing the coaching isn’t big on those things. What does the Organizer need to say to reach the Relater?

Another case: A customer complains. Do you send a Commander, who will focus on getting the fix done and getting out of there, or an Entertainer or Relater, who will also rebuild the relationship with the customer on a personal level?

The book looks at how managers can work with employees’ personality traits to manage them better—for instance, by being more specific with Organizers or keeping Entertainers more focused. Managers can learn to consider the leadership potential of all types of employees, not just Commanders.

Readers also see how personality type can help managers craft coaching, motivation and recognition more effectively. Different types of recognition—tangible or intangible, public or private—appeal to different types of workers.

Wofford’s characters learn about phrasing communications to best reach those whose styles are different from their own. They also learn to examine their best performers and identify traits that contribute to those workers’ success, as benchmarks to duplicate. Employers can use profiling tools and personality type information to tailor training for maximum engagement.

The CORE profile and other CORE assessment tools are products of NaviCore International Inc. and include more detailed and comprehensive online assessment tools.

Contented Cows Still Give Better Milk
By Bill Catlette and Richard Hadden
John Wiley & Sons, 2012
208 pages
List price: $24.95
ISBN: 978-1-118-29273-0
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This revised and updated version of the 1998 book on employee engagement delves into why organizations still need to engage their workers—even after economic woes seemed to take the focus off engagement and put it on corporate survival. This time around, authors Bill Catlette and Richard Hadden provide more examples of “Contented Cows,” companies whose workers’ positive engagement keeps the business strong.

The case for engagement is clear: Contented Cow companies made money and performed well even during years when the overall economy was in trouble. Catlette and Hadden note that employee engagement isn’t about altruism, it’s about capitalism.

Contented Cows Still Give Better Milk not only profiles successful firms but also guides managers wanting to improve engagement at their own organizations. The writers find that truly engaged employees have three chief characteristics: They are committed, they are cared about, and they are enabled. Readers learn how those three characteristics work and how to replicate them in their own organizations.

Commitment involves letting employees know what the company does and what it values, and where their work fits into the big picture. Manager communication in Contented Cow firms lets people know, all the time and in every way, what the company is about. To be committed to the job and the employer, employees need “good and compelling reasons” for their work and a cause that is clear to them. The book outlines obstacles companies create that keep them from conveying the big picture to workers, and it profiles firms that have succeeded at communicating well with employees.

Making employees feel cared for is the second major characteristic of a Contented Cow workplace. Catlette and Hadden offer examples of how employers show care: A company doing dangerous oil-spill cleanups makes safety its highest priority, and workers respond with loyalty. A tiny café keeps the same employees for years because the owner treats them so well. A manufacturing executive sees that a factory’s workforce is disaffected and performance is lagging, so he finds ways to treat the employees with respect—and the factory becomes the “best place to work in Mexico.”

Truth-telling and benefits are two other forms of caring for employees. A chapter on truth at work examines the toll of giving good reviews to poor performers. Truth also includes taking responsibility for problems, admitting to mistakes, and handling issues quickly, from helping a relocating employee to informing the workforce honestly about layoffs. Truly useful benefits that help the employer compete for the best talent also help employees be more productive.

The third key to employee engagement is empowerment, which recognizes that employees are adults who probably already know the best ways to do their jobs. The book urges readers to “give people back their work” and remove the policies, procedures and managerial roadblocks that prevent employees from simply doing their jobs as they know best. Training is vital to empowerment and keeping employees engaged, and examples show how different organizations use training effectively.

Negotiation At WorkNegotiation At Work
By Ira G. Asherman
AMACOM, 2012
353 pages
List price: $34.95
ISBN: 978-0-814-43190-0

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With 60 activities and exercises ready for immediate use, this book helps facilitators start training anyone in negotiation beginning today.

According to author Ira G. Asherman, negotiation requires self-awareness; good skills in questioning, listening and resolving conflicts; and the ability to understand others’ needs and interests. The training exercises in Negotiation At Work cover all those skills and more.

Exercises are packaged from start to finish. Facilitators get a list of each exercise’s objectives, the time required for the exercise, group size guidelines, a list of materials needed and a step-by-step procedure for performing the exercise. Exercises can include case studies, discussion questions, role-playing guidelines, worksheets, transcripts of real negotiations and more.

Topics include exercises aimed at:

  • Preparing for a negotiation, including considering possible concessions in advance.
  • Using creative thinking to solve issues in negotiations.
  • Understanding the needs, interests and agendas of parties in a negotiation, including your own.
  • Practicing assertiveness and avoiding aggressiveness.
  • Assessing different negotiating styles and determining your own style.
  • Learning to ask “productive, information-gathering and clarifying” questions.
  • Learning how to open and close negotiations and how to make concessions.
  • Dealing with difficult people during a negotiation.

Asherman structures the book so readers can turn to whichever exercise they most need now, but the book also can become a course on negotiation, from general exercises on the nature of negotiation through detailed studies of how to respond to an opening bid or how to close a sale.

Employers with sales staffs will find that the book emphasizes sales negotiations, with 10 exercises designed just for sales employees.

The ACE AdvantageThe ACE Advantage
By William A. Schiemann
SHRM, 2012
List price: $28.95
ISBN: 978-1-58644-270-5

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Are the following some of your own beliefs about talent? “High engagement solves most issues.” “Talent is readily available.” “Employees need policies and rules to guide their behaviors.”

These are among the “myths about talent management” that author William A. Schiemann pulls apart in The ACE Advantage and replaces with a more realistic talent blueprint for today. Schiemann’s “ACE” stands for Alignment, Capabilities and Engagement, and in this book he demonstrates how to use those three categories to optimize talent.

Alignment covers the link between the person and the organization’s goals, customer expectations and more. Do employees truly understand the brand? Do they know the company’s direction? Are they in sync with other parts of the organization and other people there?

Capabilities are more than just employee competencies. This area includes competencies but also the information needed for the job and the resources required to make things happen.

Engagement means having employees who “exert extraordinary effort and act as advocates for the organization.” Just having satisfied employees who are positive about their jobs isn’t enough. Will they also take extra steps to deliver creative customer service?

Schiemann, who also wrote Reinventing Talent Management, applies these three areas to all aspects of workforce management—starting with building support at the top:

  • Get critical stakeholders on board. Educating the top executive team, managers and HR professionals is critical to getting their backing and input, and the book provides tips on ways some organizations have persuaded top brass to see the value of ACE. HR in particular can boost ACE in the organization, monitor and assess its use, convince management of its value, and bring its components to the workforce.
  • Measure ACE. The book includes survey questions and examples to help you assess the “talent health” of your organization. A talent scorecard helps relate alignment, capabilities and engagement to the areas of customer service, productivity, financial performance and other outcomes.
  • Manage the “talent life cycle.” Learn to coordinate and measure progress across all stages, from recruiting through retention. Review how your organization attracts and acquires talent, and learn how to improve those processes. Develop processes for building employee productivity from the first day on the job.
  • Attract and get great talent. Learn what a “talent value proposition” is and why developing one benefits the organization. Get specifics on how to choose the right people and assess whether they fit well with the work and the organization.
  • Pay attention to onboarding, training and performance evaluation. New hires need help getting aligned with the organization’s goals. Successful training must include the right competencies. Performance systems are too often burdened with poor metrics, and forced rankings and are too dependent on individual managers’ ability to use them. Schiemann offers ideas to improve these systems but also advises dumping them if certain hurdles can’t be overcome.
  • Develop leaders and keep your best performers. Leadership development needs to start when the employee starts at the organization and continue throughout the person’s career. Schiemann also examines strategies for retaining top performers and getting back those who have left.

Building a Magnetic CultureBuilding a Magnetic Culture
By Kevin Sheridan
McGraw-Hill, 2012
261 pages
List price: $28
ISBN: 978-0-07-177399-7

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What keeps employees engaged at work? The aspects of workplace life that most influence engagement are the same in organizations of all sizes and industries, and across demographic lines of age, gender, job level and more.

Whatever their jobs or backgrounds, employees value the same things: Recognition. Career development. A boss who knows how to lead. The autonomy to contribute to the organization’s success. The right resources to do the job well. These and more are the key drivers of engagement, and, in Building a Magnetic Culture, author Kevin Sheridan shows employers how to use those drivers effectively to create a truly engaging workplace.

Responsibility for engagement should be shared by employees and managers, Sheridan says, and he provides specific steps for building a culture of engagement.

Employers need to teach employees what engagement means and about its benefits. Employees need to understand what increases or decreases their personal engagement at work. Managers and employees should meet one-on-one to discuss engagement, developing specific action plans and deadlines in areas that improve the individual’s engagement.

Managers must assess employee progress and follow through on changes they promise to make. Organizations should market the idea of engagement internally, making employees aware of engagement efforts.

Next, managers need to understand the top 10 drivers of engagement. Pay isn’t among them, Sheridan notes, because while pay does motivate people, it does so in a different way from the engagement drivers.

Sheridan outlines how each of the top 10—as determined by extensive employee surveys—makes employees feel more connected to the job and the organization. Among the key drivers of engagement are the level of visibility and concern demonstrated by senior managers, satisfying job content, positive relationships with co-workers, and flexibility and work/life balance.

Recruiting and hiring are not often thought of as part of the engagement effort, yet they are vital to it, Sheridan says. He offers a four-step process for improved recruiting, including the importance of educating job candidates about the realities of a job.

Assessing turnover and understanding why people leave provides insight into where engagement isn’t working. The book covers how exit surveys can help you understand employee departures better. It also lists some early warning signs that turnover may be coming.

Other topics include:

  • Challenges managers face in increasing employee engagement, and ways to overcome those challenges.
  • Detailed discussion of compensation, including best-practices examples from real firms.
  • Engagement in a unionized workplace.
  • Diversity and how it can improve engagement.
  • Trends in engagement, such as recognizing and dealing with employee stress, improving work/life balance, relaxing dress codes, and using humor in the workplace.
  • Steps for developing a recognition strategy.

The Five Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace
The Five Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace
By Gary Chapman and Paul White
Northfield Publishing, 2011
264 pages
List price: $19.99
ISBN: 978-0-8024-6198-8 

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Gary Chapman, author of the best-seller The Five Love Languages, turns to the workplace in this guide. He shows managers how to motivate workers more effectively by tailoring appreciation and recognition to individuals’ real needs.

 With co-author Paul White, Chapman examines five types of appreciation—words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, tangible gifts and physical touch. Managers can identify types that are most meaningful for their employees, White and Chapman write, and can learn to apply the language of appreciation daily.

The book includes the “Management by Appreciation” inventory or MBA inventory, a tool that managers and supervisors can use to assess their own primary style of appreciation.

Appreciation often fails to motivate employees, the authors note. For some employee, words of appreciation or public recognition are not enough; they would prefer time with the supervisor to float new ideas. For others, getting tickets to a sports game as a reward doesn’t motivate them; they would feel more appreciated if someone stayed late with them to finish a project.

In case readers think of appreciation and rewards as just a nice extra without much bottom-line impact, the book lays out a business case for appreciation. There is a real return on investment when managers and supervisors apply appreciation effectively, and research backs that ROI, Chapman and White note.

Readers learn not only how each of the five types of appreciation works but how and when to use them.

  • Words of affirmation: Specific praise naming specific positive behaviors is more motivating than general “Good job!” praise. Verbal affirmation can focus on the employee’s actions, character traits, or strengths such as optimism, neatness or initiative. Managers learn to adapt verbal affirmations as private talks, public recognition or written praise.
  • Quality time: Some workers want the boss’s undivided attention. That makes quality time the best motivator for these employees. Tips on giving quality time include giving these employees full attention, affirming their feelings and not interrupting. Shared experiences both at and outside work also can build quality time between manager and employee.
  • Acts of service: Some employees feel most appreciated when others reach out to help them. Managers and co-workers can reward these people by pulling together with them on a deadline, offering to take tasks off their plate, or providing extra support staff for short-term help. This form of appreciation requires the giver to be caught up on his own work and willing to help voluntarily—the employee won’t feel appreciated if the giver is balky or helping out only under duress.
  • Tangible gifts: Give these to the people who appreciate them, Chapman and White write, and be sure the gift is one the person values: Learn what employees really like and want. And remember that time off is often a highly valued gift.
  • Physical touch: “Is there any place for physical touch in the workplace?” the authors ask. In a litigious world, can managers really touch anyone? There is a role for appropriate touch, but managers need to observe employees to see if they freely pat others’ backs or if they stiffen at the slightest touch.

Chapman and White cover the limitations of traditional recognition and reward programs, which can have high costs and still fail to recognize people in the ways they most value. The book also examines how different industries can apply appreciation, from small businesses to schools to manufacturers.

Managers also get a primer on what to do when they truly don’t appreciate their team members—when they have workers who just aren’t doing their jobs well.

Crucial Conversations, Second Edition
Crucial Conversations, Second Edition
By Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler
McGraw-Hill, 2011
244 pages
List price: $18
ISBN: 978-0-07-177132-0 

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The stakes are high. Opinions differ. Emotions are high, too.

These are the three criteria for a “crucial conversation,” the kind of talk that can become either a positive breakthrough or an irretrievable disaster.

In a workplace, these conversations might be unfavorable performance reviews, a critique of a peer’s work, an attempt to stand up to a bullying co-worker or boss, or a discussion of an employee’s behavior or even hygiene. These talks can affect a career or a whole organization.

How do you approach these conversations? In Crucial Conversations, readers learn the most common mistakes people make when the conversation turns crucial; how to figure out what they want from conversations; how to recognize when a discussion is declining into stubborn silence or angry attack; and how to stay in dialogue, be persuasive and listen to others.

Mastering tough conversations starts with figuring out what you want from the talk, and the authors help readers dissect their goals for tough talks. Readers also learn the warning signs of when safety is at risk—with safety, here, meaning a conversational atmosphere that’s open and nonthreatening. They learn to identify their own and others’ “silence and violence” responses, where participants either clam up or try to attack, label or gain control.

Readers can take a self-assessment quiz to figure out their personal style under stress so that they can get a handle on how they react. A section on making it safe to talk about any topic looks at how to step out of a conversation to get some perspective, how to renew mutual purpose and mutual respect during a difficult talk, and how to get everyone back to a common goal if things are going astray.

A chapter on staying in dialogue even when you’re angry, scared or hurt leads readers through tips for analyzing your emotions rather than acting on them. Other chapters advise on how to speak persuasively and how to listen to others effectively.

The book also includes a chapter on handling particularly thorny issues, including sexual harassment, failure to live up to agreements, lack of trust, insubordination and patterns of long-term problems.

How to Be Good at Performance Appraisals
How to Be Good at Performance Appraisals
By Dick Grote
Harvard Business Review Press, 2011
218 pages
List price: $19.95
ISBN: 978-1-4221-6228-6

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Ever heard of “the feedback sandwich”? It’s when you give an employee positive strokes about his or her performance, then insert comments on what needs improvement and end on a positive note.

How about “SMART goals,” those “specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely” goals applied to performance expectations and ratings.

Both are tools used by individuals who evaluate others’ job performance. But author and consultant Dick Grote says SMART goals are not necessarily wise ones when it comes to performance management. And the feedback sandwich is just “colossally bad advice,” he writes in How to Be Good at Performance Appraisals.

This book provides guidance on having discussions that truly change performance. Among the topics:

Reviewing common appraisal practices. Grote outlines the uses of goals, rating scales, competencies and more. He also examines practices he would like to see used more widely—such as assessing how well managers do appraisals, firing poor performers quickly and training appraisers for effectiveness.

Goal setting. Grote shows readers how to create useful goals and provides detailed examples of well-constructed ones. He also dissects what he calls six bad ideas in goal setting, including SMART goals and the balanced scorecard.

Determining key job responsibilities and competencies. Keep descriptions of responsibilities simple, and don’t focus too much on finding quantitative, numeric performance measures, Grote writes. Use descriptions and examples to show what good performance should look like. Grote provides examples of effective competency descriptions that lay out the behaviors the employer wants to see.

Providing coaching. Frequent coaching “lowers the fear factor” of the annual appraisal because it spreads out the performance discussion over the year. Grote advises on when to coach and what coaching really means—providing advice, guidance, support, confidence and competence—as well as what it doesn’t mean: It isn’t counseling or discipline. The book includes an example of an entire coaching session, with an analysis of how it worked.

Evaluating individual performance. Grote recommends creating a simple tracking system to use all year long for recording performance as it happens. He debunks the idea that objectivity requires having quantifiable measures of performance.

Grote advises throwing out the “feedback sandwich” in favor of what may be his most radical idea: Discuss only strengths with star performers and journeymen, and discuss only weaknesses with those deemed “failures, lovable losers and prima donnas.”

What beef does he have against the feedback sandwich? Grote says good workers will hear only the criticism sandwiched in the middle of their appraisal and will become disheartened. Meanwhile, poor performers will hear only the positive messages and not the “needs work” core of the appraisal.


Create Your Own Employee Handbook: A Legal and Practical Guide for EmployersCreate Your Own Employee Handbook: A Legal and Practical Guide for Employers
By Lisa Guerin and Amy DelPo
Nolo, 2011
416 pages
List price: $49.99
ISBN: 978-1-4133-1385-7 

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If your employee handbook is just a paperweight or gathering dust, you’re failing to use “an indispensible workplace tool” that can protect you from lawsuits, help you communicate better with the workforce and help you run the organization more efficiently.

Revise your handbook, or create a new one, with this step-by-step guide from legal publisher Nolo, a specialist in how-to handbooks covering legal issues.

Authors Lisa Guerin and Amy DelPo open with the case for employee handbooks being much more than lists of policies.

Create Your Own Employee Handbook motivates employees by communicating the company’s history, values and culture. It gives managers and supervisors information that lets them treat employees consistently, preventing confusion, misinformation and disputes. And a handbook provides legal protection: Certain laws require employers to give employees specific information, and a handbook is a place to do that.

The No. 1 reason to have an employee handbook is “to protect the company’s legal right to terminate employees at will,” Guerin and DelPo note. How you word the policies in your handbook can have a huge impact on this right. Handbooks can end up creating implied contracts that give employees an opening to claim they can’t be fired in certain circumstances. This guide helps HR and business owners avoid writing handbooks that make that mistake.

Employers learn basics on drafting, revising and distributing employee handbooks. The authors include charts of state minimum wage laws; sample policies such as Family and Medical Leave Act policies; sample wording for many topics, from taking time off for children’s school activities to enforcing progressive discipline; and tips on rules about telephone and computer usage, e-mail, and more.

Among the tools presented in the guide for building an employee handbook:

  • A CD-ROM, included with the book, containing sample language and forms.
  • Contact information for state labor departments and agencies that enforce anti-discrimination laws.
  • Summaries of state laws covering health insurance continuation, employment discrimination, final paychecks, and drug and alcohol testing.
  • Policies covering workplace behavior and performance, health and safety, employee privacy, discrimination and harassment, employee complaints, and more.

From Hello to Goodbye: Proactive Tips for Maintaining Positive Employee RelationsFrom Hello to Goodbye: Proactive Tips for Maintaining Positive Employee Relations
By Christine V. Walters, J.D., SPHR
Society for Human Resource Management, 2011
147 pages
List price: $27.95
ISBN: 978-1-58644-206-4

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From Hello to Goodbye begins with goodbye. It opens with how to fire an employee and ends with onboarding new ones.

In her “Backword” at the start, author Christine V. Walters notes that in the working world, “We work backwards. That is, we begin focusing on an employment relationship as it nears its end,” when an employee’s performance is slipping and termination is on the boss’s mind.

So Walters starts this handbook with the end of employment and moves on to performance management, disability and leave management, proper job classification, retention practices, and onboarding. Readers can use its chapters in any order for step-by-step tips.

Topics covered include:

  • Terminating employees. Do you have the right evidence to terminate someone? What’s required for a proper investigation of an employee? How do you conduct an exit interview, determine severance and ensure a legally sound termination?
  • Conducting performance appraisals. Learn the different types of appraisals and the biases and errors often present in employee ratings. Learn how to create consistent performance documentation that will back you up if there is a performance problem.
  • “Coaching, counseling and correcting.” Why spend time coaching and correcting someone who appears to be on the road to termination? The answer, Walters says, is that you already have an investment in this employee, so it makes sense to try to save that investment. She looks at the basics of coaching, how counseling differs from coaching and how to take corrective actions.
  • Managing employee disability and leave. The book focuses on the leave issues that most often result in litigation. It walks readers through how to apply the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, military leave laws and more.
  • Classifying workers properly. Learn what at-will employment truly means; how to classify contractual workers, interns and volunteers; and how to apply the tests that determine exempt or nonexempt status.

Culture Savvy
Culture Savvy
By Maureen Bridget Rabotin
American Society for Training & Development, 2011
180 pages
List price: $28.95
ISBN: 978-1-56286-736-2

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Being culture savvy means seeing “the added value that expands our worldviews” when we deal with other cultures, author Maureen Bridget Rabotin says. She wants employers to move away from holding “Culture 101” seminars that can reinforce stereotypes and instead move toward developing skills that allow employees to collaborate in any culture.

As Rabotin notes, “An employee from Germany sent to a factory in Dublin will most likely be managing more Polish and Indian employees than Irish people.” Cultural savviness lets that manager handle the international workforce and the local business culture, too.

Rabotin focuses on four principles:

  • Respect. Discover what respect means in different places, how cultural values affect ideas of respect and how to communicate more respectfully across cultures. Learning the correct ways to address others or which gestures to use or avoid are outward signs of respect, but Rabotin wants employers to go deeper.
  • Relationships. Learn seven ingredients for building cross-cultural teams that take everyone’s perspective into account. Also covered: the challenges of coaching employees in a cross-cultural workplace.
  • Recognition. Identify what drives motivation and engagement. Learn ways to increase your awareness of how people from another culture act in the workplace. Consider how recognition works and how to make it more valuable to employees.
  • Rewards. Figure out who determines the worthiness of rewards—the givers or the receivers. Recognize how cross-cultural reward scenarios can be misinterpreted.

Culture Savvy also provides a list of skills for better collaboration across cultures, such as skills for increasing awareness, taking more initiative and creating celebrations for teams with dispersed members. An appendix provides success stories from real-world global business relationships. Throughout the book, worksheets help readers evaluate their own cultural values.

Strategic Employee SurveysStrategic Employee Surveys
By Jack W. Wiley
Jossey-Bass, 2010
154 pages
List price: $40
ISBN: 978-0-470-88970-1

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Fifty percent of all organizations with between 100 and 249 employees use employee surveys, while 72 percent of all organizations with more than 10,000 workers use employee surveys, according to author Jack W. Wiley. In Strategic Employee Surveys, Wiley shows employers how to use surveys strategically, not just to show interest in morale but to improve the business and bottom line.

Wiley notes that his book does not cover the nuts and bolts of creating and administering a survey program. Instead, he covers how to match surveys to business strategies and ensure that survey results truly drive long-term improvements.

A “Strategic Survey Model” looks at four reasons organizations conduct employee surveys:

  • Finding warning signs of trouble within the organization. Surveys can focus on safety, ethics and what Wiley calls “union vulnerability,” the potential for unions to step in where employee satisfaction and confidence are low. These surveys allow management to correct course and stop safety, ethics or satisfaction issues before they balloon.
  • Evaluating specific programs, policies and initiatives. Employers can use employee opinions to tailor policies and programs, while also showing employees that their opinions matter and have an impact. Wiley provides examples of how surveys helped employers evaluate their specific diversity programs and work/life balance programs, and he includes examples of measurement techniques.
  • Finding out the organization’s strength as an employer-of-choice. Wiley calls employee surveys effective measures of an organization’s status as an employer-of-choice in a tough market for talent. He shows how surveys can ask about factors that affect retention. Readers also learn how surveys can measure an organization’s strengths.
  • Predicting customer satisfaction, business performance and other outcomes. Asking employees about four areas of leadership practices—customer orientation, emphasis on quality, employee training and employee involvement—can bring results that predict performance. Using case studies, Wiley demonstrates how to link surveys to measures of an organization’s success.

Wiley provides step-by-step guidance on what to do once a survey is finished, from understanding results to communicating feedback and generating recommendations and actions.

Louder Than Words

Louder Than Words
By Bob Kelleher
BLKB Publishing, 2010
189 pages
List price: $22.61
ISBN: 978-0-9845329-0-2

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Employee engagement is just a cliché if top brass talk about how “employees are the greatest asset” but don’t take any actions to engage their workers, consultant and author Bob Kelleher writes.

Kelleher describes 10 steps—and correlating actions that employers should take—to help build employee engagement. Among other things, he recommends:

  • Start at the top. Get commitment from the organization’s senior leaders, and design and budget for an engagement plan. Engagement does cost money, Kelleher notes, whether that money needs to go toward improved retention, better technology, mentoring programs, cross-training or whatever else will get people more involved.
  • Get first-line supervisors engaged and onboard. Kelleher says disengaged managers are three times more likely to have disengaged direct reports than are engaged managers. Use 360-degree assessment for supervisors, and provide workshops and leadership training to help them build their skills.
  • Tailor engagement to individuals and also look at the needs of groups such as older workers, younger workers, workers with different needs for flexibility, and more. Interview employees about why they stay with the company. Devise employee development plans to help employees grow professionally.
  • Examine motivation and whether money is really the biggest motivator you have. Kelleher provides a tool for calculating the compensation you need to give to get improved performance.
  • Track your success and communicate it. Find any “quick wins,” and let everyone in the organization know about them. Have specific measures of success (reduced turnover, an increased number of employees who telecommute, or whatever works in your context).

Got a Minute? cover image



Got a Minute?
By Dale J. Dwyer, PHR, and Sheri A. Caldwell, SPHR
Society for Human Resource Management, 2010
173 pages
List price: $24.95
ISBN: 978-1-586-44198-2 

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Using the real-world experiences of HR professionals, authors Dale J. Dwyer, PHR, and Sheri A. Caldwell, SPHR, demonstrate how HR can deal with challenging employees, managers and job candidates.

Readers of Got a Minute? learn lessons from the ways HR professionals did—or didn’t—handle situations ranging from the mundane to the simply loopy.

Enter the chronically late-and-lying worker, the boss who inadvertently insults employees by giving out $5 holiday bonuses at a party and the manager who resists documenting employee behavior. There’s even a case of an employee who explained her strange behavior by saying she was a werewolf.

Along with this wealth of HR anecdotes come specific tips for immediate use, such as:

  • What to cover in a termination meeting with an employee.
  • Steps to take if you must fire someone and remove them from the building immediately.
  • Ways to improve a random drug-testing program.
  • A template for conducting a cultural audit of your organization, to better understand how the organization looks and feels for candidates and new hires.
  • Questions to ask as you re-examine the rules in your employee handbook.
  • Ways to spot the red flags that job candidates may be trying to hide from HR.

The book touches on how emotional intelligence testing and behaviorally based interviews can uncover candidates’ real selves. A chapter on rules urges readers to reconsider whether handbooks and policies are written for lawyers or for the employees who are supposed to read them. Another section looks at errors HR professionals make, particularly when it comes to sending documents and e-mails.


Win at Work! cover imageWin at Work!
By Diane L. Katz
John Wiley & Sons, 2010
237 pages
List price: $24.95
ISBN: 978-0-470-59917-4

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Do you face up to the issues you have with a difficult working partner or just allow her to keep causing chaos?

A client is furious. Do you clam up and endure the yelling, or do you address it?

Two people in your workplace are at war constantly. Should you stay neutral or get involved?

These are a few of the conflicts that author and consultant Diane L. Katz says employees at all levels may face in their working lives. In Win at Work!, Katz offers a framework for resolving conflicts through a series of questions she calls the “Working Circle.”

Katz first examines the roots of workplace conflict, including poorly designed jobs, managers who don’t know how to handle conflict, rewards that encourage competition and combativeness, and company cultures that value silence over truth.

She also describes types of workers who instigate conflict for myriad reasons and often unknowingly. Readers learn to identify the loner who doesn’t hear others’ ideas, the know-it-all who wants to stand out no matter what, the boss who can’t delegate and the gossip who unwittingly pits team members against each other.

Katz guides readers toward identifying their own personal styles of conflict resolution through a questionnaire, and then reviews the pros and cons of different personal problem-solving styles.

The author poses eight common challenges and uses case studies to walk readers through the ways participants used her key questions to work through conflicts. Those eight questions start by assessing the situation and figuring out what’s negotiable, then move through how participants feel about the situation and what game plan participants want to try.

Human Resource Essentials book cover imageHuman Resource Essentials
By Lin Grensing-Pophal, SPHR
Society for Human Resource Management, 2010
273 pages
List price: $43.95
ISBN: 978-1-586-44196-8 

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This volume from the Society for Human Resource Management is written for the HR practitioner who must start an HR function from scratch.

Author Lin Grensing-Pophal’s blueprint for HR begins with the big picture: She explains why companies need an HR function and outlines critical first steps to take, such as setting goals for the first six to 12 months.

She quickly moves to day-to-day basics, such as staffing plans as well as wage and hour, equal pay, civil rights and immigration laws. Sections on recruitment and selection include tips on conducting job interviews, checking references and planning new-employee orientation.

A primer on performance management covers how to put a basic appraisal process in place, characteristics of a good appraisal system, ideas for creating an appraisal form and guidelines for giving useful feedback. Readers of Human Resource Essentials learn how to handle voluntary departures as well as firings.

Training and development guidance explains the differences between training to improve job skills, compliance training that helps employers meet legal requirements and training related to employee development.

Compensation and benefits sections examine forms of compensation, use of market surveys and benchmarks in pay, and the types of benefits employers offer.

Other areas this handbook covers include how to set policies and procedures, how to accurately and legally keep employee records, how to initiate a workplace safety program, and how to evaluate HR’s effectiveness and report to management.

Each section ends with frequently asked questions answered by HR experts. Readers also get sample employment applications, performance appraisal forms, safety forms, and employee and internal customer surveys to gauge how HR is doing.

Nuts-and-bolts lists include the documents you should include in HR files, the topics an employee handbook should cover, useful questions for job interviews, an inventory for safety inspections and more. Appendices cover federal laws that affect HR, a timeline of the impacts from federal health care reform, and a resource list with dozens of books and articles.

Grensing-Pophal includes brief “Lessons from the Trenches” throughout the book that draw from interviews with HR professionals on topics such as using social media in hiring and working as the sole HR practitioner in an organization.

Surviving Dreaded ConversationsSurviving Dreaded Conversations
By Donna Flagg
McGraw-Hill, 2010
213 pages
List price: $16.95
ISBN 978-0-07-163025-2

Your normally thoughtful boss screams over the phone that she’ll cite you for insubordination if you aren’t in her office in 20 minutes, though she knows you are at least an hour away. How do you handle her outburst?

A subordinate regularly wears revealing clothes that distract co-workers. How do you tell her to cover up?

You want to ask for a raise but don’t. What is it you fear, and how can you overcome it to make the pitch?

Business and communications consultant Donna Flagg covers these scenarios and more in Surviving Dreaded Conversations, a how-to guide to conversational tools for dealing with difficult workplace situations.

Flagg examines egos you might have to deal with at work—“the ticking time bombs” who are volatile and even abusive; the “centers of the universe” who put themselves above all else; the “buzz kills” whose negativity means they think nothing will ever work; “the juveniles” who whine and excuse their way through life; and more. Flagg advises on tactics and specific language to handle each type.

Readers learn to dissect why they dread certain discussions and how to learn from past conversations. Flagg provides exercises for improving communications skills and leads readers through practice sessions for tough discussions such as asking for a raise, firing someone, or confronting a co-worker about his or her alcoholism.

Using case studies from real workers, Flagg also covers how to handle discussions whether you’re talking to your boss, your employee, your peer or a customer.


Compiled by Leigh Rivenbark, a freelance writer and editor in Vienna, Va.