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HR Magazine: Books in Brief

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HR Magazine: October 2007Vol. 52, No. 10

The Essential Guide to Workplace Investigations, Engaged Leadership, Change Management Masterclass and Surrounded by Geniuses.


The Essential Guide to Workplace Investigations
By Lisa Guerin
Society for Human Resource Management and Nolo, 2007
List price: $39.99, 250 pages
ISBN: 978-1413306910

Buy the Book: This book can be purchased through the SHRMStore online. Members receive a discount off the list price. Visit and search for item number 61.15005.

The Essential Guide to Workplace Investigations is a step-by-step guide to investigating and resolving common workplace issues. This legal and practical reference is packed with tips and strategies that will help sort out workplace problems quickly and legally. Author and attorney Lisa Guerin has practiced employment law in government, public interest and private practice for 15 years. She explains the steps to conducting a successful investigation that will stand up in court. Guerin also provides helpful instructions for addressing the four common kinds of workplace complaints:

  • Discrimination.
  • Harassment.
  • Workplace violence.
  • Employee theft.

The book devotes a separate chapter to each of these sensitive issues.

According to Guerin, "an investigation of discrimination is likely to trigger an emotional response" from both the complaining employee and the accused employee. There are federal, state and local laws that determine what is protected and what is not, and not every antidiscrimination law applies to every employer. There is a chart that shows which laws prohibit what kinds of discrimination and by whom. The author offers several examples for all kinds of discrimination.

In the chapter on harassment, Guerin says "harassment is an offshoot of the laws that prohibit discrimination -- which means that harassment is illegal only if it is based on a person's race, gender, age, disability, or other protected characteristic." She explains further that, "Legally speaking, harassment is offensive, unwelcome conduct (whether words, actions, gestures, or visual displays) that is so severe or pervasive that it affects the terms and conditions of the victim's employment." There is a long list of interview questions for the complaining employee, the accused employee and witnesses, as well as tips on how to handle follow-up interviews as new information becomes available.

Although the majority of violent incidents in the workplace are perpetrated by outsiders, the section on workplace violence focuses mainly on investigating employee misconduct by current or former employees because it is the most preventable. A successful investigation starts when there are warning signs of potential violence, not after violence has occurred, says Guerin. The author gives some examples of "red flag" behavior that should be read as warning signs and provides a list of tips for preventing workplace violence. As part of their violence prevention efforts, Guerin recommends that employers adopt an antiviolence policy; assemble a workplace violence team; provide training for teams, managers and employees; and do a workplace security audit.

Employee theft costs businesses billions of dollars each year. Guerin points out that investigating theft is usually different from investigations of workplace violence, harassment or discrimination because the company is usually the victim, theft is unlikely to be reported, and the investigation is not only about who did it but also about recovering what's been taken.

This user-friendly book comes complete with forms, sample policies, checklists and other key resources.

Engaged Leadership
By Clint Swindall
John Wiley & Sons, 2007
List price: $22.95, 226 pages
ISBN: 978-0-470-13532-7

Buy the Book: This book can be purchased through the SHRMStore online. Members receive a discount off the list price. Visit and search for item number 48.38036.

Half of Engaged Leadership is a novella, the fictional story of a new manager working with a seasoned one to jump-start employees who have disengaged. Author Clint Swindall salts the story with examples of how leaders can get employees back on track. The book's other half is aimed at readers who want more concrete ideas on engaging employees, complete with action items.

By combining his "business fable" with how-to advice, Swindall aims to get managers' attention focused on employee engagement. He says surveys show that 55 percent of employees are disengaged -- doing only what they need to do to get by. Another 19 percent are "actively disengaged," miserable, contentious and opposing whatever management proposes.

How can leaders fight the malaise and create a culture of employee engagement? Swindall says three kinds of leadership are essential to building engagement:

Directional leadership builds consensus for change. Swindall covers how to identify and recruit support from the 26 percent of your employees who are truly engaged. Learn how to ready your organization for change, introduce change positively and back it up with data, let people know how they contribute to the organization, and communicate progress effectively.

Motivational leadership finds what engages employees and uses it. Swindall looks at creating positive motivation instead of negative consequences, asking employees what motivates them, and celebrating small successes with quick rewards and daily celebrations. Work/life balance helps motivate workers as well.

Organizational leadership puts a strong team in place to keep engagement alive, even if top leadership changes. Identify your talent needs, recruit and hire better, build bridges between generations at work, and empower employees by giving them real authority and full information.

Change Management Masterclass
By Mike Green
Kogan Page Ltd., 2007
List price: $39.95, 273 pages
ISBN: 0-7494-4507-6

With case studies from widely varied organizations, author Mike Green gives readers an overview of how organizational change works, from a review of general types of change through specific best practices.

Green details case studies of seven organizations -- large and small, public and private, making different types of change from merger to restructuring to startup issues. Change Management Masterclass takes readers through what drove the need for changes in each organization, how leaders played their roles, what risks change created and whether change was managed well.

The case studies bolster chapters on:

Orientation. How can an organization "become oriented toward change"? Learn to study the external environments (economic, political, technological, legal) that may be pushing your organization to change. Green gives readers questions to probe how the bigger picture affects them. Assess who your stakeholders are and learn to evaluate your organization's strengths and weaknesses, the opportunities you have, and the threats you face.

Organization. Readers get an overview of different change models they might choose to help them direct change.

Mobilization. This means getting stakeholders involved and energized to support change. The book looks at how stakeholders can block change, back it, champion it or take other stands that affect change.

Implementation. Green looks at the tough realities of change, including juggling multiple timelines and keeping the organization's regular business on track while undergoing change.

Integration. Embed change in the organization so change is sustained. People will need personal mastery of the changes, team learning, a shared vision and a "learning organization" approach that keeps building on progress.

The book devotes chapters to how change affects individual employees and teams and how leaders play many roles in change management.

Surrounded by Geniuses
By Alan S. Gregerman
Sourcebooks Inc., 2007
List price: $16.95, 252 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4022-0910-9

Surrounded by geniuses? Surely not. If every organization is full of geniuses, why do so many organizations struggle?

Alan S. Gregerman says the struggles come from failure to open up to the many ideas already around us--and the failure to encourage employees to unlock ideas they're capable of creating, though they may not know it yet.

We're already surrounded by knowledge that "can be used to transform practically any company or organization," Gregerman says. But first, we have to learn to see the ideas all around us and apply them to our organizations.

Among the issues Surrounded by Geniuses examines are:

  • How guarantees to customers, like the guarantees offered by L.L. Bean, help businesses differentiate themselves from competitors.
  • How Girl Scout cookie sales demonstrate the power of personal interactions and genuine conversations with the public.
  • How commitment to meeting customer requests requires you to help employees collaborate on finding the best response.
  • Why little things (like fast responses to inquiries) really do matter to customers.
  • How a focus on customer health and well-being ends up encouraging customers to return, and how businesses with a health focus have to pump up their ability to educate customers.

At the end of each example, the book prompts readers to find other businesses with similar ideas and consider what they're doing right. Gregerman then covers how to apply the examples' lessons and become more open to ideas in order to build an organization that encourages genius in all employees.

Compiled by Leigh Rivenbark, a freelance writer and editor in Vienna, Va., and SHRM Editorial Coordinator Nicole Gauvin.

Inclusion of a book does not imply endorsement by SHRM or HR Magazine.

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