Resources for Managers

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Finding and following your morals not only is good behavior, it's good business, say Doug Lennick and Fred Kiel in Moral Intelligence (Wharton School Publishing, 2005).

Employees today expect a morally intelligent workplace, and the business costs of "moral stupidity" are high-fines, lawsuits, jail time for leaders and punishment in the marketplace from consumers. The book explains universal principles, such as responsibility, compassion and justice, and examines the often complex relationships among business decisions, values and others' perceptions. Exercises and questionnaires help readers evaluate their own values, goals and behaviors, and a section on staying true to your moral compass examines how readers can align beliefs with daily actions. The book also offers tools for managing destructive emotions and for defeating assumptions that can skew moral compasses, such as "Most people can't be trusted" and "Might makes right."

The cost of workplace violence to American businesses runs to billions of dollars annually in health and workers' compensation claims, legal bills, security expenses, lost hours, productivity declines and more. But can managers really do anything to stop employees intent on violent behavior? Yes, says Marc McElhaney, author of Aggression in the Workplace (AuthorHouse, 2004), if they use better prevention methods. McElhaney outlines such methods and discusses how to deal with threats, conduct firings safely, defuse angry employees and handle stalkers. A chapter on common errors made by employers covers denial, avoidance, failure to document escalating problems, a tendency to dismiss behavior as "that's just the way he or she is" and other pitfalls. The book's 10-step prevention plan includes effective pre-employment screening, a workplace violence policy and its conveyance to employees, workplace violence training programs, creation of a specific policy for handling threats, and review of current disciplinary, grievance and firing procedures.

Naval Cmdr. D. Michael Abrashoff took his organization's retention rate from 28 percent to 100 percent while cutting expenditures, vastly improving operations and raising morale dramatically. No wonder people listen when he talks about leadership. In Get Your Ship Together (Portfolio, 2004), he describes how six leaders in diverse arenas have handled challenges that apply to a variety of businesses. Abrashoff sees these leaders as open to criticism and new ideas, focused on fixing problems—not assigning blame—and prone to recognizing achievement rather than punishing failure. The book includes a chapter on each leader, with some of the following insights:

  • Trish Karter, CEO of Dancing Deer Baking Co., describes the lengths to which she goes in keeping employees happy and fostering teamwork. But she says she doesn't let her personal interest in her employees affect her judgment of their skills.
  • When recruiting, Roger Valine, CEO of Vision Service Plan, looks for self-starters, candidates who ask specific questions and with whom he could spend 48 hours alone on a fishing trip without wanting to leap off the boat. Valine, who seeks candidates who can establish a good relationship quickly, believes leaders need to set some criteria to find the best fits with their goals.
  • Laura Folse, a vice president for oil giant BP, says that managers can't gloss over employees' failings but can try to get them back on track. By being specific about performance problems while approaching the employee with "love and care," managers may turn problem employees into performers.

Find out what employees want and give it to them. That's the message of The Enthusiastic Employee (Wharton School Publishing, 2005), by David Sirota, Louis A. Mischkind and Michael Irwin Meltzer. The book is based on employee attitude surveys, interviews and case studies covering 2.5 million employees in 237 companies. The authors say their research shows that employees want three basics: equality, achievement and camaraderie. Where employees differ is in what will satisfy those needs for them. The book offers practices and policies for meeting the three basic needs in a variety of ways, such as avoiding or minimizing layoffs by exhausting all other possibilities; using both base and variable pay and basing that variable pay on group, rather than individual, performance; and practicing "respectful treatment," such as considering physical working conditions, expressing job rules positively as guidelines rather than orders and communicating well. The book's final section lays out how to turn theories about partnership into practice and includes a sample partnership action plan from a real organization as well as a self-assessment test for readers to determine their own attitudes toward employees.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's new employer training guide, The ABCs of EEO for Small Businesses and Supervisors, focuses on HR management and EEO issues that managers face every day, such as hiring, harassment prevention, evaluations, promotions, discharges and job references. Available for purchase either in paperback or CD-ROM version through the agency's web site at www.eeotraining.eeoc.gov, the guide features easy-to-read explanations and guidelines on how to comply with the complex federal regulations that govern these workplace issues. The publication also includes guidelines on what employers need to do when job applicants or employees file discrimination or harassment complaints. The book has a glossary, checklists and an expansive list of helpful EEO resources.

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

Terms of Use: © 2005 Society for Human Resource Management. Members of SHRM are authorized to distribute copies, excerpts or e-mails of this information for educational purposes internally within their organizations. No other republication or external use is allowed without permission of SHRM. The information is not intended to serve as a substitute for legal advice.

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