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    Winning the Boss Lottery

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    US Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez (Left) President of Center for American Progress Neera Tandan (Right)

    A couple of months ago, I attended the first ever White House Summit on Working Families in Washington, DC. While many of the President’s opponents saw the Summit as a publicity stunt or a way to cater to the democratic base, the Summit focused on several themes such as paid family medical leave, workplace flexibility, paid sick leave, and much more. Neera Tanden, President of the Center for American Progress, spoke eloquently about her experience in “Winning the Boss Lottery”. Weeks later, her speech continues to resonate with me, but this time for more personal reasons.

    The weekend I left for the Summit, my sister suffered a stroke which has left her paralyzed on the right side, and I am thankful for the ability to work predominately online which allows me the flexibility to be there for my family when needed. Fortunately, my brother-in-law works at Stuken, a wonderful company, which has never penalized their family for having life changing events throughout his years of employment. Again needing time off of work after dealing with an illness of his own, I asked him if he was concerned about losing his job, and he replied, “not at all”. While staying at the hospital with my sister, a delivery guy walked in with a big bouquet of flowers, and the card read, “Wishing you well from the Stuken Family”.

    How many of you are confident that your job would not be in jeopardy if you suffered a life changing event such as a taking care of an elderly parent, chronically ill child, cancer diagnosis, a stroke, car accident, workplace accident or other serious illness? Would a life changing event derail your fast track to promotion, encourage your boss to identify ways to relieve you from your position, or will you have to choose between saving your job, unemployment, or not being there for your family?

    Not everyone can work for a company like Stuken, but supervisors, bosses, and policy makers within a company have the ability to craft a workplace culture to support their employees whether they are experiencing a life changing event or not. Having a great boss shouldn’t carry the same odds as winning the Powerball, but when you hit the jackpot, you definitely know when you have landed yourself a great boss and a good company to work for.

    I hit the boss lottery once, and I am going to share with you why I stayed with a company for 10 years despite outgrowing the position five years earlier.

    A great boss and company….

    1. Measures Progress and not Process

    This is the first step where a lot of supervisors and bosses go wrong. Those who obsess about the steps you make to complete the job versus having the skills to develop measurable outcomes and ways to monitor progress tend to stifle creativity and ingenuity in their employees. A great leader surrounds him/herself with employees who excel in areas they are weak, and their ability to see the bigger picture in order to accomplish the mission and goals of the team is what makes them an excellent leader.

    Bosses who fail at being good leaders are insecure in their own ability and will often perceive a great employee as a threat instead of an asset. As a result of having leeway in how I handled my investigations, I was able to identify a security flaw their current computer system was not programmed to look for which saved the company a fortune in future losses.

    2. Understands Quid Pro Quo (This for That)

    A great boss doesn’t treat their employees as a resource to siphon off in order to make themselves look good. They invest in your development as an employee. My boss use to say, “When you shine, I shine”, and this was the philosophy in which she ran her department which had zero turnover. A position did not open up until after my sixth year, but it was only because someone retired. During this time, I was given access to training and a security clearance higher than most supervisors above me. My base pay was meager, but my bonuses often exceeded my base pay. For every loss I prevented, prosecuted or recovered, the company paid me a percentage in a bonus because they understood the cost benefits analysis of having motivated investigators. Most importantly, it made me feel like a valued member of the team.

    Another area bosses fail is when they utilize a quota system to measure an employee’s performance to determine whether the employee will keep their job or not. Quota performance metrics will drive employees to meet the minimums because their pay will be the same no matter the input, in addition, quota systems increase liability, risk-taking, and stress for the employee and the company.

    Today, many employers treat employees as if they should be grateful to have a job which ultimately is terrible for their bottom line. If a company would reinvest into an employee discount, benefits, or bonus plan instead of increasing their acceptable losses, productivity would go up while losses would go down. Believe me, as evident in my former job investigating employees, employees will find a way to offset the bad behavior of their boss/employer.

    3. Knows Workplace Flexibility Is A Necessity

    My boss, as well as her boss, were both outcomes driven in how they assessed employee performance. As long as the job was done within ethical boundaries, they didn’t stress how we got it done. When it came to needing time off, scheduling, leaving earlier, or dealing with a family crisis, the ability to take care of our family was given equal importance to getting the job done. From the time I started until they both retired, we were given the ability to set our own schedules by letting them know what days and hours we would work.

    Having bosses that were invested in me as an employee as well as the well-being of my family inspired loyalty and trust. The workplace culture they cultivated inspired employee performance to go through the roof in all departments. As a result, they received lots of awards and accolades. We received lots of catered dinners, company cookouts while we worked, and my department got taken out for steak dinners a lot because we minimized the loss portion from the Profit and Loss Statement. After they retired and the workplace culture changed, employee turnover, profit losses, and employee theft also increased.

    What I learned…

    Mentorship and workplace culture can have a profound effect on work output and productivity. As a result of the millennial generation, more and more companies are beginning to implement workplace strategies to retain and inspire their workforce with flexible work culture, wellness, and corporate responsibility programs. Maybe you don’t have the power to change your company’s entire culture but as a manager, what can you do to change the work culture of your department to help enhance productivity?

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    Deona Hooper, MSW is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Social Work Helper, and she has experience in nonprofit communications, tech development and social media consulting. Deona has a Masters in Social Work with a concentration in Management and Community Practice as well as a Certificate in Nonprofit Management both from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

    Employment

    Nine Major Causes of Workplace Conflicts and How to Resolve Them

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    Every organization faces conflicts now and then, even if rules and procedures are strictly in place. Miscommunication, misunderstanding, and disagreement happen. But when they are not resolved immediately, they lead to workplace conflicts. When trivial issues turn into conflicts, they disturb the workplace and affect productivity. Workplace conflicts spread negative vibes in an organization. Effective steps from the management must curb them in the initial stage and restore peace. Here are the causes of workplace conflicts that affect production and bring down the profit for the year.

    Resistance to Change

    In the workplace, as days go, employees get used to their routine and start to feel comfortable with their assigned jobs. When, for a solid reason, the management restructures the office and enhances the nature of the job to the benefit of the employees, some employees show resistance to adapting to that change. Now, it becomes the responsibility of the management to help employees understand the need for change and accept it to embark on a new beginning.

    Poor Working Habits

    Employees must know how to work professionally once they are in their workplace. Some employees may be sloppy in their work or some may take extra care of their work. Training programs will help employees to understand their roles in the office and act sensibly while completing their assigned jobs.
    Talk in person with the team members or arrange for a meeting with the professional counselor to eliminate negative vibes and bring positive changes in the workplace.

    No Clarity in Assigned Jobs

    Issues arise when there is no clarity while assigning job profiles to new employees. Frequently changing job expectations can also lead to confusion among employees. Even after having an adequate number of years in service, some employees fail to have a clear picture of their job responsibilities. Though induction programs clearly explain what the organization expects from the employees, it is better to have regular training sessions to help employees understand their roles and responsibilities clearly. This will help to prevent workplace conflicts.

    Poor Communication

    Lack of communication among teams and team members in the organization often leads to workplace conflicts. Management must exhibit transparency and give space for employees to approach them whenever they need clarification to clear their doubts. Team leaders must communicate effectively with their team members so that every team member understands assignments and instructions thoroughly. Poor communication between peers and colleagues can also trigger problems.

    It is better to check if everyone has received the information correctly. For it will help to build the morale of employees to move on smoothly with no issues.

    Handling Differences in Personalities

    Every organization has employees from different cultures, backgrounds, experiences, preferences, and temperaments. Personality clashes among team members could lead to workplace conflicts. When there are individual differences between team members, it leads to a lack of mutual respect among them. It will have a drastic impact on workplace relationships and affect productivity.

    The managers or team leaders must understand the issue and resolve them in the beginning stage itself. As colleagues, every employee must understand the strengths and weaknesses of the other employee and behave accordingly.

    Lack of Supervision

    The absence of good supervision in the workplace leads to workplace conflicts. The managers and team leaders must understand their supervisory roles not only to check the completion of assigned jobs but also if there to know if there is smooth interaction within the team. They must be able to identify even trivial issues among team members and be ready to listen to everyone with an unbiased approach while handling issues.

    Unacceptable Work Culture

    An unhappy workplace has a toxic work culture that supports bullying and abusive behavior among team members. When a trivial issue grows into a serious workplace conflict, the entire work environment turns hostile. It not only affects the productivity but also the mental strength of the employees. Since workplace conflicts have a direct impact on the productivity of an organization, management must pay special attention to maintaining a happy work environment where everyone is content and comfortable while doing their assigned jobs.

    No Understanding of Workplace Policies

    Every organization follows a set of policies and procedures to be professional while at the workplace. When some employees fail to follow them, there will be no effective implementation of the rules and policies. Management must make every employee understand that rules are there to benefit them and make their working hours peaceful and comfortable.

    Following Different Values and Work Styles

    Just like different personalities, employees have different workplace values. The workplace values supported by older workers may be different from younger workers. Not accepting the difference between workplace values may lead to workplace conflicts. When a difference of opinion leads to a workplace conflict, it may affect the harmony of the workplace and productivity as well. Similarly, it can lead to unhealthy workplace competition that can affect teamwork and bring down the confidence level of employees.

    Conclusion

    Workplace conflicts should never go ignored. Even petty complaints can grow into bigger issues if they are not resolved as soon as possible. Managers and team leaders who supervise employees must know to identify workplace issues. They can approach expert mediators to get tips to resolve conflicts in their workplace.

    Transparency and interaction with everyone in the organization will help management know every employee. Unbiased in their approach, they must make the correct decision at the right time. If people in their supervisory roles don’t understand the problems faced by the employees, it will ultimately affect the organization negatively. Maintaining a happy environment with positive vibes is the best way to prevent workplace conflicts.

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    Employment

    Cultivating an Equitable and Anti-Racist Workplace

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    2020 was filled with unprecedented events in all facets of life, and, as many have noted across the globe, the year became a landmark for the call to action against racism.

    From the incident in Central Park, where a white woman called the police on a black bird watcher, to the murder of George Floyd by police officers, and when the police officers who murdered Breonna Taylor in her home were not indicted for their involvement in her murder, it is clear that racism is still very prevalent and pervasive. It reaches far and wide, including at home and in the workplace, where power dynamics and structural racism can be multiplied. 

    Through his talk, “Social Work’s Role in Black Lives Matter,” Wayne Reid discussed racism’s reach into social workers’ professional lives. In the workplace, there are certain barriers that people of color face that white people do not. To address these barriers and inequities, equality, diversity, and inclusion advisory groups are often created. Too often, the burden of creating these groups and addressing racism in the workplace falls solely on people of color, when it is a fight that requires everyone’s involvement, especially those in positions of power. This is part of the push for people to go beyond being non-racist and to become anti-racist– actively fighting against racism and advocating for changes against racist policies and practices. It is an active, ongoing process, not only in one’s personal life but in professional environments as well.

    Creating an Anti-Racist Workplace

    Wayne works for the British Association of Social Workers (BASW), which currently has a goal to create a universal anti-racist framework that is applicable to all aspects of the social work field. This includes creating an anti-racist workplace, and Wayne and the BASW have an idea for how that would look. As Wayne described, an anti-racist workplace would have a very specific anti-racist mission statement, making sure to interview people of color, to integrate an anti-racism mentality into policies and procedures, to provide adequate anti-racism training to all staff, and to conduct annual pay reviews for employees of color to ensure they are being paid fairly relative to their white colleagues. With these steps, workplaces would have to take active steps to ensure they were discussing race within the workplace and enforcing anti-racist policies.

    On top of these ideas for an anti-racist workplace, including mandatory professional development courses aimed at educating people on how to be anti-racist, anti-discriminatory, and anti-oppressive would be beneficial. There are already experts in the world of anti-racism who have done the groundwork, and their expertise can be utilized to help implement anti-racist practices within workplaces. For example, Stanford University has created an “Anti-Racism Toolkit” for managers to better equip themselves to address racism in the workplace and move towards a more inclusive environment, and the W.K Kellogg Foundation has created a Racial Equity Resource Guide full of training methods and workshops to provide structure for anti-racist professional development.

    Leadership Inequality

    Wayne also discussed the importance of leadership programs for people of color within their workplaces. In the US, black people only make up 3.2% of senior leadership roles, and only 0.8% of Fortune 500 CEO positions. Employers need to sufficiently invest in leadership training programs and provide the resources to ensure the success of people of color within them. Leadership programs for people of color would help address the lack of people of color in leadership positions within the social work field and beyond. For social work specifically, in conjunction with these leadership programs, employers should create programs allowing social workers of color to mentor senior staff members as well, providing insight for them regarding the challenges people of color face in the workplace. That said, while the benefits of this type of program are important, boundary setting and confidentiality are just as vital and would need to be well thought out prior to implementation.

    Addressing Education

    In order to assist in diversifying leadership, higher education must also be addressed. Despite the increase in people of color attending college, there is still a large imbalance in representation compared to the general US population.

    For the social work field, it is important to address the accessibility of social work education programs. Because they are often expensive and have numerous requirements for entry, entry into the field is inaccessible for many. They also need to include a more deliberately anti-racist curriculum, which can be guided by people of color through their lived experiences, as well as experts in the field. The field of social work has long been dominated by white women, and that imbalance has impacted the curriculum that we use today.

    Moving Forward

    As long as people continue to ignore racism and the effects it continues to have, nothing will change. Wayne and the BASW’s work to integrate anti-racist education and policies into the workplace and social work schools is crucial to the future of social work and the progress of anti-racist work. Social work needs to play a large role in the changing of policies and practices to ensure that the future is more equitable for all.

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    Employment

    Pain or Pleasure: What do You Feel When You Go to Work

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    Maybe I am a hopeless romantic, but I believe that workplace environments are akin in many ways to romantic relationships. If we spend the majority of our time in a certain place, doing certain things, we should love it, just as we should love a romantic partner.  Both need some degree of give and take and require mutual effort in order to thrive.

    Relationship Between Work Environment & Job Satisfaction in an Organization for Employee Turnover by David Ingram defined work environment as follows.

    “A work environment is made up of a range of factors, including company culture, management styles, hierarchies and human resources policies.”

    Here are four smart questions to help you to determine the quality of your work environment.

    Do I feel safe, stable, and secure?

    Consider the physical environment of the workplace. Building maintenance and upkeep impacts the feeling of safety. Is the building constructed of strong materials? Is it constructed in a way that limits damage during inclement weather? Does the ventilation system provide adequate fresh breathing air? Does the heating and cooling system provide protection from the temperature fluctuations? Are structural problems repaired immediately? Is the office space clean and pest free?

    This question addresses the basic human need for safety. The location, type, and maintenance of the workplace all impact one’s feeling of safety when at work.  Many social workers practice in areas of great need. The buildings are often in financially impoverished areas. Some offices are located in places labeled as high crime areas.  Many social workers travel to their clients, so the “office” is where the client happens to be at any moment. We meet clients under bridges, in wooded areas, or in homes. The actual location may not be as important as the measures to maintain as much safety as possible for both workers and clients.

    Another aspect of safety involves the stability of the employer. This addresses whether the agency or organization is financially sound with strong support, as well as if the leadership has a vision for the work and communicates the vision clearly. The organization’s actions and behaviors toward clients and employees should align with the stated mission, and employees should be assured that they will have longevity in their employment. The sense of security is reinforced when employees receive adequate benefits and paychecks are distributed as scheduled.

    Can I be my true self?

    This question goes beyond individual personalities. It requires an in-depth assessment of style, mode of operation, as well as personality, on an individual and corporate level.  Every workplace environment has its own collective personality. Think about where you currently work. Do you feel as if you fit? Some work environments have suit-and-tie, serious personalities. Others have a looser and more playful character. These descriptions depict opposite ends of the continuum, but most work environments fall somewhere in the middle. Your comfort level plays a role in your effectiveness at work. Comfort promotes confidence.

    Think about your interactions with co-workers and colleagues. Do those interactions cause you to feel welcome and important related to the organization’s mission? Are disagreements handled with reasonable discourse and discussion? Does the supervisory team focus on the mission of the organization or on their own professional rise in the organization? Do employees work as a unified team?

    Can I realize the full extent of my skills, abilities, and interests?

    Before answering this question, social workers should have a clear understanding of their skills, abilities, and interests. We become frustrated when we cannot use or expand upon these aspects of self. A lack of challenge causes boredom and complacency as we resign ourselves to accept the droll of stagnant repetition.

    Workplace environments that encourage employee growth cultivate loyalty.   Some social workers may only think about how their skills, abilities, or interests enable them to meet the requirements of their jobs. They should, however, think about the impact these qualities have on their capacity to meet and exceed the mission of the organization. Insightful leaders in an organization will understand and use all available resources to meet the organization’s mission. This includes allowing staff members to do what they do best.

    Are we working toward the same outcome?

    Do you share the vision and mission of your organization? Does the result you are working towards match the result your organization expects? These are crucial questions for social workers who have been on the job for at least five years. You have worked in the organization long enough to know whether your goals align. If you are or have been in a committed relationship, think about the dissonance that occurs when the individuals disagree on joint goals and desires. No one is happy and the relationship suffers.  Employment is not very different. You will commit to the organization’s stated outcome and method for achieving it when you work in your ideal work environment.

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