How the Reward can make or break the Recognition!

ashipI used to train a lot of management workshops that asserted that the reward doesn’t mean as much as the effort taken to actually recognize an employee. As long as the reward fits the value of the effort you are recognizing, this is an assertion that normally stands up, but not always.

In the area of sales, you can often prompt rapid effort from your sales team by holding up a carrot if certain criteria are met, and if the carrot is something people want they will often over achieve just to get the reward.

It is important to note that value is in the eye of the receiver, not the giver. You as the manager might think that a weekend for two at the local motel with a cash bonus of $25 for food is a winning offer, but unless your employees agree, they are not apt to put in any extra effort.


The dollar amount doesn’t make the reward automatically valuable:

So a sales manager has been used to popping a $1000 to his team members when they meet what appear to be more than stretch goals. He told me that initially it got some people to push hard because they all seemed to have an idea of how to spend the money. But over time, he noticed either people where putting the money in savings, or paying off a bill. Since this was not too exciting, the energy to earn the bonus was losing steam and the after effect was very short lived motivation.

I asked him to consider booking a 3-day cruise from one of two ships in our local port of Long Beach, and as a Travel Agent, I would work with him to pay for the cruise, the gratuities and include any on board spending dollars but not to exceed $1000. But even though the dollar amount was the same, he should raise the bar for the goal to win. (Note, the cruise would need to be taken within the next 3 months at a date that worked best for the winner.)

Since last quarter he had no one that won the bonus, he was eager to try something new.

Well, he cut the time from 3 months to 2 months to win a cruise, and set no limit on how many could win. He also upped the sales goal 20%. Guess what happened? Yes, five employees pulled it off! And because they all took their cruise at different times, each time they returned to work the buzz started again about what a great time they had. Not only is this team eager for the next contest, they also got a needed break from work which rejuvenated them too!

Just an idea for how using the right reward can make all the difference. If you want to give it a try, email me at or stop by and explore the possibilities!

NOTE:  Cruise Pricing varies throughout the year.  For reward purposes, always set a limit for what you will pay up to and the remainder is on the employee.

Time’s Up! – HR & Training Need to Become Indispensable!


For way too many companies, the Human Resources (HR) and Training functions have been treated as completely dispensable cogs in the corporate wheel. They are staffed with less than competent people which only adds to their inability to add value so when things get tough, these functions are cut.

And here might be the greatest rub. If in fact these functions have allowed themselves to become dispensable, well they got what they earned! They need to be removed so better talent can be put in place. Sadly, many companies that close or scale down these functions does so because they expected nothing better based on their experience.


Explore with me a couple of examples that will lead to disasters in the future that I can pin squarely on the incompetence of these functions.


We have a company that recently had an unpleasant experience with a manager that was a little too friendly with an employee. The employee reported it; the HR department launched a full scale investigation and discovered the manager had been out of line. The solution was to put ALL managers through a sensitivity training program. No learning outcomes needed, just a CYA training program to mitigate future problems.

You may be asking if this company regularly trains managers in preventing workplace harassment, and/or do they train the entire workforce in what a harassment free work environment is and what to do if it becomes the opposite. The answer would be NO to both. No Training, only HR covering it up after the fact. HR is totally reactive and not proactive and therefore provides little value. How do you retain good employees when this is how HR has your back?



Another company where a manager is openly bullied by her manager has had enough and decides to report him to HR. Another full blown investigation that involves interviewing a dozen employees who witnessed the bullying resulted in an admission that it all happened like it was reported. However, the manager was required to continue working for the bully manager because, “although he did a lot of awful things, none of it violated our employee handbook policies.” However, the bully manager “was encouraged to retake their online harassment training.”

Another inept HR function with a training function standing around buying off the shelf compliance training THAT DID NOT WORK! Yet this is a big organization with over 10,000 employees. Guess what happens when something this stupid happens and HR fails to stand up for the company and protect their employees, they get sued. Oh, and not by just this one manager, this has turned into a class action because the behavior was endorsed by the HR department.

And one other result that I doubt will be expected is that news like this travels quickly. Not only are employees aware of the class action suit, other employees that belong to the Bully Club are feeling empowered. Heck with HR behind bullying behavior, they feel they have a free ticket to abuse their fellow employees. Fun place to work huh?



Bottom line if you have a dysfunctional HR and/or Training function it is time to get them help. Or at the very least find better talent to replace them. Your company’s future is at stake, and as long as these functions are viewed to be dispensable, they will continue to meet that expectation.

If you need help, you need only email me at



Dealing With Evil Managers – Part 2

thLast week I discussed the differences between an incompetent manager and an evil manager. What I should have mentioned is the dynamic of a manager with evil motives and is totally incompetent. Yikes! These managers are the ultimate nightmare!

So this week I want to discuss how we should deal with evil managers.

If you like your company and the work you do, but your manager is the challenge, then leaving the company is probably not your first idea. If everything about your job is awful, then it probably is your best option to just find a better job. It is not worth the hassle to get away from a bad manager but still be in a company and career that doesn’t fit either.

If you have decided to stay and try to change your circumstances, then my advice is the same no matter which course of action you take next. Take detailed notes of every interaction with the evil manager. Keep printed copies of all performance records, memos, performance discussions between you and the evil one. Make a list of all people that could speak as a witness or have experienced the same evilness.   And keep this all at home!

Now while I opine often about incompetent human resources, the truth is they are not all incompetent. They may be superstars at your company, but chances are if they were this evil manager would have been gone without any help from you. Since you are now working with a weaker human resource function, your ability to get satisfaction or help at all is not assured. But hear me loud and clear, you must try and give them the ability to do their job. Sometimes evil managers exist simply because human resources have never been informed.

So let’s assume you went to human resources and nothing has changed. I dare say that “nothing” is not the right word after you have turned in an evil manager because retribution has no limits with an evil manager that feels they have been attacked. So be aware that there will be hell to pay for turning them into the authorities; especially if the authorities couldn’t change the situation.

Depending on the nature of the issues involving the evil manager, you may want to file reports with the Labor Board, or the EEOC. These agencies are overworked, and although will get to your complaint, it might be months before they look into it. This is why everyone should have the name of a local employment law attorney and a personal injury attorney that practices employment law injuries.

By definition, until you suffer a financial loss most employment law attorneys won’t have the ability to take your case. If wage and hour laws not enforced caused you to lose money, then you have a financial loss. But if your evil manager screamed and yelled at you, verbally filleted you to the point of tears, honestly there is very little you can do to get you out of your personal living hell.

While I have been in the training, learning and performance improvement industry for the past 26 years, I realized that learning and behavior changes often require different approaches for different learning styles. In my everyday life this means how the training should be delivered to get a behavior to develop or change. When dealing with evil managers, driven by evil motives, it doesn’t matter if they are incompetent. The first thing that needs to change is their spirit.

Since it is not practical to perform an exorcism on your evil manager, the next best thing begins with serious consequences from human resources that usually require termination. When you need an attorney, the problem is deeper than just the one evil manager, and so the entire organization must be penalized. Not only does the company need to terminate the employment of the evil one, they will need to take a financial hit to the bottom line that motivates changes so this never happens again.

In my younger days when I was confronted with an evil manager, I would often respond with the same level of emotion that was being dished out in my face. I never sought legal help and fought my own battles. Because I know HR laws inside and out, I can defend myself against evil people. As long as I fight fair and play by the rules I am protected. It is a fine line I never want to cross in doing battle with evil that I go as far as to join “the dark side” in my quest for winning right over wrong.

But while I like a challenge, when it comes to advising other people, I say keep good records and get outside help if necessary. Evil does exist, but it doesn’t need to win.

Managers Avoiding Conversations


Instead of talking with employees the old fashion way with your vocal chords, managers are increasing their use of email and texting as the preferred way of communicating with employees. While it may be quicker, it is causing more problems than the time being saved.

I believe the real reason for typing and not talking is not because of the time saving feature, but rather the avoidance of conflict. You have less feedback, both verbal and non-verbal when you type. There is less of an issue in tone, and yet you also lose the ability to add tone at a level it can be understood. Typists will tell you that tone is possible, and I agree, but it can more easily be interpreted incorrectly too in the written word.

When it comes to giving directions or feedback, verbal communication goes a long way in creating clearer understanding. If there are concerns, or uncertainties, verbal communication can afford a quicker resolution too.

But many will ask, what about documentation? Written communication does document feedback. But try documenting after the verbal conversation instead. Try, “as per our conversation today about being on time for work, we agreed………”

And too much documentation can come back to bite you too. You may be a real nag of a manager, so verbal communication can be a blessing for you, when the opposite is 20 emails in 4 days about a single topic.

A balance in the use of verbal and written communication from manager to employee should be used to build rapport, and get feedback. Using written for times you want to document something can be beneficial, but after you have allowed feedback. The best way to assess your current use is to evaluate your issues. The more issues, the more you need to go back to verbal communications.

Just my two cents for the week………………

When To Resign Your Job

People resign from their job when they are unable to endure working conditions any longer.  They resign when they have accepted another job.  And sometimes they resign to avoid a pending termination.  But how often have you ever heard someone resign because they are just incompetent?

We often see people at work and in government that are just in over their heads.  The job and the responsibilities are just becoming more than they can handle.  They are making significant mistakes, and yet because they have not yet been terminated, or in the case of elected officials can’t really be terminated, hang on forever to a job they cannot perform well at all.

I wish that more people would face up to the fact that not every job is suited for every body.  Sometimes we find ourselves in a role that is just more than we can handle, but because we need the job, or our pride is too big, we cannot resign for the good of the organization.  I wish these people would do what is best and allow the company to hire a more talented person.

While it is often the individual who has taken on a bigger role than they should have, I also fault the company for hiring underqualified people and expecting miracles to happen.  They want to hire cheap, and get frustrated when cheap didn’t buy them the skills and experience they needed.  If they terminate the person, they have to admit that it was a bad hiring match.  If they can hold out and wait for a resignation, they avoid the spotlight of involvement.

So maybe it is time to ask ourselves the tough questions, and if we are in over our heads ask for help.  If help won’t cut it, than tender your resignation.

The Value of a Good Day’s Work

While people will say that there are many other factors that make a job valuable to the employee, like commute time, vacation, recognition, a great boss and engaging work, compensation is still the glue.  Don’t believe me?  Try not paying people to work and see how long they stick around!

Yet, what is the value of a good day’s work for your job?  What should your employer pay you for a good day’s work so both of you feel like you are in a fair deal?  What should your employer pay you if you don’t get much done, or become a slacker?  Ah, you still want the same amount, don’t you?

It is funny how employers would never say out loud that they would not want to pay an employee to underperform, but they do it all the time!  They set goals for employees and work doesn’t happen.  They set tasks and objectives that never get done and just grip about it.  So what message is this sending to the employee?  Clearly it means you will get paid until we just get tired of the situation.  But for months or years, work and compensation are not coexisting with each other.

I see this when I consult, or at least try to obtain new clients.  They will often tell me all the stuff they need to accomplish in the next 12 months, and 12 months later, the list is still the same.  I’d feel sorry for them if they had not been paid either, but that is never the case.  They accomplished none of their business objectives and still earned their salary.  This is the fault, 100%, of the employer.  The value of a “Good Day’s Work” was established on the date of hire when the job and the compensation was agreed upon.  When an employee is allowed to do less than a good day’s work, and the employer continues to pay the same value, new terms are being created.

This is why years can go by before an employee loses their job.  Even the most ethical employee will slide on performance over time if allowed, and so it really lands up being the person paying compensation to get their money’s worth.

Dealing with Millennial Parents

I got caught up in a LinkedIn discussion last week over an article that was asking when we would stop bashing millennial workers and focus on management’s part in performance.  There are two sides to the challenge of working with any generational group, and I was trying to remind my fellow commenters that we should really focus on the single manager-employee relationship and not group everyone into one pot.

Then someone said something that opened my eyes to what a lot of millennial employees have been dealing with since childhood; that many of them have protective, hovering “helicopter” parents watching everything that happens to their child, even in the workplace.

So what happens when you take a manager, who lacks basic management communication skills and pair them with a millennial employee?  If the employee does everything perfect, the world spins just fine.  But if like most employees we make mistakes when we are learning, and our manager doesn’t know how to give feedback, or avoids it all together, things crash quickly.  Now add a human resource factor that only sees performance issues from management’s point of view and things can get toxic.

Everyone reading this has known of a manager that has screwed up and blames a staff member to take the heat off themselves.  If the employee that gets blamed realizes that they are being setup or treated unfairly, this usually gets cleared up quickly and the manager learns not to try that again.  But when the employee is newer to the workforce, like so many of the millennial generation, they often don’t realize they are being treated unfairly.  But their parents do!

Let me repeat this, millennial employees might not realize that they are being treated unfairly at work, but their parents do!  Now you are dealing with a millennial parent, a mother grizzly, and you are about to get eaten for lunch.

See millennial parents have experienced poor management and can see the signs.  They are well aware of employment laws, and what companies can and cannot do.  They are also the people who know who to call, where to report the violations to, and have the money to hire attorneys.  Ouch, why would you want to deal with all that?

Parental involvement doesn’t stop with school.  It is always there, and ever-present.  So if you are going to play games with a millennial employee with the assumption they are too naïve to fight back, I say beware.  Because even though the employee may not initially know they should fight back, once Mom & Dad find out, the fight is on.

My Favorite Part of LinkedIn

There are days I think I live on LinkedIn, looking for business opportunities and hoping to reconnect with associates from the past.  If I wasn’t so challenged at remembering names it might make the process easier, but over all I believe it to be a great professional online environment.

Now while I love learning about new concepts, or news in different industries from the many articles posted, my favorite part of LinkedIn comes from sharing in the success of my contacts.  It becomes so easy to congratulate someone on a work anniversary, a recent promotion or finding a better job.  Bam!  Everyday someone has good news to share, and it allows me the chance to quickly click a comment and tell them how happy I am for them.

Without LinkedIn, I would not learn about 90% of what is going on.  To begin with, LinkedIn is the one sharing the good news.  Sure you can post an update, but most of the time the announcement is because of an update to the profile itself.  If this feature was not part of the environment, then we would never learn of most of these events because most would never post an update.

Now while it is an honor to write a recommendation for someone I have had the opportunity to work with, that is a smaller group of people compared to the total contacts.  But often, I can endorse a skill or two for many of my contacts from the time we have spoken and interacted with each other.  Again, for me this is the chance to pat someone on the back, and I am one of those people who sees the value in recognition.

However, I also love the opportunity to not endorse certain skills that folks believe they have.  Without announcing to the world that they lack a particular skill, I can just overlook it.  I can then focus on the positive, and avoid the negative.

If you need a pick me up, browse the updates in your LinkedIn profile, and pass on a few compliments.  One a day, can make you feel, not to mention others feel, like the world is better than it is.

Dysfunctional Government Workers

Like many Americans, I am quite upset with the amount of dysfunction in many of our government entities, and in the individual performances of so many workers.  While I am very tempted to group all of them into one basket and say that they are all dysfunctional, that would be an unfair assessment for the many workers that bust their butts weekly for the American people.

Just like in corporate America, our government employs human beings.  So guess what, the slackers, and the thieves and cheats of the world work in both public and private industry.  While a lot of humans have high work ethics, many will get away with what they can get away with.  In other words, leaders need to step up and start managing.

I’ve often day dreamed about my first day as President of the United States.  There would be a very clear message sent that if you want to lie, cheat and steal then leave now.  If you do anything to screw with the trust the country has placed in you to perform your job well, I will make sure your employment is terminated.  If anyone tries to cover up a mistakes, all those involved will lose their jobs.  We work for the American people, not the other way around.  I would then make it perfectly clear, that I expect the same management style from everyone on the team, or they too will be looking for a new job.

I am flabbergasted at how many challenges are going on in our Federal, State and local governments.  I fault the leaders from the top down to the offending employee.  Where the hell is management?  Why are things so out of control?  Why are we growing the dysfunction rather than weeding it out?  Because there are no consequences for screwing up!

The CEO for the United States is the President, and yet I dare anyone to find me a company where the CEO is dealing with this much dysfunction and still has their job.  In any corporate function, the CEO would lose their job for any of these activities, and would be taking a lot of people with them on their way out the door.

Corporations are required to make money, while government is in place to spend money.  See the difference in the motivators here?  If government required each function to make a profit, or reduce expenses while improving productivity, we could turn things around.  Yet until we learn to start terminating the dysfunctional employees, no amount of positive changes will make a difference.  If I want my garden to grow healthy vegetables, I must constantly remove the weeds.

Humans Make Mistakes

While most people know me as the training guy, at my center is a performance consultant.  This means that before I even think of how training fits into a solution set, I have spent a lot of time looking at the performance expectations and where the existing performance is today.  What I am beginning to see in the workforce is troubling to me.

With real unemployment still very high in this country, and too many Human Resource groups spending less time on performance improvement we are left with a quick fix mentality.  Hire someone, give them minimal training, and then write-up their performance every time they make a mistake.  Just like in baseball, many companies use the three strikes you’re out performance management tool.

From the bleachers of this game I am watching two things going on.  Companies are spending little to develop new employees, and get rid of any that don’t immediately perform at expectations.  While this keeps the recruiters busy (so indispensable) it also costs the company a lot of money in turnover.  And second, it is also very unfair to the employee!

Humans make mistakes.  Plan on it!  Train to it! And above all else set realistic learning curves for every single employee.

Banking is famous for turnover on the teller line.  How many of you have the same teller from year to year?  How many of you see those tellers go on to other jobs in the bank?  A very small amount of hires to these positions ever last long.  Since I have worked for a lot of banks, I’ll say “we” hire these entry-level positions and maybe if lucky give them a week’s training and then throw them to the wolves.  Limited support, and many different kinds of transactions and activities are expected of these people.  Years ago we added sales and referral goals, a lot of compliance activities and professional customer service standards.

In the old days, tellers were full-time and had 90-days of probation to work through learning their jobs.  Now we hire part-time employees working them half as many hours, double the activities they need to perform and expect perfection in the same amount of time.  But wait, do we even give them that much time?  People learn at different paces, and while some may pick up the technical side quickly and the soft skills are slower coming, we expect all human we hire to be mistake free in about the same time frame.

So what is going to stop a company from slapping a little training on a new hire, and then giving them a verbal warning the first time they make a mistake, a written warning on the second mistake, and termination on the third mistake?  Answer:  A good employment law attorney!

Yep, nothing makes a company take notice of poor practices better than a well designed lawsuit.  Make it a class action and you have the check books coming out early in the process.  It is sad though, that all this is needed to get attention, and even sadder that things will not change unless the dollars are over the top.

While I will continue to preach the gospel of a good performance process, I would also encourage you to have a good attorney only a phone call away.  I have three dear friends I can call, just in case the other two are busy.