How to Handle a Negative Co-Worker

Your co-workers, Negative Nancy and her counterpart Negative Nelson, are walking down the hall. You try to hide. Too late. They’ve spotted you! You brace for a gripe session and hope it doesn’t last the lunch hour. How do you handle negative co-workers besides jumping into the broom closet? Here are some tips.

Determine if the Shoe Fits Permanently 

Assess whether you have a personality versus attitude problem on your hands. In our HR experience, we’ve found that personalities are permanent. Some people are just negative and suck the energy out of every environment. These are the, “She woke up and wanted to kick the dog rather than pet the dog” people. Attitudes however, can change with the environment. Employees may exhibit a temporary attitude due to multiple reasons, including a lack of understanding about their job, a lack of trust, or they may have experienced a series of negative occurrences like their coffee spilled, plus the car broke down, and they had an argument with their spouse.

Identify Legitimate Reasons

Listen carefully. There could be legitimate issues company-wide that Negative Nancy may have her pulse on. If she is a representation of the opinions of multiple people, you may have an opportunity to change the company as a whole for the good…if you desire.

Remove the Sounding Board

Perhaps you simply look empathetic. Take control and make yours an active versus passive role. The master of negative personalities will address, ignore, divert and/or delay. Pay Nancy or Nelson a compliment. Change the environment with, “Hey let’s go for a walk!” Ask the following questions, and put the responsibility back on them: “Are you just looking for someone to vent to? Do you want to explore solutions? How can I support you?”

Set boundaries

Take courage. Define your boundaries. If Nancy or Nelson wants to bend your ear, give them a time limit like “You have five minutes,” and after that time cease listening then require a solution. Explain how their negativity affects you, and that you all need to come to common ground about how to handle the venting sessions before hand. For those who send negative email, simply delete them and do not respond.

Seek Assistance

Negativity festers in the workplace. If you determine that Nancy and Nelson are that way on a permanent basis, ask HR for some help.

Rely on the stated values of your company. When people start complaining about the complainers, it’s time for action. You as an individual employee can make the difference.

Written by Jim Annis President/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Johnson, Tom Miller, and Suzanne Chennault, Applied’s division directors, contributed to this article.

Affordable Care Act NOW

Did you “hear the one about” the delay of significant elements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) employer mandate on July 2, 2013? Many employers breathed a sigh of relief then promptly wrote off and forgot about ACA. Did you? It’s not a joke. Heads up. The law is still in place and intact.

The regulatory bodies have made adjustments to the ACA timelines (see specifics on Health and Human Services website Many people think that the whole implementation has been delayed a year because they think employer mandates are delayed for a year. Not so.

The Individual Mandate

If an individual does not have health coverage starting in 2014, an individual penalty will be incurred. The penalty will take the form of either a flat dollar amount or a percentage, whichever is higher. The flat dollar amount per individual is $95 in 2014, then it increases to $325 in 2015, and $695 in 2016. After 2016, the flat dollar amount is indexed to inflation or  it is a percentage of taxable income an amount equal to a percentage of a household’s income (as defined by the Act) phased in at 1% in 2014, 2% in 2015, and 2.5% in 2016. That is significant. It is not $95 for the rest of their lives which is how MOST individuals have misinterpreted the law. For example, if an individual has a household income of $50,000, this individual would be subject to a percentage penalty of $500. The individual would pay the percentage penalty because this percentage penalty is greater than the flat dollar penalty for 2014 (which is $95).

Employer to Do List

On October 1, every employee is required to be notified by their employers about availability of state exchanges, including all of their insurance options, as of January 1, 2014. On October 1, 2013, all 50 states will have exchanges open for business. Nevada Health Link created by the State of Nevada to help individuals and small businesses easily shop for, compare and buy health insurance.

The details of the law and the implications far exceed the normal space that we have for the article. Prior to 2010, a lot of employers offered health insurance and there was no ACA.  As HR experts, we remind people on a daily basis not to be caught up with being angry with the law and automatically assume penalties are “cheaper.” Companies offered insurance in 2010 because there was a value in doing so. Consider all options and make informed decisions.

Written by Jim Annis, President/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Johnson, Tom Miller, and Nissa Jimenez, Applied’s division directors, contributed to this article.

Are You Prepared if a Disaster Strikes?

Have you been intellectualizing that business continuity planning is important? Just like in golf, having desire, information, skill and technology is one thing, execution is another. We handle payroll for thousands of people and have an obligation to get employees a paycheck, even during a disaster. We hired Galena Property Services to help us create a formal plan where I am not the point person but the mouthpiece in a crisis. Responsibilities have been delegated so no undue burden lies with any one person. Consider the components of the plan:

Risk assessment – We established a grid with likely disasters, what is the probability of occurrence, and how each would impact employees, clients, property and our business. We ranked them low, moderate, and high whereas earthquake is number one, followed by flooding and loss of power.

Crisis Action Team (CAT) – The CAT takes key areas and assigns a responsible party to ensure communications sync up in the event of a tragedy. We designed a “grab and go” laminated one sheet synopsis of each person’s role and their responsibilities, specific contacts, explicit ER instructions, i.e., “pending an incident which impacts life or safety of business call 911 then call CAT.” We’ve spelled it out like a kindergartner because what usually takes nine seconds to comprehend under normal circumstances takes 40 seconds under stress.

The Resources – We assume everyone is following the playbook to minimize chaos. Our CAT binder has emergency instructions for all CAT members and is the comprehensive “source” for any type of business interruption. Each team member possesses a thumb drive with the entire binder contents. There are step-by-step instructions, for example if the servers go down, what we would need to bring up from day one to two weeks’ worth of process. Vendor partners (property managers, telecommunications, banks, and IT consultants) participated and identified elements not thoroughly considered, clarified our assumptions – some realistic and others not – about how they would help, and made our plan more well-rounded.

Considerations – What we found is that a business continuity plan reflects corporate values. Ours is the wellbeing of our staff. Our plan helps leadership sleep at night and helps employees feel secure. We are working through the plan, executing drills, and notifying our clients about expectations during certain disasters. In a parallel process, we are seeking rate reduction in our various insurance policies.

If you asked your employees, clients, and vendors about how well your company is prepared for a disaster – would they respond confidently?

Written by Jim Annis President/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Johnson, Tom Miller, and Nissa Jimenez, Applied’s division directors, contributed to this article.

How Do I Fire Them Up?

This is the second article in the series, “How to Fire.” The first article focused on why employers should fire employees and the good and amazing things that can result for the organization. This article focuses on how to fire up the employees that remain.

Keep the star players happy

Spending money is not imperative. Our casual days and potlucks are key to our workplace satisfaction. We thrive through open communication, revving everyone up with Monday morning staff meeting and monthly staff meetings.

Sorting out those diamonds in the rough

We ensure that those employees who want to advance their career have every opportunity to do so. Our benefits plan generously offers reimbursement for an accredited institution credits.

Having to say good-bye to nice people

A few months back, we had to course correct for some decisions made years earlier. We had a position that was not truly being utilized the way we had envisioned it. We had to let someone go, someone that everyone generally liked, a nice person. Leadership had to do a lot of explaining: the market changed, the business line morphed and the job duties were not needed. We were containing the emotional piece and concentrating on workflow.

Resetting the course

When we do say goodbye, employees need to heal for a while. You can’t expect human beings that experience layoffs or firings to be back to normal and 100 percent a few days later. If you have 80 of your employees buy into your company’s vision – you’re golden. There will always be someone that will stand a someone else’s desk and complain a little bit. We’re experimenting with some new processes that proactively focus on the good resulting from a separation and good things in general:

  • On our new employee’s first day, their desk is ready, pre-printed business cards are at that desk, and they get a little welcome gift in the form of a Starbucks gift card.  No more waiting two weeks to be productive.
  • We reward longevity through time and service certificates for people to display.
  • We’re firing everyone up on increasing gross profit by tying it to our bonus plan, which forces employees to question what they do every day and create positive change.
  • When employees receive a compliment, we’re sharing it with the entire organization via email.

Getting employees fired up can move them from feeling like a victim – or their fear of becoming the victim of a firing or layoff – and move them to take action in a hopeful, energized, inspired and resilient way.

Written by Jim Annis President/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Peterson, Tom Miller, and Nissa Jimenez, Applied’s division directors, contributed to this article.

Should I Fire Them?

This is a two-part series on “how to fire” in the workplace.

Fire is a powerful word. It conjures up fear, excitement, sensations, and visuals. In the forest, the absence of fire can actually be bad for its overall wellbeing. Some species of trees are actually fire dependent. The Jack Pine’s cones only open to release seeds when waxes on the cone melt in the heat of a fire. Fire causes new Jack Pines to grow and flourish. Amazing things can happen when “fire” hits the workplace, too.

Fire Danger Today: High

According to experts that we trust, we all need to get ready for the down year – a slight recession – in 2014. Fueling those expectations are the Affordable Care Act, the State of Nevada owing $700 million to the Feds for unemployment liabilities, and the “double” hardening of the cyclical worker’s comp market. What can employers do to be proactive versus reactive?

Lose the deadwood

Employers settle for bad performers rather than firing them. After our experience in 2009, we simply can’t endure C performers. The market is experiencing a steady supply of “A” and “B” employees. These highly qualified performers were promised by their employers that, “when the economy turns around we’ll give back this benefit and pay, etc.” The As and Bs are keeping score on broken promises. They’re looking for employers who’ll deliver.

Don’t scare off the producers

When people are fired, the company communication plan should focus on positivity of change. Because you know the water cooler talk will be, “How far is the layoff going to go? Am I safe or will the toilet bowl keep turning?” Clearly define a stopping point. Reassure top performers; give them information on financials, gain trust or leadership through transparency. You’ll keep them as loyal employees by your past performance and current vision.

Define your replacement strategy

Before firing, leadership should study the employee’s job responsibilities, then go out and get a PhD. in technologies applicable to that function. Solutions that manage processes better, create efficiencies and perhaps eliminate the need for replacement are desirable. Interviewing peers and subordinates about what functions they would like to take on, or what needs to be changed for the better – is key. Once the responsibilities are redefined, you know what to recruit for.

In every single “fire” situation, the pain leaves and your company can turn to the resulting good, digest the lesson you were supposed to learn, grow and move forward.

Written by Jim Annis, president/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Peterson, Tom Miller, and Nissa Jimenez, Applied’s division directors, contributed to this article.

Plan for When the Possible & Unthinkable Hit the Workplace

Our company is well-known for being a thought leader and being innovative, which has increased our profitability over the long term. We have learned that you must plan for both the possible and the unthinkable for success.

The possible

Strategic planning helps identify the “possible.” We’ve developed a financial model, strengthened our HR process, formally defined marketing efforts, put ownership agreements in place and updated our technology.

We recently implemented a Crisis Action Team, or CAT, for business continuity. The CAT takes key areas and assigns a responsible party for making certain communications sync up in the event of a tragedy: power outages, loss of building features, operating on a virtual basis, defaulting to cellphones if landlines were down, etc.

The goal: How we would connect, given personal pressures to account for one’s family first? We have several scenarios with specific crisis roles with a backup, sometimes two deep. You can’t put a price on the safety of your people. We determined that family is the priority, which removes stress from all of our employees.

The unthinkable

A few years back, one of my key employees, the CFO, fought cancer with a vengeance for two years. He reached the end of his Family and Medical Leave Act benefits and still was unable to come back to work. He had a wife, two kids in college and an 11-year-old girl still at home. We saw this situation unfold over a long period, and it still took us by surprise.

We pride ourselves in HR policy manuals, protocols and procedures as they take the emotion out of human capital decisions. Without a policy, the right thing to do is not defined, not consistent and not transparent.

With our combined 100 years of experience, we had no policy for this “unthinkable.” I anguished over it. We now have a key employee policy with paid leave for up to 12 weeks during the typical FMLA period, then paid leave with disability after that.

Being flexible during day-to-day operations makes us better leaders, and policies and procedures help when we are “just” human. We combined the best of both when we implemented the policy, then made it retroactive for our CFO.

I encourage you to use the strategic planning to hit your stretch goals out of the ballpark to reach the possible and account for the unthinkable, too, as it is often forgotten but can easily be incorporated.

Written by Jim Annis, president/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Peterson, Tom Miller and Nissa Jimenez, Applied’s division directors, contributed to this article.

Why Do I Do This?

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Failure in Business and Why It is Important

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