Monthly Archives: May 2017

Deal with Workplace Bullies

Workplace bullying is a widespread problem. According to a Workplace Bullying Institute study, 65 million workers are affected by workplace bullying. 20% of respondents said they had been bullied, 21% said that witnessed it, and 7% said that they are currently being bullied.

Even worse, 56% of people said that the person bullying them was their boss—making it hard to report the problem.

Bullying isn’t just a traumatic experience for the employee—it spells trouble for your business. There’s plenty of data that show that company culture has a direct effect on productivity. If your culture is one of a hostile work environment, your employees may spend more time worrying about their mental and physical safety than doing their best work. And once culture is broken, it takes a long time to remedy the problem.

There’s also the potential legal liability. If the bullying rises to a serious level, and a company official knew about it and did nothing, that could expose the company to possible litigation.

How to Deal with Workplace Bullies

1. Create an Anti-Bullying Policy

Another Workplace Bullying Institute survey found that 62% of the respondents reported having no such policy at their workplace. Before you can hold somebody accountable, there must be a policy in place since federal and state laws generally don’t mention workplace bullying unless it falls under anti-harassment law. The policy should provide a definition of bullying and address how employees should and shouldn’t act. In addition, it should layout reporting procedures and company actions. Click here to read an example policy.

2. Provide Anti-Bullying Training

Nobody wants to sit through training like this but by addressing the subject, you’re not only putting people on notice, you’re also helping to protect yourself from possible litigation. And some older employees, used to how things used to be, may need some education on the modern office environment. The Workplace Bullying Institute has resources available to help with training.

3. Encourage Reporting of Workplace Bullies

Tell all your employees that you want to know if they are a victim of or witness bullying. No report is too small and if found to be true, swift action will be taken. Also let them know that all reports will remain anonymous and investigated fully.

4. Provide No-Nonsense Enforcement of Policies

All the policies, training, and warnings mean nothing if there’s no concrete action taken when bullying exists. Regardless of how well-liked, high performing, or important the person is, action must be taken, even if that means the person is let go. Company culture and employee safety is always more important than an individual. If people report bullying and notice no action being taken, they won’t bother taking the chance again.

5. Don’t Call Anyone a Victim

Although the word might be accurate, using the term may cause other employees to look at the person unfavorably. Did they bring it on themselves? “If they were better at their job maybe they wouldn’t be treated that way,” and other comments might be said if the person is cast as a victim.

In general, you shouldn’t address incidents publically. Handle them with the parties involved. You will set the best example by being responsive rather than having an employee meeting about it.

6. Put a Stop to Rumors

Every company and organization has talkers and gossipers but doing your best to encourage employees to talk to management instead of complain to each other will help to reinforce positive company culture and make bullies feel like outcasts. The better your culture, the less audience a bully has and the more likely people are to report the person.

7. Make Sure the Bully Isn’t You

If we’re not honest, we can’t fix the problem. Maybe the bully is you. Maybe what you think is funny is actually hurting somebody else. Or maybe the stress of being a business owner sometimes comes out as anger toward employees.

First, remember that, whether you agree or not, we live in a culture that no longer tolerates the old school yelling, crude jokes, hazing, or demeaning of “the new guy.” You can’t selectively apply rules to certain employees, and you can’t publically reprimand people who make mistakes. Any of these could be bullying and even if you’re found innocent, settling a legal matter such as this could be costly.

If you’re a new business owner and just now starting to hire employees, make sure you know what you can and can’t do as a boss

Tips to Beat Jet Lag

There’s nothing worse than traveling only to find yourself too tired and groggy to enjoy the destination once you arrive. Jet lag isn’t something that lasts for an hour or two—sometimes it lasts for days—but there are jet lag remedies to combat the travel fog.

What Is Jet Lag?

To beat it, we must understand it, so what exactly causes jet lag? For a long time jet lag was written off as a product of the mind but scientists now know that the body runs on a 24 hour clock that varies all kinds of chemicals in the body. These changes are called circadian rhythms and when they get disrupted, we feel the effects of jet lag. You’ll feel sleepy, irritable, brain fog, hunger at strange times, and even gastrointestinal upset.

Don’t Fall for Schemes

Now that we know what it is, how do we combat it? There are more herbal treatments, diets, and old wive’s tales on the Internet than there are time zones. Most won’t offer any help. Don’t waste your money. Instead try some of these ideas.

Jet Lag Remedies That Work

Before you leave, follow what doctors probably tell you at every visit—get plenty of sleep, eat healthy foods, drink plenty of water, and exercise. The better your health, the lighter the effects of jet lag, according to professionals.

Leading up to the trip, start adjusting your bed time. If you’re heading east, go to bed one hour earlier each night for a few nights. If you’re heading west, go to bed one hour later. By the time you take the trip you will have already adjusted at least partially to the time zone changes.

And the night before you leave, resist the urge to have a wild sendoff complete with alcoholic beverages. Alcohol will dehydrate you and make the effects of jet lag worse. It also acts as a stimulant and might keep you from sleeping.

Especially if you’re traveling west to east, try to sleep on the plane. You may not realize it but traveling is extremely stressful on the body and you’ll need energy when you arrive to start counteracting jet lag.

While on the plane and soon after you arrive, stick with safe foods that won’t irritate your stomach. A big burrito might not be the best idea while your body is fighting to adjust to the new time zone. Although studies show that certain foods don’t help to reduce jet lag, irresponsible eating can certainly make it worse. And sorry to ruin your fun, but save the alcohol for at least day 2. If you’re feeling that jet lag brain fog, alcohol will only make it worse.

When in Rome

Once you get to your destination, don’t let your body tell you what to do. It will want to operate on your home time zone time but your job is to get it acclimated to the new, temporary reality. If you’re tired go for a walk, drink a cup of coffee, get out in the sun and see some sights, or head to a restaurant. Don’t take a nap or head to the hotel room and lie around. If you absolutely must take a nap, try and limit it to 20 to 30 minutes. If the nap is too long, going to bed on the new schedule won’t be happening that night.

You Need Light

Of all the cures out there, light is the single best one. That means that controlling jet lag comes down to controlling light and darkness, according to experts. If you’re traveling east, expose yourself to light earlier. If you’re traveling west, expose yourself to light later. For example, if you board a plane at 6:00pm that will arrive in London at 6:00am local time (which would be 1 am if you were still in NY), you need to advance your internal clock for London time. To do that, you need to avoid light on the flight. One way is to wear sunglasses on the plane. You might even wear them when you get off the plane.

Stretch Your Startup Dollars

Initial startup costs are some of the biggest expenses a new business owner will have to encounter. Before you turn a profit, there are many parts of the business that need to be covered up front, and entrepreneurs don’t always anticipate some of these expenses.

To reduce your startup costs and stretch your dollars a little farther, follow these tips.

A simple way to save money as a new business owner is to set spending and expense limits. However, a surprising number of business owners don’t have a formal budget, said Carissa Reiniger, founder of small business support community Thank You Small Business.

Angie Segal, an ActionCOACH business coach, advised entrepreneurs to factor their own salary into the budget as soon as possible. [See Related Story: 6 Smart Budgeting Tips for Small Business Owners]

“When you don’t pay yourself, you take money out of the business elsewhere to cover your own expenses,” Segal said. “Giving yourself a salary forces you to make everything in your budget work.”

Thatcher Spring, CEO of GearLaunch, said entrepreneurs should always do as much as possible with what they have before they add more fixed costs.

“At my company, we only hire when there is too much for the current staff to reasonably accomplish without additional help,” he said. “I’ve also found that hiring less-experienced, smart, adaptable employees, instead of only those that are senior and highly experienced, can help keep salaries under control.”

When you created your business plan, you might have envisioned all of the latest office equipment, lavish holiday parties and enough staff to take on big projects. However, not all of those business luxuries are guaranteed.

Office Evolution founder and CEO Mark Hemmeter said small business owners can suffer from a lack of flexibility in their grand plans.

“Your ego and vanity can get in the way,” he said. “You want that car or that perfect sign, but it just isn’t a good fit for the core of the business.

Hemmeter recommended looking into short-term solutions, like using shared office spaces and hiring freelance workers, until you can afford to make long-term commitments such as acquiring private office suites and hiring full-time employees.

Spring added that business owners should always plan for every effort to take longer than expected, whether it’s launching a new website, signing up customers, sourcing new products or hiring employees.

“Make sure you always set aggressive goals, but realize that there will be unexpected terrain on the pathway to success,” he said.

Startup costs for a new business add up, but there are tips and tools for finding the best areas to spend the money and those where you can cut back a bit. Spring noted that there are numerous cost-effective, self-service tools available to small business owners who want to save money by taking care of their own branding and website development.

However, it’s wise to be wary of “free” opportunities, warned Raad Mobrem, CEO and co-founder of Lettuce Apps (acquired by Intuit).

“Free tools can be a bad idea — they’re free for a reason,” Mobrem said. “Always pay for the important things, like software. You can ask for discounts with B2B services. People understand that you’re a small business just starting out, and if they offer discounts, you’ll want to work with them in the future.”

That said, spending money on the lowest-priced items can mean getting the lowest quality. As a result, you may have to replace things multiple times, and that can be more expensive than going with a pricier option in the first place.

“It’s a huge mistake to go as cheap as you can,” Hemmeter said. “It doesn’t look very professional.”

One area where you may want to splurge is your company culture, Spring said. You can invest in small items, such as snacks and comfortable work furniture, which don’t necessarily cost a lot but produce meaningful intangible value. “Having a great office environment will improve productivity,” Spring said.

After you follow the initial tips to save money and reduce the startup costs of your new business, it’s just as important to make sure your expenses stay on track as your business grows. Seek financial advice from accountants and fellow small business owners, and then go over your expenses and try to cut back where you can.

“Find an accountant that acts as a business adviser,” Segal suggested. “Look at your profit and loss with him or her every month, and see if anything is creeping up. Be very conscious of your numbers.”

As you adjust your budget each month to save money, you’ll be able to start investing in bigger, better things for your business. Mobrem’s advice is to plan your budget in terms of stages.

“Analyze and think about your long-term goals with your budget,” he said. “Ask yourself, ‘If I hit this goal, where should my budget go next?'”