SESCO Management Consultants, Bristol, Tenn., the human resources consultants for Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors – National Association and Quality Service Contractors, have these 10 tips for managers, plus, as a bonus, the top five ways that non-exempt employees are misclassified as exempt from overtime pay.
In the eye of the beholder, a good manager is differentiated from a bad boss by the way the boss makes employees feel. They also assess the boss based on his or her contribution — or lack thereof — to their ability to get their jobs done successfully.
Employees tolerate a lot of bad boss behavior. Many bosses are untrained, uncaring, and not held accountable for their actions and interaction with employees. Some were promoted to jobs above their competence to perform.
If any of the following behaviors define you, it is true! Your employees at least do not respect you and probably dislike you as well.
1) You Are Incompetent — This is the first consideration when your employees consider your success. Do you provide them with the leadership they need to succeed? Are you leading and managing in a way that makes your employees know that you know what is going on in the organization? They have to be able to see that your knowledge and skill will help move the organization forward.
The worst manifestation of not knowing what you're doing is to give employees the wrong information. You also demonstrate incompetence when you present information that is wrong or you interpret the numbers incorrectly when talking or presenting to your reporting staff. They will always catch you when you don't tell the truth, pretend to know what you don't know, or withhold information that made them fail.
2) You Treat Them Disrespectfully — When you demonstrate a lack of respect for employees, you injure their feelings, their self-confidence, and their self-esteem. Furthermore, if you treat them disrespectfully, you will never garner their respect in return. Employees are feelings-oriented.
When you talk over them, belittle their ideas, ignore their input, and criticize them unfairly, they feel disrespected. Calling last minute meetings with no regard for their prior commitments, refusing to okay vacation time that was appropriately requested, and failing to commit needed resources in a timely manner are hallmarks of disrespectful behavior. Employees know when they are not respected.
3) Work Is All About You — Are you the center of the employees' world? Everything starts and ends with you? Do you formulate expectations for employees based on whether their outcomes will make you look good? Worst, do you chastise employees for errors or unmet goals because they made you look bad? When everything is all about the manager, employees know and they will dislike you.
4) You're a Jerk — Are you unreasonable, selfish, manipulative, or stupid in your behavior toward your staff? A prima donna that requires their attention constantly? Do you think about their feelings or the impact of your decisions on their work? Do you tell tales about one employee to his or her colleagues in your department? Do you play one employee against another by offering a prize for the best project? Think about a time when you thought of another individual as a jerk?
5) You Over-Manage Good Employees — Even earnest managers can make an incorrect assessment about how much managing an employee needs. When you trust your employees and let them figure out how to accomplish their job, you call forth their significant contributions. If you micromanage and nitpick their ideas and work, you will never tap into the best they have to offer.
Sure, new employees, employees in training, and employees who change jobs or acquire new responsibilities need more guidance. But, if you don't watch your need to guide them lessen over time, you are the problem. Micromanage good employees and they will hate you — or run away as far as possible as quickly as they can.
6) You Don't Know What They Are Doing — You don't have to know how to do every employee's job to be a good manager. But, you have to understand enough about their work to guide them. You need to communicate with the employee often enough to know how he/she is progressing and what challenges he/she experiences.
If you make decisions about his work, you must know more than the minimum about the project or job. If you tell him/her what to do or how to do it, which is not recommended, you better know more than the employee does, or he/she will dislike.
7) You Don't Act As If They Have Lives — You don't need to know everything about the lives of your reporting staff, but you need to act as if they have lives. Asking employees to work late, work more, and assigning more work than they can do will stress out the employees. They want to do well at work, but they also have myriad responsibilities with home, family, friends, volunteering, sports events, and so much more. Offering some flexibility and understanding will earn their respect.
In fact, the youngest generation of employees, unlike their older coworkers, demands flexibility and free time to pursue all of their other interests. Put barriers in their way and you will find yourself without an employee. And, who you lose will be your most skilled, highly valued employees who have the skill set necessary to network and leave. If you make them feel guilty, object to what they need to do, or act as if you are put out every time they pursue their other priorities, your employees will hate you — and the best will leave.
8) You Don't Give them Credit When Credit Is Due — Employees enjoy recognition and credit for their accomplishments. They like having coworkers praise their work and think highly of them. Where managers mess up in this arena is by taking credit for their employees' ideas and accomplishments. Not mentioning that the idea was Mary's is the fatal omission a manager makes. You may think that you are currying favor from upper management, but your employees will find out.
A senior manager will mention your idea in an employee meeting and everyone will know it wasn't your idea. You'll get credit for a job well done — and the job was done by your reporting staff — but no one recognizes the team — which employees know means that you didn't. Your employees won't trust you and, when this happens repeatedly, they will dislike you.
9) You Don't Have Their Backs — When you throw your employees under the bus, you will not recover. The minute an employee knows that rather than supporting him and offering reasons why a project or timeline may have failed, you blamed him. After that, it's all over. Even if you are disappointed in the employee's performance, you publicly blame them to your shame. Rather than earning the approbation of senior managers, you will be known as the manager who throws employees under the bus. And, those employees will definitely dislike you!
10) You're a Bully — Bullies reside in boss's clothing more often than you'd ever think possible. Bullies intimidate employees with words and threaten employees and their jobs. Bullies belittle employees and chip away at an employee's self-confidence and self-esteem with criticism and ridicule. Bullies are condescending, demeaning, and cruel. It's tough to describe bully behavior, but employees know when they are being bullied and they will hate you.
All of these behaviors are unacceptable at work, yet they occur daily in workplaces worldwide. SESCO's advice to the owner, CEO, top manager — get rid of these bosses. Coaching and counseling may help for a while, but these behaviors are not acceptable and difficult to change!
Exempt or Nonexempt — 5 Common Employer Mistakes
The five exemption categories described in the Labor Department's general guidelines are the ones to follow to avoid improperly classifying employees. But as many employers have discovered the hard way, it's not so simple to make those calls.
Heed the lessons learned by other employers to avoid incurring costly penalties, back-wage payments and legal fees — not to mention the black mark against you that a Fair Labor Standards Act lawsuit can bring. Here are five common mistakes you want to avoid to stay in compliance with the FLSA's classification rules.
1) Misclassifying assistants and computer pros — Employers are making the most classification mistakes with two types of employees:
• Executive assistants. The number of executive assistants that are truly exempt is small... and this is an issue that Labor is going after time and time again. Key points: If the executive is out of the office could the assistant make some key decisions in his or her place? If not, the person is likely nonexempt.
In fact, the violation most frequently cited by the Labor Department is one in which the employee's primary duty is not, “the performance of office or non-manual work directly related to the management or general business operations of the employer or the employer's customers.”
• Computer professionals. The FLSA's overtime rules contain an exemption for certain computer professionals, but too many employers try to shoehorn every IT person into that category, even help-desk people.
2) Switching employees to exempt once they hit a pay threshold — Aerospace contractor Ball Corp. had to pay out almost $1 million to 900 employees to settle a Labor Department complaint. The problem: The company switched top-tier hourly workers to exempt status once employees reached the top of the hourly pay scale. They were also required to work through lunch without pay.
3) Looking only at job titles, not at employees' duties — Many employers believe that anyone with a “manager” title is automatically exempt from overtime. But the term manager means different things in various organizations. That's why it's important to look at each employee's specific duties and responsibilities when deciding whether he or she is eligible for overtime.
That's especially true in industries that have enjoyed overtime exemptions for years. Most are based on unique jobs with special requirements, such as truckers who move goods from state to state. But attempts to stretch these industry-specific exemptions to other jobs often fail.
4) Wrongly assuming all help-desk workers qualify for the computer exemption — While the FLSA says certain computer professionals are exempt employees, be ultra-cautious about applying this exemption.
Courts are littered with cases of employers being punished for wrongly applying exempt status to lower level IT workers, such as help-desk staff (aka "IT support specialists").
In a recent opinion letter, the Labor Department said some IT support specialists are not covered by the FLSA's administrative exemption because their jobs are not "directly related" to their company's management or general operations.
In this case (as with many other help desks) the duties of the computer-support specialists involved installing, configuring, testing and trouble-shooting computer applications, networks and hardware.
While that's complex work, the Labor Department said it doesn't require the employees to exercise "discretion and independent judgment with respect to matters of significance with respect to management or general business operations of the employer," as is required to obtain the exemption status.
5) Not giving exempt executives true hiring/firing authority — Before you classify supervisors as exempt executive employees, make sure you've given them enough authority to make that classification stick. That means delegating true hiring/firing power with the clear understanding that your organization will typically follow the supervisors' recommendations.
If you give power in name only, the Labor Department or courts could reclassify your managers as nonexempt, hourly employees. And that could cost you big bucks in overtime pay and fines.
Case in point: A Delaware chicken farm employed five crew leaders to transport “chicken-catcher” workers to the farm and supervise them as they caught birds. The farm classified the crew leaders as exempt executive employees and refused to pay overtime or travel time. Reasoning: Crew leaders could suggest who should be hired or disciplined.
The crew leaders sued, claiming they should be classified as nonexempt and receive overtime. A federal court agreed, saying it takes more than mere hiring and discipline suggestions to earn executive-exemption status.