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Apr 292010
working; sick

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UK study finds that going to work when sick could cost your employer more than if you stayed at home!

Absenteeism is a common and much reported problem for employers around the world, costs companies millions of Euro every year and has a negative impact on everyone in an organisation. If your colleagues don’t turn up for work, that puts pressure on you, because somebody has to pick up the slack.

What we rarely hear anything about though is the flip side of the same coin: the potential impact of people who attend work when they’re genuinely too sick to do the job.

Perhaps partly because of the rising profile of absenteeism in the workplace, increasing numbers of employees struggle in to work when they would be both physically and psychologically better off taking the day off to recover. According to a pioneering report from UK based employment think tank The Work Foundation, the cost of this sickness presence — or "presenteeism" as they call it — could match or potentially exceed the UK£13bn bill for sickness absence that UK businesses have to foot.

While sickness absence is widely measured and monitored across the public and private sectors, and many businesses are focussed on reducing absenteeism, this report suggests there’s a lack of understanding surrounding "presenteeism", and organisations are generally oblivious to its hidden costs. The authors point out that businesses who don’t address presenteeism in the workplace could be missing out on opportunities to boost productivity and improve employee health and wellbeing.

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Mar 022010

working two jobs... recession beater with a heavy price According to research by employment law consultancy firm Peninsula Ireland almost four in every ten Irish workers are having to take on extra work to balance their personal finances.

As the ranks of Ireland’s unemployed continue to swell, those people still in work are forced to work longer hours, or even take on a second job to meet the challenging economic realities of life in post-celtic-tiger Ireland. The survey of 837 workers on the island of Ireland took place in January and February of this year, with 39% of respondents admitting to holding down a second job, up 16% on a similar survey the firm conducted last year.

"In theory [a second job] is a good idea," said Mr Alan Price, managing director with Peninsula Ireland. "A second job means higher income, but it can pose problems for both the boss and the employee. HR laws need to be looked at to ensure that no one is breaking the law by working too many hours in one week," he said.

"Another problem you face is employee fatigue and this may well become a health and safety concern, so it’s something that both the employee and the employer need to address."

Spending more time at work means less time at home, and that brings other pressures to bear on families already struggling to cope.

“Working longer hours may not necessarily be good for your health, and people can get easily overwhelmed when they take on a second job,” commented Mr Price. "Before considering a second job look at all the risks and weigh up the benefits. It may well be that you will be in a worse-off situation, especially after taking into account travel, taxes, any other expenses,

“Think about the lack of quality time at home and any implications on your health; there really is a lot to take into account.”

If money is the primary motivator for the second Job, workers may be better served looking at opportunities to increase their earning potential in their primary role, advised Mr Price.

“There may be better ways to improve marketability, training and education,” he said. "Look to see if there are extra skills required for jobs that pay more money, such as supervisory roles. Have you expressed an interest to your employer that you would like to be considered for these better-paid roles?”

Anyone considering taking on an additional job would do well to heed the advice and consider the long term consequences rather than just the short term gain of a boosted income. Long hours, frayed nerves and exhaustion can have serious legal and safety implications, could adversely impact your performance in your primary job and potentially exact a heavy personal toll on you and your family. If you’re considering another job to plug a shortfall in your finances make sure you explore all of the options available to you, and are aware of the potential pitfalls before you make the decision.

Feb 022010
3D Team Leadership Arrow Concept

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There’s a general perception in business that a tough, no-nonsense, target driven approach is the key to effective leadership through tough economic times. But new research from the UK challenges that long-held assumption, and suggests instead that it’s leaders who concentrate on building effective relationships with their teams who really stand out when the going gets tough

According to UK workplace think-tank The Work Foundation, effective leaders put people and relationships front-and-centre as they strive to tackle the challenges of the recession. Based on over 250 in-depth qualitative interviews, the two-year study, "Exceeding Expectation: the principles of outstanding leadership", proves that highly people-centred leaders, rather than their target-obsessed, autocratic counterparts that consistently deliver outstanding performance in organisations.

The findings could have profound implications for how organisations assess and measure the performance of their leaders; for the criteria used to select potential leaders, and the training and development techniques used to foster effective leadership; and on the way individuals approach their own personal development at work.

"The evidence from our research indicates there needs to be a paradigm shift for all leaders who remain fixated on numbers and targets," explained lead author Penny Tamkin. "Outstanding leaders focus on people, attitudes and engagement, co-creating vision and strategy. Instead of one-to-one meetings centred on tasks, they seek to understand people and their motives. Instead of developing others through training and advice, they do this through challenge and support. They manage performance holistically, attending to the mood and behaviour of their people as well as organisational objectives. And instead of seeing people as one of many priorities, they put the emphasis on people issues first."

Six high-profile UK organisations took part in the study, including EDF Energy, Guardian Media Group, Tesco and Unilever. One of the most striking elements to emerge from the research was the stark contrast between the behaviour of merely "good" and truly "outstanding" leaders. Until all the interviews were completed and analysed, researchers were unaware of whether the leaders participating in the study were deemed "outstanding" or "good" in terms of their achievements and how they were perceived by those reporting directly to them.

"Outstanding leaders are focussed on performance but they see people as the means of achieving great performance and themselves as enablers," added author Gemma Pearson. "They don’t seek out the limelight for themselves but challenge, stretch and champion others, giving them the space and support to excel."

The report reveals three key principles that were common to outstanding leaders in the study group:

  • They think and act systemically, seeing the whole picture rather than compartmentalising
  • They see people as the sole route to performance and are deeply people and relationship centred rather than just people oriented
  • They are self-confident without being arrogant; they are aware of their strengths and their position of influence, yet use these for the benefit of their organisation and its people.

"Our findings strongly suggest that an approach which connects leaders to people and people to purpose defines outstanding leadership. Leadership that focuses on mutuality and respect is not only good for people but good for organisations too," said Tamkin.

The full report "Exceeding Expectation: the principles of outstanding leadership" is available for download from

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Dec 212009
More Bad News ...

Image via Wikipedia

You can view Communicating bad news at work – Part 1 here.

(Inspired by an entry in Lynn Gaertner-Johnston’s excellent Better Writing At Work newsletter)

Chances are you’ve read or heard more bad news on the jobs front over the last week. There’s no getting around it, things are tough out there for employers and employees alike, and are likely to remain so for the short term.

Sooner or later in your working life your going to encounter bad news, and, if you’re progressing in your career, and are responsible for a team of people, the job of communicating that bad news to others is going to fall on your shoulders. This week we continue with our tips to help make passing on bad news at work a little less painful for everyone involved.

  • Speed and consistency are paramount: when you’re communicating bad news you can’t rely on the trickle-down approach to spread the word — have a plan for getting a consistent, coherent message to all relevant people in the organisation as soon as possible once the news breaks. The last thing you want is delays feeding rumour and speculation.
  • A little compassion goes a long way: you’re probably sorry to be the bearer of bad news, and genuinely regret the circumstances that make it necessary. But the pressure of passing on the bad news can easily mask that. Don’t let it. Showing that you empathise with people, and telling them that you’re sorry about a situation isn’t an admission of guilt or liability. It simply shows that you care.

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Dec 092009
Bad News Bad Drawing

Image by Orin Zebest via Flickr

(Inspired by an entry in Lynn Gaertner-Johnston’s excellent Better Writing At Work newsletter)

Bad news is rife in the world of business and employment today. It’s a fact of life as companies struggle to get to grips with the subdued economy. If you’re managing or supervising staff, there’s a fair chance you’ll find yourself delivering bad news to your team at one point or another, and how you choose to communicate that news can make a huge difference.

"No one ever wants to receive bad news, and no one wants to communicate it either," says business communications specialist Lynn Gaertner-Johnston. "Delivering bad news is a huge communication challenge. It requires great care, especially if the news is upsetting rather than merely inconvenient."

Breaking bad news can be a nerve racking and difficult experience for even the most seasoned business communicator, but if you find yourself passing on bad tidings at work consider following some of these tips to help ease the pain:

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Nov 302009
Christmas Party (1998) album cover

Image via Wikipedia

While some companies may choose to skip the traditional office Christmas party this year, many more will go ahead with the seasonal merriment, seeing it as a way to boost employee morale at the end of what has, for many, been an incredibly harrowing year.

Of course, for some workers the prospect of a looming Christmas party could be the most harrowing thing of all, but love it or loathe it, this is potentially a very trick event for anyone who’s career minded.

To avoid waking up the next morning, looking back and cringing at your exploits in front of your co-workers and boss the night before, we’ve compiled this handy office Christmas party survival guide just in time for the start of the silly season:

  • Watch what you drink: this sounds obvious, but is the single most important thing you need to remembers. Yes you want to let your hair down and have a bit of fun, but you don’t want to be the one falling over on the dance floor mid-way through the night. Enjoy a few social drinks with work colleagues… but pace yourself, and keep a clear head.
  • Don’t be the first to arrive, or the last to leave: you don’t want to be sitting alone at the bar when everyone else starts to arrive, and being the last to leave can suggest that you don’t know when to call it a night.
  • Leave office politics at work: this isn’t somewhere to score points or snipe at your work colleagues. This is a social engagement, and in the spirit of the season you should aim to keep things social; so, no spreading malicious gossip or venting work-based frustrations.
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Oct 052009
Money Back Guarantee

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Pay cuts and job losses seem to dominate the recruitment news most days, but according to the latest research from the US, there’s one sector of the employment market that seems immune to the negative impact of an ailing global economy. While workers across the board bear the brunt of harsh economic times, the people at Dollarthe helm of the organisations they work for seem to be leading a charmed life.

To put things into perspective, between 2007 and 2008 the value of the US stock market dropped by an astonishing 37%, and 2.6 million American’s lost their jobs. Businesses across the board saw profits plummet, but while most staff suffered amidst the economic turmoil, one group seemed to be immune to recessionary pressure.

American shareholders rights group, the Corporate Library, surveyed 2,700 public companies and found that the median annual salary for CEOs dropped by a barely perceptible 0.08% in 2008. More than 75% of the CEOs surveyed actually reported an increase in their base salary over the same period.

"Paraphrasing the words of Mark Twain, rumours of the death of CEO pay have been greatly exaggerated. In fact, far from falling on its face – like the economy did – it has barely stumbled in its steady climb," commented Paul Hodgson, a senior research associate with the Corporate Library.

While CEO’s contracts would have been mostly agreed before the financial crisis hit, Hodgson points out that he’d still expect some elements of their remuneration package, such as bonuses, to reflect their actual performance in the job, but the link appears tenuous, or even non-existent according to the research. As an example he cites the second highest-paid CEO in the survey, Oracle’s Larry Ellison, who took home $543 million despite a 21% drop in the company’s share price. The highest paid CEO surveyed was Steven A. Schwarzman of the Blackstone Group, who earned a staggering $702 million in 2008.

The Corporate Library’s accolade of "highest paid / worst performing" CEO went to Michael Jeffries of giant clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch, who came in at number nine in the top-ten highest earners list.

While Jeffries’ base salary was a paltry $1.5 million, exercising stock and option rights saw him boost his earnings to $71.8 million last year. The company he led fared less well. If you’d invested $1,000 in Abercrombie and Fitch at the start of 2008, your investment would have shrunk to just $300 by the end of that same year. Compare that to Apple’s Steve Jobs, who has earned €160 million in total over the last ten years, while guiding the technology company to unprecedented success, an 850% rise in its share price and a $150 billion hike to its market value.

With such disparity between executive pay and company performance it’s hardly surprising that public trust in America’s big corporations is at a low ebb, and while the numbers here in Ireland might not be quite so big, it’s unlikely this is an exclusively American trend.

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Aug 192009

Buy "The Cost of Bad Behavior" from AmazonAccording to the co authors of a new book from the US, bad behaviour and rudeness in the workplace could be costing companies billions in lost productivity.

Professor Christine Porath of the USC Marshall School of Business and her co-author Christine Pearson, a professor of management at Thunderbird School of Global Management, discovered just how much poor manners at work can impact a company’s bottom line while researching "The Cost of Bad Behavior: How Incivility is Damaging Your Business and What to Do About It”.

Behaviour like texting in meetings, spreading malicious rumours, taking credit for other people’s work, ignoring emails and even refusing to say a simple "please" and "thank you" are much more than just annoyances, say the authors, who claim that stress caused by bad behaviour could be costing businesses a staggering $300 billion by affecting the performance of those on the receiving end.

The Authors’ research suggests that eight out of 10 employees who are victims of insults or bullying in the workplace lose work time worrying about it, while a similar proportion feel that their commitment to work declines as a direct result. Civility costs nothing, but implementing a culture of civility in the workplace could have real payback in terms of productivity and bottom line profits. "It starts with the top," Porath insists. "There should be a thread of civility through everything a company does." When these threads start to break down, she warns, companies are in danger of losing their best employees, to the long-term detriment of the business. Even with currently high levels of unemployment she points out that there’s still "huge concern with Human Resource executives that there’s a shortage of talent. Businesses are fighting for talent."

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Aug 052009
Closed for business

Image by maistora via Flickr

The latest figures show that more Irish firms closed their doors in July than in any month so far this year. 151 firms became insolvent in July, a 33% increase on the figure for June and a surge of 132% on the same month last year. The construction sector, once again, was the worst hit by the insolvency spike — with reports suggesting a correlation with the traditional "builders holiday", and struggling firms choosing to avail of this traditionally quiet period to wind up their operations "under the radar".

The motor trade was also badly hit — with a 200% increase in insolvencies compared to June, and according to the insolvency news aggregator the numbers of Irish firms going out of business shows no sign of abating.

Retail insolvencies in July were up almost 50% in July, increasing sharply from a figure of 21 in June and almost triple the 11 insolvencies recorded in the sector during May. 131 retail companies have already gone out of business so far this year. In the hospitality sector insolvencies remained relatively consistent at 14, compared to 13 in June and 15 in May.

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Aug 052009
Swine Flu

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Ireland seems to have avoided the brunt of the Influenza A(H1N1) swine flu pandemic to date. As of the 28th of July there were a total of 276 laboratory confirmed cases of the disease in the state, 38 of which were classed "in country" transmissions (passed from person to person within the country, as opposed to being picked up outside Ireland and brought in). That’s a fairly small number, but one of the characteristics of a pandemic is the tendency for small numbers to turn into big numbers very quickly.

Last week an estimated 1,500 suspected cases of swine flu were reported to Irish GPs, and a glance across the water to our nearest neighbour, Britain, which is top of the European league table for Swine Flu infections by quite some margin, reveals a worrying trend. There were an estimated 100,000 new cases of swine flu in the UK during the week ending the 19th of July. That’s almost double the figure for the week before, with the numbers typically doubling week-on-week. Meanwhile infections here continue to rise sharply, and public health officials warn that it’s only a matter of time before Ireland’s first swine flu related death occurs.

In Britain, the pandemic is already having an impact on the workplace. Figures released last week by absence management firm FirstCare revealed that 130,000 people stayed off work with cold and flu symptoms on the 14th of July, up from 45,000 a week earlier. Here the HSE is advising Irish businesses to gear up for increased absenteeism in the workplace as the pandemic takes hold.

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