Don’t Take Things Too Literally!

A  poster  designed several years ago by futurist, Jacob Morgan,  is making its rounds in media circles.  It compares how work experiences have changed for employees.  Morgan listed characteristics of past work and those of future work.   Many of them, on either side, are still part of current workplace cultures or have become part of the workplace for some time now.

The problem with this poster is it simplifies the workplace and makes workplace change look less complex than what it is.  It could encourage some people  to implement them without any consideration as to how it will be for the workplace, the employer or the employee.

For example, the past side establishes the workplace setting in a corporate office and workplace hours as 9-5 and Morgan suggests the future is work anytime or any place.   Those characteristics from either side may not describe all workplaces.  Some may work in a factory.  Some may work in a hospital.  The past hours listed of 9-5 may not be their work hours.  On the future side, the setting and hours are even broader with any place and any time which may sound great but, again, may not suitable for all workplaces.  In addition, does that mean a boss can call employees on a beach during their vacation or in the middle of the night if that employee does work during the day?  Or could it mean horrible working conditions and the working any time may only be some times that may not help pay the bills.

On his website, Morgan does provide a little more information as to what  “work anytime” or “any place” means.    What he describes is flex time and telecommuting, which some workplaces have already been doing, but he doesn’t mention the workplaces, such as an auto plant, that may be unable to do that which makes his idea of the future workplace somewhat limited.  Also, when it comes to flex time in some workplaces managers and workers have agreed on placing parameters around  hours to be flexed to be fair to workers and also help customers with their needs.

Morgan also identified  “Use Any Device” on his future list.  Once again this sounds great that personal devices can be used but it also raises some serious workplace concerns which are identified on a web page of Society of Human Resource Management.   On the page, concerns such as privacy, proprietary issues and other legal problems are listed for both the employer and employee.  Plus, is it really the employees’ responsibility to provide the type of technology the workplace requires?  What if a workplace strongly encourages employees to purchase or lease a specific smart phone that may be unaffordable especially for an employee who may be starting out with few financial resources?

The comparison list of the old and new workplace may appear to be nice and maybe somewhat exciting when the future is addressed but it’s important to understand it’s not the features alone that make a great workplace.   It’s more about workplace values that benefit both employers and employees.  Once those have been established and demonstrated by both, then those workplace features suggested by Morgan can be tackled and that takes trust, respect, and mutual understanding which occur because of those values have been demonstrated.

Each workplace may have its own set of values based on what it’s about, the employer, the employees  and some other things but generally there are five values that help most workplaces.  They are employee involvement, employee investment, flexibility, customer focused quality and supporting and empowering leadership.

Those kind of values lay foundation to develop Create Your Own Ladder, Customize Work, Become a Leader and other future workplace features listed because they become part of the culture.  Maybe Create Your Own Ladder is more about being a leader on a specific project which leads to other projects instead of being CEO.  Customize Work is allowing teams of workers to look at workplace systems and possibly redesigning those systems.  But before those or any other workplace characteristic  can happen, the environment  has to allow it and that’s where it takes time for employers and employees to create.  It’s much easier to look at a poster and say “I want that” but it probably won’t create a great workplace.

It’s not to say the features Jacob Morgan developed are wrong.  It’s just about putting things in place first that will enable those features to work better.

Also, those items of the past workplace, they still may be needed, too, and some good workplaces still follow them.  A great workplace can require employees use company equipment instead of personal equipment because of the reasons above.  Climbing the corporate ladder isn’t a bad thing because it provides opportunity.  Some people may start at the bottom and realize later they are interested in moving up.

Workplace amenities and practices such as those on the future list may sound nice but they can also be superficial in comparison to an organization that demonstrates a strong culture of supporting its employees.   One workplace that’s been cited for modern amenities and practices is Google.  Cafeterias, game rooms, and dry cleaning and other services to help employees are just some of the things provided.  But even with all of those, employees have concerns and have staged walk-outs over harassment and other issues.  Others fear reprisals if they’re recognized for speaking out against the tech company.  They believe more protests will happen until the organization displays better treatment  to employees.

So  creating the workplace of the future is a little more than literally using ideas off  a poster.  It’s not as simple as implementing those features to create the workplace of the future.  It’s more  about employers and employees working together to developing a climate where people are respected, feel valued and are important to each other and the workplace.  That may take longer than picking those things off a poster to implement but much more will be gained from it.  After that, everybody can look at both sides of the poster and determine what’s best for the workplace, or, what’s more exciting is identifying a the workplace’s own list of future features!

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Three Things About Worker Burnout

Over the past couple of months we have highlighted issues related to worker burnout. This issue seems to be an increasing problem in today’s workplace. In this article, we want to highlight additional issues related to burnout, a possible unanticipated consequence it may have, and a potential solution that could help reduce the factors causing burnout.

  1. Some of the causes of burnout may be surprising.

We have talked about some causes of burnout in earlier posts, but a recent article brought some other issues to the forefront. The web site presented an excellent article about the issue, noting that stress alone is not a cause of burnout. It notes that how we or our organizations manage stress is a significant factor which interacts with our personality type or lifestyle issues.

Among the risk factors cited in the article are

  • Unreasonable time pressure and unmanageable workload. In some professions, time pressures and workload problems are caused by external factors. Still, effective planning in the organization can help mitigate the problem.
  • Lack of communication and support from a manager. Sometimes we blame workers for their burnout and believe overcoming the feelings are the sole responsibility of the worker. The article instead cites the importance or managerial support as a psychological buffer against stress. They note employees who feel strongly supported by their manager are 70% less likely to experience burnout on a regular basis.
  • Lack of role clarity. When expectations are not clear or are inconsistent, employees will be frustrated or may become exhausted simply by trying to figure out what they are supposed to be doing.
  • Unfair treatment. Employees who feel they are treated unfairly at work are 2.3 times more likely to experience a high level of burnout.

The article is well worth reading, and adds additional perspectives to burnout issues.

  1. Sometimes efforts to improve things can have unintended consequence.

This week the first 2019 economic sector reports began to appear. One report showed some interesting preliminary results, such as a larger percentage increase in earnings for workers than managers.

Several analysts grabbed on a fact regarding wages that showed some workers who received raises due to increases in the minimum wage ended up choosing to work fewer hours.

The implication from these articles was since workers were getting more per hour they could work fewer hours and still get the same amount. This conclusion is based on the ridiculous theory that low-wage workers must be stupid, lazy, or both.

The problem we see is the desire of some reporters (and many readers) to present the quick, easy answer. It fits their paradigms, is easy to understand, and may be horribly flawed.

While I am sure there may be some workers who will choose this unwise option, there are even more likely reasons that represent the thinking of more workers. Try this alternate theory:

Many workers who are paid only the minimum wage or close to it are working part-time jobs, many with variable shifts and no benefits. To house and feed their families they have to work two (or often three) jobs. They work long hours and have limited time to spend with their families resulting in a decreased quality of life.

Now, with higher minimum wages, these employees can afford to cut back on that second (or third) job and be able to spend more time at home. They continue to work, often in excess of the traditional 40-hour week, but now can have a living wage without the excess number of hours.

The employers in these organizations report another unanticipated outcome from increasing the minimum wage. As some employees choose to work fewer hours, there are now move hours available for the remaining part-time employees and/or openings for new workers. This is another positive outcome from raising the minimum wage. Burnout is decreased and employees have more options.

  1. Another suggestion to help prevent worker burnout – one we like!

We often see “Self-Care” suggested as an option for dealing with burnout. Employees are asked to develop strategies for dealing with workplace stress, variable shifts, exhaustion, and the various other factors that contribute to the problem. It assumes the workers should be solely responsible for overcoming the problem.

Kayla Blando in the website offers another suggestion. She proposes organizing or joining a union as a solution to burnout.

Ms. Blando notes, “Being in a union means that you and your coworkers work together to fix the problems at your workplace, and then negotiate for solutions with management. Whether this means collectively bargaining for raises, vacation time, better healthcare or more clear-cut job duties, there is an undeniable strength in a union”

Researchers have shown a clear relationship between the decline in the unionized workforce and the decline of the middle class, increasing loss of wages when compared to those paid to management, and the growth in the concerns leading to burnout.

As Ms. Blando concludes, “Your best defense against burnout isn’t self-care, it’s joining together with your colleagues to build power collectively at your workplace.”

That’s it for now about issues related to burnout, but we would love to hear your thoughts. Have you or your colleagues felt burnout in your job? What factors contribute to the problem? How has it impacted your workplace? Let us know your answers and we will feature them in a future blog.

In the meantime, if you or your organization want to consider strategies for helping with these concerns contact us at Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee.

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Build Those Workplace Partnerships Before It’s Too Late

Welcome back and welcome to 2020!  We’ve been on holiday hiatus but below is a new blog on a story that hit many media outlets just before the Christmas holiday on a workplace issue that took several years to resolve.

The story is about the  French telecom company, now called Orange, and how its executives in the early 2000s devised a plan to try and force employees to quit so the company could recover from enormous losses at the company.  The pressure was so bad on employees that more than 60 committed suicide. Because of that, a French court, just before the Christmas holiday, found the company and the executives who came up with the plan guilty of moral workplace harassment.  Both the company and the executives were fined.  The company had to pay a settlement to victims’ families,  and, in addition, the executives received prison sentences.  Some legal experts say this has opened a new door on the meaning of workplace harassment.

The pressure on employees started before the restructuring plan was implemented in 2006.  The company was transitioning from a public company to private company and the changes created from that caused a great deal of discomfort for the entire staff.  The downsizing plan just created an additional layer of misery and stress as employees faced horrible management behavior.  Some would call it management by intimidation.

Some employees were given unobtainable quotas.  Some were transferred multiple times to different locations.  Others were given new jobs without having any skill for the jobs.  And others experienced horrible treatment from their supervisors such as surveillance or needing permission to use restrooms.

This type of management style is unnecessary and, despite the French telecom incident occurred several years ago, some managers, unfortunately, continue to use this style.  Let’s look at surveillance, which is one technique the telecom company used. Surveillance seems to be on the rise.  As the use of technology has increased so have surveillance techniques.  Measurement of employee productivity is much too common whether that be in an office or a warehouse.  A supervisor can measure the number of keystrokes an employee does during a specific time frame to determine productivity.  We’ve heard  reports from employees afraid to use restrooms because of fear they were spending too much time away from the job.  These types of methods, or style, only create more stressful environments for everybody.  They do nothing for an organization’s long term stability.  Creating a more positive environment can greatly  improve both productivity and longevity for a company.  We have recently blogged about other sources confirming the need for new workplace practices to improve the culture.

The Boston Fed is one of those sources.  They continue to publish articles on their website to explain the importance and need for quality jobs.  Not only do they say wages need to go up but they also say other things are needed for a quality job.   Those other things include  a consistent schedule, health benefits, sick pay and a safe work environment.  It helps to create a culture where employees feel valued and have opportunity to learn new skills and grow their career.  In addition, the Boston Fed says workers must have a voice and be made to feel part of the workplace.  Most of these things were missing from the French telecom.  They may have been paid decent wages and benefits but the overall climate was more Us-vs-Them in which the executives created a huge division between themselves and the rest of the workforce.   Quality jobs, the Boston Fed says, help to grow the overall economy.  Without them,  we all will be hurting.

Another source we’ve written about is the Society for Human Resource Management.  They say we’re at a critical point now for employee inclusion because turnover costs are in the billions of dollars and are at an all-time high.  If these costs are not better controlled, organizations cannot maintain themselves or grow which again hurts all of us.  Workers are now demanding workplace cultures like that at the French telecom company need to stop, because if they don’t, workers, SHRM says, will continue to search for new employment until they find one that is more suitable.  In the end, that hurts the bottom line not just because of turnover costs but the ability to provide services or products for customers.

And we now have a court decision that says enough is enough.  Managers must understand the importance of  developing a culture that will pay enormous gains for them.  Managers need to be real leaders and LISTEN to employees as well as to act on employee ideas and concerns.  Environments need to be created that allow for shared leadership with employees or unions.  Investment in employees also needs to happen instead of tearing employees down which appeared to be common at the French telecom.  Employees need to be trusted and treated with respect and dignity.  They need to be allowed to make decisions as they do their everyday work.  In addition, workplaces must be flexible to better meet customer needs and to create that environment so it can adapt better to outside forces and financial concerns instead of losing billions of dollars.

While it’s easy to focus only on management but it’s not just management that has a responsibility to make a positive work culture.  Unions have a responsibility, too, in making sure working conditions are satisfactory and the negotiated contract is enforced.  Union representatives need to also LISTEN.  While we don’t know how much the French union at the telecom company did for their members, we do know several employees committed suicide before the union filed a lawsuit.  As written above, the culture was already bad before executives started implementing their horrible downsizing plan.

Workplace partnerships need to be started long before bad situations occur.  If not, it can be too late.  Suicides may not happen but workplaces can close and people can lose their job.  Working together can help look at problems before significant financial loss happens or people feel like they’re being forced out.  We’ve blogged about partnerships created that eliminated the costs associated with safety issues that kept one company open or the partnership that looked at voluntary furlough plans to help stem personnel losses that neither side wanted.  With both of those examples, it took a year before benefits could be realized.

The French telecom story is a horrible story.  Not all workplace stories are as horrific as that one.  Nobody won in that story.  The workers definitely did not.  The executives who thought they were saving a company didn’t.  And while the company did survive,  it’s reputation is tarnished when it comes to workplace culture.

Everybody wins with workplace partnerships.  If the central bank of the U. S. says it’s time to change, a management professional organization also says it and now a court system says it, it must be time to act.  We’re starting a new decade.  Let’s get going!

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Happy New Year!

We want to take a moment to wish all of our readers a Happy New Year. We appreciate you taking your time to read and respond to these blogs.

We also pause to remember the individuals and groups with whom we worked in 2019. CALMC conducted numerous rounds of training, facilitation, and assessments. Over 40 groups participated in our membership meetings, training, or other events.. We appreciate their support and interest in labor-management cooperation and effective problem solving.

2020 will mark the 34th year for CALMC. During that time we have established a record of delivering high-quality, low-cost services to our members and clients, and we promise to continue this record. Stay with us, because based on what we already have coming up it should be an interesting year.

Later in January we will continue to look at factors impacting worker burnout, along with a possible solution proposed by a researcher. We also want to discuss data-based decision making and the need for good, valid information. Later on, we will review our predictions for 2019 and offer a look at the trends in labor-management relations we for see for this year.

In the meantime, have a great NewYear, and we hope to see you in 2020.

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Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays!  We’ll be back in January.  In the meantime, here’s a repeat of one of our more popular blogs.  It’s from February, 2011.  Enjoy!

Do Labor and Management Share Common Interests?

How would you answer that question? Do you believe that the two parties are diametrically opposed to each other, or that most of their interests are the same?

Some people cling to the old belief that labor and management are in constant conflict, with labor driving up costs with no regard for their employers or taxpayers. They believe the answer is simple – do away with collective bargaining and budgets will be balanced and all will be well.

Like most simple answers, this one is wrong.

What surprises many is most of the interests of labor and management overlap. It is on these common interests CALMC works to build its cooperative efforts.

In Ohio’s public sector, we have seen union and management work together to improve customer service, enhance efficiency, and cut costs. Both sides know they must work together to survive. They have cooperated to reduce costs, including salaries and benefits, save jobs and help each other. They have done this based on their common needs and interests.

There has been a lot of finger-pointing and blame finding about what caused the economic downturn. One thing is certain – anger and frustration are occurring and driving the finger-pointing and blame game. Everyone is blaming someone or some group for this horrible situation and trying to find a solution without identifying the real cause.

In Ohio, Wisconsin, and other places, collective bargaining and organized labor are now being targeted by politicians, special interest groups and others. According to these groups, collective bargaining costs too much money. Placing blame does not fix the problem.

There is no doubting the financial difficulties facing the state, municipalities, and school districts. The problems are real, and have many causes. Eliminating collective bargaining will not fix them. Those who believe it will ignore one basic fact, the total state payroll ($3.45 billion in 2009 according to the Columbus Dispatch) is less than the size of the budget deficit.

Adversarial behaviors like attacking, pointing fingers, blaming and arguing do nothing to solve budget problems. CALMC has helped labor and management work together in many public sector agencies. Both sides have been very willing to look at ways to reduce costs and improve service to taxpayers based on their common concerns and interests.

Solving the budget problems will require the work and cooperation of everyone. Wasting time trying to impose the will of one side over the other is not the answer.

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Another Factor in Worker Burnout – Unpredictable Shifts

A few weeks ago, we wrote about worker burnout as it affects hourly workers and teachers. Today, we want to consider another burnout cause impacting hourly workers, unpredictable and irregular shifts.

Many hourly workers are required to work on-demand. They may report to work only to find out they are being sent home as unneeded. They may have to sit around hoping to get called on to work. As a result, they cannot count on the income they will receive or how to meet the needs of themselves and their families. SHRM notes that on-call scheduling negatively impacts low-wage earners who may need to plan ahead for their financial, child care and transportation needs, as well as for second-job or school conflicts.

In other cases, employees are expected to act as “clopeners”, responsible for closing the facility at the end of the night shift and then reporting prior to the start of work the next day. reports on a worker in a retail store who reports he often ”wraps up work at 11:30 p.m. and has to be back to stock shelves at 6 a.m. His shifts vary so much he can’t get a second job, but he doesn’t always get enough hours to make ends meet.” The worker states “You pay rent, you pay your car and then you have no money for food.” In response, the company stated their scheduling practices “balance the needs of our guests, the unique demands of retail and our team members’ needs.” It is worth noting they put their employees last in their statement as well as their actions. It is also not a surprise this organization has a history of union avoidance activities with their employees.

The resulting physical and mental burnout for these employees is significant. A University of California study of nearly 28,000 retail and food-service workers at 80 large companies found that two-thirds of those workers have schedules that change at the last minute.

As a result of these inappropriate scheduling behaviors, several cities and states are now passing predictable shift laws. Their goal is to make work scheduling more equitable, particularly for low-wage workers who need this employment.

The website reports these laws “generally require larger employers in retail, fast food, hospitality and other service industries to give hourly workers some amount of advance notice of shifts and shift changes — typically seven to 14 days.” Some of the laws guarantee workers the opportunity to receive additional hours and guarantee new employees the minimum hours they were promised when they were hired.

HRdrive report as of July 2019, the state of Oregon and 6 cities, Seattle, New York City, San Francisco, Emeryville, CA, Chicago, and Philadelphia have enacted predictable scheduling legislation and other are considering implementation. They cover an estimated 740,000 workers and 1,000 employers. In addition, San Francisco, New Hampshire and Vermont have passed laws that give more than 1 million workers the right to request scheduling accommodations

The Wall Street Journal reports “Research suggests that businesses might ultimately benefit from a new approach to scheduling, even if the transition period is rocky.” A study released earlier this year examining stable scheduling practices at Gap Inc. stores found that labor productivity increased 5% and sales rose 7% when managers did things such as keep the days and times of workers’ shifts consistent from week to week.”

On the other hand, 4 states, Iowa, Tennessee, Arkansas and Georgia, ban predictive scheduling laws. Clearly these states are demonstrating little regard for workers. Not surprisingly, these are also “right-to-work” states.

There is an obvious need to balance the needs of employers for adequate staffing and those of employees to meet their economic and family needs. Since many of the impacted workers are low-wage low-skilled individuals, it would appear the employers have the upper hand. Fortunately, some states and cities have enacted laws to protect these workers. We also encourage involved employers to take steps to recognize the needs of workers, including the use of automated scheduling to bring more certainty for the employees.

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Don’t Forget To Include Workers

We have blogged before on the Boston Federal Reserve and the series of articles they have posted on their website about the need for quality jobs and the need to invest in workers.  This last month, they came out with a new series on the impact of technology on workers and their jobs.  In addition to that article, complimentary pieces are on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School for Management about the importance of involving workers and others with technology changes.

As the Boston Fed reports, technology is going to make an impact on jobs but it may not be as bad as what some media sources have reported.  Technology changes will be more gradual, they say, instead of immediate, and while there will be job loss, there still will be plenty of opportunities for workers because robots or other technology just can’t do everything a human does.  They also say it will be important for workers to learn and work more with technology.  Technology can benefit workers.  For example, some technology can eliminate monotonous, repetitive tasks or it may help make jobs safer.

Both the Boston Fed and MIT Sloan say organizations need to watch how technology advancements are implemented because they may not be beneficial.  Just because it may be successful in one organization doesn’t mean it will be in another.  Some organizations rush to implement the latest innovation without exploring the impact or usefulness of it.  In other words, it’s treated more like the flavor or the month. It is better they say to have workers and other experts involved in the decision making process to help determine need, the design and  the implementation .

Involving others, particularly workers, brings about different perspectives.  Things that may not have been thought of by one or just a few people can be recognized by those who actually do the work or by experts or customers who may be familiar or have had similar experiences can provide additional information that can help make the right decision.

When we’ve worked with labor-management groups on technology issues, we use  problem solving tools to help determine the best solution.   We encourage lots of different options by addressing the real issues the organization is facing and the common concerns or interests of each side.  This is a much better approach than focusing on a single solution or rushing to something that may not even resolve the issue.

Plus as others are involved, it creates greater buy-in for any change that may happen.  That buy-in translates into greater loyalty by employees, customers, and other individuals who may be involved.  When it comes to employees it means working hard and productivity gains.  It also can provide more experienced and skilled workers instead of the added costs of hiring new workers who will require training and time to get up to speed.

The Boston Fed says when workers are involved it helps to ease fears or concerns about the future of their jobs but the MIT Sloan article goes a little bit further.  Richard Trumka, President of AFL-CIO, said in the article it’s more than just informing.  It’s making sure workers are involved in the decision-making process.  If not, the process may not work for the entire organization.  Workers can help with the design and function of technology.

An example of this is something that happened in Columbus and is highlighted in the Boston Fed series.  Several years ago, Columbus received a grant for technology innovation for transportation  from the     U. S. Department of Transportation.  One of the innovations the Columbus group came up with was driverless buses but there was a problem, city bus drivers were not included in the planning.  Once the bus drivers heard about the driverless bus plan, they pointed out several things that those working on the plan didn’t consider.  One was bus drivers help some of their passengers get on and off a bus.  That’s something that could be a problem if there isn’t a driver for a bus.  The bus drivers also said sometimes they see emergency situations along their routes.  One driver saw a home on fire and alerted the fire department.

An example that was in the Boston Fed piece was about workers at a lens plant.  The workers say they aren’t too concerned about technology because they can recognize some imperfections in the lens technology cannot detect.  They also say they are better at developing customized lenses than the robots at the plant.

In another example,  we worked with a group who saw technology taking over their jobs.  Once they learned how each group member was using the technology and what each was doing that technology could not do, they realized there were things they could do to improve their jobs and their ability to do more than technology, they were able to come up with alternatives and other solutions for their jobs.  In other words, they worked with management to re-design their jobs that benefitted the entire organization.

The idea of involving workers especially with technology needs is a no-brainer.  As with many other workplace issues, the benefits are enormous.  The more involved workers are, the better for the organization.  It may not always be easy but it’s worth it.  It’s also important to involve other experts or customers in the process.  Everybody brings a different perspective that only help provide additional information and support for change.

Both the Boston Fed and MIT Sloan said this is not the first time workplaces have experienced major work process changes.  The Industrial Revolution shifted the country into a different industry.  The Information Age with the advent of computers and the internet brought  more change.  AI and robots will change things again but humans have a lot of ideas and lots of ability.  It’s important those ideas and ability are utilized.Thi

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News and Notes on a Holiday Weekend

As we celebrate Thanksgiving Day in the United States, I want to use the blog for this week to highlight some item from the Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee.

Councilmember Rob Dorans

Councilmember Rob Dorans speaks at the CALMC Membership Meeting

On November 20, we held out most recent Membership Meeting. City Councilmember Rob Dorans was our speaker for the meeting. In addition to his work on Council, Rob is also Chief Legal Counsel for ActOhio, which is associated with the Columbus Building Trades unions. The organization advocates for quality, safe construction by contractors and skilled craftsmen with integrity. They fight for level competition to ensure the state’s tax dollars are spent properly and strive to educate the public on the importance of fair wages, workforce training, industry regulations, and safety standards. From this work, Rob is a real voice for working people in Columbus.

Councilmember Dorans’ presentation dealt with a number of topics he faces from both of his jobs, including promoting business growth and opportunities for job growth in the City. He discussed the need for more workers in the skilled trades to meet the existing demands as well as the new projects that will come to the area in 2020 and beyond.  He also spoke about the need to ensure fair treatment from employer, some of whom try to treat their workers as contractors and not employees. This results in lower wages and a lack of basic protections such as health benefits and Workers Compensation coverage. He is working with other council members to draft meaningful legislation to prevent this practice.

CALMC Membership Meeting

Some of the CALMC Members listen to Councilmember Dorans

Another of the topics addressed by Councilmember Dorans was the need for better transportation in the City. Workers cannot take the new jobs being created if they have no was to get to them. He discussed a variety of options, including expanded bus lines, increased use of connectors between current lines and the neighborhoods that could provide employees, as well as the efforts of Smart Columbus to improve and modernize local transportation.

Rob’s presentation was very well received by our members and generated a number of questions. We thank him for taking the time to join us.

Our next membership meeting will be February 26 at 8:00 AM. We hope to have representatives from the State Council of Professional Educators, a CALMC member organization that represents teachers in Ohio’s prison and juvenile detention facilities.


It’s been a while since we have mentioned Skinner Diesel Company and their efforts to improve worker health and safety, a process that continues to be successful. They recently passed 2,000 worker days without any injuries or incidents, a significant improvement from their safety record before CALMC introduced the Safety Always process at the facility..

This turnaround in workplace safety is sustained by the ongoing work of the safety committee. This dedicated group keeps an eye on working conditions and practices to help raise awareness of safety among their co-workers. The commitment of business owner Mike Skinner and his support for the safety process has been a major contributor to the improvements that keep the workplace safe.

Unlike other safety programs that produce short term, unsustained results, the improved safety record at Skinner Diesel has continued for over 16 years. As a result, workers have remained safe, the business has added more employees and increased wages and benefits from the savings that have resulted from improved safety.


We are continuing to add to the series of Podcast available on our website. We are currently featuring a series of programs dealing with the career of Eugene Brundige. Gene served as a labor leader, manager, and a neutral at various times during his career, and played a significant role in achieving collective bargaining rights for Ohio public employees.

Shortly before his death, Gene did a presentation about his career which we are using for the podcasts. We hope you will listen to these and our future podcasts.


Are you interested in improving the safety of your workplace or participating in a CALMC meeting or event? Contact us, and we will let you know more about how to get involved.


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The Latest Workplace Trend Is Driven By Fear

One of the latest trends occurring within workplaces is the increased use of non-compete agreements.  These agreements in the past had predominately been done with executives or with workers who worked in contracted environments but now many different types of workers such as fast-food workers or janitors are having to sign agreements.

Employers see these agreements as a means to help organizations remain competitive and to aid in development and expansion.  It also helps to retain already trained workers instead of having increased turnover and associated costs.

When employers use non-compete agreements they may require employees to remain confidential about specific practices or they may require employees, if they leave, not to do the same  or similar work within a certain jurisdiction. These agreements can have particular time frames such as one, two or more years.

The increased use is being driven by the need for specific skills or to prevent employees from leaving and going to competitors.

What this really sounds like is employers are more concerned about losing trained help and don’t have enough confidence in their abilities to be able to overcome the competition or they can’t come up with new ideas to be competitive.  This practice keeps  employees from being able to improve their livelihoods.   Employers want the skills employees provide but sometimes refuse to recognize them through monetary gain or by allowing them a voice in the workplace.

Non-compete agreements not only hurt employees but they also hurt the organization.   These type of punitive actions usually don’t help or convey the type of positive values an organization has.  It gives the impression the organization is more concerned about itself and not the people that work there. Consider finding out on the first day of work you have to sign an agreement that prevents you from working elsewhere that could better your career. Imagine having to stay in a job that doesn’t offer you upward mobility whether that be in pay or work status.   Think about the overall message that conveys from employers to employees.

Eventually, organizations cease to be competitive with non-compete agreements.  An organization needs to look at new ways of doing things or look at new ways to provide customer service. New products, services or  processes can be stifled through the use of non-competes.

Employees need to feel valued and a part of the organization.  When that happens, employers can see benefit.  In addition, allowing employees to have a voice in every day decisions and to come up with new ideas can greatly improve an organization’s ability to be competitive.  It helps increase productivity.  Certain costs can be reduced.  Overall gains can be made.  And people stay not because they’re being forced but because they WANT to.  There’s a huge difference in that.

We have blogged many times about the company that has had great success with a joint employer-employee safety committee.  The owner of the company was ready to shut down because of the costs associated with accidents and injuries.  While he didn’t use non-compete agreements, he did use many other methods that failed.  But when he established the safety committee, he saw positive results within a relatively short time because the people who actually performed the job were able to have a say in safer processes.  This same owner who was ready to shut down his business has now expanded his business and has provided more money and benefits to employees.  Never once did he decide to do non-compete agreements.

The other day at one of our breakfast meetings we have throughout the year, we heard one employer increased wages by $7 an hour because he needed the skills and didn’t want to lose employees.  The employer didn’t stop his employees from leaving by using a negative approach.   He used a positive approach that encouraged existing employees  and not one that forced them to stay.

Non-compete agreements hurt everybody because the overall economy is impacted. Employees that have an ability to start their own business are restricted because of a possible requirement from non-compete agreements that say the same or similar work cannot be done within a geographic area. That can eliminate job opportunities for others.

The concern businesses have about employees taking trade secrets or customers with them to new jobs is legitimate but it also should encourage businesses to be more innovative.  Amazon was one that had non-competes and decided to stop using them.  It hasn’t stopped their ability to come up with other ideas or  be successful.

We all have heard and read about the division that has been going on in politics these days but the idea of limiting or eliminating non-compete agreements has gained bipartisan support because it doesn’t allow employees the ability to improve their livelihoods.

When it comes down to it, this is a practice that is only driven by fear.  That fear seems to be more a part of power and not wanting to grow and change.  Customers and their needs change.  If companies are not willing to change their ways for existing or new customers, they will not exist.  Employers and employees working together can make those necessary changes that strengthens workplaces.

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Do You Know; What are Some Factors Causing Employee Burnout?

Although we sometimes think of worker burnout as being most prevalent in some jobs or situations, it can impact employees of all types. Others discount the reality of burnout, especially in some jobs. If we try to deny or categorize it, we may miss the opportunity to do something that helps the impacted workers..

A Gallup study of nearly 7,500 full-time employees found that 23% reported feeling burned out at work very often or always, with an additional 44% feeling burned out sometimes. The World Health Organization recently included burnout as a legitimate diagnosis. It is characterized by three indicators: “feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and reduced professional efficacy.”

As a teacher, I saw some of my colleagues experiencing the problem. You might picture the victim being an older teacher, worn down by many years in the classroom, but this was rarely the case.

Burnout symptoms were most likely to affect new teachers, They entered the profession with great idealism and ideas about how to reach every student and mold the system to their methods. After some time coping with the reality of students who may not be interested in learning, lack of respect, unfair treatment, and local, state, and federal regulations that hamper their ability to teach, they decide to leave the profession.

The Alliance for Excellent Education reports half a million U.S. teachers either move or leave the profession each year. Research also indicates that just under 205 of teachers leave the profession within their first five years. It is little wonder teaching is the third-most regretted college major in a survey of 5,000 college graduates by ZipRecruiter.

The American Psychological Association calls the phenomenon of teacher burnout “Work

Induced Depression.”  The  Journal of Clinical Psychology notes a significant overlap between burnout and depression. This is symptomized by a  “loss of interest or pleasure in activities, mood swings, and fatigue.” Educators who experience burn out are often told to “Get over it”, or try self-treatment, while the underlying problem is ignored and the problems worsen.


The resulting increases in health care and absenteeism costs, the loss of good teachers needed for a quality education, and the difficulties of recruitment and training of their replacements further hamper already financially strapped school districts.


While many non-educators may not recognize the reality of teacher burnout, it is a real problem. Burnout, however, is not unique to educators.


Hourly workers are also subject to burnout. Pressures including continually changing shifts and hours, variability in work locations, difficulty in finding workers, and increasing demands to meet tightening schedules contribute to hourly worker burnout.

For17 straight months, the number of open jobs has been higher than the number of people looking for work. Low-skilled workers such as nurses and restaurant workers are in the highest demand.

The result has been increasing pressures on employees, along with an increasing need for employers to attract and retain employees. Locally, a major on-line retailer has been running TV commercials touting their warehouse jobs as great places to work in order to attract employees.

This is likely to be a short-term solution. We used to share an office building with a hone health care organization. This company was continually recruiting and training the next group of workers. Yet, as new employees were deployed in the workforce, existing staff quit, often siting job pressures, schedules, and low wages. The impact has to negatively impact the quality of care they were able to deliver.

What can be done to reduce worker burnout? Steve Kramer, the CEO and president of WorkJam, suggests:

  • Promote worker engagement
  • Give back some of the power frontline workers lack.
  • Keep two-way communication between managers and workers fluid.
  • Provide opportunities for employee recognition. While I am not a fan of “Employee of the Month” type programs, plans that provide fair opportunities for all employees to earn recognition can help employee morale.
  • Create opportunities for upskilling and cross-training.

These are some ideas to help deal with the issue of burnout. In upcoming blogs we will look at a couple of additional options, improving employee scheduling and employee organizing.

Posted in CALMC, Communications, Customer Service, Employee Engagement, Employee Involvement, Employee Training, Managing Change, Worker Voice | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment