By description, a business process is a set of activities that, once completed, will accomplish an organizational goal.  Likely several processes come to mind as you consider this description: sales, marketing, finance/accounting, product development, etc.


Now think about compliance.  Rather than viewing compliance as a burden, an extraneous requirement or waste of time, instead consider the ways in which compliance, when well managed as a business process, helps accomplish a variety of business goals:

  • Affirmative Action or Equal Employment Opportunity compliance supports innovation: diversity of customers and markets supporting organizational growth
  • Selection/hiring compliance supports staffing: the right people with the right skills in the right positions to meet customer and business goals
  • Wage & hour compliance supports organizational stability and corporate citizenship: regulatory updates are managed with a reduced threat of disruption or legal challenge.


Meeting external, statutory requirements (i.e., compliance) as a routine business process:

  • Supports a culture of positive employee engagement and trust
  • Frees employees throughout the organization to focus on the business rather than on covering or explaining marginal activities or wondering where perceived gray lines may be
  • Focuses resources on planning and implementing what is or can be known and
  • Avoids the turmoil, expense and bad press of potential legal challenges.



The Road to Abilene (aka the Abilene paradox) is Dr. Jerry B. Harvey’s 1974 parable about a family trip to Abilene.  In that classic story about the results of group think, members of a family make a miserable trip across the hot desert in a car without air conditioning just to eat bad cafeteria food.  They could have stayed home enjoying conversation and cool drinks in the shade.


This group think paradox brings to mind a statement attributed to Malcom Muggeridge, “Only dead fish swim with the current.” The quote brings other pictures to mind and Muggeridge is right.  In hundreds of scuba dives, one has seen that it is the healthy fish who face the current, looking for food and moving around the reef.  Bigger fish find their healthy places in bigger currents.


Now create for yourself a mind picture of the mission of the Giraffe Heroes Project: to move people to stick their necks out for the common good: to do the right thing for others (my emphases).


What a contrast!


With these mind pictures formed, let’s reinforce some principles:

  • In the next meeting in which an executive says, “It would be great if…”, stop and think.
    • Your organization pays you, as it does other manager/leaders, to think.
    • Thinking is the valuable process.
    • Not valuable is taking that long hot trip to Abilene and finding only misery at its end.
  • Teachers who told you in school that if you had a question, others likely had the same question were right.
    • Ask the question(s).
    • Be the hero who sticks her neck out to focus everyone away from ‘going along to get along.’
    • Help your colleagues confirm that the idea supports strategy; that critical resources are available; that timing is good. Or, help everyone avoid misery.
  • Don’t participate in the ‘watching and hoping.’
    • Challenging ideas, asking questions and matching plans with strategy are valuable actions that focus organizational resources and lead to creative, productive solutions.
    • Helping everyone succeed and avoid misery is each leader’s opportunity and challenge.


Paraphrasing Jim Collins, going along to get along is not why your butt is in that manager/leader seat on that particular bus.  Swim healthy against the current.  Be a giraffe.

What if you are a manager and you hear one of your employees say he is having trouble getting to work on time every day because of some medical appointments?  Dare you ignore the remark?  Is it a trigger to start an intentional conversation with that employee?  If so, how hard could that really be?  Turns out, it can be painstaking, and it can be critically important.


This employee may have just begun the critical conversation (aka the interactive process) required by the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).  The requirement for an interactive process is unique to the ADA.  The process can be difficult to start, to do well and to maintain.  Both the individual with a disability and the employer are required to communicate in good faith regarding reasonable accommodations, once conversation has determined that there may be performance issues related to a disability.


In your conversation provide the employee an opportunity to explain the reason that an accommodation is required due to a medical condition.  From that point, explore every potential accommodation that is suggested.  Remember that under the guidelines, an employee does not get to demand one, one particular or even “the best” solution.  Neither is it good practice for a manager to enter the conversation with preconceived notions about the employee, the medical condition, limitations or potential accommodations.  Books have been written and court cases decided when either party tries to draw a proverbial line in the sand.  It may be useful to invite the employee to complete an initial questionnaire to help him prepare for a conversation with you: to collect his thoughts and generate some creative options.


Examples of reasonable accommodations range widely and may include equipment, leaves of absence, changes in work schedule, job reassignment to an available and suitable job, restructuring of nonessential job functions, modified workplace policies, etc.  Often, the best accommodation involves a little creativity from both parties and need not be costly.  In one situation, a yoga mat and time to stretch throughout the day was all an employee needed to address a chronic back pain issue.


The interactive process does not end with the first conversation.  Periodic follow up with the employee is good practice to maintain productivity and engagement and to ensure that any accommodation is effective.


Internal resources include knowledge of requirements of the ADA, the business and the employee’s role in it and good job descriptions.


Outside resources such as the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) and the U.S. EEOC Enforcement Guidance on Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (October 27, 2002) may also be useful.

  • Be aware of the ADA and its requirements.
  • Maintain job descriptions that focus on essential functions.
  • Train managers to have effective conversations: to ask questions about reasonable accommodations and not about the medical condition or disability.
  • Meet and converse periodically with the individual and document the conversations.
  • Repeat as necessary to assure any accommodation continues to be effective and reasonable.

On March 14, 2016, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) received final changes for proposed revisions to the federal wage & hour law from the Department of Labor (DOL).


One former DOL wage & hour administrator believes the rule will move quickly and may be published as early as July 7.  That date would make new regulations effective on Labor Day, September 5 (60 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register).  An alternative view anticipates publication just before Labor Day with an effective date just prior to Election Day.


Regardless, it is as important as ever – and now is a good time – to review your compensation practices to plan for likely changes that may be required by these updates.


(More information in the October 22, 2015, post on this site.)

One cannot hide far enough below any radar at this time to avoid hearing negative, ugly language.  In some circles such language has been identified as candor.  One asks: Really?


Candor stems from candere meaning ‘to glow.’  Think for a moment not about the glare of a classic interrogation light but about a sunny, warm glow.  Could that be the basis for candor (i.e., sincerity, straightforwardness, truth)?


In workplace encounters managers’ employee relations goals are at best forward focused.  To build the team and the organization, managers’ candor with their employees builds rather than damages.  So, the ideal may be to base candid conversations in a warm glow of kindness for the best results.




Recently two leaders raised concerns about an employee’s repeated unacceptable conduct.  Frustration led one manager to focus on immediate discharge.  The other manager proposed “one last chance.”  Some persuasion led to both managers’ willingness to lead with candor.  The final “writeup” shared with the employee focused on mutual understanding of expectations and accountability.  The candid message was delivered with care: with a glow of respect if you will.


What could have led to a job loss, frustration or anger led instead to behavior change and a sincere apology.  The employee simply had not been aware how her conduct was being perceived, and there had not before been a candid conversation in which everyone was focused on moving positively forward together.


A recent article described a colleague who was willing to talk with an individual identified as a workplace bully: a situation far beyond what is described above.  One colleague was willing to confront the bully candidly with the glow of mutual respect.


In this situation, the bully’s behavior had stemmed from frustration.  He neither asked for his promotion to manager nor was he trained for it.  He’d been very successful and happy in his role as a talented engineer.  He didn’t know how nor want to be a manager.  He was virtually unaware of how his frustrations were leading his conduct and how negatively others were perceiving it.


  • As a manager, have you created a situation in which an employee may be feeling frustrated and may be acting on that frustration?
  • Is there a colleague or friend with whom you might share the glow of candor to strengthen a mutually respectful relationship?

Might considering candor as a glow of kindness help you approach any seemingly difficult conversation?

The spectrum tracks questions often asked by organizational leaders.  In the next several comments here, we will visit some of those issues.  Today –


Can we change an employee’s pay rate?


This question nearly always arises when the anticipated change is a reduction.  It seems the question fades to moot when the change is an increase.  Consideration is important regardless of the direction of change.


The short answer:  Yes, you can change an employee’s rate of pay.  You can increase it or you can decrease it.


The longer answer:


When pay rates are evaluated, leaders do well to consider a variety of factors:

  • Market competition
  • The relationship of (base) pay to the value or contribution of a job to the organization
  • Internal equity: relative pay rates across organizational levels, locations, jobs, etc., in terms of the skills, experience, education and other factors contributing to the value of the position.
  • Applicable external requirements (including but not limited to) state requirements to provide:
    • Written notice of pay at the beginning of employment (i.e., at hire)
    • Written notice any time a pay rate is changed.


Under these circumstances, a general announcement of a broad pay change (e.g., an X% across-the-board change announced at an annual meeting) would be insufficient.


Some states’ requirements are more specific and clarify that pay rates may be changed if an individual is notified of a change prior to performing work at the new rate.


Of course it is critical that any rate of pay complies with applicable minimum wage and overtime pay requirements: federal and/or state.


Overall when considering pay rates, it is good practice to be mindful of current applicable forces: internal and external.


As noted in prior ‘spectrum’ writings, things change: external regulations, organizational expectations, needs and practices.


Information and ideas are not offered or intended as legal advice.

In his recently posted compilation of results of more than 40 research studies on gratitude, “The 31 Benefits of Gratitude You Didn’t Know About: How Gratitude Can Change Your Life,”,” Amit Amin includes some valuable organizational findings.


This holiday season seems a fitting time to remind us all of the Career, Social, Emotional, Personality and Health benefits found through research.


Focusing on our careers:


Gratitude helps you network.  Gratitude has been shown to increase social behavior across a number of studies including two longitudinal studies that showed people with higher levels of gratitude developed more social capital than those with lower levels.


Gratitude increases your goal achievement.  At the least, gratitude will not make you lazy and passive. It might even do the opposite!


Gratitude improves your decision making.  Decision making is really tiring – so tiring that we automate to our subconscious much of the reasoning that goes behind making a decision.  Even for the most basic of decisions, like where to go eat, there are dozens of variables to consider: how much time and money to spend, what cuisine to choose, whether or how far to travel, what to order and so on. If you deliberated on each of these decisions one at a time, your mind would be overwhelmed and tired, and the problem gets even worse for more complex decisions.  At least one study shows that gratitude motivates and might energize improved decision making.


Gratitude increases productivity.  People who are highly confident are able to be more productive, because they can direct more of their focus toward their work. Gratitude has been shown to increase self-esteem and reduce insecurity: it can help us focus and improve our productivity.


Last, and perhaps best, gratitude makes you a more effective manager.  Effective management requires a toolbox of skills. Criticism comes all too easily to many, while the ability to feel gratitude and express praise is often lacking. Multiple studies have found expressions of gratitude to be highly motivating.  If praise is moderate and focused on behaviors, repeat expressions of gratitude (contrary to expectation) will not lose their impact, and employee performance will increase.


A 2001 Gallup survey revealed that 65% of Americans didn’t receive recognition in the workplace in the prior year.  Knowing that, consider the potential positive impact on your team’s performance through your learning and practicing expressions of workplace praise.


Separately, looking at the broad impact of gratitude on organizations, a 2015 study published in the International Business Research journal showed that collective gratitude (many individuals in the work place practicing gratitude) can reduce employees’ turnover intention, foster employees’ organizational commitment, lead to positive organizational outcomes and help eliminate toxic workplace emotions and negative attitudes.


Imagine what a conscious practice of intentional gratitude could do!

The Department of Labor (DOL) is busy reviewing over 290,000 public comments submitted on proposed key changes to the regulations defining exemptions from the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  Good for business leaders who made their opinions known: whether in support or contention.

Experts agree that change will come, as this issue has the focused attention of the Administration.  While there is some thought that the DOL may reduce the target salary threshold to something less than the 40th percentile of earnings for full-time salaried workers, change will be significant.

Now is a good time to consider how best to manage the impact of proposed changes, whether the salary threshold is set at $970 per week, the current 40th percentile; $852 per week, the current 35th percentile or $773 per week, the current 30th percentile.

There are financial and operational considerations:

  • The first obvious question: What positions’ pay rates will fall below each of these thresholds?
  • Will pay rates below a threshold be increased to maintain exempt status or will positions be reclassified as nonexempt, eligible for overtime pay?
    • If reclassification is elected, are timekeeping and other systems adequate?
    • How will pay rates for positions “close to” the thresholds be managed?
  • How many hours do employees in likely reclassified nonexempt positions routinely work per week?
    • If a routine work week is more than 40 hours, will base pay rates remain the same or will rates be reduced to account for likely overtime compensation?
    • Will alternative salary practices be considered?
  • How will anticipated changes impact operational issues such as staffing, scheduling and work assignments?
  • What changes will be required to job duties or descriptions?

There are also important workplace culture considerations:

  • What is your communication plan?
  • When will you talk with employees?
  • What information will you share?
  • What tone will you set?

Answers to these and other questions will be important to your business.  Consider them well.  Consult your advisors.  Be as prepared as you can be.