Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from 2013

I'm speechless.....

'Tis the season to be kind, and I would like to be, but in the interests of telling the truth, I wanted to share this less than kind thought.   I really do enjoy watching programs where people excel and achieve something that is beyond most of our wildest dreams, I just wish they didn't tell us they were speechless, split seconds before launching into a long speech.  

Words and expressions change their meaning over time, but this is one expression which clearly means that you are unable to speak, and should be one that people say about you ie "She is speechless", while you stand in stunned silence, so totally overcome that you literally can't speak.

I have no idea why this niggles every time I hear it, particularly as at least one thesaurus lists speechless as an alternative to overwhelmed!     I know that in the giant scheme of things, it is very petty, but I'm sure I'm not alone in having silly things drive me crazy.   So in the interests of my future…

Workplace Bullying (5) - Damage to Personal Brand

There is a difference between your personal and professional brand, although they are overlapping more and more, thanks to social networking.

Its one thing when you damage your own brand, but there is a form of workplace bullying that can impact on you personally, and it is critical to address it quickly, should it happen to you.

When your personal integrity is brought into question, the damage can be far reaching.   As a woman, it is extremely important to set personal standards and guidelines for yourself in the workplace, and ensure that the lines are not crossed eg inappropriate teasing and comments about your looks, sexuality, and personal life are not office material, so try to keep that door closed, if possible.   There is an enormous difference between a lovely compliment, and a comment about your appearance that makes you feel deeply uncomfortable.  Sometimes, it is not the words, but the way they are said, and where they are looking when they speak, that causes the discomfor…

Fake it till you make it....

We are getting lots of conflicting stories about the interpreter for the deaf at Mandela's Memorial Service.  He has, apparently, worked for government before, but deaf people, including a parliamentarian, were sending messages that he was making no sense.   Today, somebody phoned 702 and suggested that her organisation would offer to give him formal training.   Definitely in the spirit of Ubuntu.

This all made me think about the concept of "Fake it till you make it".   Back in the day, I met a guy who had come over from England, was living in a communal house with 4 or 5 others, 3 of whom were draughtsmen.   He was struggling to find a job, so his housemates gave him some basic tips about being a draughtsman, (and a few fake references, I think) and off he went and got a job as a draughtsman.  He was fired after a week!

Nothing daunted, he started afresh and got another position, where he lasted about two weeks, and so it went on.   After 6 or so months, he was offered …

President Obama's tribute to Mr Mandela

"He not only embodied Ubuntu; he taught millions to find that truth within themselves.  It took a man like Madiba to free not just the prisoner, but the jailor as well; to show that you must trust others so that they may trust you; to teach that reconciliation is not a matter of ignoring a cruel past, but a means of confronting it with inclusion, generosity and truth. He changed laws, but also hearts."

Like many, many people I was mesmerised by President Obama's speech at Madiba's Memorial Service.   For me, it was one of the great speeches.  Inspiring, delivered professionally with enormous passion, and deep emotion.   I believe we will be quoting from this speech for many years, particularly, "He makes me want to be a better man"  but for me, the words above, resonated most strongly.  The president thanked South Africans for sharing Mandela with the world, I would like to thank him personally for sharing his words with South Africa.


Workplace Bullying (4) - Overwork

What is overwork?   When is it bullying?    When does the job requirement tip from high expectations to unreasonable requirements?

Starting with overwork itself.    Is a 40 hour work week adequate in companies that are expanding or simply trying to keep their heads above water?   Should delivering great service mean that people have to work long hours?

One definition of overwork is "to force to work too long or too hard".   So with that definition in mind, when does hard work become too hard?  Obviously, the word force has a lot to do with it.  Many people in business are so passionate about their work that it is both their career and their hobby, and they consider every moment spent on the job a pleasure.   However, once overtime is not voluntary and impacts on the desire to have a happy personal life, it will be seen as overwork.  

There are also professions where, by their very nature, long hours are an expectation.  Medical interns, and the medical profession in general…

Nelson Mandela

: "I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal, which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."

In his own words, at the end of his trial.     

A man for all seasons.    A man of grace.   May his example continue to lead South Africa into a future that he would be proud of.

Workplace Bullying (3) - Exclusion and Language

The biblical story of the Tower of Babel has always fascinated me.   Not least because I have never been good at languages, having struggled with both Afrikaans and Latin at school, even though I come from a multilingual family.     Back to Babel, though, and the story that the people of Shinar built a tower to reach heaven, and the Lord came to earth, and saw that people with one language could be unstoppable in their achievements, both good and bad.   And so He "confounded" their language and "scattered" the people.

In South Africa, we have 11 official languages.   At +Accsys (Pty) Ltd I have done a rough count and have come to the view that we have around 20 languages either spoken or understood in the company.

When I put out the blog on exclusion being a variation of bullying, I started to receive feedback about people feeling excluded because of language.   While a number shared that they didn't feel it was malicious, just that people are more comfortable…

Workplace Bullying (2) - Exclusion

Workplace bullying is widespread, that is very clear from the research I have done over the past year.  I have also received mails and responses to my first article, which indicates bullying in the workplace is ongoing.   While there are many, many definitions, case studies and examples, Tim Field's (footnote) is a very clear one.
Being bullied is not about one isolated incident, it is about consistent negative behaviour that damages self image to a point where the bullied leaves, and the bully remains, sometimes with greater status.
South African business writer, Ian Mann, in his book "Managing with Intent" covers self image and how to manage people more effectively by taking their self image into account.  In a bullying situation, the opposite is often true.   If you have seen the Meryl Streep/Anne Hathaway movie "The Devil wears Prada" or the TV show "Ugly Betty", you will have seen workplace bullying entrenched into the business model.   Funny, but …

Workplace Bullying

Bullying remains a very emotive issue.  I have a few friends who openly admit that they were bullies at school, and that they didn't mean any real harm, and were "just teasing".   Comments that people overreact, and that the victims often bring it on themselves are also made.   It is a reality that the bullied person's reaction can lead to further bullying, or their lack of reaction can move the bullies to a new target.   These former self styled bullies have grown up into nice people who are really fun to be with.   Who would have thought?

But the people I know who were bullied have not grown up nearly as undamaged.  In fact, it is my unscientific opinion, that bullies grow up to be happier and more successful than the bullied, because their sense of self is more entitled.  (Other than in the entertainment industry, where almost all of them claim that they were misfits and excluded from everything.....)

Moving from the classroom to the boardroom, what is bullying at w…

Employment Tax Incentive Bill (ETI) - Q & A (3)

The last part of the article on ETI, and we are still waiting for some finalisation, which I will post when I receive it.
How does an employer deal with part pay periods?
The incentive must be pro-rated to match the calculation of remuneration.  For example, if an employee starts on the 15th of the month, and earns R2000 in the first month with the company: His remuneration must be grossed up to R4000 per month The ETI on this value calculated (R1000 in the first 12 qualifying months of employment) This results in a R500 ETI for the employer on this employee for this month Does it run for 24 Months from Date of Employment?
Confirmation of this is required, but it appears that the Employer may claim for each employee for up to 24 months, even if they are not consecutive (ETI qualifying months, not months of employment) What happens if an employee leaves the organisation? Assuming all other qualifying factors are in place The next employer can start counting ETI qualifying months from t…

Employment Tax Incentive Bill (ETI) - Q & A (2)

How is the tax incentive calculated? Assuming qualification: Year One : Employee remuneration of :R2 000 or less - 50% of monthly remunerationR2 001 to R4 000 - R1 000R4 001 to R6 000 is based on a formula


Year Two: The incentive is halved :

References and LinksSA Treasury - Employment Tax Incentive Bill Accsys - Full article

Employment Tax Incentive Bill (ETI) - Q & A (1)

The new Employment Tax Incentive Bill has raised a lot of questions.   While I put out an overview a few weeks ago, there are some queries that keep coming up.   Over the next week, this blog will cover some of them.
Large numbers of unemployed are a problem for any country, but when young people leave the education system with a very poor chance of getting a job, their motivation to achieve is impacted from day one.
Statistics indicate that 50% of 15 to 25s are unemployed, and 29% of 25 to 34 year olds.   The ETI Bill aims at the 18 to 29 year olds who are believed to be around 30% of the total unemployed which is sitting at approximately 25%.
The concept of introducing a subsidy for employers who take on young people is not a new one, but there has been significant resistance.   The draft bill was released in September, and the formal bill was published on November 4th, 2013.  
When is it happening? Treasury has set a “go live” date of 1st January, 2014.   The bill has a so calle…

Difficult Interview Questions - Some responses

No matter how confident you are, being interviewed can be daunting.   Today, interviewing has become more structured and many interviewers ask a set of standardised questions, so that they can get a more objective view of the candidate.   It is a really good idea to have thought this through and to be ready with good, truthful responses that put you in a good light.

Some favourites are:

Strengths and weaknesses, conflict situations, what question should I be asking you and a success story. The examples below should give you some ideas.

Strengths for a Reception PositionI have a strong, clear speaking voiceI sound friendly when talking on the phone (I practised talking and smiling in front of a mirror)I have a good memory for names, voices and facesWeaknesses for a Sales Management Position I find Admin is a bit of a challenge, but I have developed some personal models and strategies that enable me to be more effectiveWhen sales aren't coming through, I get a bit demotivated, but I b…

Employment Tax Incentive Bill

While there has not been agreement from all parties on the Employment Tax Incentive (ETI) Bill, and the roll out, it was formally published on 4th November, 2013.  With the January go live date, there are still some issues that need to be finalised, but simply put, the concept is as follows:
The incentive runs from January 1st, 2014 to December 31st, 2016The employee must be between 18 and 29 years old on the last day of the relevant monthThe employee must earn a wage of less than R6 001 per monthThe incentive can only be claimed in the months when the remuneration is under R6 001 The employee must have been engaged after October 1st, 2013The employer must be eligible by being Registered for PAYEIn good standing with SARSNot local, provincial or national government
Limited to South African citizens and valid asylum seekers, the main driver is for youth employment, however, the incentive also applies to employment in Special Economic Zones (SEZ) and to industries that can be specified b…

Business eMails - Here to stay?

Writing business correspondence is an art.  And we are starting to forget how to do it effectively.  I hear a lot of conversations about the end of eMail, the end of print etc.   I have to believe that in the next ten years (or even less) we are going to undergo a sea change in how we communicate, both personally and in business.

But we are not there yet, and until then, we have to consider the implications of how we put together business correspondence.

Is it OK to start an eMail to a client "Hi Sue"?   Well, if you know her well, and she is informal in her manner, it might be, but it might not be for the next person you write to, and it is my view that it makes sense to keep that little bit of formality in the Dear Sue, so that you don't slip up with a more formal customer.

Some simple ideas about writing good eMails:
Use a Subject line, always, and try and create consistent ones for contextBuilding issue: Tile cracked in ReceptionBuilding issue: John Gray's air con…

Sales - why did they buy?

Following on from objective decision making, it is as important to find out why you won the sale, as to why you lost it.

Most salespeople believe the sales they bring in are due to their charm, product knowledge and strong relationship building, and prefer not to dig deeper.  The truth is that the buyer's decision making process is often less than transparent, and regularly far from objective.

Ask!   Once the deal is signed and sealed, go back to the main signatory and ask why you got the business.

Company reputation and brand equity?My service delivery?Good presentationProposal promptFollow up regular, but not invasiveRecommendation from a trusted colleague/business connectionPrice?Don't like the opposition?You created a strong connection and trust relationship with the decision maker?
The only way to repeat the right behaviour is to know what the right behaviour is.  Don't guess.   If you do this regularly enough, a consistent message should be coming through.  Once you u…

Women as Thought Leaders

The Daily Beast published a story last year with statistics that showed women being quoted 1 in 5 times on woman's issues.   The article continued with stats on news shows showing a very similar picture.    The Daily Beast

I haven't been able to find similar statistics for South Africa, but am not convinced it would be very different.

Are we just not being asked?  Or don't the media know who to ask?  Are the women with expertise not high profile enough or is it simply that with less than 20% of corporate top jobs in the hands of women, the statistics are aligned with the reality?

How does it change?   Social media has to be one of the ways forward.   With the ability to put opinions out into the ether, surely the media (and the world at large) will note that women have a point of view on matters beyond celebrities, beauty and fashion.   And may I add that enjoying the aforementioned does not drive business, economics and politics out of your head, there is space enough for…

Is it possible to make objective decisions?

Do you think you make objective decisions?   Most people are adamant that they do, but I am becoming more and more aware of the influences that move me in particular directions, and am working to be more structured in approaching final decisions.

It constantly amazes me how many people honestly believe that any decision is better than none, and that changing your mind is a sign of indecisiveness and weakness.   Frequently, decisions are made based on the current information at hand, and when more becomes available, people believe it is too late to change direction.   Sometimes it is, lets face it, once a rocket has launched, new information can't bring it back, but there are many, many times when a decision is manipulated by interested parties, and the final decision maker believes that he will look weak if he goes back on his word, in spite of knowing that an alternative might very well be a better option.

It is true, though, that slow decision making can hamper growth as well as…

Thinking of leaving - should you discuss it with your manager?

The exit interview is not the time to tell your manager that you would have stayed if.....   When you are serious about your career, and really enjoy your job, except for one key component, take the time to talk before you resign.

While sometimes the grass is greener, more often than not you just inherit new issues at a new company.

It is a difficult labour market in South Africa right now, there is a skills shortage, and yet there are millions of people without jobs.   Working for a stable company, with people you like, and a job you enjoy is important, and yet there are often those frustrations that give you itchy feet.

In your current position, your manager might really want to keep you, and be very interested in finding out what would make you a happier, more productive, employee.   It is also sometimes much easier to have that conversation with somebody you already know, than have it in your first weeks in a new position.

When you know you have choices, as well as know that you …

Tips for Managing Effective Meetings

Every meeting should follow a structure if you want it to be effective, but more importantly you want everybody at the meeting to want to be there, and to be able to see the value, otherwise it is just more words that take time out of your day.
The following "W" questions are a guideline: Why are we having this meeting?Who needs to be at it to be effective?What steps are being taken to ensure that the jobs of the people at the meeting are being handled?Where is it going to take place for maximum efficiency (Video Conference or Skype instead of travel)When will it have the least impact on productivity?Will there be an action plan with deadlines at the end?What positive feedback can we share that will create the right environment for positive engagement? While a formal agenda is not necessary for every meeting, our BCX strategist, Paddy Gray, taught me a valuable meeting lesson and that is to start your meeting by querying what each attendee hopes to achieve by being there.   …

SARS Warning - Fraudulent Tax Returns

There are always ways to make money out of unsuspecting people.   Last week SARS issued a warning to all tax payers to be aware of fake tax practitioners offering guaranteed tax refunds for a rather large share of the refund.

SARS Media Release 15th October, 2013

I know that, no matter how simple your tax is, it is stressful to submit returns.   It is important to note that if a fraudulent practitioner submits on your behalf, you, as the taxpayer, are still ultimately responsible, and SARS is still able to recover any shortfalls from the taxpayer who might have paid over a portion of the refund to the fraudster.

Should you not wish to do it yourself ( and it really is easy with eFiling):

Make sure that you use a bona fide practitioner and check their credentials thoroughly.   Remember, if they say it is guaranteed, you should be immediately suspicious or
Taxpayers are able to visit any SARS branch, with all the relevant documents, and a SARS official will submit their tax return electro…

Error Prevention in Payroll

Human error is one of the 3 major risks in payroll management.   Some fairly simple processes can help to reduce the risk.   And put them in writing, for easy referral.

Setting deadlines that are both realistic and practical is one of the first formal processes that should be in place.  It is crucial to have open discussions with all the role players when setting deadlines, so that everybody understands what the implications of not meeting the deadlines are, as well as being committed to the process. A key success factor is that the contributors are aware that they need to inform the payroll department timeously if the can't hit a deadline, so that alternative arrangements can be made. It is amazing how many people think that its OK if they miss a deadline once, not being aware that if there are 20 deadline contributors who do that once each year, well, you can do the math....
Standard formats both reduce risk, and make processing easier.   Every form should have the critical inform…

Problem solving - it takes a village

Back in the day when I was a Systems Analyst, I was sent on an Advanced Programming course.   We learnt how to follow a business problem from start to finish using logic and flow charting.   It is amazing how often I use this method to understand problems, sometimes just in my head, sometimes on paper.   I also learnt that if I shared the problem with a few people, and brainstormed, the answers came even more quickly.

About a month ago, I noticed that our lounge couches and chairs were all pushed up against the coffee table.   I thought that our domestic helper had been cleaning the carpets and forgotten to move them back, and so I moved them back into place.   Over the next few weeks this kept happening, but as we are not often in the house at the same time, I would just replace them and forget about it.   Finally, I had a chance to ask her, and she told me that she thought I was doing it in the evenings.   I questioned my family, but it remained a mystery.   We have a rule in the ho…

Risk Management in Payroll

What are the risks in a payroll department?   There are many variations of the three below, but it all comes down to them.
FraudErrorConfidentiality Good processes and governance go a long way to preventing all of them, and, of course, the positive effect of getting it right the first time, is so much better than having to constantly correct problems.   Payroll errors have a very negative impact on morale.

Fraud   

From ghost employees to duplicate bank accounts, payroll fraud is wide ranging and yet we are frequently told that payroll administrators manage the full process from data entry to EFT without anybody else checking the output.   While it is clearly not good governance, it is also quite simply putting temptation on the table.

Another concern is that there are many repeat offenders out there, protected by the employer who chooses to not take action, and by the companies who do not insist on full background checks when hiring into such a sensitive role.

Errors

Payroll departments…

Mutual Respect is a Growth Industry

"You have to earn respect" - is one of those sayings that gets trotted out regularly, but like smiling, respect is bi-directional.

So do I believe you have to earn respect?  Well, I think we should treat everybody we come into contact with respectfully, as people who get treated with respect, respond in a like manner, most of the time.  
There are a number of people who believe that by being demanding, overbearing and generally unpleasant, they will get better service.   The truth is that they do get served more quickly, and possibly with more deference, than polite, respectful people, but are they really getting better service, or is it just faster?   And where is the fun and the joy of a spontaneous smile from the cashier, the "have a nice day" said with sincerity, and, in restaurants, the confidence that nobody spat in your food?
In the workplace, managers expect to be treated respectfully, because of their position.   Yet, employer / employee relationships have…

Flexibility in the workplace

Is flexibility now a reality in the workplace?   And is it really working?   The assumption of control over one’s own time and deliverables does look like a great way to work and live, and it seems to be is a high priority for those entering the business world.
Decision makers in business, along with HR managers and recruitment consultants, are very much aware that both current employers and new recruits are looking for guidance and ideas as how to achieve work/life balance.
It is accepted that this balance has to form part of the workplace. Yes people still need to prove themselves, initiative is still expected, hard work and commitment are still viewed as non-negotiable – but the dynamics of employer/ employee relationship has changed.
And it is innovation in ICT that has paved the way.
The advantages of a mobile workforce can include an increase in productivity, lower total cost of ownership and a wider, more direct reach to the market.
In essence an employee should be just as effective…