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Dealing With Dramatic Employees

November 9th, 2018

Let’s face it: A modern office with grey upholstery and windows that overlook a parking lot just isn’t a very interesting place. Polite conversation, strained laughter, plastic coffee stirrers and repetitive tasks just don’t have much Oscar-winning movie potential. And when confined to such spaces day after day, many of us find new outlets for our emotions. If you’ve ever turned into an Olympic sprinter upon hearing news of free cake in the break room, you understand this phenomenon. And if you’ve ever felt like screaming at your desk for no reason … we understand. Some people manage these feelings more easily than others. Here’s how to deal with workers who channel their in-office emotions inappropriately or excessively —the employees we call “dramatic.”

First, judge not.

Dramatic employees are not stupid, crazy or undisciplined. We ALL feel this way when we’re placed in conducive circumstances. So, remember: The circumstances are the problem, not the person. If we decided to throw all “dramatic” employees out the door, none of us would be spared, including you. Treat others the way you would want to be treated should you find yourself in their shoes, which you eventually might.

Recognize that conflict is rarely what it seems.

Steve is extremely, unreasonably upset because Karen ate his lunch, or because Sally spoke rudely to him during a meeting, or because he thinks Amed has a secret he isn’t sharing. Before you discount Steve’s concerns, recognize this probably isn’t just about the stolen lunch. If Steve and Karen have a simmering, unspoken conflict, address the conflict, not the lunch.

People cry at work. Deal with it.

In some imaginary distant era, “professionalism” meant keeping a cool head, and keeping cool head—for some reason—absolutely precluded workplace tears. Workplace yelling may have been okay sometimes, and workplace swearing had its place, but crying was absolutely, positively, never, ever acceptable in a professional venue. Such a cultural requirement is not only impossible, it’s ridiculous. People cry. They cry at work. Let them. Accept this perfectly normal form of human expression and make sure others do as well. Occasional tears are part of healthy and functional human interaction. Keep tissues available around the office.

Maintain a culture of perspective

It feels terrible to lose an account because of a mistake, or to have a proposal rejected after weeks of work. It’s terrible to endure a botched roll-out or a product that flops. But these things happen. It’s how you bounce back—as a person and as a team—that defines your success. A climate in which “failure is not an option” breeds excessive, toxic and unnecessary drama. If you don’t want a workplace in which employees claw at each other, scream, lie, swear, hide, hold grudges or throw tantrums, don’t build rigidity into your culture. Place perspective, teamwork and learning above a relentless focus on success metrics that fall outside of your control.

For more, contact the management and career development experts at Merritt.

Are You a Bad Boss?

October 19th, 2018

You’ve finally reached the management stage of your career, a level at which you hold sway over the positions, responsibilities, paychecks and expectations of other people. You’re a leader now, which is to say, a boss. But are you a good boss? Are you effective? Are you respected? Are you liked?

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you evaluate your leadership skills and look for areas where your management style could use a little work.

First, don’t coast.

Bad bosses usually don’t KNOW they’re bad bosses. And even when they do, they rarely choose to become bad bosses on purpose. Nobody does that. When you’ve earned the respect, trust and appreciation of your team, they tend to make this clear. If you haven’t, your employees aren’t likely to tell you anything at all. There are no billboards to inform you when you’re going down the wrong road. So, as you conduct your self-assessment, be brutally honest. Don’t assume little birds will bring the news; be brave and seek it out.

Give your employees a chance to speak their minds.

If you ask a subordinate, point blank, if they like and respect you, you won’t get an honest answer. But if you let your employees know you’re open to both general and project-specific feedback, you follow through on that by receiving the feedback gratefully and acting on it directly, you’ll get better results, more honesty and more helpful information.

Don’t make people share twice.

Here’s a habit we often employ when we face painful corrections, hard advice or negative feedback: we ask twice. We say, “Am I doing this wrong?” and when we get an affirmative answer, we ask again until we get the answer we’d rather hear. Don’t do this. If you’re told—even subtly—that your directions are unclear, your demeanor is ineffective, your jokes aren’t funny, your example isn’t inspiring or your work ethic could be improved, don’t respond by asking again. Just swallow that bitter pill and get to work on fixing the problem.

Be the person you want your employees to be.

If you want them to stay late, stay late and come in early. If you want them to care more about bigger-picture project outcomes, show you care about these outcomes more than anyone. If you want them to edit their emails carefully until they contain no typos, don’t send out emails with typos. If you want them to take safety rules seriously, make sure they see you doing the same. Don’t set standards that you don’t personally intend to meet. This includes everything from communication to organization to general engagement and professional behavior.

For more on how to set an example and earn the respect of your teams, contact the management experts at Merritt.

Leadership Traits Your Talent Needs

September 14th, 2018

Think only upper-level management candidates need leadership skills to succeed in your workplace? Think again. Ideally, every candidate for every job should recognize there’s a time to lead AND a time to follow, and that both actions require certain skills. Excellent candidates know how to read a situation and respond with either purposeful leadership or purposeful compliance, depending on the needs of the moment. And when the moment calls for leadership, the best candidates—even at the most junior level—know how to rise to the occasion. Here are a few of the leadership traits that are always valuable, no matter the role.

Situational awareness.

Does your candidate sit still and wait patiently until he’s told exactly what to do by whomever he perceives as an authority figure? That’s probably a bad sign. Not only does it suggest a decision-making blind spot, it also suggests the candidate may do a poor job of assessing authority. Highly passive people tend to follow orders without considering the actual role of the person giving it. Choose candidates who understand how the chain of command works and won’t blindly yield to the loudest person in the room.

Can your candidate spot a problem and take steps to fix it?

If your candidate witnesses a leaky pipe, a team miscommunication, a toxic relationship between two other team members or a mathematical error in a budget, how do they respond? Do they decide it isn’t their problem? Or do they make note of it, look for a solution, speak out, speak up, and get the issue addressed? Choose the candidate who will get answers and take action, even if they don’t immediately know what to do or how to do it.

Can your candidate say no?

There’s a time for yes and a time for no, and your candidate should be able to exercise each option under the appropriate circumstances. A doormat candidate will eventually feel resentful and bitter, and all employees need to take a share of responsibility for their own boundaries, schedules and limitations. If your candidate is asked to do something incorrect, unethical, harmful to their own well-being, harmful to the company, or harmful to customers or community members, will they have the strength to say no? Or can they ask directly for the resources and support they need? If so, consider this a plus.

Can your candidate say yes?

On the other end of the scale, can your candidate put others first when necessary? Can they move outside of their comfort zone when asked to stay late, make a difficult decision, stand in front of a group to speak, deliver painful news to someone, or put the needs and comfort of direct reports ahead of their own?

For more on how to choose a leader—even for a nonleadership role—turn to the hiring pros at Merritt.

Hiring For Adaptability

August 3rd, 2018

You want a candidate who can demonstrate the technical skills and work ethic that your open position will require, and of course you want a candidate who believes in your product or service and who can represent your company to potential customers. But you also need a candidate who can stand out in one specific area: adaptability.

Why choose an adaptable candidate? Because not every company culture can be custom tailored to match the kind of social fabric that your new employee may be used to. Not every path can be made perfectly smooth for him or her during transitions or training. Not every instruction will make perfect sense, and not every plan or project can be perfectly organized. Sometimes your employee will face the unexpected, be asked to change course at a moment’s notice, or be asked to find common ground with people and personalities he finds unfamiliar. If he can adapt and stay flexible, he’ll thrive. If not, he’ll drag the organization down. Keep these considerations in mind during the hiring process.

Has your employee “seen the world”?

If your candidate can tell you about some adventures, previous jobs, travel, mistakes, or challenges she’s faced in the past, both inside and outside of work, that’s a good sign. If your candidate has never veered (or been pushed) from a narrow path that winds from high school to college to internship to office cubicle, without a single misstep, plot twist, or interesting personal decision, beware.

How does your candidate handle stress?

If you can’t see for yourself, just ask. Interviews are stressful, so if your candidate is clearly brimming with nervous energy and yet handling herself with poise and composure, that’s great. If you see a bead of sweat or a shaky hand and that hand belongs to a candidate who can still think before she speaks, put that in the plus column. If you can’t read any stress in her non-verbal gestures, just ask. Ask her to describe a time in the past when she felt overwhelmed, pulled in multiple directions, or pressured to show flexibility. Ask what happened and how the story played out.

Ask how her own standards differ from those she applies to others.

A highly flexible and adaptable candidate can switch gears on a moment’s notice, but she also knows how to respond to confusing or rigid behavior from other people. If she can show up on time, even when the meeting venue changes at the last minute, that’s good. If she can forgive and work around others who show up a minute late, that’s even better.

For more on how to assess and identify adaptability in your top candidates, contact the staffing experts at Merritt.

Retain Top Financial Employees

June 8th, 2018

Like anyone else on your team, financial and accounting employees are likely to respond to common sense retention efforts; to keep them, you’ll need to respect their skills, respect their time, and pay them competitively. Chances are, your management experience has already shown you the benefits of these basic positive approaches to staffing and employee development. But retention is like an onion, and peeling away each layer tends to reveal more layers underneath. Yes, you need to treat your employees well…but how? And yes, you need to pay them, but what about your budget? Here are a few secondary thoughts that can support your larger goals.

Compensation is more that just salary.

Financial and accounting pros already know this, and you should too. If you can’t afford to compete with similar firms in your area, try adjusting your compensation package to add more benefits and perks. Reexamine your health plan provider, offer flexible hours, provide tuition support for employees who want to further their educations, add an on-site childcare facility, add a cafeteria, compensate commuters, and do whatever it takes to make your meager or average salaries add up to more overall by the year’s end.

Culture goes a long, long way.

Changing your culture might not be as hard or cost as much as you think. But keep one thing in mind: studies show that even underpaid employees with difficult and dangerous jobs will go the extra mile (and stay the extra year) for a company that feels like family. A friendly, welcoming, respectful, flexible culture can mean the difference between keeping a talented hire for a decade and saying goodbye to them within six months. Smart, experienced financial pros won’t put up with a toxic culture, nor should they.

Prepare to counteroffer.

If you really like your employee and you often find yourself saying “I don’t know what we’d do without her”, get ready for the day she resigns. It can and will happen eventually, so prepare for the day by setting up a system of operations that doesn’t depend entirely on her unique contributions. And in the meantime, keep a rough counteroffer estimate on your back burner. The day she shares her plans to leave, swoop quickly into action.

Listen and respond.

When top financial employees need something, accommodate them. And keep in mind that top employees rarely “complain”. Instead, they hint, react, and suggest. Don’t wait for your employee to storm into your office and demand more flexible hours or a lighter workload—That won’t happen. Instead, he’ll accept assignments with slightly less enthusiasm (he might say “I’ll see what I can do” instead of “Sure thing, boss!”) Listen for the signs, and be proactive. If you think it’s time to offer support, start a conversation and ask.

For more on how to retain your most talented contributors, reach out to the team at Merritt.

Recruit Hard-to-Find Top Talent

May 11th, 2018

To find the very best talent available, especially for a hard-to-staff position, you’ll have to do more than just cast a net and hope for the best. Most of your competitors will follow a straightforward path; they’ll publish a job post in a high traffic area, collect applications, and interview the best candidates from this initial pool…but that’s not exactly going the extra mile. And if you expect candidates who will pull out all the stops for your company, you’ll need to pull out all the stops first in order to find and attract them. Set yourself apart from the competition by making these extra moves.

First, research.

Carpenters measure twice so they can cut once, and your recruiting efforts should follow the same pattern. Before you begin drafting your post, conduct some research on your target audience, and set your sights high. Don’t just approach all new university graduates in a tri-state radius; instead, target relevant programs and majors, and seek candidates with specific certifications and areas of experience. Your research will tell you which ones.

Second, shape your message.

Once you’ve identified the population you’d like to target in your recruiting efforts, determine the kinds of motivations that are likely to attract and inspire this population. Do your target candidates want to make a difference in the world? Are they interested in money? Are they curious, ambitious, and driven? What will make them choose you over anther employer?

Third, partner with a pro.

Turn to an experienced recruiting firm to help you pick up on subtle signals and moves that you might otherwise miss, the moves that could mean the difference between attracting the best candidates and driving them away. Experienced, industry-specific recruiters know exactly what your target employees are looking for, and they know how to ask the right questions, conduct appropriate screening, and negotiate with these candidates in order to bring them on board. If you aren’t working with a recruiter already, consider adding this extra element of support to your staffing strategy.

When you spot top candidates, don’t let them get away.

Playing hardball with excellent candidates can undermine an otherwise promising approach. Once you have their attention, ask plenty of questions so you can understand what they need and want from their careers. And then quell the impulse to nickel-and-dime them into the arms of your competitors. Over the long term, it’s wise to pay a little more for a top candidate who will come on board, commit, and stay. While you’re at it, let go of perfectionism. Instead of engaging in a year-long search for a candidate who offers everything, prioritize your requirements and set your sights on the candidate who can offer most—if not all—of what you need.

For more on how to recruit and hire like a seasoned expert, turn to the New Haven County staffing team at Merritt.

Why Failure is Good for your Employees

April 13th, 2018

You’re been coaching your team of employees for a while now, and you’ve recently watched them put together a project for which they’ve pulled out all the stops. They’ve stayed late, they’ve demonstrated teamwork, and they’ve brought all of their hard-earned skills to the table. They’ve done their very best on their respective parts of the project. And they’ve utterly failed.

The disappointment is palpable, and the dark cloud in the office is fanning the flames of blame, mistrust and recrimination. The failure was so epic that some members of the team are rethinking their talent for this work and others are thinking of leaving the company. So as a manager, what should you do? Should you yell at them? Should you tell them they should have tried harder? Or should you view this as a valuable teaching moment? Consider the last option. Here’s why.

They are upset because they care.

Deep disappointment after failure is a strong sign of engagement, which should always be valued and encouraged in the workplace. Remember that, and respect and appreciate that if your team is gloomy, embarrassed, or wracked with self-doubt after the episode, you (and they) are doing something right. If they just shrugged it off, you’d have more cause for concern.

Put the episode in an appropriate context.

If your company is solely driven by profit and sales, let your teams know that this is just business, and growth in business comes at a cost. The more you fail, the more you learn to face failure and move past it. When you don’t fail, you don’t learn and you don’t grow. If, on the other hand, putting things in a context deepens the pain of the loss (for example, if you work in a hospital instead of an office) take a philosophical approach. Get some help from relevant therapist or healthcare management expert if you need to.

Speak privately with those who are experiencing self-doubt.

Give special attention to the employees who believe they lost the day through their own mistakes or skill deficits. These employees, separate from the team, will need a cleared-eyed assessment from you. If they’re mistaken about their abilities, let them know. If they’re correct, help them bolster their areas of weakness with appropriate training, exposure, and advice.

Keep an eye out for toxic behavior.

These difficult moments present opportunities for bullies, back stabbers, blame-placers and credit stealers. When you see subtle signs from bad actors (those who push others under the bus or deny their own share of responsibility) don’t fall for it. Give credit where it is rightfully due.

For more on how to pick up the pieces after a failure and make the most of the episode from a management perspective, contact the staffing and coaching experts at Merritt Staffing.

Traits to Look for in Top Talent

March 9th, 2018

As an experienced manager, you already know that hiring is an expensive process, and you recognize the risks involved in making a serious hiring decision based on a simple resume review and a few rounds of 30-minute interviews. If you examine this limited data and make the right decision, you send your company down a path of growth and positivity. If you make the wrong choice, you can pay a high price only to end up with a struggler who contributes little and leaves within one calendar year. This simple choice comes with very high stakes. So how can you size up your candidate and make smart assumptions based on what you see? Look for these visible qualities.

Communication

Some hiring managers embrace a theory that goes like this: “Job skills” are all that matter, and any skills that fall outside a narrowly defined, job-specific list are irrelevant. A plumber needs to connect pipes, end of story. A data analyst needs to analyze data. A surgeon needs to use a scalpel– and nothing else– in order to do a good job. But buy into this logic at your own risk. If your candidate can hold up her end of a lively and interesting conversation, or if he can write a cover letter that grabs and maintains your respect, that’s a good sign. If he speaks in monosyllables, can’t write, and can’t make himself understood on the phone, those are all red flags regardless of the job description.

Adaptability

Great candidates (for any job) know how to keep things in perspective and recover quickly from surprises and setbacks. Don’t cancel or reschedule your interview at the last minute just to test a candidate’s ability to adapt (this is rude), but if you need to shift gears for unexpected reasons, observe how the candidate reacts. A last-minute meeting room change or a surprising question from left field can serve the same purpose. Great candidates take things lightly and stay on their feet.

Self-Motivation

It might seem nice to hire an employee who does exactly what he’s told, on time, every time. A can-do attitude and an obedient smile might seem invaluable, at least on the surface. But before you sign on with such a person, make sure he knows what to do when clear instructions are not forthcoming. Great candidates don’t just do what they’re told and then check out; they keep track of the company’s larger goals and they find productive ways to contribute, even when their bosses aren’t telling them what to do. Choose a candidate who can see the big picture and who will independently find ways to apply her skills and time.

For more on how to choose the candidates that are most likely to succeed in your workplace, contact the Stamford recruiting and management team at Merritt.

What Role Does Culture Play in Retention?

February 9th, 2018

For the sake of your business, and for the sake of its long-term health and sustainability, you want your workforce to be happy. Job satisfaction isn’t just a nice perk that you, as an employer, hand out with benevolence; it’s a signature aspect of any successful and functional business. Of course you can still make money with a miserable team—some companies do—but not very much, and not for very long. Poor satisfaction means high turnover, and high turnover means high costs and low productivity.

Long story short: It’s hard to stay competitive when your employees sign on reluctantly and spend their short tenures with one foot out the door. And a positive, thriving culture can keep that from happening. Here’s how.

Culture works like a magnet.

The impact of a positive culture starts long before the hiring process even begins. When talented candidates hear about your workplace and are motivated to apply, your overall applicant pool begins to improve. Your average candidate becomes nicer, smarter, more reliable and more highly qualified. Why? Because the best candidates always have plenty of options, and they won’t reach out to a company with a weak workplace reputation. They want the best, and they know they’ll find a welcome anywhere they go.

Culture knits people together.

A positive culture doesn’t just attract great candidates; it attracts candidates who already fit in and belong. Why? Because happy employees want to bring their own friends, family, and trusted colleagues onto the team. When those highly qualified friends apply and join the organization, they won’t have to build every relationship from the ground up. They’ll have a pathway to trust already in place.

Culture is contagious.

Once the best, smartest, and friendliest people are encouraged to sign on, they spread their positive energy and personal example to everyone around them. There’s much talk of how a single bad apple can ruin the barrel—and there’s truth in that folksy wisdom—but the opposite is also true: One great hire can bring cascading benefits to the entire team. Even better, these benefits can last for years after the person leaves.

Culture means stability.

A great employee will leave an average workplace within about two years (and that timeline shortens significantly in a below-average, toxic workplace). But when the boss feels like a friend and coworkers feel like family members, good people stay. Sometimes they stay for a long time, and they may even turn down offers from higher paying competitors.

A better culture means better relationships with vendors, clients and partners, a better product, a general sense of pride, and an upward spiral that brings long term benefits to the bottom line. Learn more by contacting the staffing and management experts at Merritt.

Recruit Candidates Who Will Shine

January 26th, 2018

Experienced hiring managers know that a successful staffing process is built upon several pillars. In order to round out the year with a winning employee who started out as a top candidate, hiring managers need to focus an equal degree of attention on all the pillars: sourcing, recruiting, resume review, interviews, background checks, and finally, a smooth onboarding process. So for now, let’s isolate just one of the links that crucial chain: recruiting.

Once you’ve targeted a population of likely stars through your sourcing efforts, how can you encourage these potentially excellent candidates to apply? And just as important, how can you inspire them to feel genuine excitement about the company and the prospect of working there? Here are a few moves that can help you light a spark in a population of candidates who best poised to shine when they walk in the door.

Clearly separate your “must-haves” from your “pluses”.

Understand the nature of the job well enough to recognize the difference between needs and wants. To do this, you’ll need to communicate clearly with all stakeholders, including the future employee’s coworkers, boss, clients, and customers. Use appropriate channels to glean critical information from all of these corners. Then give the “must-have” skills and credentials top billing in your job post.

Ask the right questions—Not just smart questions.

Yes, you want a candidate who has a can-do attitude, a winning smile, high energy, and loads of loads of ambiguous brilliance and charm. But most of those aren’t real things. Take a closer look and shape your message around the actual candidate who you actually need. Instead of all-around “winner”, you probably need somebody who can design a marketing plan, code in XTML, or stand on his feet all day long. Maybe you need someone isn’t disgusted by a menial task, driven bonkers by unpredictable clients, or turned off by periodic episodes of lonely travel. Focus your targeting efforts around these specific needs. Can the candidate meet them or not?

Partner with a great recruiter.

Experienced, established recruiters make use of a wide network of contacts and an array of tools that can help them reach out to your target audience—and only your target audience. Using both online and real-world methods, our team can head out into the marketplace and bring back a wide pool of highly qualified candidates. Even better, we know how to target the prospects who are most likely to accept your offer, join the company, contribute, and stay.

For more on how to find and pursue the candidate population that best meets your needs, reach out to the expert CT recruiting team at Merritt.

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