Workplace Rights

Weekly (1/25/10)

Topic of the Week  The Boss's Survival Guide... The Forgotten 4

The Forgotten Four in tough times:

- Fairness: Not to do list
- Flexibility: Cassandra's toss
- Leverage: Say, "Yes, if…"
- Empathy: Ask, "What would it take to keep you?

 Your Rant: How do you manage in turbulent times?

911 Repair,

Our uncertain economy makes it extremely difficult to manage. Why? It's tough to keep people focused when half of them are worried that they could be laid off (according to an Associated Press poll). Which reminds me of the last time I attended a barbeque. Did you ever notice that hot dogs come in packages of ten and hot dog buns in packages of eight? You'd have to buy 5 packages of dogs and 4 buns to have the numbers align.

Just as the hot dog and hot dog bun people can't seem to agree, most bosses and employees can't get on the same page either. The Forgotten 4 sums up our strategy for managing in tough times. For more, check out The Boss's Survival Guide, by yours truly and the former publisher of Workforce Magazine, Allan Halcrow (McGraw Hill, 2010).

Fairness. Fairness is often overlooked, yet it's the foundation for everything. Don't believe me? How hard do you work when you feel that the system is rigged against you? We've created a simple strategy for showing your people that you believe in fairness at work. Take time in staff meetings to establish department-wide not-to-do list. Your people will appreciate that you don't just pile on the work, you free them up to focus on what really matters.

Flexibility. Tough times dramatically increase the need to put out fires and handle curve balls. That's why it's so important to increase your flexibility. My favorite strategy? Be more open to hearing bad news. In fact, encourage your people to challenge ideas and approaches in staff meetings via Cassandra's Toss. That's where each person wads up a piece of paper before each staff meeting that they can toss at people they disagree with during the meeting. It's a playful way to encourage people to challenge the status quo.

Leverage. How do you increase leverage at work? Eliminate the words "No, because…" from your vocabulary. As in, "No, because we've tried that before." Rather, the next time someone comes to you with an idea respond, "Yes, if…" Sure it takes more work to come up with what would have to happen to make their idea work, but think about the energy you'll liberate when your people don't have to crawl out from a barrage of "No's."

Empathy. There is so little empathy between bosses and employees today. Each side blames the other for their entitlement mentality and lack of loyalty. How do we repair this schism? Think of the person on your staff who is most important to your success. Ask that person what it would take to keep them working for your company. After all, if the person is that important, do you really want another day to pass without knowing what will keep them? You'll probably be surprised at how easy it is to keep them happy.

Follow these tips and your people will get off their buns and start performing like hot dogs.

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, "The Boss's Survival Guide." If you have a question for Bob, contact him via

Thought of the Week

"Delegating work works, provided the one delegating works, too."

–Robert Half

Blog of the Week

Top Five News Headlines

    List of the Week

    from Innie vs. Outie... Which CEO performs better after three years?

    • Internal CEO's prefer better than external CEOs
    • Outsiders are good at rapid cost cutting and divestment
    • As these opportunities dry up, internal CEOs perform better
    Because they tend to initiate strategic changes that make firms stronger


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