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Performance improvement plan as the Sword of Damocles

Our department head sent me a schedule of what to improve in my work performance days after giving me a failing mark in my annual appraisal form. The PIP includes specific targets, standards, and a timetable and I was given only two months to improve my performance. Is it the right time to resign or do my best under the circumstances? -- Polka Dots.

What’s the best employee benefit package?

I’m the human resource manager at a five-year old company trying to rationalize the benefits package for about 140 employees. As of the moment, we follow only what the law requires us to do, like the granting of five-day service leave, maternity leave, among other statutory requirements. We’re planning to improve our package to help stem the tide of people from leaving the organization as our turnover rate has zoomed to 17% in the past two years. Please give us your advice. -- Water Lily

Employee relations projects are the key to communication

I am a newly-hired human resource manager at a small enterprise with 86 employees. When I was an HR supervisor from another small company, I was tasked to plan and execute all our projects for employees. However, we are only limited to organizing basketball and bowling tournaments. Now that I’m with a new company, I plan to submit to management an annual plan showing all possible activities, except that this time, I’d like to have new ideas. Could you help me with my annual calendar? -- Yellow Bell.

When is the right time to get a promotion?

I’ve been in this job for 10 years now. My last promotion was six years ago when I was appointed operations manager in a medium-size organization. Since then, I’ve not received any promotion but got a meager annual 4% pay increase that corresponds to inflation. I’m wondering about my chances of getting a promotion. My question is about the average time of an employee getting a promotion in any industry. Or is it advisable now to look for a new job elsewhere? -- White Lady.

Family welfare program as a union deterrent

We are planning to organize a family welfare program for the spouses and children of our employees as part of our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). It is being recommended to us by our consultant who claims that such a program is helpful in preventing unions from knocking at the door of our factory. Is he correct? -- Faulty Experiment.

What employers can do during the resignation months

Late December and the months of January and February are the traditional season for many employee resignations. Obviously, that’s after the workers have received their year-end bonuses. What would you advise management on how to minimize, if not eliminate the resignation of fast-trackers and other workers with hot skills? -- Frantically Wary.

Can’t pay good money to workers? Try this…

I’m the CEO of a small business with 97 regular workers with an average seven years of service, which is how long ago the company was established. I don’t have any subcontractors, temps, and agency workers as I believe in nurturing long-term work relationships with people rather than circumvent the law against “endo” hiring. It’s my own small way of helping the poor. As much as I would like to pay them above-average industry rates, I can only afford to pay the minimum wage and other statutory benefits. However, this brought me to a situation where our turnover rate increased to an unprecedented 10% this year. How do I retain the remaining employees, at least for the next three years? -- Bit Frantic.

Five best ways to reduce product defects

I am the production manager of a medium-sized factory in Laguna. When I assumed the job eight months ago, I was surprised at the high rate of product defects, sometimes as high as 30%. On the average, we settle for a defect rate of about 15%. That means a lot of money for the company in terms of repairing them, if at all possible. If not, they are simply thrown away. When I analyzed the situation, it appears that our workers (more than half are subcontractors) are partly responsible for the problem. I haven’t been able to sleep for weeks trying to think of a solution. I’m not sure if hiring only regular workers would solve the problem. Can I charge the cost of defects to the agency workers? What do you think? -- Deep Blue Sea.

Training techniques for non-training specialists

Our HR manager has challenged me to handle our training programs. It’s an additional work assignment for me as a recruitment clerk which I’ve been doing for three years. My boss tells me that if I can perform better in this new assignment, I will be promoted to supervisor after two years of consistent, above-average performance. Could you please tell me how to do well in this new job? -- Greenhorn.

Employee attrition: The good, the bad, and the ugly

I’ve just received a campaign flyer about a public management seminar on “how to avoid attrition.” In the war for talent, a seminar like this is interesting piece, except I believe there’s something good about having attrition in any organization. Could you help me understand both sides of the coin? -- Pink Torpedo.

Loyalty, not competence is what counts in this company

I work for a family corporation. I am a witness to some issues committed by our management that are technically illegal, if not utterly unethical or immoral. Even the audit manager asked me to keep silent about those issues and told me the owners want everyone to be loyal to the organization. Time and again, we are reminded that the owners would rather keep the loyalists in their fold rather than be saddled with whistle-blowers, no matter if they are competent fast-trackers. What can I do under the circumstances? -- Pink Lily.

When HR becomes the enemy of department managers

I was pirated by our CEO to help in rejuvenating the Human Resources as an equal function of other departments. When I came onboard three months ago, I was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the former HR manager’s ineffectiveness and incompetence in coming out with engagement programs resulting in poor employee morale. About 7% of our workers are habitually absent and tardy that we would normally incur additional costs in terms of penalties due to late delivery of our products to customers. Many times, department managers refuse to implement disciplinary action against workers due to personnel shortages and fear of ruffling the feathers of the union. I tried to change things, but the department managers, except for one, are very much against the changes. I told the CEO of my problem and he told me it’s my job to handle everything, including my own problem with other managers. What can I do now? -- Prince Albert.

Seven elements of a perfect resignation letter

I’m no longer happy with my job. My boss doesn’t care about my career success. I wish I could stay longer with this major company, but I can’t be patient, especially now that I’ve already secured a lucrative job with a prospective, new boss who appears to be caring and helpful, judging from the feedback of his workers. Is it advisable to list down all of my complaints in my resignation letter so that I can get back to my toxic boss and let the fact be known by the Human Resource Department and other managers? -- Feeling Nasty.

Questions to ask when your boss changes his management style

I’ve been working for my current boss for more than five years now. He’s our department head, while I work as one of his three managers. Two months ago, I noticed a change in how he supervises my work. He has become very strict with my attendance and rejects my work even over minor issues. At times, he drags his feet when my work is clearly superior to that of other managers. This week, he gave me an almost impossible assignment at which others had failed before. I’m worried. -- Is it me or is it the boss?

When workers commit violations in the absence of company policy

We started a new company with 15 workers close to two years ago. Due to our primary focus on selling products, we failed to come out with a formal Code of Conduct to discipline workers. We now have Now, we 23 workers and are dealing with two employees that have incurred excessive absences, tardiness, and also committed theft, with alcoholism emerging as a problem. What would be a good reference policy so we can use legal means to discipline them? -- Not Helpless.

Seven worker-friendly alternatives to retrenchment

Our company is losing money due to poor market conditions. We’re thinking of implementing a compulsory redundancy program to cut our manpower costs. Before we finalize everything, please give me your thoughts on other options that we could take before we implement such plan of cutting our manpower size. We’d like to find out if we missed on other worker-friendly alternatives. -- First Samurai.

When HR becomes the workers’ enemy

We’d like to know your opinion about the style of our human resource department in dealing with workers. It is excessively pro-management does not sufficiently look after the interests of workers. As an example, new employees are required to spend a total of nine months before they assume regular employment status. The first three months are spent for supposed training, in addition to six months of probationary employment. Rather than attend formal classroom training, the employees are required to study on their own, pass a written examination and submit a progress report to HR. How do we manage this kind of work environment that appears to be against the workers’ interests? -- White Lily.

Ten signs workers distrust their managers

We know there’s a problem somewhere if the workers are not happy and motivated to do their jobs. The trouble is that most Filipinos are shy, if not introverted about expressing their feelings. It has become difficult for many managers to discover the real problem. Is this an issue of trust? -- Ms. Vietnam Rose.

How to give task ownership to employees

You have been a long-time advocate of employee empowerment and engagement. The trouble with such an approach is that management and their workers are often sidetracked by their basic priorities. This prevents people from working on special projects that they can do from planning to actual achievement of tangible results, with almost zero intervention from management. Please give me your advice. -- Matt Yellow Submarine.

Managers can’t ignore workers’ personal problems

It’s easy to say for some people managers that employees must not bring their personal difficulties inside the office. However, we can’t avoid the fact that whatever happens, no matter how strong our policy against bringing up those issues with their family, their medical condition, money matters, among others, somehow it could adversely affect the quality and productivity of their work. So, how do you manage this common workplace issue? -- White Flower.

When is the best time to leave a toxic boss?

I’ve been a manager for a major company for five years. I’m happy with my pay and perks package and the working environment until a recent reorganization resulting in the promotion of a colleague as our boss and department vice-president. On his fifth month on the job, he showed an unusual management style that many of his direct reports abhor. For one, he takes credit for our exceptional work and does not bother to commend people who contributed a lot to make it happen. Is this the right time now to leave this company? -- Just Asking

What’s the best employee feedback mechanism?

We work for a medium-sized corporation. You have said that exit interviews are futile and reactive. If that’s the case, then what would you recommend us given the fact that there are so many communication programs that could give the best employee feedback? -- White Rose.

Which is better — Team or individual performance evaluation?

We are in a bind in introducing a new performance appraisal system for our employees. Some managers think it’s best to focus on team performance, while others believe we should prioritize measuring individual accomplishments. In your opinion, what should be the best approach and priority in assessing performance – team or individual? – Serviam.

How to manage an unusually talkative CEO

We work for a small enterprise owned by a family corporation. Our concern is the constant babble of our CEO on his many ideas, sometimes giving us incoherent thoughts in our daily meetings. Many of his ideas are off-topic, if not bordering on braggadocio and showmanship. It’s always a waste of time listening to him. Whenever some of my colleagues tried to bring back the discussion to a higher level, our boss automatically regresses to his old, unproductive ways. Is there a cure for us? – Plastered.

Job interviews should also focus on retention

Soon after we selected some new employees put them through orientation, we unexpectedly received their resignations, while some of them were no-shows on the second day. It’s very disappointing to realize that the time, money and effort that we put into the recruitment process went to waste. What’s wrong with our hiring procedure? -- Without a Clue.

Managing an excessive, toxic workload

We don’t have a strict management policy against absenteeism and tardiness. We use the biometric timekeeping device for security reasons and not for attendance record-keeping. We were told by management that we are responsible adult human beings and therefore should be treated as such. In fact, our work schedule incorporates flextime where everyone must be physically present during the core period from nine in the morning up to four in the afternoon and log in eight hours of work every day Monday to Friday. Despite this ideal set-up, many employees are stressed out due to heavy workloads and stiff deadlines that lead us, many times during the week, to bring our laptops home in order to work overtime. Is there a cure for us? -- Bewildered.

Subtle campaign against militant workers

Our manufacturing company is in big trouble. We have a high rate of turnover, low quality and decreased labor productivity. And our human resource manager has resigned to join another company. Our operational issues are compounded by some workers who are rumored to be talking to some militant union leaders from elsewhere. What can we do in the future? What are your thoughts? -- Frantic Soul.

The Lean Hiring process unknown to HR

I heard that you are advocating the application of Kaizen and Lean principles in the human resource function. Can you tell me how it works, for example in processing the application of job applicants? How should it benefit company management? -- Yellow Submarine.

How to relay bad news to the workers

Our company will be sold to a competitor. The sale may result in a massive restructuring and job losses. Being head of the human resources department, I was tasked to create a communication plan for the employees who may be demotivated because of the impending sale. How should I proceed? What are the things that I must consider to minimize the adverse effects on employee morale? – Deep Blue Sea.

This new CEO thinks he doesn’t need HR

We have a new company president who was pirated by the owner from a competitor. He is a supply chain expert who doesn’t believe in the importance of human resources (HR) as a support function in the organization. In a recent town hall meeting with managers, he told us that everyone can do the work of HR and it need not become a specialist function. Since I am the HR department head, it has become uncomfortable for me to work with him given his critical position against my job. I’ve been in this company for close to 20 years now. And I don’t have any plans of moving to another organization. Please give me your advice. -- Bumpy Ride.

Convincing a manager who doesn’t believe in workers’ ideas

I’m an ordinary employee at a medium-sized corporation. My concern is about the management style of our department boss who thinks he knows everything about our job. Whenever we give excellent ideas on how to do a certain job, including how to save money, our boss normally rejects them all. Some of the employees think the boss is doing that for fear that he may lose control of the situation and make him look like a weakling before top management. The trouble is that many practical ideas, including those that don’t cost money, have long been relegated to the sidelines. Sometimes, our boss will simply delay judgment by asking the proponent-workers to give their ideas some serious thought before passing it to higher management. What’s the cure for this? -- Lost Dissident.

How to give clear job instructions to workers

I’m a newly-promoted line supervisor at a Japanese factory in Laguna. My problem is the lack of guidance from our human resources department on how I should be giving clear instructions to my workers. I’m at a loss as our department head keeps on telling me that I should go to HR for guidance. I suspect there’s a professional conflict, if not personality issues between the HR head and my boss. What should I do? (Itals end) -- Fork in the Road.

How to criticize workers without creating resentment

Many Filipino workers are overly emotional and unreasonably sensitive. Even with a lot of mistakes, they feel they don’t deserve the criticisms they’re getting from their bosses no matter how hard they try to be objective in the process. Knowing this, what’s the best advice you can tell our people supervisors and managers who are having difficulties in counselling their workers? -- Yellow Submarine.

Five questions to ask in managing work overload

We have a flexitime work schedule allowing our employees to attend to their various personal activities, like bringing kids to school or pursuing graduate studies, and applies even to navigating daily commuting hassles. We receive above-average pay and perks for our industry and this makes the workforce doubly satisfied. Personally, I like this flexible schedule except for the fact that our department boss keeps loading me with many special projects that upset my day-to-day plans. It appears that I am not alone in this. Many of my colleagues are complaining of the same thing. Clearly, flexitime has become a sham to cover for our pressure-cooker work environment. How do we manage our situation? -- Overly Stressed.

Project-based employment for an HR officer

I received a job offer from another company that is pirating me from my current company, where I’m a regular employee. My prospective boss agreed to give me a lucrative pay and perk package for the post of a human resource officer. However, the job on a one-year project employment basis with the possibility of renewal and on to my eventual regular status. What do you think? Please advise before I accept the offer. -- Ludicrous Delight.

What to do with a command-and-control manager

Our department head is an old jerk whose management style is command-and-control. He keeps a close watch on what we’re doing almost every day as if we’re a bunch of elementary kids. We hate our jobs that give us no fulfillment, enjoyment, or the freedom to be creative. Many of us are planning to leave, except that there are not too many opportunities around us. Please write something about command-and-control and I will find a way of putting a hard copy of your column in the suggestion box. -- Being Hopeful.

Four techniques to improve labor productivity

I saw a video you posted in your Facebook page about three Japanese professional footballers playing with 100 school kids in a friendly, entertaining soccer match. The game was won by the professional players. It appears in your post that you’re putting it forward as a good example on how we should focus on improving labor productivity. My question is this -- how can we make it happen in our real work-life? -- Just Asking.

Questions to ask when meeting a new boss

I will be laterally transferred as a manager to a new department reporting to a vice president in compliance with the company’s rightsizing plan. I’m excited about this new assignment and at the same time a bit edgy as I would like to start the work relationship right. My new boss is rumored in the organization as a no-nonsense guy who at times can be difficult to deal with. Could you please give me some ideas on how to handle my new boss? -- Feeling Nervous.

How to manage a credit-grabbing boss

My boss has a bad habit of rejecting my ideas and sprucing them up a bit, then presenting it to top management without mentioning my name. Sometimes, he’s brazen enough to bring up my excellent ideas without any revision and claims credit for them. I’m sick and tired of my work situation. How do I handle his toxic ways? -- Fed Up.

Three common biases of employers against job applicants

I’m a 48-year old balikbayan who lived in the United States for 15 years. Now, that I’m back for good, I’d like to secure a permanent job here. What are my challenges in seeking employment here? -- Lady Dragon.

Hiring and retaining the brightest managers

Hiring people and losing them in a short period of time is always an expensive situation for any organization. In our case, it’s almost 50%-50% for those who resigned voluntarily and involuntarily within their first year of employment. Knowing this, what are the best strategies to reduce the chance of the wrong people being hired? How do we screen and hire the best and the brightest who will stick to our organization? -- Water Lily.

How to reject the boss’s stupid ideas

Everyone commits mistakes. But what’s the best way to disagree with a boss who thinks he has the best ideas around and will not listen to his people? Sometimes, if the mistakes are glaring, he will not even bother to apologize. I’m seeking your advice for two reasons: I don’t want to be blamed later on for being complicit. And two, I’m not sure whether he’s testing my determination and integrity. What’s your take? (itals end) -- Deep Blue Sea.

Job interview questions to weed out bad managers

I’m the recruitment manager of a medium-sized corporation. For the past year, we made a series of wrong hiring decisions that caused resignations and a decline in the morale of newly-hired supervisors and managers. It turned out that there was no good fit for these new hires. Last week, you wrote about how job applicants may handle difficult and stressful job interviews. Can you help us design a list of killer interview questions for management applicants? We plan to share the list to our department heads. Thank you in advance. -- Cheat Sheet.

How to handle difficult job interview questions

I was interviewed for the vacant post of vice president by the CEO of a major company. My experience with him was disappointing after he asked the following questions: “Describe a stressful work condition with your past or current employer. How were you able to handle it? What would you do if you found out that a colleague is stealing millions from the company? Would you play politics with a colleague asking for your favor so that he can use a company vacation house for a week despite a policy against it? Would you agree to be imprisoned for avoiding taxes in favor of the company? Would you be willing to answer my phone calls at two in the morning? How would you feel if top management takes credit for your work?” Imagine answering around 15 of these questions for close to two hours. What’s your take on this? Are these questions relevant to the job? (italz end) -- Stressed Out.

What’s wrong with the perfect attendance award?

We have an absenteeism rate of 21% and a tardiness rate of 7% across all departments covering more than 650 workers. This puts a lot of stress on the workers who must take up the slack and be paid overtime premium. To correct this problem, we’re planning to offer a perfect attendance award that allows qualified workers to join the monthly raffle for home appliances worth about P15,000, which is a small amount compared to what we’re losing due to the poor attendance of our employees. What’s your view on this proposal? -- Vietnam Rose.