Weekly Wrap: Boss Gifts, Deaths are Down, and a Terrible Workplace Secret

How would you feel if you knew employees were having their paychecks deducted for gifts and parties for the boss? (Photo illustration by itstockphoto.com)

Summer doesn’t officially end for another month, but you know that in reality, we’re heading into the last, full week of our long, hot summer.

Yes, Labor Day and the unofficial end of the summer is nearly here, but there is still workplace news going on – news you may not have had the time to keep up with.

That’s the point of TLNT’s Weekly Wrap. Every Friday I summarize and link to some of those workplace news items you may have missed while you were out doing summer stuff. It’s my little way of keeping you updated and informed.

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I think this roundup is useful – and a few of you have told me you agree — but I really want to know how more of you in the TLNT audience feel about it. Please me know with a comment here, or send it directly to me via e-mail (john@tlnt.com). I’d like to hear what you think and whether I should continue to cobble this together, or, perhaps just move on to something else

Yes, this is a weekly round-up of news, trends, and all sorts of information from the world of HR and talent management. I do it so you don’t have to:

  • A very employee-centric business philosophy. You hear a lot about bad places to work, but with the exception of the annual 100 best places list in Fortune magazine, not so much about the companies that leverage employees for competitive advantage. Well, meet St. Cloud, Minnesota-based based Marco Inc., a company that, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, “is 100 percent employee-owned through an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP), (and) returns 100 percent of its profits to employees.” And as CEO Jeff Gau says, “We invest a lot in validating that our employees really do like this as a place to work. Everybody claims they have the best people. I like to see it validated sometimes. I’ll put my report card up against anybody’s because you know what? I’ve got one. Having a report card, having a point of validation helps, and our customers want to know we’re just not talking about it.”
  • Workplace deaths are down. The number of workers who died on the job fell by 17 percent last year to the lowest level since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking the data, according to an Associated Press story in the Seattle Times. Although that’s obviously good news, there is a less-than-positive reason for it, according to the AP: “High unemployment and layoffs in more dangerous industries like construction played a major role in the decrease … (and) the construction unemployment rate is 17.3 percent, nearly double the overall jobless rate of 9.5 percent.”
  • Deducting from employee paychecks – for gifts and parties for the boss. Here’s a story that’s simply amazing: the executive director of the Philadelphia Housing Authority forced employees to pay into a fund that was “automatically deducted from paychecks of nonunion PHA staffers” and used to pay for “for gifts and events celebrating (PHA Executive Director Carl) Greene – his birthday, his employment anniversary and Christmas,” according to the Philadelphia Daily News. “Staff gifts to Greene have included a regal oil painting of their boss, an expensive watch and a big-screen TV,” at least eight former and current PHA employees told the Daily News. “We’re compelled to join and you can’t quit,” said a PHA manager who requested anonymity. “You don’t have a choice.” But Greene has bigger problems than this; he was suspended from his job this week, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer, while the city’s Housing Board of Commissioners investigate four sexual harassment complaints against him.
  • Government job losses are growing. Although private sector workers have taken the brunt of the job cuts and layoffs due to the economic downturn, government workers are not immune. The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that “nationwide, more than 300,000 state and local workers have lost their jobs in the past two years, including 48,000 in July alone. San Diego County lost 7,400 city and county workers between June 2008 and June 2010.” And it may get worse. “The National Conference of Mayors and other municipal organizations project the total job losses will rise to more than 500,000 by 2012,” the newspaper said.
  • One worker who took personal responsibility. Here’s a story from the San Jose Mercury News that has to be read to be believed: a woman just hired as an office assistant found a terrible secret when she started her new job. “Her co-workers told her about the open secret their arrogant boss, Robert Schiro, had been keeping: He was the hit-and-run driver who plowed into a bicyclist… leaving her brain damaged and near death. Schiro, whose license was suspended at the time for drunken driving, denied to the police that he was at the wheel. But in private, he told a different story.” How would you deal with something like this? How Kay Blanset handled it is a great morality tale in workplace integrity and doing the right thing.
  • More tips for having a winning workplace. Here are five things you should know about having a winning workplace, according to the Des Moines Register. My favorite (and something that gets ignored far too often): Promote a positive environment.

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.

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