IRS scandal reminds businesses to prepare
It is easy to dislike the IRS; they take our money. Even if we like what a good chunk of that money goes toward, it’s still easy to grumble about the entity that takes our money and occasionally makes us prove our accounting. And that is when they are doing their jobs correctly – this week’s news has made it even easier to mistrust the agency. But let’s make a couple of assumptions and perform a little exercise examining our own businesses as compared to the revelations about the IRS this week.
Initial indications make it appear most likely that individual agents in one office took it upon themselves to place extra scrutiny upon organizations with whom they disagree ideologically. How they thought they would not get discovered raises a logical concern that they had made an educated calculation that they could get away with such criminal activity. That is another problem (and a big one), but let’s set that aside for a moment and assume the guilty were acting on their own and within a bubble of arrogant and ignorant power.
Some problems you just cannot plan for
This type of problem is one of the most difficult for us to plan for as we operate our own businesses. What if one of your employees steals and sells credit card numbers of your customers? Do you read all of your employees’ emails to make certain they are not starting a competing business using your trade secrets while working for you? What do you do when it is discovered that one of your employees has been covertly capturing video of people using your establishment’s restroom?
Some problems you just cannot plan for, but you can build some checks and balances into your business to prevent many such problems or at least minimize their duration and impact. First, set clear policies for the behavior of your employees. Second, split responsibilities in such a way that critical elements of activity are overseen by more than one person.
For example, split the responsibilities of receiving and issuing checks from your business account, or as came up in a RISE panel this week, don’t put your IT guy in charge of security of your online and digital data.
And finally, create and maintain a crisis management plan. By simply thinking ahead about the problems you are most likely to face and having even an outline of a plan in place regarding the actions you will take if a crisis occurs, you will increase your likelihood of detecting the crisis early and minimize its impact by reacting quickly.
It is improbable that your company will ever be hated as much and by as many people as the IRS. But guard your reputation by taking some simple steps to detect and recover from problems that occur within your company with or without your knowledge and participation.
9-to-5 workdays are no longer the norm: Flexibility brings productivity
(BUSINESS) Doing away with 9-to-5 workdays in a cubicle can work wonders for a team’s productivity. This is no longer a dream, but today’s reality.
As we’ve seen in recent years, many of the old concepts about work have been turned on their heads. Many offices allow a more casual dress as compared to the suit and tie standard, and more and more teams have the option of working remotely. One of these concepts that have been in flux for a bit is challenging the norm of 9-to-5 workdays. Offices are giving more options of flex hours and remote work, with the understanding that the work must be completed effectively and efficiently with these flexibilities.
Recently, I got sucked into one of those quick-cut Facebook videos about a company that decided to test out the method of a four-day workweek. This gave employees the option of what day they would like to take off, or, it gave employees the option to work all five days of the week, but with flex hours.
Despite the decrease in hours worked, employees were still paid for a 40-hour workweek which continued their incentive to get the same amount of work done in a more flexible manner. With this shift in time use, the results found that employees wasted less time around the office with mindless chit-chat, as they understood there was less time to waste.
The boss in this office had each team explain how they were going to deliver the same level of productivity. The video did not share the explanations, but it could be assumed that the incentive of a day off would encourage employees to continue their level of productivity, if not increase it.
This was done with the goal of working smarter, rather than harder. Finding ways to manage time better (like finishing up a task before starting another one) helps to stay efficient.
During the trial, it was found that productivity, team engagement, and morale all increased, while stress levels decreased. Having time for yourself (an extra day off) and not overworking yourself are important keys to being balanced and engaged.
There is such a stigma about the way you have to operate in order to be successful (e.g. getting up early, using every hour at your disposal, and using free time to meditate).
Let’s get real – we all need a little free time to check back in with ourselves by doing something mindless (like a good old-fashioned Game of Thrones binge). If not, we’ll go bonkers.
Flex hours and remote working are not all about having time to do morning yoga and read best-seller after best-seller. Flex hours give us the time to take our kids to and from school and comfortably wear our parenting caps without fear of getting fired for not showing up to work precisely at 9 AM.
9-to-5 workdays are becoming dated and I’m glad to see that happen. So many people run themselves ragged within this frame and it’s impossible to find that happy work-life balance. Using flex options can help people manage every aspect of their lives in a positive way.
Corporate-franchise relationships: How has COVID affected them?
(BUSINESS NEWS) Being a part of a franchise has made sense for a long time for both the corporation and the franchisee, but the long stretch of COVID is adding complications.
Americans love a franchise. We love knowing that every Dunkin Donuts iced coffee will taste the same as it did 3 states away – and every McDonald’s snack wrap will meet our expectations.
Franchises rose in popularity after World War II, and the corporate-franchise relationship since has generally been a happy one – that is, until COVID-19.
What’s their relationship?
Franchises are easier to start than a small business from scratch. You receive a business playbook and brand loyalty from corporate – if the business at large is doing well, chances are your franchise will mirror that. No need for independent advertising!
From the franchises, corporate gets an upfront fee and ongoing royalties. (For a McDonalds franchise, that’s $45k and 4% of monthly gross sales, respectively.)
Basically, it’s win-win. Both parties are happy.
The pandemic has shrunk margins across most industries, and the chain hotels, restaurants and services have been hit hard. As a result, corporate is adding more costs for franchisees, such as big cleaning bills and promotional discounts to bring back some revenue during COVID.
However, with corporate still taking the same amount from the franchises every month, these newly instated policies threaten to drive some stores into the ground – and franchisees are fighting back.
“I get that franchising isn’t a democracy,” said a Subway franchisee, who objected to the unprofitable “2-Subs-for-$10” promotion that corporate was pushing for. “But at the same time, it’s not a dictatorship.”
What I see here is corporate greed at work; they need to keep their margins up in a sinking economy, so they’re looking to the pockets of their franchisees to make up for that lost dough.
The pandemic has not been easy on any business (with the exception, of course, of Amazon, Facebook, and Tesla, which is a whole other story). However, that’s the draw of being connected to corporate – you are tied to something bigger than your individual store, and will thus stay afloat as long as they do. It’s a big reason why many opt for starting a franchise as opposed to starting their own, independent small business.
I’m glad to see individuals fighting back against corporate policies that don’t benefit them. They held up their side of the bargain – let’s see if corporate can continue to hold up theirs.
What to do if you think you have been wrongfully terminated
(BUSINESS NEWS) Being fired hurts, but especially if you were wrongfully terminated. Here is what you can do if you need to take action.
While there are plenty of ways an employer can legally fire an employee, there’s also a long list of unethical and illegal methods. If you suspect you’ve been wrongfully terminated from your job, it’s imperative that you fight back.
Common Signs of Wrongful Termination
Research shows that around 150,000 people are unjustly fired every year in the United States. That’s more than 410 people per day – roughly 17 people per hour. Here are some common signs that you’re a victim:
- Violation of written rules or promises. The vast majority of employment is known as “at-will” employment. This means you may be fired at any time for any reason (so long as the reason is not illegal). However, if there’s a written statement or contract that implies job security, then you’re probably not an at-will employee. Review all of your employment documents to see what sort of language exists around the topic of termination.
- Discrimination. It doesn’t matter if you’re an at-will employee or not, employers can never fire someone based on discrimination. It’s illegal – point blank, period. If you suspect you’ve been fired because of your color, race, gender, nationality, sexual orientation, disability, age, religion, or pregnancy, discrimination could be to blame.
- Breach of good faith. Employers are known to breach good faith when they do things like mislead employees regarding their chances for promotions; fabricate reasons for firing; transfer or fire an employee to prevent the collection of sales commissions; and other similar situations.
Every situation is different, but these three signs are clear indicators that you have a potential wrongful termination claim. How you proceed will determine what happens next.
How to Respond to a Wrongful Termination
Emotions tend to run high when you’re fired from a job. Whether you loved the job or not, it’s totally normal to run a little hot under the collar upon being wrongfully terminated. But how you handle the first several hours and days will determine a lot about how this situation unfolds. Now is not the time to fly off the handle and say or do something you’ll regret. Instead, take a diplomatic response that includes steps like:
1. Gather Evidence
Wrongful termination cases are usually more complicated than they first appear on the surface. It’s important that you focus on gathering as much evidence as you possibly can. Any information or documentation you collect will increase your chances for a successful outcome. This may include emails, screenshots, written contracts and documentation, voicemails, text messages, and/or statements from coworkers.
On a related note, remember that your former employer will be doing the same thing (if a claim is brought). Be on your best behavior and don’t let your emotions get the best of you. Avoid venting to coworkers or firing off short, snappy emails to your former boss. As the saying goes, anything you say or do can and will be used against you.
2. Hire an Attorney
Don’t try to handle your wrongful termination case on your own. Hire an experienced lawyer who specializes in situations like yours. This will give you a much better chance of obtaining a successful outcome.
3. Get Legal Funding
If you’re like most victims of wrongful termination, you find yourself with no immediate source of income. This can make it difficult to pay your bills and stay financially solvent in the short term. An employment lawsuit loan could help bridge the gap.
As Upfit Legal Funding explains, “Wrongful termination lawsuit loans provide the necessary financial assistance they need to reach a settlement. This funding helps cover basic living costs until the plaintiff is able to get assistance from their settlement.”
The best thing about these loans is that you only have to repay them if there’s a successful outcome. In other words, if the claim gets thrown out or denied, you owe nothing.
4. File the Proper Paperwork
Work closely with your attorney to make sure that your complaints and claims are filed with the appropriate regulatory agencies (and that you meet the required deadlines). Depending on the type of claim, there are different groups that oversee the complaint and can help you move in the proper direction.
Adding it All Up
Getting fired is serious business. And while there are plenty of legal reasons for being terminated from a job, it’s worth exploring what’s actually going on behind the scenes. If it’s found that your employer stepped out of line, you’ll be compensated in an appropriate manner. This won’t typically help you get your job back, but it can provide some financial rectification.
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