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Feds to release new sexual harassment guidelines

(BUSINESS NEWS) The EEOC is has approved new guidelines on sexual harassment in the workplace, completely unrelated to today’s headlines.

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Ever since the allegations against Harvey Weinstein hit the news, sexual harassment has been on the front page. Thousands of women have come forward to journalists, in social media, and to each other to discuss sexual harassment.

By pure coincidence, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is issuing new guidelines for sexual harassment in the workplace. It’s the first time the guidelines have been updated in 20 years.

The guidelines were approved on Nov. 7, then sent to the Office of Management and Budget to be approved. The guidelines have to be approved before they will be released to be compared against the current guidelines.

According to the EEOC, “It is unlawful to harass a person (an applicant or employee) because of that person’s sex. Harassment can include “sexual harassment” or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.”

How much clearer do the guidelines need to be? Employers are already encouraged to “take all steps necessary to prevent sexual harassment from occurring, such as affirmatively raising the subject, expressing strong disapproval, developing appropriate sanctions, informing employees of their right to raise and how to raise the issue of harassment under Title VII, and developing methods to sensitize all concerned.”

Many employers require sexual harassment training already.

The EEOC’s statistics on sexual harassment claims suggest that the problem isn’t as bad as it seems. In 2011, 11,364 claims were reported. In 1997, over 15,000 claims were received.

And yet, the big question is “how many claims never make it to the EEOC?” Companies have internal policies to manage sexual harassment. It stands to reason that they wouldn’t want their “dirty laundry” aired.

Bloomberg reported that the U.S. Senate has approved a resolution that mandates sexual harassment training for all Senate employees, including senators. Currently, the training is optional. NPR requires training for its employees and managers. Former NPR news editor Michael Oreskes was recently fired amid sexual harassment claims. Reports say that he did not complete his. But even if he had, would it have mattered?

The EEOC can issue guidelines all it wants. Until the culture changes, we’re not going to see a real decline in sexual harassment in the workplace, in religion or in the home. We blame the victim for dressing a certain way or enticing someone to act improperly.

Worse, we shame victims for coming forward. And harassers are often judged and sentenced without due process, not necessarily in the legal atmosphere, but in the court of public opinion.

It’s up to businesses to create safe workplaces where employees can be free from sexual harassment. Complaints need to be handled fairly and impartially. It has to start at the top.

Leaders have to be held accountable and hold themselves to a high standard. It’s not about guidelines and enforcement. It’s about being decent human beings and treating people right without regard to gender.

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Dawn Brotherton is a staff writer at The American Genius, and has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Central Oklahoma. Before earning her degree, she spent over 20 years homeschooling her two daughters, who are now out changing the world. She lives in Oklahoma and loves to golf. She hopes to publish a novel in the future.

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Business News

How to handle an acquisition like a boss

(BUSINESS NEWS) One way to grow your company is to be acquired. Here are some tips on how to not blow an acquisition.

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Acquisition

One way that a small business can become a big business is by being acquired. Maybe your business plan has always been to sell, or maybe it has never occurred to you.

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But if you find yourself being wooed by a potential suitor interested in buying your business, John Warrillow at Forbes.com has some advice to make sure you don’t blow it.

No harm, no foul

He says that, whether or not you are ready to sell your business, there is no harm in meeting with a potential buyer. Even if you don’t think you’d like to sell at the moment, the meeting could be useful for gaining “competitive intelligence” that could help you negotiate later.
For the most part there’s not much too lose and much to gain from meeting with a potential buyer, but Warrillow does warn against a few rookie mistakes.

First of all, he says, like a teen hoping for a second date, it’s important not to appear too “eager.”

Even if you’re desperate to hand over the business, play it cool, and insist that your company is not for sale, but that you are willing to meet for “a strategic discussion.”

Strategery

During said discussion, “let them do 95 percent of the talking.” Warrillow suggests writing out and rehearsing a list of questions so that you can control the conversation and get more information out of your suitor than they get out of you.

Part of holding your cards close to your chest includes refusing to name a price.

No matter how much they insist, hold true to your claim that the business is not for sale, and don’t give them even an estimate of the price range you’re looking for. Wait for them to name a number first, in a formal expression of interest.

Once you’ve received the expression of interest, hire an intermediary broker to help you with the deal. And whatever you do, don’t sign a Letter of Intent that prevents you from shopping around for other competitive offers.

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So you were asked an illegal question in an interview, now what?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Interviews are nerve racking enough without having to wonder if your potential employer is playing by the rules. Be aware of these tips in case you find they aren’t.

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Under pressure

Interviews are universally nerve-wracking. You’ve got the resume, the references, the outfit – but you never know what your interviewer(s) are going to throw at you.

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You expect questions relating to your skills and your ability to do the job, but sometimes a question comes out of left field and you’ve got to scramble for a coherent answer.

Interview questions

“If you were a pizza delivery man, how would you benefit from scissors,” asks Apple. And Gallup wants to know, “What was the last gift you gave someone?”

Well, when I ordered a pizza last night, I tipped the delivery person with scissors . . .

Unfortunately, some questions that seem just wacky, or harmless and friendly, are not just inappropriate to ask in an interview, but are actually illegal.

Illegal questions are generally those that request information irrelevant to the job description. Here are the most common categories of illegal questions, shared across all states:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Sex/Gender/Orientation
  • Military discharge
  • Religion
  • National origin
  • Birthplace
  • Age
  • Disability/Health status
  • Marital/family status

Watch out for tricks

Any of this personal information could be used, intentionally or not, to discriminate against them. A direct inquiry regarding any of these topics is obviously off-limits, but sometimes the question might come from a tricky angle.

“When did you graduate college?” = “How old are you?”

With this information, employers could decide you’re too young or old for the role, no matter how qualified you may be.

“Orizaga is an interesting surname – is it Spanish?” = “Are you Spanish?” A biased interviewer could use this information to determine that you are or aren’t a “good fit.” Similarly, “Is English your native language?” = “Are you from an English-speaking country or not?”

“Is that your maiden name?” = “Are you married?” And so on.

These questions are often asked innocently, by untrained interviewers looking to make conversation. Nonetheless, you don’t have to answer them, and your best bet is to tactfully avoid the question without demanding your constitutional rights in the middle of the interview.

Handle the heat

Tone is everything, but if you respond to an illegal question with something along the lines of, “Is that relevant to this role?” in a calm, mild voice, most interviewers will take the hint and move on.

If the situation allows for it, you can keep your answer nice and vague without avoiding the question.

For example, if you’re asked about your college graduation date, you could say, “It’s been a while, but I still view college as one of the best experiences of my life.”

Asking isn’t the most illegal part

It’s important to note that asking an illegal question is not equivalent to committing a crime. The information must be used in a discriminatory manner, as determined by a court.

If you believe that an act of discrimination has been committed, you should contact a labor attorney, or file a charge with your local Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) office. Then order yourself a pizza and ask the delivery person about their scissors.

#Interview

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The 7 communication hurdles stifling your company’s efficiency

(BUSINESS NEWS) Whether communication is too little or too much, or delivered poorly, every company has room for improvement.

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One of the biggest sources of inefficiency in your company is going to be communication. It underlies almost every productive action within your business, whether it’s conveying instructions to a subordinate or disclosing your results to a client or investor; accordingly, even a small inefficiency in your lines of communication can result in a major loss of time/money.

Fortunately, knowing the key hurdles to effective communication—and learning to overcome them—can help you smooth out these problem areas and build a more efficient business.

How Communication Affects Your Efficiency

Ultimately, your business’s efficiency is impacted in three key ways:

  1. Message accuracy. If you convey the wrong information, or the right information in a confusing way, it can lead to errors and misunderstandings.
  2. Time consumption. Every message you send and receive is going to cost time from both the sender and recipient. If that time is excessive, it could result in waste.
  3. Cost. You also need to consider what you’re paying for your communication solutions, and whether each solution is worth it.

The Biggest Hurdles

These effects tend to manifest in response to these seven major hurdles:

1. Obsolete or unreliable tech. If you’re trying to save money by relying on old devices, or platforms that haven’t been upgraded in years, it could have a substantial negative impact on how you communicate. You might experience delays when making phone calls, missed messages in your chat logs, or a serious lack of mobility. Thankfully, making upgrades can make most of these problems go away. For example, investing in newer devices can dramatically improve your connection speeds and mobility, and switching VOIP providers can be a relatively easy transition to prevent delays and hiccups from interfering with your phone calls.

2. A lack of clear communication standards. How are your managers expected to relay instructions to subordinates? How are your subordinates expected to communicate progress to managers? How are your meeting recap emails supposed to be structured? If you aren’t sure of these answers, it’s a sign that you don’t have clear communication standards within your business. Formally documenting these expectations can keep communication clear and consistent for all your employees, in virtually all areas.

3. Inefficient modes of communication. If your employees aren’t using communication mediums correctly, it can also lead to problems. For example, if they frequently call meetings that could have been communicated in the span of a single email, it could waste hours of company time. If they use email instead of having a conversation over the phone, it could lead to confusion and unanswered questions. Each type of communication requires a different approach.

4. Departmental silos. Another major problem is departmental silos, which can make communication more difficult or nonexistent between two groups of people within the company. These silos tend to develop when different departments have different standards and expectations for communication, and when those departments rarely intermingle. You can correct this by integrating your departments more frequently, and getting everyone on the same standards for communication.

5. Unstructured meetings. Meetings are a major source of time waste in companies, since they involve many people at the same time, and often recur on a consistent basis. All your meetings should have a designated leader to keep the meeting on track, a specific intention or goal, and a time restriction to keep things tight and concise.

6. Poor listening. Listening is a vital skill for effective communication — and we aren’t doing enough of it. Too often in business environments, participants in a meeting or conversation are more focused on talking than listening, but listening is more effective for understanding and collaboration. To develop better listening skills, avoid distractions (like checking your smartphone during a conversation), allow time for the other person to speak, and use active listening tactics, like rephrasing what you’re hearing.

7. Overload. Too much communication can be a bad thing. If your employees are sending emails back and forth constantly, or if you’re paying for so many communication apps that you can’t keep track of them, it’s only going to result in confusion. In many ways, fewer, more concise messages are superior modes of communication than message bombardment—and you’ll pay less if you have fewer apps to worry about.

If you can overcome these seven significant communication hurdles, you can make your business far more efficient. While some of these changes may take a few weeks to settle in, others may grant you a positive change immediately — so inspect your company’s internal and external communication, and work hard to make things as streamlined as possible.

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