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  Issue 3


Let’s Think About This

A small boy was sitting at a river’s crossing when a general on horseback came along. “Will my horse be able to cross here without me getting wet?” the general wanted to know and afer the boy eyed the horse thorougly, he replied “Sure”. The general had bearly urged the horse into the river when both he and the horse were nearly swept under by the deep river. Back on the bank of the river, the general scolded the boy for lying and totally perplexed, the boy answered “That is weird; every day I see ducks cross this river without getting wet and their legs are much shorter than your horse’s legs”.

The moral of the story is that you need to know what you are dealing with. We, at The Management Advantage Consultancy, are experts in dealing with communicaton, counselling, training, and facilitation on matter that aid the management of your human resources and labour relations.


Labour Laws : It’s Not Just For Experts Anymore

Never before in the history of our nation have managers and supervisors been so clearly challenged by the complexity of labour laws. It used to be possible for an employer to simply hire someone who met the test of “personal liking.” There was no concern about equal opportunity, affirmative action or the need to consider other qualified candidates. Nor was anyone much concerned with how to handle the situation if the new employee didn’t work out once on the job. In our past, supervisors could get rid of employees by simply telling them to pick up their pay at the front office and leave. They were fired!

All that has changed. At least for employers with a desire to stay in business. Today we must be much more sophisticated about our recruiting and hiring practices as well as how we manage employees in their jobs. There is also more skill required by managers who must remove employees from the payroll.

We are hanging onto the final vestiges of a legal doctrine called “Employment at Will.” That concept which said either the employer or employee could terminate their employment relationship at any time for any reason…or for no reason.

Today, courts are telling employers they must reinstate former employees and give them large back pay awards because the employees were fired without “due process.” In other words, courts are saying employees have rights which must be protected and they may no longer be treated according to the employer’s whims.

Supervisors need to understand how their personnel decisions affect your entire business, not just an individual employee. If their action results in an employee being treated illegally, the employer can be liable for huge financial penalties. Employers who wish to avoid such serious difficulty are carefully training their management staff in all the requirements.

Some areas of labour law are still evolving through interpretation in our courts. That only makes the supervisor’s job more critical, and training more vital. Drug testing, searching employee desks, lockers, computers and voice mail, smoking in the workplace, employee privacy rights, job references for former employees and surveillance of employees are all examples of subjects in evolution.

Other subjects which must be understood by today’s supervisors include personal liability for sexual harassment, records retention and posting requirements for the Ministry of Labour and Social Services.

Today’s supervisors and business owners must be well versed in this entire collection of laws; Labour Act, Affirmative Action (Equity) Act, Social Security Act, Safety Act, etc. You are not entirely isolated, however. There are experts available to give you the support you may need from time-to-time. The Management Advantage Consultancy is one such resource. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. The cost of doing business today must include the costs involved in understanding and applying labour laws. Ignoring these requirements could cost you your business.

One thing is for sure…how employees are treated will only become more important to the “bottom line” as time goes by. Labour laws are not just for experts anymore.

Did you know ?       

  • The Labour Act, Act 15 of 2004 was promulgated in December 2004
  • The target date for the enactment of this Act is March 1, 2006
  • A task force consisting of government, management, and labour representatives, supported by delegates from the ILO, are currently setting up the administrative and structural changes to deal with this Act  

Getting Back to Basics

Pick up any business publication today and you will find information about one of the latest people-management techniques. Many are successful for a time, but often managers and employees alike tire of them. When that happens they add to the “just another fad” attitude in the workplace.

Why don’t these management systems last longer? How come they sound so good, yet fail during application?

The answer is simply this: Nothing will stand for long if it isn’t supported by a strong foundation. Employee management systems are no exception. Without strong foundation they, too, will falter and collapse.

It is the basics of interpersonal skills that make up the foundation for successful employee management…the so called simple things like communication and leadership skills. Managers who recognize this, continue to practice these skills even though trying to use new techniques. Those who forget, find new systems failing and employee relations suffering in the final analysis.

Fundamentals are important. Great coaches always insist their teams practice the fundamentals of their sport. It may not be glamorous to spend hour after hour kicking for the poles from one spot on the field, but it is necessary. It forms the basics.

Get back to the basics of supervision. The skill on which all other management skills rely is communication. Forget that, and you might as well set fire to your cash receipts, because you will be wasting money either way.

Communication happens verbally, non-verbally, and in writing. Our verbal communication depends as much on how we say something as on what we say. Is the message complete? Do I use words and terms that can be easily understood? What is my tone of voice? Inflection? What is my volume? What emphasis do I place on the words I say? Try this exercise to see what we mean: Repeat the following sentence several times, out loud, placing emphasis on a different word each time. “I didn’t say that Jack was dumb.” What we say as managers will be understood differently based on how we say it.

Good verbal communication also depends on where things are said. Managers communicate in meetings, in telephone calls, in discussions and during individual conversations. Choosing the proper setting for your communication is another way you can increase chances of its success.

Non-verbal communication occurs through body language, our dress, grooming and use of personal space. The positive message it sends here can be very negative in other cultures, however. Gestures we make with our hands and arms are also strong communicators. We use gestures for emphasis and to tell people what is “really” important. Touch is another strong form of non-verbal communication that can send a message like, “You’ve done well,” “I agree with what you’re saying,” “I like you.” Touch is also distasteful to many people on the receiving end of a conversation. 

Whether we honour or intrude on other people’s personal space is also a part of our communication skill. The average person carries a two foot bubble of privacy around himself or herself. When someone steps within our two foot bubble, we become uncomfortable and tense. Communication effectiveness drops off rapidly. We feel it is more acceptable for people to “come close” during social situations than in business settings. If you like to get “nose to nose” with people as you talk to them, you might want to think about how your closeness impacts your communication. It may not be good communication if your words are eloquent, but because of your positioning the other person is so uncomfortable your words are never heard.

Written communication, like oral communication, is effective based not only on what is said, but also how it is said and where it is said. The message must be complete and in words the reader can understand. Underlining, highlighting, marginal notes and handwriting all impact the meaning of the message. Formal letters convey different messages than memos, notes and directives. Lists are different still. Some managers write notes by the dozens as a substitute for talking with workers. Overall, written communication is less personal than face-to-face conversation.

In communicating with others we should keep in mind that the sender is responsible for the intent of the message while the receiver is in control of its impact. To be sure your message has gotten across as you intend, ask the listener for some feedback. Say you would like them to tell you what they just heard. Such a test provides you the opportunity to make corrections to any misunderstandings before they become critical.

Listening is a crucial part of the communication process. Good managers will spend more than half of their communication time listening to workers. And, they will test their understanding of what they hear by using active listening skills to restate the message. A little awkward at first, this can become one of your most used techniques for assuring you are clear about what others tell you. It is important because everyone wants to feel they have been given an honest hearing. Ask yourself how you feel when someone has really “listened” to you and you knew at the end of the conversation your message got across. Much better, probably, than when you walk away wondering if you were heard.

We all have personal habits that can interfere with our ability to listen effectively, Opening mail or reading while someone is talking to us blocks our ability to hear the message being sent. Interrupting, taking telephone calls, looking out the window, glancing at the clock and asking irrelevant questions can all indicate we really aren’t listening.

Practice your listening skills and you will find the quality of your communication increases dramatically. Give up the excuse that you are too busy. It takes much more time, and often money, to correct a problem after it has occurred when it could have been prevented altogether with good listening.

The next time you give instructions to one of your employees, think through what you know about that person, the complexity of your message, and consciously design your communication so it is as effective as you can make it. The basics are important. Practice them and increase your skills, then you can think about trying some of the more popular management approaches.

Get the basics down first.


A Gentle Word on Behalf of The MAC

When you need help developing your supervisors skills in the interpretation of the labour laws, communication skills, team briefing interventions, taking of minutes at meetings, etc. give us a call. We specialize in customised, in-house training

You wouldn't go to an audit by the Receiver of Revenue alone, would you?!. Why think about going to the Ministry of Labour and Social Services without professional support? The stakes are just as high either way.

We are ready to give you the support you need.

And while you're at it, think about making an appointment with The MAC to discuss your other HR requirements. You will find us an invaluable resource at a price that just can't be beat.