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April 19, 2011

BMW – Not just a fancy car!

You are out with your boss at a business luncheon.  As you sit down at the table, you begin to panic!  Which glass do you drink out of?  Is your bread on the left or right?  Here’s an easy way to remember:

BMW – Bread, Meal, Water.  As you sit facing your plate, your bread plate is to your left, your meal is in front of you and your water is to your right.

A few more tips:

  • Bread should be torn apart with your hands, not sliced with a knife.  Butter just one piece at a time.
  • Meats are also cut as they are eaten; do not cut your entrée  up all at once.
  • Salt and Pepper are “married” and should be passed together around the table, even if a table mate only asks for one.
  • If you do not care for coffee, turn your coffee cup over on the table.
  • Put your cell phone or mobile device away during the meal, checking it while you are dining tells others at your table that they are not as important as your text message, email or phone call.
  • Finally, when you are finished eating, place your silverware at 4 and 10 o’clock on your plate to signal to wait staff that you are finished.  Your napkin should be semi-folded at the left side of your plate.

Now, relax and enjoy your luncheon knowing that you have followed all the rules!


October 22, 2010

HR Fact Friday: Legal Static Over Issuing Smart Phones to Workers

For the past three years, the Chicago Police Department has handed powerful new tools to officers in the field—BlackBerry smart phones. But the BlackBerry may have backfired on the department, which is now being sued by a sergeant in the gang investigations unit for the overtime he claims he earned while using his smart phone off the clock.

The department “has willfully violated the FLSA [Fair Labor Standards Act] by intentionally failing and refusing to pay Plaintiff and other similarly situated employees all compensation due them under the FLSA” for their after-hours Blackberry use, Sgt. Jeffrey Allen said in a suit filed in May as a proposed class action. A judge has to certify the case as a class action for it to proceed.

The case is one of a handful nationwide in which employees have claimed overtime pay for smart-phone use—and apparently the first involving public employees. But lawyers say such cases are a clear warning to employers to put a smart-phone usage policy in place before they end up in potentially costly litigation. Smart phones “are very dangerous and risky for nonexempt employees to have if you’re worried about overtime,” says Jeremy A. Roth, a partner at San Diego law firm Littler Mendelson.

“Clearly there’s a tremendous benefit to being able to access work remotely,” says Howard S. Lavin, an attorney at the law firm Stroock & Stroock & Lavan in New York. “It’s a fabulous tool. The problem is when you take technology and apply it to longstanding laws, there are unintended consequences.”

Employers can minimize the risk of litigation by restricting smart-phone use to exempt employees or by instructing nonexempt employees to take calls from customers or clients only during regular work hours.

Under the FLSA, nonexempt employees are entitled to overtime compensation for “time spent working” beyond a 40-hour workweek. An employee does not even need to be required by the employer to work overtime but must merely do so for the employer’s benefit.

Source: Mathew Heller,, Sept. 2010


April 10, 2009

HR Fact Friday: Employer-Provided Wireless Devices – Benefit or Electronic Leashes?

Filed under: Work/Life Balance — Tags: , , , , , , 11:48 am

Employees view receiving mobile devices, such as BlackBerrys, from their companies as a benefit, but at a large price, according to a recent survey of 627 employees commissioned by WorldatWork.

One-third of employees surveyed said that they view receiving wireless devices from their companies as part of their total rewards package. Half of employees surveyed said they felt that these devices signify their status or importance at the company.

But at the same time, 42% of employees said they believe that by getting the devices, they are expected to always be available. Three out of four respondents said they never turn their devices off. Most employees surveyed said they use their wireless devices between one and five hours per day during what they consider non-work time.

Employees have come to view having these devices as a double-edged sword. On one hand, employees seem to value receiving the devices from their companies. On the other hand, the devices make employees feel “like they have a noose tied around their necks and must always be available.

To address this, companies need to put policies in place. For example, accounting firm Ernst & Young has a policy that says employees are not expected to look at their e-mail on weekends.

However, such corporate policies are pretty rare. It’s more common for companies to hand out these devices than to create policies around their usage. And given the current economic climate, it is doubtful that employees are going to approach their HR managers anytime soon about creating such a policy.

Source:, Jessica Marquez


October 14, 2008

iPod Workplace Etiquette Guidelines

Filed under: Communication — Tags: , , , , 8:04 am

For baby boomers in the 1970’s and early 80’s, workplace culture was initially defined by organizational hierarchy, group dynamics, teamwork, and loyalty. Gen-Xer’s, fueled by the rapid rate of technological and social change in the 1990’s, introduced flex-time, empowerment, individual contributors, and work/life balance into the corporate culture vocabulary. For Gen-Y workers entering the workforce in the aftermath of the dot com bubble and attending classes with laptop computers, cell phones, Blackberry’s, and iPods, the balance of workplace culture shifted significantly from localized team dynamics to dispersed individual achievement.

Increasingly, workplace cultures today are being defined by imposing fewer personal and process restrictions while expecting increasingly greater performance results. Modern company policy manuals often include guidelines for cell phone use, volume levels for radios or CD/players, personal computer, network, and Internet restrictions, and nobody seems to bat an eye. But when the subject of restricting, or in any way limiting, an individual from being connected to their personal MP3 music device is brought up, people cry foul. Why? Have we really become such an individualized and self-entitled culture that we expect the right to listen to ‘our music on our terms’ over being expected to appear engaged with the sounds and activities of the employer that is paying our wage?

Well over 40 million iPods have been sold to date. They are everywhere. We wear ‘em when we’re driving, flying, waiting in line, at the dentist, skiing, hiking, working out, shopping, etc. As more young workers leave college and join the workforce the trend is to bring their ultra-casual on campus habits (and electronic gadgets) with them to the workplace.

With the recent proliferation of discreet personal music devices, decades of discontent over the volume level and musical tastes of coworkers has gone the way of the ‘while you were out’ hand written phone message? But in its place has emerged a new set of annoyances. In today’s office environment, the following scenario is becoming more commonplace with each passing day. You need to talk to someone at work and as you begin to approach them you realize they have “earbuds” from their iPod or other MP3 music player buried in their ears. You stop talking knowing they didn’t hear you approach, clear your throat once or twice, and politely wait for them to acknowledge your presence, remove the earbuds and allow you to re-initiate the conversation.

Most everyone would agree—that has experienced a modern office environment filled with row upon row of cubicles—that slapping on the earbuds is a good way to reduce distractions, stay focused, and be more productive. But to a boss, receptionist, or coworker trying to get an employee’s attention, those earbuds can represent a barrier. That barrier could be sending the wrong signal and causing people to form negative associations and avoid productive interactions. Having established workplace guidelines that address personal music devices would let everyone know what is acceptable and unacceptable by defining parameters that support a productive work environment.

Here’s the problem—everyone seems to have an opinion but are there firm and accepted iPod workplace etiquette guidelines? Or are most companies just winging it? In a quick Google search on the term ‘iPod workplace etiquette’ a searcher will instantly discover thousands of results. Opinions vary but it seems to come down to two things; 1. office culture, and 2. the boss. If the company culture strives to foster a worker’s creativity and the employees tend to work alone on projects (or if the boss is his or her self an iPod user), then guidelines were few and lax. If a workplace culture requires employees to regularly interact with clients, coworkers, or the public and/or and take phone calls, then guidelines were more stringent and less flexible.The most generally accepted iPod workplace etiquette guidelines were as follows:

1. Let nearby cube mates and colleagues know when you are ‘turning on’ and that it’s okay to interrupt you.

2. If you are wearing your earbuds and listening to music, you accept that you have created an atmosphere of isolation around you. This is the modern day cubicle world equivalent of closing the door. Make an extra effort to be visually aware of who and what is going on nearby. Don’t be viewed as a ‘shut out’.

3. If a coworker approaches you, make eye contact, smile, and take the earbuds out of both ears. Even if your iPod is off, having an earphone in one ear is still disrespectful.

4. If you are not sure if the volume level is excessive, remove the earbuds and cover them with your thumbs. You should barely be able to hear the music.

5. If the sound level is audible when the earbuds are removed and you are engaged in a conversation, ask for a moment to turn off the iPod so there is no distracting noise.

6. Do not appear annoyed when it is necessary to engage with a coworker and stop listening to your favorite song. You can play it again when the conversation is over.

7. It is widely agreed . . . absolutely no singing, head bopping, air guitar, or hand/foot tapping.

8. Do not bring the iPod to meetings.

9. Do not use company time, computer equipment or network resources to download music/video or swap songs with coworkers.

10. Make it clear to employees that any personal property they bring to work is at their own risk. Workplace theft of unattended MP3 players is a rising concern with employers. In some cases, this issue alone is reason enough to not allow them in the workplace.

Even if your company does not yet have a need for guidelines that clarify acceptable use of personal music players; if you tend to hire a higher percentage of tech savvy ‘twentysomething’ employees, then you will see this issue, along with general electronic gadget etiquette guidelines, emerge as more pressing. Stay ahead of the growing workplace cultural trend and take steps to put clarifying guidelines in place. To promote acceptance and compliance, make sure the new policy is communicated to every employee including senior management. Include a policy overview in new employee orientation meetings and post written policies in the break room.