Loathing Layoffs

A reader writes:

Hi Anita,

Even though the economy is starting to pick up and the job market seems to be regaining strength, I have had the idea of layoffs in the back of my head. If I had to let some of my people go, I am not sure I would know how to do it professionally and legally. Any suggestions to settle my racing mind?

Breaking the bad news to someone you respect and have built a professional relationship with can be extremely tough. It makes it even harder when this person is laid off by no fault of their own. With the shaky economy, we have seen record numbers of people losing their jobs. It appears that the economy may be slowly but surely getting back on its feet. But if you are faced with delivering the axe, it is always best to be mentally and emotionally prepared for the situation.

First thing to do if you are notified by upper management that a downsizing scenario may be taking place, ask if you have the permission to make a general announcement to your staff to prepare them if the time should come. Your staff will be shocked and confused but in the long run better for it. Give them a date to when the staffing cuts will begin. It will encourage them to prepare for the worst. DISAGREE – it will cause a mass exodus and may not even happen. Only agree if the entire team is getting let go.

If you are asked to layoff an employee be ready with justification for your and the companies decision. An answer like “just because” or “it’s not you, it’s us” isn’t going to cut it or sit well with the employee across the table. Be understanding but professional. Legally, in some states, you do not have to say and would be advised not to say. That said, the manager should understand that the employee will take whatever is said personally and the manager should use kid gloves – as you said below.

Now that the employee has been thrown into a tailspin, offer some options for them to take control of their situation. Most companies offer severance packages to recently laid-off employees. You can give them the option of extended health benefits instead of monetary compensation. This gives the sense that they still have choices. Sometimes, it’s a good idea to have HR in the room so they can walk the employee through their options.

Finally, even though you are trying to be professional and emotionally distance yourself, you are human. Show sympathy and offer a few kind words can’t hurt.

Have any reader’s been forced into layoff situation on either side? Tell me your stories — the good, the bad, and the downright ugly!

Looking forward to your comments,


Down Because of the Dirty

Dear Anita,

For some time now, I have been tolerating the slowly encroaching mess that is accumulating around me at my office. Everywhere I look, something new is piling up. How can I politely inform my coworkers to be respectful and keep our office clean?

Working in a messy space can be distracting, disruptive, and downright disgusting. Many people are trying to save money by bringing home-packed lunches, and the tidy disposable containers you get from the Mexican place around the corner are being replaced with Tupperware that has the tendency to get lost in the crevices of the break room refrigerator or be left out for days without getting washed.

Like many before me have said: “At our office, we are like family. But that doesn’t mean I will clean up after you like momma.” I would first advise that you consult your HR Manager. The last thing you would want to do is go step on people’s toes and look like the bad guy over a dirty dish. Most likely, this will prompt your HR manager to handle the situation themselves – with a diplomatic memo, email, or posted sign.

A simple reminder to all staff members of the office’s cleanliness standards will hopefully inspire a change. This would include removing old food from the refrigerator, taking care of take out boxes, and having a one-week limit on all perishable food. Even if it is in a fancy container or looks sentimental, it has got to go or be dated with a Post-It.

Another suggestion is to post friendly reminders in the break room and communal spaces letting people know that they are responsible for cleaning up their own messes. If that doesn’t do the trick, you could announce that the company will be removing funds from the party/fun activity budget to pay for the cost of disposable plates and utensils until the situation improves.

And to make it sting a little more, if you go for several months with no improvement, lock the break room door for a week. Can’t dirty up an area that isn’t open for business!

Let’s hear your worst stories of grime and gook from the office! Post them in the comment box, and I’ll vote on which one is the nastiest.

Good luck in your search for cleanliness!


Cell Phone Central

A reader writes…

Hi Anita,

Over the past few years, I have seen a huge increase in the presence of cell phones in the work place. It has become so huge that it seems to be impacting my co-workers’ productivity and attention to detail and is causing a huge distraction in our office. How can I make a cell phone policy that tapers cell phone use but does not fully restrict my employees’ technical freedom?

Now that 9 out of every 10 adults owns and uses a cell phone, it is probably about time that someone asked this question. Smart phones and other handheld devices have become a necessity in today’s world. For both business and personal use, it is hard to find a time that a cell phone wouldn’t come in handy. With all the fun games, time-saving apps, email, and communication capabilities, it is easy to see how such a small device has the ability to control massive amounts of our time — time when we perhaps should be working. And that’s not to mention the noise that is emitted from these little guys. Ring tones, text message notifications, Facebook dings, and voices on either end chatting back and forth — it can cause quite a bit of professional noise pollution.

First off, you should establish a set of standards that everyone in the office must abide by. These standards should be posted in all break rooms, employee communal areas, bathrooms, and should be included in company policy documents or on company intranet sites. Some positions that require a cell phone and are a necessity to perform an employee’s job function can be exempt under certain circumstances.

Here are some simple guidelines to help get you started.

  1. Cell phones that are not issued by the company or used for company business should be placed in silent or vibrate mode during work hours.
  2. During meetings, employees should refrain from using their cell phones unless an emergency arises or a client is requiring assistance.
  3. If non-emergency personal calls come in during work, let them go to voicemail and return the call on your personal breaks.
  4. If it is important, please leave your office space and continue a brief call. Do not distract or involve other co-workers with your personal calls. Standing away from your desk but outside another’s workspace is not appropriate or acceptable.
  5. When taking a phone call, remember to use a low tone – or inside voice.
  6. Remember you are in a professional environment; be aware of your language, choice of words, and subject matter when having conversations. You never know who could be listening in or taking offense to your call.

You will want to personalize your cell phone policy to reflect the type of work that you do. If you are working with large construction equipment and heavy machinery, a “No Cell Phone” policy may be necessary.

Does your company have a cell phone policy? If so, what is it?

Thanks for the great questions, and I look forward to hearing from my readers out there!

Best Wishes,


Professional Presentation

A reader writes:

“Hi Anita. I have been hearing rumors that employers are checking out their employees’ and interviewees’ social media profiles and postings. Is this true?”

Dear Social Butterfly,

Yes, many employers do take into account your presence in the social media arena when they are looking to hire you. I even had one manager ask me about it on this site – check out “Facebook – A Hiring Manager’s Best Friend” here.

Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, blogs (such as this one), and other social networking sites can give employers insight into how you present yourself, your behavior, and how you will perform as an employee. They will look at your pictures, your personal postings, the way you communicate with others, even your written communication (grammar, punctuation, and spelling)! Bottom line is, anything you post will have an impact on your image.

Here are some helpful hints to keep your professional image squeaky clean.

–          When posting on workplace blogs and other professional sites, try your best to use correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Keep profanity and other explicit content out of sight. You never know who could be looking!

–          If you choose to have a Facebook profile, keep your pictures and postings PG-rated. The latest snapshots from last weekend of you celebrating at a bachelor/bachelorette party or (as the kids say these days) “hittin’ up da club” — no matter how fun it may have been — is not what employers want to find while getting to know you. You want to keep, have, and maintain a professional image in your employer’s minds.

–          In general, it is always best to leave politics and religion out of business conversations.

–          If you are currently employed, do not bash your current position or your boss! For one thing, it is in bad form. Also, your next employer may take that negative “woe is me” mentality as a sign you have a bad attitude.

More helpful tips:

–          Check your accounts regularly. You do not want someone to be spamming or sending out any X-rated material from your profiles!

–          If you choose to engage with a potential employer via their Social Networking site, ask yourself:

  • What kind of impression am I leaving? Good or Bad?
  • Are my posts too frequent? You want to appear eager but not desperate for a position.
  • Are your comments and contributions to posts appropriate and relevant to the subject being discussed?

–          Project positivity and optimism on your page. It will be far more impressive to onlookers.

–          Have a professional picture across all social media outlets.

–          The best professional place for social media is LinkedIn. I recently posted a blog about LinkedIn and how to use it effectively and efficiently. Click here to learn more: Loving LinkedIn

Take my advice and be free and clear of a bad first impression.

Best Wishes,


Staffing Stardom

Dear Anita,

I have been on the hunt for employment opportunities and recently I have seen a number of people submitting video resumes to potential employers. I have a great resume and cover letter that I send when applying for open positions. While looking for a new position, should I invest the time and money to create a video resume?

Dear Camera Shy Colleague,

Great question! Many of you are probably looking for the next up-and-coming way to promote yourself in today’s job market. Nowadays, a plain old paper resume and cover letter may not be enough to WOW the technology-savvy and time-constricted employers looking to fill their positions.

So what is the big deal with video resumes? First, they are a great way to get one step ahead of the competition! In a very short amount of time, without having the employer even pick up the phone or read a page or two, they can get a clear view of how you communicate, your professional presence, and a plethora of other information…You know how they say a picture says a thousand words, imagine what your own personalized video short can be saying. My friends over at The Select Family of Staffing Companies were ahead of the curve by being the first national staffing firm to introduce video resumes to their candidates. Many Select locations offer this service for free! The possibilities are infinite! With that said, there is a right way and a very wrong and incorrect way to get this done.

A few quick tips:

• Dress professionally. That means: business attire. Dress shirts, sweaters, ties for men. No low-cut tops or plunging necklines (be remembered for your brains not your bust). All clothing must be clean and pressed.  You don’t want any wrinkles to slow you down on your path to employment. No excess piercings or visible body art.

• Make your interview short and sweet. Limit it to 3 minutes maximum. The employer isn’t looking for a 30-plus minute screening of your personal documentary. Get to the point – why you are the perfect candidate!

• Make sure you are in a quiet, businesslike environment when filming your video. That means: solid background, steady camera or web cam, and little-to-no background noise. Put away the pets and turn off all cell phones and unnecessary electronics.

• Rehearse what you’re going to say. Do not read right from your resume. Most employers can do that for themselves. Unless you are a master at editing and compiling video footage, you will not want there to be any awkward stops, rewinds, or re-records. It is ideal to have a smooth video with no re-takes. Knowing what you are going to say will make those 1-3 minutes fly by and glide smoother than glass.

• Right away, thank the potential employer for their time and introduce yourself. You want the employer to know exactly who you are. By stating your name clearly and with conviction, you demand the attention of your audience.

• Now that you have their attention, hold it tight…. with a death grip. Share your goals for the future, explain why you are the catch of the century, and show them why you are different and more interesting than the other people in the pack.

• Give them zero reasons why they should pass you up! Discuss why you are the perfect fit for said position and what you can do for the company that hires you. Show your enthusiasm and what drives you to succeed. Most importantly, share what you will do to drive success and productivity in the new position.

• Thank the employer again for viewing your resume. Restate your name clearly and confidently, and insert contact information at the end of the wicked cool video.

Have any of you made a video resume? If so, how were they accepted?

Thanks for reading,



Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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