Your Employees: You Can Pry My Mini Fridge From My Cold, Dead Hands

I was exhausted last night, after an amazing but busy week, so I was curled up in bed ready to watch Netflix when I realized that my two grown children were taking up the spots, kicking me off the service. (Funny aside: Netflix will tell you what your family members are watching when this happens. My son was viewing Always Sunny in Philadelphia and my daughter was on Star Wars-Rogue One). I was mildly irritated, but not too worried about it-I turned to the Wall Street Journal to catch up on the news I’d missed from yesterday.

I didn’t expect to see it in the WSJ but apparently Sean Spicer really wanted a mini-fridge in his office, and wasn’t willing to spend $80 and wait for Prime delivery. The story, as reported in the Journal, is that he sent someone to the tiny, cramped room where junior research employees are housed in a nearby office building, and asked them to give up their fridge instead-and they refused. That alone is a supreme example of poor relationship skills.

What happened next is the kicker-the article reports that he went back to their office after dark to steal the fridge and bring it back to his office. This is the stuff of legendary office lore-if this happened in any other organization, it would be epic: the senior VP who stole the mini fridge from the minions’ office. What isn’t clear from the article is that there are probably some very mundane details that preceded these juicy events. Here’s how I imagine this played out with Mr. Spicer, and with other leaders who have poor emotional intelligence:

Step 1: Leader says, “I need a mini fridge. I need one right now.”

Step 2: Someone in Leader’s circle (we’ll call her “Deputy”) says, “The Research Department bought one last year for the junior employees next door. Let me go get it. They can ask for another one later and someone will replace it.”

Step 3: Leader says, “Okay, go get it.”

Step 4: Deputy goes to see Junior Employees and asks for the mini fridge full of gas station burritos in their office, expecting them to say, “okay, of course, you can give it to Leader-he’s more important than us.”  

Step 5: Junior employees unexpectedly revolt and say, “Hell no! He makes enough money to go out to lunch and unlike us, he has access to the White House Cafeteria. Let him get his own f*cking mini fridge.”

Step 6: Deputy goes back to Leader, fuming that Junior Employees refused to give up the mini fridge for their Leader, one they don’t personally own and that was provided to them by their employer.

Step 7: Leader gets pissed. Who do these Junior Employees think they are? They should know that his need for a mini fridge is primary here. They don’t own that mini fridge. They’re lucky to have a g*ddamn mini fridge in the first place!

Step 8: Leader is working late. He’s in a rage because his cold brew isn’t cold and he is working a 20-hour day while Junior Employees are at the bar.

Step 9: Leader bops on over to the Junior Employee office, takes the mini fridge, and moves it to his office.

Step 10: Junior Employees discover the heist, know they have no power to do anything about it except lie in wait until the right time to leak the story to the WSJ, Glassdoor-style.

Guess what? Your employees do this every day. They suffer thoughtless indignities and reminders of their lack of importance to your organization. Yes, the mini fridge is the company's, not theirs. But it makes a long day in a difficult job a little easier, so they feel ownership over it. And as hard as you work as a leader, taking action that makes clear you think you’re more important than your employees are is not a good look. Resources like technology, work flexibility, headcount, physical space, and, yes, mini fridges and coffee can become a lot bigger deal than you think they are, because the decisions we make around these things send messages to our employees, like whether they are important, and whether the work they do is valued. That goes double for when you take these resources away from someone and give them to someone else, much less yourself. When we’re not mindful of the message, we can end up with a much bigger story than we wanted, and the negative financial and brand impact goes a lot further than the cost of an $80 mini fridge.

Photo credit: glenngould via / CC BY


Creativity and Risk-Finding the Nexus

This weekend, I was working on some things for my business (more to come on that soon) and I realized that concern about risk and failure is often what stops me from even recognizing my biggest, best ideas, much less considering how to implement them. I am always inspired by James Altucher, especially his transparency, simplicity and openness when talking about failure. If you haven’t read his work, I recommend you check out his blog.

I have found that personally, I need that magic combination of energy and passion, willingness to fail, and the ability to exercise full creativity without judgment. Great brainstorming on our teams arises out of these things too, and with close observation and hard work, we can grow these fragile conditions to create the potential for unstoppable success and job satisfaction. Imagine what we could do if we all found the nexus of these conditions at the same time, and stayed there while we generated and implemented truly great ideas!

How do we start? A few years back, I realized that I wanted to work and travel more in my career. The first thing I did was to buy a wonderful, inexpensive and colorful rolling suitcase. I’m not suggesting a metaphysical explanation for what happened next, that the suitcase brought the potential for travel to me. But I will say that bringing that suitcase home symbolized the beginning of something. It reminded me of what I wanted, and helped keep me focused on finding creative ways to make it happen.

The suitcase could have become a symbol of my shame, and a reminder of lost opportunity, if I had failed. This happens a lot when people buy exercise equipment, thinking it’s a catalyst to losing weight. The machine becomes a coat hanger, or a carpet smasher, and the purchaser sees a constant reminder of wasted money and failure to change. It’s important to keep the symbol of our beginning as a reminder of what can be, not what we failed to achieve. It’s all in our perspective, and a great leader can keep us focused in the right direction.

Sometimes my ideas are audacious. They are bigger than life. My ideas may even provoke a response in others that’s like, “Who does she think she is?”

When my ideas are like that, I know I’m approaching the nexus. I’m willing to take a leap, and enjoy the experience of it, and sometimes the success as well. But I’m all in, whether I ultimately get to use the suitcase or not.

Photo credit: CJS*64 A man with a camera via / CC BY-ND


OSHA Recordability and Recordkeeping

Many organizations, including small businesses, are subject to OSHA recordkeeping requirements for injuries and illnesses that meet certain parameters. Although workplace incidents resulting in illness or injury can be rare for smaller organizations, especially those that are careful in their management of risks, these incidents must be properly identified, recorded and in some cases, reported, so that safe workplaces can be ensured and maintained.

As part of the Department of Labor, OSHA’s stated mission is “to assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.” As part of its enforcement mission, OSHA levies penalties and delivers consequences including assessing a maximum of $12,675 per violation for serious, less than serious and posting violations. Failure to abate an identified safety problem can result in a $12,675 per day penalty per instance of failure to abate, and willful or repeated violations can earn a penalty of up to $126,749 per violation.

Of course, the first priority for proper recordkeeping is to make the organization's leadership aware of potential hazards and need for training to keep employees safe at work. This is the goal of every great HR, Safety Department and executive leadership team. But in addition, the financial impact can be significant. OSHA-levied penalties can have a substantial impact on the operations of any business, but particularly on smaller organizations. In addition, the negative press such OSHA penalties receive, and the long life the cases have online in OSHA's own public database, can destroy trust among the public and be devastating to a company's brand.

How do employers know which incidents may be OSHA recordable, and therefore required to be included in records kept for review? An easy-to-use tool is provided by OSHA through elaws, and consists of a series of questions that take the user through the decision-making process. A decision tree visually illustrates the general steps in determining OSHA recordability:

Original version of decision tree available for review from OSHA.

Original version of decision tree available for review from OSHA.

Recordability seems simple, but there is often more to the story depending on the facts of the situation, and things can change over time as well. Often when a worker is injured or becomes ill, initial first aid treatment may stabilize his or her condition, but later treatment or restrictions can turn a first aid only case into a recordable incident. Updating the status in the OSHA records is critical for compliance.

Finally, many organizations make the mistake of including workers' compensation documents, medical records and safety “root cause” reports in the same file with OSHA records. As with many auditors, OSHA will expect to review a set of information upon request when visiting your organization on site. That information includes, for each business location, for the past five years:

  • OSHA forms 301 or equivalent internal First Report of Incident forms that contain all of the same information
  • OSHA form 300 with information included on every recordable case (with identity masked for workers with sensitive cases like reproductive injury or biohazard exposure)
  • OSHA form 300A summary form completed and posted during the period of February 1-May 1 of each year

Medical records showing the factual basis for a decision of recordability or non-recordability should be retained and stored separately from these documents. If your HR team isn’t familiar with OSHA recordkeeping requirements for injuries and illnesses, consider seeking a safety or HR consultant to assist you in setting up your processes, so you can keep your workforce safe and remain in compliance with OSHA requirements. Don't overlook this critical, but easy to maintain, safety and workplace regulatory requirement.

Photo credit: AutrementDit Toronto. via / CC BY