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Sooner or later, we all face an angry employee as a reaction to termination, demotion, job performance, etc.  It is up to managers to defuse the situation, but how?

1) Stay calm.  Keep your tone of voice and volume in check.

2) Watch your nonverbal signs.  Make sure your body language is not confrontational (hands on hips), dismissive (eyes rolling), or defensive (arms crossed).  Avoid physical contact, even if it’s meant to be reassuring.

3) Be respectful.  Avoid embarrassing or calling out the employee.  Do not belittle.

4)  Allow the employee to talk.  Give the employee a chance to tell their side of the story.

5)  Use active listening.  Repeat back what the employee said on key issues, but in your own words.

6)  Retain control of the conversation.  End the meeting if the employee’s agitation is growing.  Inform him/her that you want to re-schedule the meeting after a brief cooling-off period.

 

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As an HR professional, your work often connects intimately with employees’ personal lives.  Sometimes, you feel like an in-house counseling service.

The best strategy:  show concern for employees’ personal problems, but don’t get involved in the drama.  To walk that fine line, follow these tips when having those conversations with employees when they start getting personal:

1.  Determine why the employee is bringing this problem to your department.  Let’s say an employee is having difficulty with their step-children.  You ask “Is there anything I can do?”  The employee then thinks that perhaps if they could leave from work one hour earlier to be at home when the children get home would help.  Lesson:  don’t guess at employees’ needs.  Ask them.

2.  Set a time limit.  It’s okay to advise the employee you only have a few minutes.  Lesson:  If it is appropriate to do so in discussing employee’s personal lives, you can refer them to other resources including an Employee Assistance Program.

3.  Avoid “if I were you statements.  When you tell employees how to handle their personal affairs, you risk becoming too embroiled in the saga, not to mention the legal ramifications.

4.  Don’t get too personal yourself.  Sharing your stories and sins with employees only leads to office talk and the whole organization learns about your personal life.

 

As a member with Colorado State Association of Health Underwriters, I was pleased when we had our annual symposium recently to see Denis Storey, Editor for BenefitsPro and Benefits Selling magazine in the audience.  He had taken the time to come to Denver to witness our agents at their best.

He stated in an article, “I think we’re finally seeing some real “let’s get to work” acceptance here in Denver.”  With Health Care Reform implementing many regulations beginning January 1, 2014 with the Exchange, new “pay or play” rules for large groups (50+), brokers have been very proactive in educating their clients, attending meetings on a regular weekly basis.

One of the comments made that made us reflect was 3 years ago, we wondered if we would have a job?  Two years ago, the question was “Will my clients still need me?”  Now, it’s how will the exchanges pay me?

We should applaud ourselves and our clients.  Insurance is about a relationship and advisement, not just throwing a dart at a dartboard and hoping you get close to the center.  Online capabilities are great, but when it comes to wanting to sit down to discuss what you are looking for to get the advice needed, professional insurance brokers are still the solution.

 

The more I read, the more Health Care Reform is not about the reduction in costs, but the opportunity for more “players” to be involved.

We have had non-profit entities serve the community for many years, as advocates for people needing medical care, whether they are eligible for Medicare, Medicaid, or CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program).  These advocates are now being called Navigators or Assistors.   We, as insurance producers,  have answered those same questions for many people needing care, and are also advocates for people in need.  Brokers don’t get paid on Medicaid or CHIP enrollments.

Navigators now want to be involved in assisting people on individual/group health coverage because the broker is paid by the insurance carrier, and navigators don’t get paid in commissions by the insurance carriers but receive grant money, so are part of the savings solution with Health Care Reform?  Not so fast!

The Connect for Health Colorado (The Colorado Exchange) announced in the Denver Post  (dated Tuesday, May 7) $14 million (yes, you heard that right) in grant money would be available for “navigators” to walk new customers through receiving subsidy money.

Professional insurance brokers have done the same thing for many years.   Yes, we do get paid by the insurance carriers for what we sell to the tune of $25 per employee per month on group business, and about 5% of the premium for individuals in the first year.   Insurance brokers do not get paid in educating and advising.

Insurance is a complex system.  Insurance brokers have been servicing their clients for many years and offering many more services than just a rate with a plan attached to it.  You, the consumers, should have the best advice available.  You owe it to yourself to work with an insurance professional.

At long last, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has published the revised Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9 in the Federal Register.  The use of the new form is effective immediately.

The new Form I-9 is now two pages, not one, and has six pages of instructions.  So much for the Paperwork Reduction Act!  The good news is the format is easier to follow and fewer mistakes should be made using the new form.  Key revisions on the new form include:

* Adding data fields, including the employee’s foreign passport information (if applicable) and telephone and email addresses.  My recommendation is to have the new hire use his or her work email address and telephone number.  We feel personal email information is not necessary for employment eligibility verification purposes.

* The layout of the revised Form I-9 has a cleaner, easier to follow format.  Hopefully, this will result in fewer mistakes going forward.

To print a copy of the new form, go to www.uscis.gov.  The form has an expiration data of 3/31/2016.  Destroy all copies of the form that expired August 31, 2012 and do not use going forward.  You may also request us to send a copy to your company.

Note:  Do not go back and complete the new form on employees already hired by your company.  Only use the new form for persons hired going forward.

Are you the employer at risk if an employees buys a smartphone/tablets on a personal basis and uses it for work?  Is this really a win/win for employers?  How to manage?

1)  Require the installation of adequate IT protections.

2)  What if an employee loses his/her smartphone?  Get consent form signed to issue a “kill” command.  A remote signal wipes the phone’s memory clean.  For a small fee paid in advance, most smartphone manufacturers offer such a service.

3)  If phone is lost or stolen, a security threat could be breached.  Be prepared to notify affected parties that there has been such a security breach.

4)  Include in the employee handbook if employees use personal devices and data is required for legitimate business purposes, the employee must turn over this information or face disciplinary action.  You, the employer, have no rights to access the personal device even for legitimate business purposes.

5)  Update your policy to include warning employees that the privacy policies apply with equal force to personal devices that are connected to the corporate network.

6)  Upon employee’s termination, incorporate into your exit interview a review of information stored on an employee’s personal device that has been used for work.

Questions?  Be sure to contact Trilogy Benefits for additional HR management tools.

“News alert from Colorado Division of Insurance:

Setup:  a caller claims to be a representative of the Colorado Insurance Commission.  The caller says the state has taken over the consumer’s insurance company.

The caller claims the state sent the consumer a check for $399 to refund copays, but the check was returned by the U.S. Post Office.  The caller then says he/she can direct deposit the check into the consumer’s banking account if the consumer would provide account information.”

The Division of Insurance would not ask consumers for banking information.  If you receive a call or believe you may be the victim of a scam, please contact your local law enforcement.