Leadership + Management | By Scott Schulte,

Does Your Company Culture Need Some Work?

Creating an environment where employees are happy to be working, enjoy their jobs, and feel like they’re part of a team may sound like an idea straight out of the movies. But it is possible to have that type of environment in your company. In any company.

Here are four ideas to think about to help you determine what kinds of culture challenges you may be facing with your team.

  1. Is there an atmosphere of teamwork?

A cohesive, well-developed team will consistently outperform any individual, no matter how talented. Ensuring every staff member is working effectively with the rest of the team is critical for consistent and constantly improving results.

Questions to ask: Thinking about the environment in our organization, is it truly a team working together and helping one another with everyone focused on the same ideas and vision of the company? Or is it a group of individuals who come into work each day and get their jobs done, working in relative isolation or perhaps in silos?

  1. Are your roles clearly defined?

In order to perform jobs effectively, everyone needs to have complete clarity of exactly what their role is and how it contributes to the overall vision and goals of the organization. If people don’t understand how the work they do impacts the team, the goals, and the clients, then it’s easy to dismiss it as unimportant and treat it as such.

Questions to ask: How well do our groups and individuals understand their contributions and worth to the organization? Do we have current job descriptions clarifying these ideas for everyone on the team?

  1. Are people being held accountable?

The most successful organizations have built-in accountability systems for every role. Each person should feel like they are contributing to the company’s success and take ownership of that role. If this isn’t happening, the organization as a whole cannot thrive.

Questions to ask: What expectations do we have of our people? How do we hold them accountable? Do we have natural systems and/or formal systems in place? What are the consequences of poor performance?

  1. Does your organization have direction and leadership?

Your leadership creates the organizational vision and set the goals and the tone for everything that happens in the company. How leadership treats employees directly correlates with how the staff treats one another and your clients. If your leadership team is excited about your team and is willing to invest in employee development and growth, this will positively impact the entire organization. Negative feelings and attitudes will create a negative environment.

Questions to ask: What is the leadership team modeling with their behaviors? Are we/they a cohesive group or combative and disorganized? How do we/they interact with and communicate with the team? Do current behaviors demonstrate that we/they care about other team members?

What next?

If you feel good about your answers to these questions, you may just have the culture you want. If you didn’t like the answers you had for these questions, then get to work making changes by first asking yourself one final question:

What is keeping us from creating an environment where teams thrive?

Your answer may be as simple as, “We just haven’t thought about it.” Or, “We know it’s a problem, but we don’t know what to do about it.” It’s also possible that you have a more systemic problem and the leadership team is part of the problem.

Either way, you’ll need to start from the top. Company culture doesn’t get built from the ground up. Address your leadership issues first. Come to a consensus as a team on what needs to be done, then get to work.

As you make changes, your cultural environment will start to shift. Stick with it. Don’t back down. It probably won’t be easy or quick, but it will eventually be very rewarding.

At Sonus Benefits, we build cost-effective, long-lasting benefits strategies to keep your business and your employees in optimum health. We help clients throughout the greater St. Louis area identify and manage complex employee benefits challenges. If you would like help managing your employee programs, we may be the insurance consultant and business partner you need.

Leadership + Management | By Tom Murphy,

Why Showing Up Isn’t Always Helpful

Just because an employee is physically in the office doesn’t mean that person is actively contributing. An employee who is sick, exhausted, distraught, or distracted can easily cause problems for you and your team.

Onsite doesn’t mean on task

Productivity was easy to measure when we only thought in terms of showing up. An employee was either at work or off work. Simple, right?

But today’s workplaces are more complex. Technology allows employees to keep up with work anytime, anywhere. And companies are starting to realize that just because employees are physically onsite doesn’t mean they’re being productive or efficient.

Measuring productivity in this new environment is tricky, and weighing the impact of presenteeism on overall company performance can be even more difficult. It’s been estimated that presenteeism costs companies somewhere between 150 and 250 billion dollars annually.

The good news is there are things you can do to address the issue of presenteeism in your workplace. Here are a few ways to get started:

Examine your org chart

Running lean is one thing, but if one person calling in sick means your business can’t function, that’s a big problem. And if your team is constantly overworked, they’re more likely to get sick or show up tired and/or distracted.

  • Have you gotten in the habit of leaving positions unfilled?
  • Are you constantly asking your current employees to take on more?

Skimping on staff may serve you well in the short term, but if you want a happy, healthy, and fully present workforce, you’ll need to make sure you have enough team members to take on everything you want to get done.

Provide (and encourage!) paid time off

Discouraging staff from staying home when they are sick may seem like a cost saving idea, but the reality of having a sick person at work is rarely productive or pleasant. It can also lead to a string of employees ending up sick instead of just one. Talk about lost productivity!

Foster a culture that supports health and wellness by encouraging employees to stay home when they are ill. When an employee calls in sick, express genuine concern for their wellbeing rather than demanding they get back to work as soon as possible.

Instead of separating out sick days and vacation days, consider moving to a paid time off policy that allows employees to be out for any reason. When employees have a bank of PTO to use as they wish, they can take time off to see a doctor for a preventative exam or stay home and rest before an illness intensifies.

Employees may also feel more comfortable about taking time off to address a family member’s illness, stay home with a sick child, care for an elderly parent, or resolve a personal issue that would otherwise hinder their in-office productivity.

Focus on employee wellbeing

Wellbeing means more than giving everyone a fitbit and calling it a day.

True wellbeing encompasses physical, mental, and financial health. Take a look at your overall approach to employee wellness. Is it just lip service or is it woven into your organizational culture?

  • Is your workplace culture positive and inviting or caustic and overbearing?
  • Are staff workloads manageable or is your team too run-down to perform?
  • What is your turnover like? Do your employees stick around, look for advancement, and refer their friends? Or do you need to install a revolving door?
  • Is your compensation structure competitive in your market and industry? Are you relieving financial stress for your employees, or are you adding to it?
  • Evaluate your current health insurance plan. Are high deductibles and co-pays discouraging employees from visiting the doctor for preventive care? Do you offer convenient solutions like online enrollment and Telehealth?
  • Do you have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) in place to address mental health and stress concerns?

Committing to workplace wellbeing can be very good for business. Healthy employees have lover levels of absenteeism and presenteeism, and higher levels of engagement and retention. Companies who focus on happy, healthy workplaces will also have an advantage when it comes to recruiting talent.

So what are you waiting for? Start cultivating a company worth committing to, and a team that shows up for your business in all the right ways.

Recruiting and retaining employees is easier when you can proudly offer a comprehensive benefits plan that makes your team members feel as valuable as they are. At Sonus Benefits, we build cost effective, long-lasting employee benefits strategies to keep your business and your employees in optimum health.

Leadership + Management | By Tom Murphy,

Stressed Employees? You Should Fix That.

We all know that stress has negative effects on individual health. But stressed out employees can have a huge impact on the health of your business as well.

  • Workers who are stressed are more likely to develop health problems and miss shifts. When they do show up, they often have trouble concentrating, making decisions, meeting deadlines, and getting along with their colleagues and coworkers.
  • According to the Stress in America Survey, individuals who are highly stressed about money are more likely to say they engage in unhealthy behaviors to manage their stress. This can add additional strain on employers in the form of increased absenteeism and presenteeism, higher risk of accidents, and spiraling healthcare and liability expenses.
  • And if that’s not enough to worry about, stress also plays a key role in employee turnover. A recent Monster.com poll reported that 42% of respondents have purposely changed jobs due to a stressful work environment, and 35% of respondents have thought about it.

It’s not hard to imagine how having even a few high-stress staff members can drastically affect business productivity, morale, and success.

What can employers do about it?

More than you might think.

Because stress is so often work related, organizations have the power to make a significant difference in the level of stress experienced by their employees. You can create a less stressful working atmosphere with some carefully targeted changes. If you know where to start.

There is some fascinating research out there showing that employee and employer perceptions of workplace stressors are actually quite different.

Long story short: Don’t try to “fix” your workplace stress problems until you’ve clearly identified what they are. Not only could you waste a lot of time and energy focusing on things that aren’t of concern, you could set yourself back even further by appearing to be out of touch.

If you really want to know what’s stressing your staff out, just ask them. Once you can accurately pinpoint the issues, you’ll be able to address them accordingly.

In the meantime, here are a few things you can do today to help alleviate workplace stress:

Lead by example. Energy is contagious. Are you spreading anger and anxiety or encouragement and empathy? Are you burning the candle at both ends or modeling a healthy balance? Your employees will follow in your footsteps. Make sure you’re on the right path.

Give your team the tools to be successful. Whether it’s a new software program, a cell phone upgrade, or an ergonomic desk chair, anything that makes the job more efficient and the workload more manageable will help relieve employee stress. (Bonus: Your employees may finally be able to check off more of those elusive To Do list items!)

Evaluate staffing levels. Has production been increasing while your staff continues to shrink? Have you let people go and not replaced them? While you may view these things as evidence of a brilliant streamlining effort, it could also be that your current staff feels overworked, disengaged and on the verge of burnout. Sometimes what the team (and the business) really needs is an extra set of hands.

Appreciate your people. Thank you cards and bonuses are nice, but if your employees need to work a second job every weekend, they’re not going to be refreshed and focused come Monday morning. Hire good people and pay them what they are worth. Offer employee benefits, retirement and paid time off programs. If they’re doing a good job, let them know. And compensate them accordingly.

Employee Assistance Programs. Regardless of what’s going on at work, there will always be people on your team who are going through rough times. EAPs have been proven to help reduce stress for those who have them available and take advantage of them.

Of course you’ll never be able to completely eliminate stress from your working environment, but by taking the time to tweak a few of your processes, you just might be able to help your employees be happier, healthier and more productive. And who wouldn’t want that?


Leadership + Management | By Scott Schulte,

Being a Good Leader Takes Courage

Just because you’re the person in charge doesn’t mean you’re a leader. Yes, most leaders want their organizations to be successful. But many them have don’t have the courage to actually follow through and do what it takes.

In order to take your team where they need to go, you need to have the courage to take a stand and to make the tough decisions required to bring about success.

You’ve got to commit

It’s not enough to simply decide you are going to take a risk or do something new. You have to be willing to put yourself in uncomfortable situations in order to make that happen.

Being a true leader means digging deep. It means finding the courage to take on some or all of the following challenges:

Rejection – When you are forging a new path, rejection and challenges are a normal reaction. But when you believe strongly enough in your ideas, you will be able to move beyond the initial sting of rejection and help your team gain a level of understanding, acceptance, and enthusiasm for your vision.

Connection– Business is all about connections. You need to connect to the right team members, partners, and clients. Strong connections happen when you have the right conversations. Sometimes, these are also the tough conversations. Leaders who share their ideas openly, honestly, and frequently are the leaders who do great things.

Follow through – Sharing an idea is great, but we all know actions speak louder than words. It’s not okay to introduce an initiative and then disappear or to say one thing and then do something different. If you want to get others motivated, you have to let them see that you’re the first one to buy in and that you’re 100% onboard. You must lead by example.

Authenticity – We all have ideas about who the world says we should be as individuals, as business professionals, and as organizational leaders. However, those ideas may or may not be relevant. True leaders are those who don’t get caught up in what they are supposed to be. They find the courage to be what they need to be for themselves, the organization, and the team.

Vulnerability – Leaders need to be innovative, take chances, and yes— sometimes fail. This is the road to learning and improvement. Leaders who are afraid to fail in front of their own teams create an environment where it becomes too dangerous for anyone to make an attempt that may not succeed. The only way to build a culture of honesty and innovation is by being honest and innovative. And by finding the courage to put yourself out there.

Accountability – Great leaders hold themselves accountable, during the good times and the bad. Not only to they take responsibility for their own actions, they also hold their teams accountable for their behaviors and results. Sometimes, great leaders have to let go of the idea of being nice in favor of being effective. This can be tough. Sometimes you lose employees. Sometimes you lose friends. But this is what true leadership looks like.

Find your courage

Even Superman would probably admit it’s not always easy doing what’s right. It’s difficult, challenging, and sometimes terrifying. But it’s also hugely rewarding.

If you’re in a leadership position, it’s time summon your inner superhero.

What are you waiting for? Put on your leadership cape and get to work.


Leadership + Management | By Tom Murphy,

Forget Meeting in Person. First Impressions Have Gone Online.

We all know how important a first impression is. It can be a make it or break it moment. But here’s the kicker. Now it’s happening online.

Yes, that first face-to-face meeting is still important. So you should still do all those things your mom and your career counselor always told you to: make eye contact, have a firm handshake, and dress the part. But you should also realize that it very likely isn’t a true first impression and that the person shaking your hand has probably already Googled you.

Good or bad, your online presence is your new first impression.

It’s become standard practice

What do you do when you’re considering making a purchase or finding a new service provider? You go online, of course. You search profiles and websites. You ask your networks.

And if you think for one second that your business associates, clients and prospects aren’t doing the same thing, you’re in some serious denial.

Chances are very good you’ve already been searched. Your articles, posts, and comments have been read. Your photos have been looked at. Whatever your prospects learn through their online research is now the first impression they will bring with them to your initial email, conversation, or meeting.

If this thought makes you shudder, you may have some work to do when it comes to your professional image.

Think you’re in the clear?

Maybe you’re one of those people who hate social media or refuses to use it. You might be feeling pretty good about now. You’ve put nothing out there. Your first impression is pure.

Well, this is where the bad news comes in. If your potential clients can’t find you, they won’t have a compelling reason to meet or do business with you. You may be clean, but you’re also invisible.

Meanwhile, your competition could be showing up for their “first” meeting with a huge advantage.

  • That company has an awesome website and blog.
  • That person has been out there on LinkedIn and other platforms sharing thought-provoking content and ideas.
  • Your coveted prospect already feels a connection with this person, even though they’ve never actually met.
  • And it’s not because they know nothing about them. It’s because they know something about them. And they are intrigued.

Avoiding social media doesn’t give you an advantage in today’s business world. In fact, it can put you at a huge disadvantage. And using it wisely can give you an edge. The key word here is wisely.

Creating a first impression that works

Here are two ways to get started down the right path:

1.) Define your message

What thoughts and feelings do you want your audience to have when they think about you? What do you want them to know about you, your organization, and why they should work with you? What skills do you have? What things do you care about? What is it that makes you different from your competition?

2.) Get out there

Once you’ve figured out what you want to share, be confident in putting yourself out there. And don’t worry! You don’t need to be everywhere. Research platforms to find out where your target market is. Then, choose one or two that are most relevant and start interacting. Follow people who are talking about the same things your customers are, and get your message across in an interesting and professional way.

It won’t happen overnight, but you may be pleasantly surprised at how quickly you can elevate your online presence and start separating yourself from your competition. Just make sure everything your audience finds when searching online matches your desired first impression.

Because in the end, that’s exactly what it is.


Leadership + Management | By Scott Schulte,

Easy Employee Check-ins: It’s Possible!

It sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But there is a way.

Would you like to see:

  • Your managers lead their teams more effectively?
  • Your employees more engaged in their work?
  • Everyone more focused on the priority issues related to their jobs?

These things aren’t as out of reach as they may appear. Sometimes, all you need is a bit of clarity. And about 10 minutes.

Step 1: Create clear expectations

Before you can reasonably expect each team member to stay focused on priority issues, you’ll need to make sure they understand what those priority issues are. You’ll also need to clarify what behaviors will bring about the desired results, as well as how to measure and report back on progress, challenges, and successes.

Here’s how to make those things happen.

a.)   Define what success looks like

For each team member, define the critical results you need them to deliver. We’re not talking about all of the things they could potentially do, but those key results that, when delivered, address a majority of the contributions needed from that role.

b.)   Determine key behaviors

For each of the critical results, define the driving behaviors behind it. Again, this doesn’t need to encompass ALL behaviors that contribute to the results, but those one or two actions that when performed consistently will ensure that results are delivered.

c.)   Establish ways to measure progress

Make it easy for everyone to know when the behavior is being performed effectively and efficiently. For each driving behavior, identify how it can be objectively measured. This measurement becomes your performance indicator. Of course, not all behaviors are easy to put numbers to. Sometimes, you’ll just have to agree that certain behaviors will be discussed.

d.)   Encourage self-reporting

Nobody should be more invested in the success of a position than the person filling that role. Give each employee the responsibility to self-track and self-report their results to their direct supervisor. Don’t overcomplicate this part. The last thing you want is for employee self-tracking to turn into another full-time job. Two critical results with two driving behaviors is a great place to be.

Step 2: Find 10 minutes

Anyone on your team with direct reports should commit to giving each person 10 minutes of their focused, one-on-one attention every week.

It doesn’t sound like much, but that 10 minutes can have a huge impact on performance and results. The key is what you do with the time.

A 10-minute agenda for leaders and direct reports:

  • What was your biggest success of the week?
  • What was your biggest challenge of the week?
  • What were the results of your work this week? (Depending on the nature of your performance indicators, you may want to only include this question once a month.)
  • If you could only accomplish one thing over the next week, what does it need to be?
  • Did you accomplish your one critical thing from the last week?

That may sound like a lot to get through in 10 minutes, but if you direct each team member to come with the answers already identified, they can definitely address all of them in 10 minutes.

Keep it simple. And consistent.

If your 10-minute check-ins regularly become half-hour meetings, you’re not making the best use of your shared time. And someone will start making excuses as to why they can’t happen. Keep these weekly check-ins to 10 minutes and everyone will be willing to participate regularly.

Of course, there will be issues that arise requiring more than a 10-minute conversation. This is good! But don’t try to cram the discussion into your allotted 10 minutes. Scheduling a separate meeting to get more in-depth with the topics will help address employee concerns, refine processes, and continue to move everyone in the right direction.

It’s amazing what happens when we consistently spend a little bit of time discussing priority issues. Communications improve, attitudes improve, and results improve.

Who knew a few targeted minutes could do so much? Start having weekly check-ins with your team and see what 10 minutes can do for you.

Need a better ROI on your corporate employee benefits? At Sonus Benefits, we’re not interested in just finding you a policy for this year. We provide strategic employee benefits and human resource management services to help you build a better future.


Leadership + Management | By Tom Murphy,

It’s Not Your Imagination. Recruiting and Retaining Talent is Hard.

There is evidence mounting that when it comes to talent, it’s a seller’s market. If you’ve got it, you’re in high demand. In other words, the power within the hiring process is shifting from employer to employee.

In this new reality, job seekers are increasingly going to be able to leverage their experience and choose from the opportunities open to them. The human resources talent acquisition game is changing, and employers are going to have to work harder than ever to find and hire great people.

Why is this happening?

Not only is unemployment low, but an entire workplace cohort is rapidly leaving the workforce.

It’s been estimated that as many as 10,000 baby boomers reach retirement age every day. As these tenured employees exit the workforce, employers are faced with a mad scramble to replace all of that experience, talent, and labor. Companies will need to compete for the best talent in ways they may have never experienced before.

According to a survey by Glassdoor, it appears we may be seeing signs of this already.

  • More than half (53%) of American employees (including those self-employed) believe if they lost their job they would be likely to find a new job matched to their experience and current compensation levels in the next six months
  • Nearly half (46%) of U.S. employees expect a pay raise in the next 12 months
  • Only 14% of respondents expressed fears about potential layoffs, reflecting a high level of employee confidence

Meanwhile, a Jobvite study provides some even more intriguing job search facts.

  • 45% of workers will jump ship for a new job— even if they are happy in their current position
  • The technology sector has the highest short-term turnover, but no industry is safe
  • 50% of employed job seekers see their current positions as temporary
  • Money is still the number one factor in the decision to leave or accept a position
  • Employed job seekers fessed up to searching for new positions during their commute (38%), on the job (30%) and even in the bathroom (18%)

If you’re an HR manager who hates turnover, this isn’t what you wanted to hear.

What can employers do?

You can choose not to trust the data, or to think your organization is exempt, but those could be some very costly mistakes.

You could also work become an employer of choice, putting yourself in a the best possible position to handle this new job search reality.

Look around your company and ask yourself:

  • Does your staff stay consistent or are there new faces every week?
  • Are people excited to come to work each day?
  • Are they given the tools they need to be successful?
  • Do they feel like part of a team? Are they aligned with the company mission and beliefs?
  • Do your employees refer great candidates in or are they asking friends about their employers?

These things can tell you a lot about how attractive you are to potential new hires, and those who are currently on staff.

Don’t take your employees for granted, and don’t let their silence fool you into thinking they are satisfied. Even if they aren’t actively out looking, someone with a more attractive culture, value proposition, or opportunity just might find them and snap them up.

Leadership + Management | By Scott Schulte,

The Beauty of Making Mistakes

Nobody likes to mess up. And the only thing that seems worse than messing up is having to admit it, acknowledge it, or talk about it. Seriously. Who wants to admit they made a mistake? Especially at work!

But here’s the secret truth few of us want to see: Your workplace relationships can actually improve when you learn to admit your mistakes.

For real?

Yes, it sounds counterintuitive. Because when you mess up, you feel bad. Plus, you assume others will be disappointed in you. And they may be. But you can be sure that disappointment will multiply exponentially if you refuse to confess to or acknowledge what you’ve done.

If you’ve messed up with an employee, client, or colleague and your plan is to just try and ignore it— good luck.

That mistake will sit there, giant and heavy, like the proverbial elephant in the room. Everyone can see it, but no one wants to risk bringing it up. By not taking responsibility immediately, you’ve doubled down on the damage. Now you’re not just dealing with the fallout from your mistake. At this point, you’ve also got yourself a credibility issue, and that’s a much bigger problem.

About apologies

When you own up to a mistake, you’re accepting responsibility for your actions, as opposed to simply apologizing away bad behavior.

Apologies work when they’re sincere and infrequent. In other words, getting caught up in a constant cycle of mistakes and apologies isn’t going to get you anywhere. But when you own up to a mistake and subsequently change your behavior to eliminate the need for future apologies, you can experience substantial growth. The kind of growth your team can see and appreciate.

The upside of screwing up

Admitting your mistakes can actually have some pretty significant benefits.

Most people recognize how difficult it is to take responsibility when you screw something up and will appreciate the effort on your part to come clean. And while there may be some anger about the issue at hand, being honest about such things can actually help build trust and reinforce character.

Even better, instead of wasting everyone’s time trying to figure out who caused the chaos, or fuming because that person refused to ‘fess up, your team is now free to focus on mitigating damage, finding solutions, and moving forward.

If there are specific workplace processes that played a role in causing the problem, you can revisit those also— when everyone is calm and the primary issue has been resolved.

We’re only human

As a team, we’re all better off when we are willing to admit our individual failures, adjust behaviors, and work toward solutions. And let’s face it. We’d probably all rather work with someone who isn’t afraid to make the occasional mistake and be on the level about it.

Honesty, trust, and credibility. What’s not to like?

Struggling with issues like employee recruitment, benefits administration, and staying in compliance? At Sonus, we’ve got tools to make it easier. Get in touch to find out what working with a true employee benefits consultant feels like.

Leadership + Management | By Tom Murphy,

Managing Difficult Relationships at Work

Ever work with someone who is super sweet one minute, then jumps down your throat the next? To some of us, this might seem like a personal problem. But if it’s happening at work, it’s also a business problem.

Workplace conflict can decrease productivity, increase absenteeism, and cause good employees to leave. And the longer you allow difficult employees to stick around, the more you put employee engagement, retention, and morale at risk.

Why does this happen?

There are many reasons difficult people act the way they do. Sadly, one of the main reasons is because it works.

More than a few people have figured out how to get what they want by using tactics that make other people feel uncertain, off balance, and uneasy. When someone is feeling vulnerable, they are much more likely to bend to the will of others. Those who prefer to keep everybody walking on eggshells know this all too well.

First, they earn your trust, then they break it just enough to make you question what you did wrong. While you’re caught backpedaling, they’re slowly harnessing more and more power in the relationship.

Often, this need for power and control is fueled by intense feelings of insecurity. Individuals who live with the feeling of not being good enough often end up trying to inflict that same feeling onto others. Perhaps this makes them feel superior for a moment, or at least more equal.

Those prone to empathy may recognize this pattern for what it is, but that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. In fact, it may be considerably more difficult to react after realizing that the tormentor is actually the tormented.

How should you handle it?

Unfortunately, there are no magic answers here. Every scenario will be different. But here are a few hard-earned tips:

Trust yourself

If you’re getting a woozy, suspicious, or funny feeling about a potential business connection, pay attention.

Do some additional checking around. Talk to people who know or have worked with them. Conduct a social media or Google search. If you’re considering hiring this person, schedule a follow-up interview and invite some additional people to sit in who are willing to give another perspective.

Establish boundaries

If your personal and professional boundaries are clearly defined and firmly in place, you’ll have an easier time sticking to them. It may also help you react more diplomatically to unpredictable behavior.

Have a few canned responses in your pocket that you can pull out when needed: “I’m sorry you feel that way,” and “This isn’t appropriate to discuss right now,” can help put uncomfortable discussions back on track. Even something like “I’m on a deadline here,” can be a good conversation stopper. Just because someone wants to engage with you doesn’t mean you have to get sucked in.

Learn to say no and, if necessary, walk away.

Write it down

If you’re dealing with unhealthy interactions on a regular basis, start documenting dates, times, and specific events.

Whether you’re talking to HR, your BFF, or directly to your tormenter, re-telling stories from memory is going to be less effective than keeping detailed notes on each interaction. If you can get other people in the room, eyewitnesses are also helpful.

If you decide to go to HR, just realize you might not get the exact answer you are hoping for. If you’re expecting an automatic disciplinary action or a quick and easy fix, you could be in for some disappointment. These situations can be complicated and nuanced, and your HR team may or may not see things the same way you do.

If you are HR and you need to let someone go, having this documentation in place will be an important part of the process.

Cut the cord

Sometimes you have to deal with difficult people, but sometimes it’s a choice. If you’ve got a client, customer, employee, networking connection, or friend who seems like a super nice person, but sometimes makes you feel downright awful, do a quick ROI analysis:

  • How much of that time and energy could you invest in other, more positive people who are sincerely interested in your success?
  • What would that mean for your life? Your business? Your day-to-day interactions?

It’s not always easy to cut ties, but sometimes it’s the best thing for everyone.

Recruiting and retaining employees is easier when you can proudly offer a comprehensive benefits plan that makes your team members feel as valuable as they are. At Sonus Benefits, we build cost-effective, long-lasting employee benefits strategies to keep your business and your employees in optimum health.

Leadership + Management | By Tom Murphy,

Are Your Employees Asleep On the Job?

What does sleep have to do with workplace productivity? Pretty much everything.

The research on this topic is abundant and clear:

And while most businesses would never allow an employee to be intoxicated on the job, they often allow (and even encourage!) sleep-deprived individuals to come to work every single day.

Are employers responsible?

You may think lack of sleep is strictly a personal issue. And you’re partially right. Your employees are in charge of their own sleep habits. However, work is definitely a factor in how those sleep habits develop or change over time.

Sure, you may only see your colleagues working away during their scheduled shifts. But what you might not realize is just how much work and/or work stress is also creeping into their off hours and causing them to lose sleep.

A recent CareerBuilder study revealed some fascinating statistics. Of the 3,200 workers surveyed, 61% of them reported that sleep deprivation affected their work in one or more ways. A full 58% of respondents said they didn’t get enough sleep, and 44% admitted that just thinking about work kept them up at night. Meanwhile, the percentage of respondents who reported getting the doctor-recommended 8 hours per night was a shocking 16%.

There are many work-related reasons why your employees are finding it harder and harder to get enough sleep, including:

  • Long commutes
  • 24-hour accessibility
  • Increasing workloads
  • Extended hours/overtime
  • Off-hour or rotating shifts
  • Stressful work environments
  • Unattainable performance metrics

These factors can result in stressful work days— and sleepless nights.

How can companies help?

It all starts with being aware of the issue and educating your employees.

Much investigation has been done on how to combat or reduce fatigue, both in the immediate moment and over the long term, and there is lots of information available online. Communicate with your employees about the importance of sleep and provide them with information on how they can help achieve it through regular exercise, relaxation rituals, and unplugging from work.

But communication is just the beginning. If you really want to make a difference, take a look at your current processes and incorporate ways to address some of the key stressors affecting your employees.

Long commutes: Allow employees to adjust their schedules to avoid traffic delays. Consider telecommuting options.

24-hour accessibility: Encourage employees to unplug when at home. Provide flexible paid time off.

Increasing workloads: Ask your team if they feel their tasks are manageable and achievable, then make adjustments.

Extended hours/overtime: Are those long shifts really necessary? Could you do some hiring?

Off-hour or rotating shifts: Provide ample break times. Consider napping and exercise rooms. Provide coffee and tea.

Stressful work environment: Look to your leadership team to troubleshoot workplace issues. Build a strong culture of teamwork and communication.

Unattainable performance metrics: How are you measuring success? Is it realistic? Does it need to be re-defined?

It may sound strange to examine your HR and business processes from a sleep perspective, but don’t let that stop you from thinking about ways to encourage less stress and more shuteye.

After all, you can’t drive great results if your employees are asleep at the wheel.


Recruiting and retaining employees is easier when you can proudly offer a comprehensive benefits plan that makes your team members feel as valuable as they are. At Sonus Benefits, we build cost-effective, long-lasting employee benefits strategies to keep your business and your employees in optimum health.