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Advisor’s Bookshelf

These books will guide you through some of the rough waters of managing and disciplining your employees.

By Maggie Leyes

“I’m a financial advisor, not an HR director!” Have you ever muttered this as yet another personnel issue landed on your desk? Do you sometimes wonder how you are to navigate the world of hiring, firing and managing employees when your training is in insurance and finance? The American Management Association ( consistently puts out books that fill that management hole. Advisor Today has pinpointed two AMACOM books that you should consider for your office bookshelf:

The Employer’s Legal Advisor by Thomas M. Hanna. The bullets on the cover concisely sum up what you’ll learn about: handling problem employees effectively, knowing when and how to work with an attorney, and staying out of court—or winning your case if you get there. Hanna has practiced labor and employment law for more than four decades in 23 states, and offers tips on how to keep the right documentation and to follow the correct procedures “just in case you find yourself confronting a government agency, judge or jury.”

Two areas of the book may be of particular interest. The chapter “Advantages and Pitfalls of Electronic Devices” has a section covering that tricky, gray area of email and electronic transmissions. It offers this straightforward advice: “You should treat email with as much formality and detail as you would a letter, business report, reprimand or any other important document … Write as if your message would be read by complete strangers who are sitting in judgment on your actions. If you’re sued, that’s what happens.”

Additionally, the author advises that you should have a concise written policy that limits how an employee uses the company’s computer. To that end, the book provides a sample form, “Consent Form for Electronic Monitoring,” with, of course, cautionary, lawyerly language of how to put it to use. Which brings us to another area of interest: the appendices. This sample form resides alongside four other sample policies that you might consider implementing: “Rules of Conduct,” “Drug and Alcohol Testing Policy,” “No-Fault Attendance Policy” and “Harassment and Sexual Harassment Policy.”

Productive Performance Appraisals by Paul Falcone with Randi Sachs. This slim volume helps you through the almost-always onerous task of conducting performance reviews. Immediately, Falcone, a human-resources expert, sets the record straight. “A common misconception is that the sole purpose of an appraisal is to inform employees how their performance has been rated,” he writes. “That’s unfortunate because a productive performance appraisal can accomplish much more. … [It] serves as a work session between supervisor and employee in which you take the time and effort to meet with an individual and set new goals and objectives for the coming year.”

The author then carefully walks you through the preparation phase, the appraisal interview, how to deal with common problems and how to effectively follow through post-appraisal. Perhaps of greater interest are the examples that Falcone sprinkles throughout. The section “Watch What You Say—And How You Say It” helps you avoid common clichés (that would have your employees rolling their eyes). For example, don’t use cliché No. 1: “You’re not living up to your potential.” Instead, personalize your comment by saying, “I was confident that you had enough experience in this area to handle this assignment, Amy. Why do you think you’ve had trouble getting the work done correctly?” This way, you open up a dialog with your employee.

Near the end of the book, the author offers a concise timeline for you, starting one month before the appraisal when you inform your employees that you are “reinventing” how you conduct performance appraisals, and ending three to five days after the formal appraisal with a follow-up meeting.


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