National Safety Council Urges Employers to Take Steps to Address Employee Addiction to Opioid Pain Medications
The National Safety Council (“NSC”) has published a report entitled Prescription Pain Medications: A Fatal Cure For Injured Workers, urging employers to educate employees about the dangers of using opioid pain medications – such as addiction and death – while also taking steps to avoid potential liability in workers’ compensation and personal injury litigation.
The NSC report states that injured workers increasingly are prescribed opioid pain medications (such as Vicodin, OxyContin, Percoset, Morphine, Codeine, among many others). The use of opioid pain medications can lead to more serious harm to injured workers, including addiction, overdose and death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 43,900 people died of drug overdoses in 2013, of which 16,235 were tied to prescription opioids alone or in combination with other prescription medications or alcohol. The NSC report states that overdose deaths from prescription opioids now exceed deaths from both heroin and cocaine combined.
Additionally, the NSC report lists fifteen court cases in the last six years in which an injured employee died of an opioid-related drug overdose. In some of these cases, the courts held that when injured workers fatally overdose on medications prescribed to treat pain related to a compensable workplace injury, the deaths were compensable by the workers’ compensation program.
NSC recommends that employers and workers’ compensation insurance providers be proactive to reduce their legal risk in situations where employees are being treated with pain medications as follows:
- Educate all employees about the hazards associated with prescription pain medication use, especially injured employees. Key educational messages include:
- The risks of opioid pain medication use, especially for workers with sleep apnea, COPD or other respiratory problems;
- Hazards associated with using together multiple forms of opioid pain medication such as short-acting and long-acting drugs together;
- Dangers of using alcohol and sleep aids with opioid pain medications;
- The risks of addiction and drug overdose.
- Require workers’ compensation and network providers to use opioid prescribing guidelines issued by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. These guidelines include:
- Informed consent;
- Thorough patient history with a more detailed screening if treatment continues for more than two weeks;
- Urine drug monitoring;
- Checking the state prescription monitoring database;
- Avoiding co-prescribing benzodiazepines with opioid pain medications; and,
- Discontinuing treatment with opioids when patients reach meaningful functional recovery.
- Use caution and require prior approval for the use of methadone to treat chronic noncancer pain.
- Screen injured workers for depression, mental health conditions and current or prior substance use.
- Require network providers to utilize state prescription drug monitoring programs.
Employers also should review their workplace drug and alcohol testing policies and update them if appropriate. Many employers believe that their drug test panels cover a wide range of opioid (or opiate) drugs. A “standard” 5-panel tests for marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, opiates and PCP. The opiates tested for in a “standard” drug test panel generally include heroin, morphine and codeine, but not synthetic opiates such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, oxymorphone or hydromorphone (i.e., Vicodin and OxyContin, among others). Employers who wish to test for potential abuse of prescription opioid painkillers should speak with their drug testing vendors to request an “extended opiates” panel or “synthetic opiates” panel. Of course, employers should have all positive drug test results reviewed by a Medical Review Officer (“MRO”) (a licensed physician with expertise in analyzing drug test results) to ensure that they do not take adverse employment actions based on lawful prescription drug use. A MRO discusses the positive drug test result with an applicant or employee to determine whether the applicant or employee is using a prescription drug legitimately. The MRO may request a copy of the prescription and may request to speak with the prescribing physician. If the MRO is satisfied that the use of the prescription drug is legitimate, he will verify the result to the employer as a negative. If the MRO is not satisfied that the use of the prescription drug is legitimate, he will verify the result to the employer as a positive. This process ensures that employers do not take discriminatory actions against applicants or employees who lawfully use prescription medications.
Jackson Lewis P.C. © 2015
— think twice before striking back at employee social media comments
By Steven M. Richard, Todd R. Shinaman and Joseph A. Carello
Social media has rapidly transformed the nature and scope of employee commentary about the workplace. With one click, employees’ electronic postings can reach supervisors, co-workers, clients and customers. Vexing issues arise in determining whether employees are immune from disciplinary action or termination of employment for speaking their minds on social media. The law is evolving as it refines standards applicable to traditional modes of workplace communications (e.g., “water cooler” discussions or face-to-face encounters) to the realm of social media.
On August 22, 2014, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a significant Decision and Order holding that two employees were wrongly terminated for participating in a Facebook dialogue unfavorably depicting their employer’s handling of a workplace concern—one for “Liking” a posted comment and the other for posting a comment about her situation. Three D, LLC d/b/a Triple Play Sports Bar and Grille and Sanzone and Three D, LLC d/b/a Triple Play Sports Bar and Grille and Spinella, Cases 34-CA-012915 and 34-CA-012926. The NRLB’s ruling provides important guidance as to when social media commentary is protected under the National Labor Relations Act (“Act”) and how far it must go before it can be deemed to lose the protection of the Act.1
Section 7 of the Act provides employees with the right to organize and engage in “other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.” An employer violates Section 8(a)(1) of the Act by interfering, restraining or coercing employees in the exercise of their Section 7 rights, which can include conversations via social media such as Facebook, Twitter or blogs. Yet, the NLRB has recognized that online employee communications can implicate legitimate employer interests, such as the right to protect its business concerns and orderly operations. There are often unclear lines of demarcation between these competing rights.
Jillian Sanzone (“Sanzone”) and Vincent Spinella (“Spinella”) were employed at Triple Play Sports Bar and Grille in Watertown, Connecticut. In early 2011, upon filing her tax return, Sanzone discovered that she owed income taxes to the state of Connecticut apparently due to her employer’s withholding practices. Another restaurant employee informed Sanzone that she also owed taxes. Concerns spread among the employees about their employer’s withholding calculations, and the owners arranged for staff to meet with the restaurant’s accountant and payroll company.
Sanzone and Spinella never made it to the scheduled meeting, as their social media activity sealed the fate of their employment beforehand. A former restaurant employee posted the following status update on her Facebook page, “Maybe someone should do the owners of Triple Play a favor and buy it from them. They can’t even do the tax paperwork correctly!!! Now I OWE Money…[expletive deleted]!!!!” Several of the former employee’s Facebook friends, including restaurant employees and customers, joined in. As the dialogue ensued on the Facebook page, Spinella clicked the “Like” button under the former employee’s initial status update and Sanzone posted a single comment stating “I owe too. Such an [expletive deleted][.]” (referring to one of her bosses). When the restaurant owners learned of this social media activity, they promptly fired Sanzone and Spinella, construing their participation in the Facebook discussion to constitute disloyalty.
Sanzone and Spinella contended that they were wrongfully terminated in violation of the Act. An administrative law judge agreed and ruled that the employer responded unlawfully to the employees’ protected concerted activity. The restaurant appealed to the NLRB, which heard the matter through a three-member panel.
The NLRB’s analysis
Before the NLRB, the restaurant did not dispute that the employees’ participation in the social media activity was concerted as part of a sequence of employee communications about withholdings that initiated in the workplace, or that its employees had a protected right to participate in a Facebook discussion about their tax concerns in furtherance of group action. Instead, the employer contended that the two employees wrongfully adopted the former employee’s allegedly defamatory and disparaging comments on her Facebook page and therefore lost the protection of the Act.
The NLRB addressed the proper framework to apply to the employees’ participation in the social media discussion. The restaurant argued that the NLRB should apply its standards established in Atlantic Steel Co., 245 NLRB 814 (1979), which balance the following four factors: (1) the place of the discussion; (2) the subject matter of the discussion; (3) the nature of the employee’s outburst; and (4) whether the outburst was, in any way, provoked by the employer’s unfair labor practices. Focusing on the first factor (the place of discussion), the NLRB noted that it has traditionally applied the Atlantic Steel Co. standards to face-to-face communications in the workplace. The precedent is ill-suited to apply to employees’ off-duty, off-site use of social media to communicate amongst themselves and with third parties.
Instead, the NLRB relied upon the standards prescribed by the United States Supreme Court in NLRB v. Electrical Workers Local 1229 (Jefferson Standard), 346 U.S. 464 (1953) and Linn v. Plant Guards Local 114, 383 U.S. 53 (1966). In Jefferson Standard, the Court upheld the discharges of employees who publically attacked the quality of their employer’s product and business practices
without relating their criticisms to a labor controversy, which constituted disloyal disparagement outside the protections of the Act. In Linn, the Court limited the availability of state-law remedies for defamation in the course of a union organizing campaign to instances where the complainant “can show that the defamatory statements were circulated with malice” and caused damage. The NLRB concluded these cases offer the better framework to determine whether employee social media commentary, amongst themselves and reaching third parties, “is not so disloyal, reckless, or maliciously untrue to lose the Act’s protection.”
The NLRB made an important determination regarding the precise scope of the social media activity at issue. It held that the only conduct to be analyzed entailed Sanzone’s posting (“I owe money too. Such an [expletive deleted].”) and Spinella’s clicking of the “Like” button under the former employee’s initial comment posted on her Facebook page. The NLRB concluded that Spinella’s “Like” indication related only to the initial comment and was not an expression of approval of any ensuing comments, which he could have “liked” individually. The restaurant argued that Sanzone and Spinella should be held responsible for all of the comments in the social media exchange, some of which implied that the owners pocketed employee funds. Without deciding whether these other comments were protected, the NLRB found that neither Sanzone nor Spinella would lose the protections of the Act merely by participating in an otherwise protected discussion in which other persons made unprotected statements.
The NLRB emphasized several important aspects of the two employees’ social media activity. They participated in a Facebook discussion in relation to an ongoing labor dispute affecting them. The social media discussion, including Sanzone’s and Spinella’s participation, was not directed to the general public. Although the record did not make clear the privacy settings on the former employee’s Facebook page, the NLRB found that the social media discussions “were more compatible to a conversation that could potentially be overheard by a patron or other third party,” as compared to a statement directed to the public at large. The NLRB concluded that the two employees did not disparage their employer’s’ products or services, rather they engaged in social media to seek and provide mutual support for a group activity addressing the terms and conditions of employment.
In another important aspect of its ruling, the NLRB reviewed the restaurant’s Internet and blogging policy and found it to be in violation of the Act. The policy warns that “engaging in inappropriate discussions about the company management, and/or co-workers, the employee may be violating the law and is subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.” Two of the three panel members, Kent Y. Hirozawa and Nancy Schiffer, deemed the policy to chill the exercise of Section 7 employee rights under the Act. Member Philip A. Miscimarra, while agreeing that the restaurant wrongfully terminated Sanzone and Spinella, disagreed with the finding that the policy violated the Act. The dissent concluded that the policy does not expressly or implicitly restrict protected Section 7 activity and, instead, aims to prevent the revelation of proprietary information and unlawful statements about the company, its management and employees.
Lessons from the NLRB’s ruling
Impulsive and emotionally driven employer reactions to workers’ unflattering, slang, “off the cuff” or even vulgar commentary on social media can lead to trouble under the Act. This is especially true where the employer is aware of or can easily construe that the employees turned to social media to address workplace issues and further their exercise of protected Section 7 rights.
Of particular significance and forging new ground, NLRB’s ruling makes clear that the simple act of clicking “Like” on Facebook without doing anything else or saying anything more can constitute protected participation in concerted activity. A “Like” clicking may express agreement with commentary regarding an ongoing workplace concern as was the case with Spinella’s action, rather than be evidence of disloyalty as his employer contended.
Further, the ruling makes clear that an employer faces a high burden to prove that social media comments are “so disloyal, reckless, or maliciously untrue” such that they may lose their protection under the Act. Employers will need compelling, persuasive and credible evidence to have any prospect of success regarding such a depiction of a social media commentary.
Finally, employers should review their social media policies to ensure that they are in compliance with the Act. While the NLRB panel split in its review of the policy at question in the Triple Play case, employers must make certain that their policies’ terms and restrictions are not so ambiguous and broad such that they can reasonably be construed to reach and impair protected concerted employee activity under Section 7 of the Act.
The NLRB, as well as courts, will continue to speak about the impact of social media as it pervades workplace issues. We will monitor these developments closely and proactively report on them, as social media impacts the delicate balance between employees’ rights and employers’ business concerns.
For more information on the content of this alert, please contact your regular Nixon Peabody attorney or:
— Steven M. Richard at firstname.lastname@example.org or 401-454-1020
— Todd R. Shinaman at email@example.com or 585-263-1265
— Joseph A. Carello at firstname.lastname@example.org or 585-263-1434
A copy of the NLRB’s Decision and Order may be obtained at http://www.nlrb.gov/case/34-CA-012915
Photo Courtesy of Eric Peacockby Jodi Jacobson FreySummary:Work organizations now realize they can help identify depression, a leading risk factor for suicide and the leading cause of lost work productivity.The American Association of Suicidology said it best when it created this logo for the association: “Suicide prevention is everyone’s business.” By everyone, the association includes employers and work organizations. Considering that the workplace is where the majority of working-age adults spend a significant portion of their day, and sometimes night, it only makes sense that employers and coworkers join the national fight against suicide.Over the past 10 years, work organizations have begun to realize that they can help identify and treat working adults suffering from depression — a leading risk factor for suicide and also the leading cause of lost work productivity. Despite the knowledge that depression is highly correlated with suicide risk, workplaces have been slow to embrace their potentially critical role in preventing suicide through workplace-based programs. Many of the programs already being offered by employers address depression and can be easily and often freely expanded to also include elements of suicide prevention. The connection between depression and suicide is clear, and employers, large and small, have an important role to take in addressing the public health problem of suicide in our country.Detecting and treating depression among employees is one way employers can play a significant role. In fact, many employers are already making inroads in minimizing the negative effects of depression and related mental health issues through employer-sponsored benefits such as employee assistance programs (EAPs), workplace wellness programs and occupational health services.Some of the more commonly offered employer-sponsored interventions at the workplace to identify and respond to depression include workplace-based public awareness campaigns that involve posting suicide warning signs, referral resources and general anti-stigma messages, workplace-based depression screening, such as the program offered through Screening for Mental Health and other early interventions that can be cost-effectively offered through EAP counseling, wellness programs and related occupational health programs.Improving the detection and treatment of depression and therefore preventing suicide will have a positive impact on the employee and, in the process, the business success of the company. By expanding existing workplace-based wellness programs that often focus heavily on identification and treatment of depression among employees, employers are able to increase the number of employees seeking and obtaining treatment — depression often has low rates of treatment because it is not accurately identified. In fact, prior research shows that, at any given time, depression affects between one-tenth and one-fifth of U.S. employees (Kessler et al., 2008). For employers, this means that for every 100 employees, depression costs employers about $62,000 annually. The majority of this cost does not come from treatment (treatment only accounts for about $9,000), but, rather, costs related to lost work time resulting from sick day absence, work disability (short term and long term disability days) and “presenteeism” (underperformance at the workplace because of illness). In addition, depression and suicide contribute to hidden costs to employers such as lowered morale, increased stress and lower employee engagement and loyalty. The effect of a suicide on coworkers can also be devastating.In addition to treatment of depression, employers who work with their EAPs and other wellness programs to identify and respond to depression will improve other chronic health conditions. This is because employees who suffer from depression also suffer from an average of 5.1 other chronic health conditions that can complicate treatment and increase costs to the workplace. For example, some of the most serious comorbid conditions in terms of lost productivity with depression include anxiety (48% of employees with depression also have anxiety); chronic fatigue (46%), obesity (29%), chronic sleeping problems (26%) and chronic back and neck pain (32%). (The statistics are from data collected by Integrated Benefits Institute, a leading research organization in health and productivity. See www.ibiweb.org for more information.)Research suggests that medication and psychotherapy are effective in 70% to 80% of depression cases (RAND, 2008). Employers can require their EAPs and other workplace wellness programs to screen all employees for depression using free and simple validated tools such as the 9-item Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9), where the ninth question asks specifically about suicide risk. Employers can also provide comprehensive depression care management programs for employees screened or otherwise identified to have serious depressive symptoms or for those at increased risk, such as employees who recently went out of the workplace on short-term disability (Desiron, de Rijk, Van Hoof, & Donceel, 2011; Lerner, Rodday, Cohen, & Rogers, 2013; Lo Sasso, Rost, & Beck, 2006).EAPs are one way through which workplaces have historically and effectively provided help to employees with depression and other mental health and personal problems. EAPs have been shown to be effective in reducing depressive symptoms among employees, including thoughts about suicide (University of Michigan Depression Center). EAPs can provide identification and screening services, such as on-site employee depression screening; however, EAP services go well beyond simple screening and identification. Depending on the services purchased by the employer, EAPs can provide comprehensive assessment, short-term counseling and referral and case management services for longer-term help in the community. Additionally, well-positioned EAPs, those with more on-site access and easy access to consultation with workplace managers and leaders, help to ensure that EAPs are even more effective at recognizing and responding quickly to employee problems such as suicide risk.Additionally, strategically positioned programs can offer responses that are integrated and in line with the culture of the broader work organization to better serve employees while also supporting workplace productivity. Highly visible and management-supported EAPs can help to reduce stigma toward mental health problems, which in turn will encourage employees to seek help at an earlier stage of their problems and be more responsive to early intervention.It is important that all employees in the workplace take suicide risk seriously. They should be trained to identify depression and suicide risk among coworkers, not be afraid to ask questions about the well-being of coworkers and refer them to EAPs or other resources when needed. Some examples of companies working to train employees (a designated employee, group of employees or all employees) and raise awareness of suicide and mental health in general are: Chesapeake Energy, DuPont and Johnson & Johnson (see Partnership for Workplace Mental Health for these and other examples).EAPs can work with employers to develop appropriate training material to help reduce the stigma of mental health problems, not limited to just depression and suicide, so that everyone is able to play a role in contributing to the well-being of the workplace. Just as employees understand and can identify physical safety risks such as falling hazards and safe lifting practices, employees should also understand what to look for when employees may be at risk for a mental health problem.Even employers who are not able to provide comprehensive services such as EAPs and workplace wellness programs can take small steps that can have a huge impact on saving lives.One simple first step employers can take to increase awareness of depression and suicide at the workplace is to promote the phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) at different locations throughout the workplace where employees will readily see signs, posters and online messages. The Lifeline is a free hotline that can be utilized by anyone who might want to talk with a professional about mental health issues and well-being. Promoting the Lifeline is free to the employer and can be a good way to demonstrate the employer’s interest in the mental wellness of employees. Utilizing free hotline services such as Lifeline is especially important for employees who don’t have access to EAP or other workplace wellness programs.Overall, we know that workplaces that offer more control to their employees with regard to working conditions that can lower workplace stress, do better with regard to workplace productivity and depression. Therefore, it is critical that employers step up the plate and review and revise workplace policies and programs that are designed to support employees who may be suffering from depression and therefore have increased risk for suicide. By expanding existing programs to include assessment and treatment for depression, employers are working to improve productivity while also preventing suicide at the same time. It is a win-win for employers, employees and society as a whole.This article was written by Dr. Jacobson Frey; Kimberly Jinnett, PhD; and Jungyai Ko, MSSA– See more at: http://insurancethoughtleadership.com/why-employers-must-help-stop-suicide/#sthash.azuCx0tY.dpuf
I have a colleague who deals me backhanded compliments about my job performance as the proofreader for the firm. For example, she repeatedly congratulates me on catching errors and then says, “It’s nice to hear those things when you never hear it from anyone else. It must be awful to think your job is not valued.” First of all, my work is valued; that is not the issue or even something I worry about. I just want the backhanded compliments to stop.
I don’t like this woman on a personal level because she is a gossip and has a reputation for stirring up trouble at the office. However, because I work closely with her and her department, I want to at least have a respectful working relationship. How do I address the backhanded compliments she’s been serving me lately?
Signed, SlightedDear Slighted,
Thank you for your question. I read some resentment in your comments (perhaps my interpretation). You say you don’t like your coworker. But the fact that you took the trouble to write about this makes me suspect that you feel provoked or offended by her insinuation that your work is not respected. That’s what I’ll assume for the purpose of my response to you. If I’m way off base, then I hope my comments are at least useful to others!
May I suggest that the reason her comments hurt is not because they’re hurtful, it’s because you fear them. They trigger some shame or hurt you hold from past experience. The hurt they create is predictable because you hold them in a mentally habitual way. Two things are necessary to create this pain. First, some triggering circumstance must occur. For example, someone indicates that they believe your work is of inferior value to that of others. Second, and this is the important part: you must interpret this triggering event as evidence of some shame you fear. For example, when someone disparages my work, I may conclude that I am worthless. The second step feels inevitable and true. We don’t even notice our role in the interpretation process because we have a lifetime of practice in drawing this conclusion whenever these kinds of triggers occur. But if you change the way you interpret, the hurt will disappear—completely.
I know this both from the laboratory of my own life and from a lifetime of observation of others’ emotional responses to social triggers. I was baffled for years as I observed people in apparently toxic interpersonal environments who seemed largely immune to them.
For example, I once watched a man who was (wrongfully) accused of being dishonest in the middle of a business meeting. This wasn’t a passing accusation either. It was delivered with a sneer and a string of epithets. I felt my body tense in empathy for the man who was being unfairly insulted. Had it been me, I would have felt a powerful urge to lash out at the accuser. This man, on the other hand, was relaxed. His face showed concern, but not pain. And his response registered interest, but not animosity. “Wow. I had no idea you saw me that way. What have I done that caused you to see me like that?” he said.
He felt no shame. He felt no pain. Instead, he felt compassion and curiosity. Why? Because he understood that this person’s action were not about him.
So, I’ve got great news for you. In fact, I can promise you that if you think deeply about what I’m about to share, ninety-nine percent of the problem you’re experiencing will disappear in a matter of days—or weeks at the most. Never again will you feel slighted, offended, or hurt by this person. Wouldn’t that be great? All you need to do is consistently practice the following skill in coming days and these results are guaranteed. Remember: It is never, never, never, never, never about you. Never. Ever.
Now, let me be clear. There are times when others’ words or actions give us true feedback. They may indicate we are incompetent, made a mistake, broke a promise, etc. And their feedback may be true. It may be helpful information about you. But their emotions and judgments are not about you; they are about them. Nothing they ever do or say has any implications for your worth, self-respect, or self-esteem—unless you decide it does. And it is this decision that causes your persecutor’s foible to feel provocative to you.
So, here’s what I’d suggest:
- Own your emotions.Notice what kinds of triggers connect with painful self-doubts or shame you’ve learned to invoke. Then develop a script you’ll use to refute this inaccurate conclusion and reconnect with the truth about yourself.
- Get curious.Once you’ve owned and managed the emotions that could get in the way of a healthy conversation, you’ll notice your resentment will be replaced with curiosity. So act on it. Approach this person, describe the pattern you see, then genuinely try to understand where she’s coming from when she makes these statements. As you do, you will almost inevitably gain new insight about why she frames her “compliments” the way she does. For instance, when your shame is not distorting your perception, you may learn that she has felt her work was disrespected in the past. Maybe her comments were a clumsy attempt to reassure you about something that is only an issue for her.
- Teach.With a better understanding of her true intent, you can let her know how you hear comments like this. Teach her better ways of expressing solidarity or affirmation to you.
I wish you the best in creating a healthier relationship with her. But most of all, I hope recognizing this trigger gives you an opportunity to develop greater emotional mastery—which can bring a greater peace and happiness to your life.
Best wishes, JosephJoseph GrennyJoseph Grenny is a New York Times bestselling author, keynote speaker, and leading social scientist for business performance. For thirty years, Joseph has delivered engaging keynotes at major conferences including the HSM World Business Forum at Radio City Music Hall. Joseph’s work has been translated into twenty-eight languages, is available in thirty-six countries, and has generated results for three hundred of the Fortune 500.
By Craig J. Davidson, CEBS
February 1, 2012
What is the difference between a manager and a leader? According to Warren Bennis, founder of the Leadership Institute at the University of Southern California, “Managers do things right, but leaders do the right thing.” A world of difference exists between these two individuals. Which camp do you fall into? Most people have some management acumen, but a minority has the stuff it takes to be a great leader.
Some leadership thinkers believe that leaders are born. They would say you either have it or you don’t. These are the trait leadership theorists. Others believe that we can make anyone into a leader with the right education, training and occasional kick in the pants when one fails. We all fail sometimes. We all succeed sometimes. These are behavioral theorists. Whichever theory you subscribe to, I am here to tell you that you need to develop your leadership skills. This will be a good thing for you and your career.
We will devote the rest of this column to the important subject of leadership: Do you have it?
Being a leader in business requires that you have followers. Why would someone follow you? That is a question with a number of potential answers. Most of the answers revolve around leadership style, the way you act with subordinates and other potential followers.
My experience in leadership tells me that only two types of leaders exist – transactional and transformational. The former lead by rewarding followers when they do something that the leader likes, hence the transaction. Transactional leaders are functional and mind the store, but do not inspire followers to greatness. Transformational leaders have a whole different set of traits than transactional leaders. These traits include the following:
Idealized influence is the notion that your leader has a relationship with you that you consider close to ideal and as a result you are willing to be influenced by the leader. Does your sales manager have this type of relationship with you? Sales managers, do you have idealized influence over your reports? Idealized influence is a key factor of sales leadership because it is built on trust or experience, or both.
Chances are you would prefer a leader who inspires you over one who is autocratic and/or a Machiavellian. The opposite of inspirational leadership has terms like repressive, suppressive and unprovocative. If you are a manager, which method seems to be more productive and fun for you?
Employees like to be inspired, or transformed, to do great things rather than be repressed and uninspired. Great leaders inspire their reports on to great sales performance. They help their followers go beyond themselves.
Do you feel like a leader managing a bunch of dead heads? Do you have a boss who doesn’t get it, lacks any original thought and is not open to new ideas? Chances are both situations are devoid of intellectual stimulation. This is the practice of promoting intelligence, rationality and careful problem solving to, in this case, sales. As a leader do you cultivate and actively solicit intelligent thought from your reports? Are you disciplined to keep leader-subordinate business discussions on a rational basis or do you entertain irrational discussions that waste time? Do you challenge subordinates at an intellectual level to get them to think about themselves and the business? Leaders should want their subordinates to think and reason-out problems and the best way to attack opportunities.
Good leaders promote intelligence because intelligence makes for more professional sales presenters. You want to advance your subordinates’ careers in every way you can. That includes promoting educational opportunities to learn about the craft, themselves and life. When you do this, you will generally develop deep devotion and loyalty from your subordinates to you. This is all the stuff of great sales cultures and the talented leaders who run them.
From my experience, true rational thought is scarce in sales cultures because of organizational constraints that prohibit rational thinking. Those constraints are 1) limited or unreliable information regarding possible alternatives for decision making; 2) a limited capacity for the human mind to evaluate and process information that is already available; and 3) a limited amount of time available to make a decision. Given these constraints, leaders want to make rational choices but settle for decisions that are “satisficing.”
Satisficing is making a decision that achieves minimum satisfactory results that are familiar, hassle-free, and secure. In making a satisficing decision, the leader recognizes and abandons rational decision making because it would result in additional costs and risk.
Careful problem solving
Great leaders take time (which can be scarce on occasion) to carefully solve problems. Since most organizational problems involve people, special care needs to be taken to properly triage, diagnose and take action to resolve the problem(s).
Great leaders do not solve problems by autocratic edict. They involve staff members who have a stake in the problem. They get their input and, thus, get their skin in the eventual decision. Leaders who fail to get buy-in from subordinates run the risk of alienating their staff and developing an apathetic attitude among their reports. This ultimately leads to the emperor-has-no-clothes syndrome where staff is fearful of the leader and reluctant to say anything antagonistic toward the leader for fear of reprisal.
Now we’re talking about a bad culture, bad leaders and a caustic environment for employees. This leads to higher presenteeism, turnover, and all that nasty stuff that smart thinkers counsel companies to avoid.
Leadership and power
Power is a primary tool that leaders use to get things done. It is not the only tool and which power tool one uses determines in part the effectiveness of the leader. Leadership and power tactics are closely intertwined. Here are a few power styles that we see in leaders. Make a mental check of which type of power your leader uses on you, or if you’re a leader, which type of power you use on your subordinates. Here are a few styles that leaders use to project power.
Position Power – This is power that comes with the position that the leader holds. Take away the position and you take away the power. Relying on this form of power makes a leader mostly a transactional leader; not exciting and nothing to write home about.
Coercive Power – This is power that is used to manipulate others and to punish people for wrongdoing. It is a tool, but not a tool that great leaders use. Are you a leader who uses coercive power on your staff, even sparingly? Are you a staffer affected by coercive power? How does that make you think and behave about your job? Does it motivate you to sell?
I rest my case.
Expert Power – This is power that is derived from one’s outstanding expertise in an area. It may be superior sales skills, unequalled knowledge of the business, things like that. The thing with expert power is that the holder is a magnet for others who desire that knowledge. He or she is a go-to person. Because others are dependent on his or her knowledge the person with expert knowledge has power over others.
Referent Power – This is the most abstract of the power styles, but maybe the most important to seek. Perhaps you remember when you were a kid that you and all your friends tended to congregate at a certain friend’s house, all the time. Why? Is it possible that all that had something to do with the one friend’s personality and likeability? Now fast-forward to your business life. Is there someone in your organization who has that something, those special personal and knowledge characteristics that cause you to defer to his or her judgment even if the referent power individual has no formal authority or position from which power tends to emanate?
Transformational leaders have an abundance of referent power. That is a special quality that makes people listen to them. A transformational leader with referent power is, arguably, the best candidate for leading a healthy sales culture. He or she will motivate you and bring out the best qualities in you for all to see. He or she will make you a star because that is what this leadership profile does.
Are you that type of a leader? Do you work for a leader like I’ve described in the past two paragraphs? Do you agree that this is the type of leader we need to head up a healthy sales culture? I’d be interested in your thoughts if you’d email me. Seek to be a great leader. It is noble undertaking. Our industry desperately needs leaders – not more managers. In fact, let’s fire a few managers. E
Davidson, CEBS, is the founder of future officenetwork.com, MedAnalyzer suite of health care analytics and mysalesrockstar.com. He is also on the faculty at the Sheldon B. Lubar School of Business at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. Reach him at email@example.com.
What it means to be a leader
Here are few likeable quotes on leadership that I think you’ll appreciate after reading this column:
“Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.” – Stephen Covey
“Management is about arranging and telling. Leadership is about nurturing and enhancing.” – Tom Peters
“Leadership is intangible, and therefore no weapon ever designed can replace it.” – Omar Bradley
- Falling asleep at night right when your head hits the pillow is a sign of a healthy sleep pattern. True/False
- On average, how much of our lives do we spend sleeping? a) 33% b) 25% c) 17% d) 10%
- How many hours of sleep should an adult get per night? a) 7.5 b) 8 c) 6 d) 9
- Watching TV in bed or checking your smartphone before you go to sleep affects your sleep cycle. True/False
- On average, the sleepiest time of the work day is: a) 8am b) 10am c) 2pm d) 10pm
- Impulsivity is increased when you are sleep deprived. True/False
- If you work overnight shift work, your body will eventually adjust to become nocturnal. True/False
- Not sleeping for 16 hours leads to a decrease in performance equivalent to having a blood alcohol level too high to drive. True/False
- You are less hungry when you are tired. True/False
- Falling asleep upon entering a dark space during daylight hours is a sign of sleep deprivation. True/False