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The Work of Independent Contractors

There’s a bit of confusion surrounding the differences between using “Independent Contractors” and W-2 Employees. Businesses cannot afford to make a mistake in this area by misclassifying a person as an Independent Contractor, when the person is actually performing the work as a W-2 Employee.

The biggest problem with misclassifying employment status is how employment taxes are paid and who pays them. Obviously, direct employees (“W-2’s”) are individuals who are paid directly by the employer; and while taxes are withheld from the employee’s paycheck, the employer also pays social security tax, Medicare tax, federal and state payroll taxes. Independent Contractors pay all their own employment-related taxes – as they are their own business.

Let’s use an example of hiring an electrician to rewire your home or business.

There are a few quick questions to help evaluate if the person is truly an independent contractor or if they are an employee:

Does the worker offer services to more than just your firm?

· The electrician is not an employee of yours – they are their own company providing a service to you (as well as to many other home owners).

Do you have to train the worker to do the job in a particular way?

· You would not be responsible for training the electrician how to perform the work (the electrician would have their own expertise).

Do you set the worker’s hours?

· You may be able to ask the electrician to show up at a timeframe that will work for you, but you wouldn’t dictate to the electrician how long they would have to stay, or that they have to begin work exactly at 8am or they’ll be docked pay!

Must the worker spend all of his or her time on your job?

· You also wouldn’t be able to restrict the electrician from doing work for other home owners or businesses.

Do you provide the worker with the tools / equipment to do the work?

· You wouldn’t provide the electrician with the tools (ladders, ammeters, PPE) to be able to do the job – they would have all the required equipment with them on their truck.

There are more questions to help assess the relationship. However, if you answered “yes” to any of the ones listed here, then it’s important to really evaluate whether you’re working with an independent contractor or you should be paying this person as a W-2 employee.


Meaningful Ways of Rewarding Others – Find Your $100 Handshake

What’s a $100 handshake?

Meaningfully rewarding others doesn’t have to be complicated. A while ago, I listened to a podcast called “The Leading Creative.” The author mentioned the importance of rewarding people in ways that actually matter to THEM; as an individual. He told a story about a sales manager who gave “$100 handshakes” to his sales team members for a job well done. Literally… he’d fold up a $100 bill into a small square and place it in the cup of his hand. As the manager shook the salesperson’s hand, the bill would be passed to the salesperson. Now, many sales people are money-minded. Getting a cool, crisp $100 bill might really resonate with them. But, is money equally motivating to everyone?

Rewarding others – How to know what’s meaningful?

Listen to what a person talks about, stories about how they spend their free time. Pay attention to what gets someone excited when they’re speaking. Then, find a creative way of rewarding others with that special “thing!” For example, if someone is always talking about golf, then paying for a round of golf for them might be a “hole in one!” If they’re always talking about coffee, a gift card to a local coffee shop might really “buzz” with them

What is my equivalent “$100 Handshake?”

It got me thinking about what my “$100 Handshake” would be… It quickly came to me: receiving a Disney gift card. My family goes to Disney 2-3 times per year, it’s “our thing.” We’re always talking about Disney trips (past and future) and things that we love about it.

One day, I agreed to be a guest speaker at a business networking meeting. Afterwards, the event coordinator thanked me for my great work and passed along a thank you note. Inside the note I found a Disney gift card enclosed! I was over the moon! The fact that someone had paid attention to my passions and knew how much this gift would mean to me touched my heart.

When rewarding others – small, personalized recognition really matters.

In today’s world, it seems that the details about a person can get overlooked. Take a moment to listen – people will clue you in to what they find meaningful. Successfully rewarding others just takes paying attention and finding a way to personalize the reward. It’s so easy to do, and its impact is longer-lasting than you may realize.

Want help finding creative ways of rewarding others at work? Or help with Employee Retention Strategies in general?


Great Tips for Creating More Respectful Workplaces

Creating “Respectful Workplaces” begins with the definition of respect: “Due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights or traditions of others.” and “Appreciation of a person or idea for their qualities or traits.” It’s a simple idea – that makes a huge impact one way or the other.

Imagine having to go to work every day, in an environment where no one seems to have any regard for you, your privacy, your physical boundaries and belongings or even your point of view. UGH! Just thinking about it is enough to make a person feel exhausted (or at least in a negative frame of mind).

Disrespect can derail a person, a team or an entire business. Some forms of workplace disrespect are fairly obvious such as: gossiping, shouting, rude comments or outright bullying. However, these are not the only types of disrespect. Think about how you might view your workplace if it were full of smaller factions or “cliques.” Perhaps it’s a situation where one coworker’s time is valued as more important than another’s. Maybe it’s that the company lacks transparency and allows unfounded rumors to circulate among the employees. To say nothing of the “bottom line” sense of disrespect; where employees are underpaid by industry standards implying their work is either “sub-par” or undervalued by the company.

There are many, many ways an employee may feel disrespected in the workplace. Creating a respectful workplace isn’t just “the right thing to do,” it reduces stress and increases productivity! Respect in the workplace increases employee satisfaction and decreases employee turnover. It can even increase the likelihood of employees being collaborative, which can lead to amazing achievements!

So… how do you build a culture of respect in the workplace? Great question!

Here are a few of the basics:

  • Don’t allow the “classic signs” of disrespect to erupt or continue in your company. Explicitly explain which behaviors and language constitute “disrespectful conduct” and DO NOT BACKSLIDE. Consistency is KEY!
  • Listen to the ideas and complaints of ALL of your employees. Everyone’s voice matters.
  • Don’t just listen to what your employees say, pay attention to the way in which they say it. Pay attention to their tone and body language too.
  • Trust your employees with the truth. Be transparent.
  • Help your employees feel great about their work by providing quality and meaningful feedback.
  • Include all of your employees in discussions that will directly impact their work.
  • Don’t publicly discipline your employees.
  • Make a commitment to ensure none of your employees feels disrespected by providing training on developing and maintaining “Respectful Workplaces.”

Your employees are your biggest asset. Treat them the way in which you’d like to be treated. Ensure they understand you respect them and they will reciprocate.

Interested in ensuring Respectful Workplaces for your employees?



Stop Interrupting-Communicate Better

We’ve all done it… interrupted someone when they’re trying to tell us something.

Have you ever wondered why conversational interruptions are so common?

Fun fact: The average human being speaks at 125-150 words per minute. The typical human brain processes 600 words per minute.

In short, when we’re listening to others, our brains are being underutilized, and our minds begin to wander. One of a few outcomes is possible in this situation. Our minds can begin to drift into our own thoughts… “What am I going to have for lunch?” “Did I send that email?” “Don’t forget to make an appointment to get my teeth cleaned…” Conversely, we may try to stay involved in the present conversation. In order to keep our own random thought at bay, we start to think ahead of the speaker. We interrupt to add a comment or suggestion.

If this is a problem for you (as it has been for me in the past) you could try:

1. Keeping your finger held over your lips while listening to others (as a cue to you to hold your interruption).

2. Count 5 seconds before you speak after the other person has finished. This polite pause can signal it’s your turn to talk.

3. Write down your ideas (take notes) when someone is talking so you can catch your wandering thoughts before it escapes your brain.

4. Ask a friend to help you by pointing out when they see you interrupt. That kind of input can go a long way toward changing your behavior.

What we need to remember is that verbal communication skills are more than just our ability to clearly convey a message; they also include our ability to receive messages and process the information. This includes all the “non-verbal communication” a speaker is transmitting as well. When you stop yourself from interrupting another person you improve the quality of information you’re receiving, regardless of whether it’s in business or personal communication.

Interested in designing a program to help your employees become better leaders

through better listening skills?



Top 5 Reasons To Have A Employee Handbook

Top 5 reasons a business needs an Employee Handbook:

5. Employees appreciate knowing the rules, and how their employer will handle a given situation. I like to think of a handbook to being similar to the white-lines along the side of the road (they’re called guidelines for a good reason). They are there to help drivers know what the boundaries are. They keep everyone out of the “trouble zone.”

4. Employees don’t need to come to you with every question they have. Many of their questions can be answered just by checking in the handbook. This is particularly effective when managers encourage using the Employee Handbook like a tool.

3. Handbooks give employers protection when hiring, firing, and making any number of other employment decisions. Employers have a greater chance of winning unemployment claims and discrimination/wrongful discharge claims if they have a quality employee handbook. Quality, in this instance, requires policies that are written to reflect legal compliance.

2. Managers make better, more consistent decisions when clearly written, easily understood policies are readily available to reference.

1. An Employee Handbook gives your employees the sense their work environment is professional. They understand they work for a business that knows it is a BUSINESS; and isn’t being run as if it were a “hobby.”

A word of advice to business owners — NEVER, NEVER, NEVER use someone else’s handbook or download one from the internet. You are legally-binding your company to those policies. Even if you think you’ll revise the handbook later, you may not be familiar with all the potential legal issues that can arise from having policies in place that don’t pertain to your company. You need an employee handbook written to be legally compliant for your business.

For personal attention to personnel matters, call Kathleen Lapekas – SHRM-CP, PHR @ 812.457.1068.

Need help putting together a handbook that’s meaningful for your employees?


It’s Always Best To Be Gracious

My mother, by her example, taught me that we should always do our level best to be gracious. As I see people serving the public in retail, restaurants, housekeeping, home services, hotels, etc., I remember that these folks recognize and truly appreciate kindness. And they really need it daily.
Tip servers, leave kind notes (and tips) for housekeeping staff, write Google reviews about a company and specifically highlight the person who made your experience worthwhile. And if you didn’t experience an exceptional “over-the-top” event, still be gracious. We all have occasional bad days.
Kathleen Lapekas and her son Jacob
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Specific Feedback for Specific Results

I’ve noticed when feedback such as, “Stop doing this….” or “Please refrain from….” that we ASSUME our message is clear and will correct the problem at hand. However, that assumption may lead to confusion and mutual frustration. Instead, we need to specifically explain in terms of what we want them to do (rather than in terms of what we want them not to do).

A few years ago, we took our autistic son, age 15, to do an initial consultation with an orthodontist. As the orthodontist attempted to examine my son’s mouth, I noticed the doctor grew increasingly frustrated as my son clamped his mouth shut, and only revealed his teeth through his lips.

The doctor, trying to work with my son, repeatedly directed him, “Don’t close your mouth. Don’t close your mouth. Don’t close your mouth.” Despite this directive, my son continued to keep his lips open to reveal his teeth, but did not open his whole mouth. Seeing this quickly rise to a level of frustration, I pulled the doctor aside and offered him feedback to help him be more effective with my “literal-thinker” of a son.

I advised him to say, “Open up your entire mouth, and then keep your mouth open so I can look inside.” The doctor initially replied, “That’s what I’ve been asking him to do!”

I clarified, “No, you were directing him to not close his mouth – and assumed that he would intuitively know what you wanted him to do. When you tell him to not do something, you assume he understands what you want him to do instead – but this is not the case with my son.

If you simply tell him exactly what you want him to do, I can promise you that he will happily comply. He wants to be successful. He wants you to be proud of him. He wants to help. He’s just not clear what your directions mean.”

The “lightbulb” seemingly appeared over the doctor’s head, and when we went back into the room, I noticed the doctor smiled and said to my son, “I need you to open your entire mouth so I can look in there, and just keep it open while I look in there.” My son smiled and opened up wide; which made the experience mutually successful.

Give people the benefit of the doubt; that if they know clearly what you want them to do that they will be more receptive of the feedback that leads them to being successful.

Interested in updating the way you give feedback?


Accountability in the Workplace

I believe that accountability in the workplace has been given a bad rap over the years.  We associate the word, “Accountability” with something negative. Hearing the phrase, “I’m going to hold you accountable” feels like a a finger pointed at us. 

However, what accountability really means is our performance will be “noticed” by our manager.  A manager who pays attention and tells employees, “I’ve noticed,” understands – accountability motivates employees to perform.

Good performers actually WANT accountability. They WANT their performance to be noticed.  It’s very un-motivating to work very hard on something, only to have it go unnoticed.  I once saw a sign at a dentist office that said, “If you ignore your teeth, they’ll go away.”  The same is true for ignoring a good performer. If you ignore a good them, they’ll go away and work for someone who will give them accountability and recognition for their good performance.

Bad performers prefer that their actions are overlooked. They’re the ones who truly need accountability to keep their feet to the fire.  Accountability does a beautiful job of naturally weeding out people who don’t want to work, and rewarding those who do.

Need help establishing a processes for accountability in the workplace?


“At-Will Employment”

Many people are confused about the term with “At-Will Employment.”  Some employers I have met feel that “At-Will Employment” means they can hire / fire anyone they want for any reason under the sun, and they’re off the hook from being sued. 

Technically, “At-Will” employment means that there is no “contractual obligation” on either the part of the employer or employee to retain employment.  In short, both the employer and the employee retain the right to end employment with or without cause and with or without notice – so long as the company is not in violation of local, state or federal employment laws.

An “At-Will” employer can still be sued for discrimination, but cannot be sued for a “breach of contract” (since no contract is in place with an “At-Will Employment” relationship).   

Need some assistance navigating “At-Will employment?”