Workplace Dos and Donts

By: Tim Bryce

The following is an excerpt from my new book, "MORPHING INTO THE REAL WORLD - A Handbook for Entering the Work Force" which is a survival guide for young people as they transition into adult life. The book offers considerable advice regarding how to manage our personal and professional lives. As a part of this, I found it necessary to discuss the legal ramifications of employment.

Last week we discussed terms of employment, working hours, and punctuality; this week we will discuss such things as Moonlighting, Discussing Salaries, Job Titles, and Employment Contracts.

Do's and Don'ts in the Workpace (Part II)

Keeping Track of your Time


Whereas it is quite common for non-exempt workers to keep track of their time via time cards, exempt workers often do not. However, there is a growing trend for exempt workers to keep track of their time for Project Management purposes. Computer software is commonly used to record time, e.g., "Time Screens." Exempt personnel are often put off by this, and think it is below their dignity to record the use of their time. They should not be offended. After all, professionals such as attorneys, accountants, and physicians have been recording their use of time for many years and bill clients accordingly.

In addition to posting your time as spent on project assignments, you may also have to report time spent on indirect assignments; e.g., meetings, training, reading, breaks, and other personal time. This information helps management study the working environment and plot schedules. Also, you may be required to report "unavailable time" such as vacations, holidays, and maternity leave.

The only people who resist reporting time are the "time wasters" who do not want management to know what they are doing.

On a personal level, recording your time keeps you cognizant of what you accomplished during the day and reevaluate your priorities.

Safety

As an employee, you will be responsible for complying with all pertinent safety regulations on the job. Many of these will seem absurd or antiquated to you, but they were written for specific purposes and I encourage you to observe them. Failure to do so may result in penalties to you, fines to your company, or even worse, an accident that could seriously injure or kill a coworker or even yourself.

Moonlighting

This is an old expression referring to an employee performing two or more jobs. Due to financial necessity, it may be necessary to moonlight, but make sure one job doesn't inhibit the other. Companies generally frown on employees who moonlight as they believe you may have a growing allegiance to the other company. If you are moonlighting, be careful, and check on company regulations as to whether you must report this or not.

Discussing Salaries

One of the quickest ways to get fired in a company is to discuss salaries with other employees. This is very much a "No-No" and is probably legislated in the company's Policy Manual. Companies may print salary levels which are based on seniority and job type, but other than this, discussions between employees is very much frowned upon.

Job Titles

Your job title is whatever the company says it is when you accepted employment and will be printed on your company business cards accordingly. In recent times, people have become overly concerned with getting a proper job title. For example, I know of an I.T. Director in Connecticut who was hiring new programmers for a major system they were preparing to develop. To attract the caliber of people they were looking for, the company offered generous wages and benefits. Interestingly, one person turned the job down, not because of the compensation package, but because he preferred the job title, "Software Engineer," as opposed to just "Programmer," which he considered rather mundane. The reason people want fancy job titles is because it looks good on a resume. If someone demands a certain type of job title, they are thinking more of their next job as opposed to long-term employment with a single company.

I believe we put too much emphasis on job titles which encourages individual recognition as opposed to teamwork. Companies are slowly recognizing this and are starting to de-emphasize job titles, using generic position titles instead.

Employment Contracts

When you accept a position with a company, you are establishing a contract with the company, be it oral or written. In other words, you are agreeing to work in a specific capacity, for specific compensation, according to the operating terms and conditions of the company. In most instances, the contract is represented by the company's Policy Manual. However, it is becoming more common to have formal documented employment contracts with companies which specifies wages and benefits among other things. If implementing such a contract, it is wise to seek legal advise before signing such a contract.

Within employment contracts, you should have provisions for:

* Compensation - including wages, benefits, and any pertinent incentives; e.g., commissions, bonuses, profit-sharing, etc.

* Escape hatch - specifying the terms and conditions for breaking the contract.

* Non-compete clause - many companies may insist you not compete against them in the event your employment is terminated. You do not want to sign something that may affect your livelihood in perpetuity. Instead, specify a reasonable time frame for non-compete, such as six months or a year. And since this may affect your way of living, you may want to stipulate how the company will compensate you for not competing against them. For example, they may have to pay your salary for this period.

* Intellectual Property - as part of your contract, the company may ask you to respect their intellectual property (see below) in perpetuity. This is actually a reasonable request and may require you to sign a non-disclosure to that effect. However, if you are going to be used to create the intellectual property, you may want to seek co-ownership.

If you would like to discuss this with me in more depth, please do not hesitate to send me an e-mail.

Careers and Job Hunting
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