How to Lose Archives

Giving and Receiving Gifts at Work -Ten Practical Precautions

Published on November 27th, 2018 by Alan L. Sklover

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

– Proverb

ACTUAL CASE HISTORIES: Each year, without fail, I get five to ten emails from employees who have either (a) given a gift at work and gotten into trouble for doing so, or (b) received a gift at work that is either causing discomfort or a problem. As you might imagine, most of these calls come shortly before or shortly after the year-end holiday season.

LESSON TO LEARN: Today more than ever, you need to devote a measure of thought to (a) why you are giving a gift, (b) how it may be perceived or misperceived by the recipient (or others), (c) for what reason or purpose another person may be giving you a gift, and (d) whether that gift to you might be a sincere gesture, a thinly disguised bribe, or a “payoff” for past favors. In fact, when giving or accepting a gift at work, it is the potential perceptions of others that can be far more dangerous than your own intentions.

To prevent even the perception of impropriety, and to discourage even the slightest offense, many company policies, laws, rules and regulations have been put into place that address – and in certain circumstances prohibit – giving and receiving gifts at work, and in business affairs.

As examples: How might your gift-giving look to compliance officers who work for your employer? Might a rather expensive gift be viewed by Human Resources as a subtle form of sexual harassment? Might your gift be viewed with suspicion, or even anger, by the husband or wife of its recipient? Is a gift a sign of generosity, or perhaps a disguised bribe? If you give some, but not all, of your office mates gifts, might some of those “left out” perceive themselves as outcasts, or victims of favoritism or even discrimination?

I often say “These days you have two jobs: one is to do your job, and the other is to keep it. This is one context in which that surely applies. Since your gift-giving might result in a perception or accusation of misconduct. Before giving or accepting a gift at work, take just a few moments to review and consider the many possible interpretations of your gift-giving or gift-accepting behavior.

Do I intend to make you paranoid? Yes, I do, but just a little.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Consider these 10 Practical Pointers on gifts at work:
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“What is NOT Confidential Information –
10 Guidelines for Resumes, Interviewing and Online Chatter”

Published on February 10th, 2015 by Alan L. Sklover

“Due to strict confidentiality rules, all I can tell you is
that I have no idea what I am doing.”

– Saying on a Coffee Mug

ACTUAL “CASE HISTORIES: On your resume, in your interviews, and during online chatter, you will no doubt want to portray yourself in the best light possible, including great education, great experience, and thus great value. Might what you write and say violate your duty of confidentiality to your employer?

Almost every employment agreement, almost every bonus agreement, almost every stock option agreement and almost every severance agreement, has a seemingly all-encompassing confidentiality clause. This is an example of a common version:

“I promise to maintain strict confidentiality as to all of the Company’s “Confidential information,” which includes, without limitation, any information that I may receive or have access to, in any form, including electronic media, that relates to the Company (including without limitation its officers, directors, shareholders, employees and contractors), or its customers (including without limitation, customer identities and information), advertisers, content providers, subscribers, licensors, licensees, vendors, partners), trade secrets, confidential knowledge, know-how, non-public intellectual property, including without limitation inventions, patent applications, and related patent rights, business plans, financial information, marketing plans and strategies, business opportunities, past, present and future products, pricing and pricing strategies, software, research, development, or other technical data, administrative, employee training and evaluation, management, financial, marketing, member information or manufacturing activities.”

Wow! Is there anything related to your work that is NOT confidential? It seems that anything you say, and anything you write, might be a breach of confidentiality.

LESSON TO LEARN: Navigating today’s employment landscape seems to require that you obey a million rules, regulations and restrictions, and perhaps most importantly those related to confidentiality. The repercussions of being reprimanded or fired for “breach of confidentiality” can be terribly damaging and very long lasting. If you are going to err in this regard, you would be wise to err on the side of caution. But knowing the most important rules, regulations and restrictions can only help you stay out of trouble.

WHAT YOU CAN SAY AND WRITE: Here are 10 general guidelines to what is NOT confidential information at work:
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“If the employment contract I was promised does not arrive, should I leave?”

Published on October 4th, 2013 by Alan L Sklover

Question: I signed an offer letter for a new job, and on that basis I have begun working. However, I was promised an employment contract, but I have not received it. Do I continue with this job, or do I leave?

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Answer: Dear Afrah: Your question raises several other questions. Fortunately, the answers to those other questions will provide the answer to your question. Let me explain:

1. Have you asked more than once for the employment contract? You must not lose sight of the fact that sometimes things just “fall through the cracks,” get forgotten, or simply get mailed to the wrong address. Have you asked more than once for your contract, and addressed your request – preferably by email – to the right person? Don’t get frustrated or disillusioned without good reason.

2. Does your “offer letter” have all of the terms, provisions and conditions you expected to see in your “employment contract?” A contract is a piece of paper which expresses and evidences what two persons – in the employment relation, the employer and the employee – agreed to do for each other.

For the employer’s benefit, an employment contract sets forth what duties and responsibilities the employee will fulfill, where he or she will do that, and who he or she will report to. For the employee’s benefit, it says how much he or she will be paid, what benefits he or she will be provided and, sometimes, how long the employment relation will last, at a minimum.

If your offer letter sets forth the most important terms, provisions and conditions agreed to, it is just as valid and binding as an employment contract, even if it has a different “name.”      

3. Is your employer honoring the terms that were supposed to be in the promised employment agreement? So far, has your employer done all for you that it promised to do – other than, of course, provide the written contract? That is, are the duties your expected to fulfill the same as your present duties? Are the salary, benefits and “perks” what were promised?

If the answer is “yes,” that is a good sign, and you have an early indication that this might be a positive and long-lasting relation. On the other hand, if the answer is “No,” then the failure to provide you the written contract and the pay and benefits promised are all sure signs that you might not be wise to expect to remain in this employment relation very long.

4. “Length of the Employment Relation,” (or “Term”) represents job security, one thing that most employment contracts offer, is quite valuable. There is one thing that your employer may be trying to avoid giving you by not giving you an employment contract: job security. That is very valuable, and its value to you cannot be denied. If your Offer Letter does provide this, you are on firm footing; if not, it should be kept foremost in your mind as something to try to achieve in your efforts.

Job security comes in many different forms, including among others (a) a defined “Term” of the relation, (b) an automatic renewal of the relation at the conclusion of the “Term,” (c) a commitment not to terminate the relation unless the employee has engaged in bad conduct, and (d) a minimum amount of “notice,” for example, 60 days, before the employer can end the employment relation. All are valuable, although to different degrees.

The absence of a specified “Term” is not always negative: it also means you may leave whenever you want to do so for, perhaps, a better job offer, and even without any notice (or penalty) should that be necessary. You might say that without a definite Term of Employment you and your employer are not “married,” but merely “dating,” a much less “committed” relationship – for both “sides.”  

5. Have you considered taking the initiative to “write your own employment contract?” Whenever I say this so someone, they think I am a little crazy. The look on the person’s face says “I didn’t go to law school!” Well, it does not take a lawyer to write a contract, including an employment contract. As noted above, all the “piece of paper” has to do is to set down the basic terms agreed to, and have some kind of “evidence” that both sides agreed to it. That “evidence” could be a signature, or a video in which both sides say, “I agree,” or even an email in which both sides write to each other, “I agree with this.”

You can do this by yourself without any special knowledge, education or training; you really can. Many people do just that, successfully, without the need and expense of hiring an attorney. I encourage that strongly.

You might benefit from reading a newsletter I wrote and posted on this blog entitled “How to Give Yourself the Job Security and  Benefits of a Contract.” To do so, just [click here.] 

For a nominal fee, we also offer a Model Memo, entitled “Confirming Basic Terms of Job Offer (or How to Give Yourself a Contract.)” To obtain yours, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly. 

6. Do you have a better employment alternative at the moment? We need to keep things in perspective. Even if you are not being treated the way you were told you would be, and even if you don’t like the job, at least it is a job in the meantime. It is a means of support for you and your loved ones, and a better “platform” than being unemployed upon which to seek a new and better job. Bad feelings that arise when people are mistreated are a problem, but should not be permitted to result in making matters worse, by leaving abruptly, and thus hurting oneself.  

If you and your employer are not “committed” by means of a defined Term of Employment, you are free to seek a new and better job, but of course you should keep this job, if possible, until you locate that better job. 

Afra, thanks for writing in. I hope this has been helpful. Your question – and hopefully my answer – illustrate a few points of “negotiating and navigating at work” that we all need to learn how to do, and teach our children, as well.

If this has been helpful to you, please tell your friends and colleagues in the United Arab Emirates about our blogsite. My very best to you.

My Best,
Al Sklover

P.S.: If you’re going to be looking for a New Job, we offer a 152-Point Master Checklist of Employment Negotiation Items to help you. To obtain a copy, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly! 

Help Yourself With These and Other
Unique NEW JOB Materials

New Job 3: Confirming Basic Terms of New Job Offer
New Job 5: Model Response to Receiving a New Job Offer
New Job 7: Checklist of New Job Items to Consider Requesting/Negotiating
New Job 13: Six Important Elements to Request Be In Your Expected Job Offer
New Job 15: Model Request for Sign-On Bonus
New Job 16: Two Model Memos to Protect Your Book Of Business ("B.O.B.")
Job Issues 5: Model Response to Request That You Sign a Non-Compete

[ Click Here ] and Go to Section "D"

Repairing the World –
One Empowered and Productive Employee at a Time™

© 2013 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.

Avoid, If You Can, The “Obsolete Job” Trap

Published on February 24th, 2012 by Alan L Sklover

 “My father worked for the same firm for twelve years. They fired him.  They replaced him with a tiny gadget, this big. It does everything my father did, only much better. The depressing thing is my mother ran out and bought one.

 Woody Allen 

ACTUAL CASE HISTORIES*You can see it all around you: jobs and careers that seem to be headed toward obsolescence. Can you avoid being one of those who is “left behind?”:

Item: Marilyn followed in her parents’ footsteps to become a travel agent. Little did she know that Expedia, Orbitz and other online travel sites would rapidly replace more than one half of those employed in her industry.

Item: President Obama recently asked members of an audience to raise their hands if, in the past few months, they had any contact with a bank teller. No one raised a hand.  

Item:  An increasing number of Americans in need of surgery are traveling to India for their operations – at one tenth the cost, in brand new hospitals – and seeing the local sights as part of the bargain.  

Item: Large online companies, like “Legal Zoom,” are performing incorporations, wills and simple patent applications – that traditionally kept lawyers and small law firms afloat.

Item: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that 54,000 U.S. Postal Service mail sorters and machine operators will be out of work in the next seven years.

Item: And, yet, there are acute shortages of nurses specialized in geriatric care. And, as always, you may need to wait two weeks for a plumber to fix your toilet.

What do these observations tell us, and what can we learn from them?

LESSON TO LEARN: Over time, the world has always changed, it is changing faster today than it probably ever has, and it will likely continue to change faster than it is doing today. Due to technological, sociological and even biological trends, we are all faced with a challenge like never before: we must all learn to adapt ourselves – or risk being “left behind.”

Adaptation – changing with the changes around you – can mean a lot of things. Because the ozone layer seems to be diminishing, it might be healthier to use sun screens, or maybe even limit your time in direct sunlight. Because of the increasing presence of chemicals in our daily lives, it might mean eating more food grown organically. At work, adaptation means staying employed and employable by continually giving thought to the careers you choose, the jobs you apply for, and even the skills you learn each day.  

Whether you’re 22 or 72, there are things you can do. And should do. Sure, you can choose to ignore these things, but sooner or later you’ll lament your decision to do so.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Here are six suggestions meant to get you thinking a bit about avoiding the “obsolete job” trap:

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Email at Work – Avoid These “Dozen Digital Disasters”

Published on January 14th, 2010 by Alan L Sklover

“It’s not the most intellectual job in the world,
but I do need to know the letters.”

– Vanna White (Co-Host, “Wheel of Fortune”)

ACTUAL “CASE HISTORY”: It’s happened to everyone, including you, me and all of our friends: an email sent to the wrong person, or containing a message we wish we did not transmit. On this topic, chances are you could probably share a few “digital disaster” stories of your own. The subject is that important, though, that it’s worth devoting a few minutes of time, consideration and reflection, especially considering the potential risk it represents.

Enrique was the Dean of a prestigious architecture school. He was also a well-known architectural critic, who wrote articles for many magazines and was often interviewed in the mainstream media. As Dean, he oversaw the school’s faculty, and had significant input on whether non-tenured faculty members would receive reappointments to their positions.

When the question of Helena’s faculty reappointment arose, Enrique knew there would be strong feelings both “pro” and “con.” Due to Helena’s renown in landscape architecture, she was particularly well known and highly regarded, and was considered a “darling” of the rapidly growing followers of “green,” or eco-friendly, architecture movement. However, due to Helena’s “strong” personality, which included a penchant for participation in controversial political demonstrations, and an alleged “fondness” for illegal substances, many of the tenured faculty saw Helena more a liability to the school than an asset.

In response to an email sent to Enrique by a trusted faculty friend, Enrique replied, “I have no such concerns; as soon as Helena finds the right medication for her psychosis, all will be fine.” Enrique was careful not to send the email to anyone else, but only to his friend. Unfortunately, at just about that time, the school’s email system seemed to freeze up, and Enrique’s email was never transmitted.

The next day a software engineer working on the school’s main computer server found the problem in the email system, and fixed it. That is when the email about “Helena’s psychosis” was transmitted, but for some unknown reason it was distributed to every person in Enrique’s email address book, including all of his worldwide media contacts. This gave Helena’s supporters on the school’s Board of Trustees ammunition in their quest to change the school’s “social awareness.” Long story short: Enrique was required to resign, and then sued by Helena for defamation. With considerable effort, we were able to resolve both matters for Enrique on reasonable terms, but the damage to his finances, relations and reputation were substantial.

LESSON TO LEARN: Email is a powerful communication medium. Like anything powerful, its power both helps and hurts. If not used wisely, with discretion and care, it can cause great damage to your interests, career and reputation. When emailing, you must be careful, very careful.

Email is probably underestimated as a potential tool of self-destruction due to its being so commonplace in our lives. Some people send and receive scores – even hundreds – of emails a day. It’s easy to let your “email guard” down, especially when you have limited time to respond to an avalanche of emails in your “in box.” But keeping your “email guard” continually up is an absolute must.

  • Before you write an email, ask yourself, “Who might be offended or upset by this?”
  • Before you reply to an email, ask yourself, “Must I send this now, while I am uncertain of a best response, or even emotional?”
  • Before you press “send,” ask yourself, “How could this possibly hurt me?”

Will “common sense” and good judgment suffice to protect you? No, for two important reasons. First, today’s “ultra-sensitivity” requires “hyper-attentiveness” to possible risks of offending people. Many believe this “ultra-sensitivity” defies common sense. Second, the nature of email, itself, creates unusual risks that defy common experience: nowhere else do you have such things as “reply-all” buttons, the ability to respond so hastily, and the possibility that your employer can be identified by your workplace email address. With emails, more than “common sense” and old-fashioned good judgment is necessary.

The lesson is this: “There are no erasers on your keyboard.” Once an email is sent, it is sent forever. Treat emails as you would sharp knives, bearing in mind that a single momentary “slip” can cause untold pain.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Read over these “Dozen Ways to Avoid Digital Disasters,” and then read them over again. Additional effort to protect yourself regarding emails at work is necessary, because common sense and good judgment won’t suffice. Here’s the twelve things you need to bear in mind:

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Alan L. Sklover

Alan L. Sklover

Employment Attorney
and Career Strategist
for over 35 years

Job Security and Career Success now depend on knowing how to navigate and negotiate to gain the most for your skills, time and efforts. Learn the trade secrets and 'uncommon common sense' of Attorney Alan L. Sklover, the leading authority on "Negotiating for Yourself at Work™".

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