How to ID and Deal with Jerks in the Workplace

We all know them: Employees who make life miserable for their colleagues – an organization’s adult bullies.

It’s a fact that one workplace “jerk” can wreak havoc on morale and generate employment claims that can cost thousands to defend. This jerk and his or her wingmen can also bring a regulatory scrutiny you’d prefer to avoid.

One study published in McKinsey Quarterly found that one particular workplace jerk -unfortunately, the company’s star salesperson – cost his organization more than $150,000 in one year in terms of legal costs, anger management programs, overtime and burned-out assistants, thanks to his toxic tactics. Was he worth it? And are you prepared to expose your organization to that kind of loss?

Studies show that intimidation, verbal abuse and bullying are increasing in the American work force. Partly driven by increased recognition of the problem, and possibly by increased regulatory pressure, some companies are starting to consider the TJC (Total Cost of Jerks, as described in the McKinsey Quarterly) in the work force.

These companies are listening to a host of voices – consumers, regulators, academics and the media – telling them that they need to do something about the proliferation of bullies in the work environment.

Robert Sutton, a professor of management science and engineering in Stanford University’s School of Engineering, authored a bestseller that took readers through the steps required to quantify the cost of jerks, and eliminate them. Sutton lists the “dirty dozen” top actions by those who use organizational power against weaker coworkers or subordinates. Here are some of the top jerky behaviors:

  • Throwing tantrums and yelling.
  • Publicly disparaging employees.
  • Physically intimidating employees by invading their personal space, throwing items or hitting inanimate objects.
  • Making demeaning and denigrating comments.
  • Staring, glaring, or other inappropriate behavior.

If you want to prevent jerks from damaging your carefully nurtured work environment, here are some steps you can take, as recommended by the experts:

  • Develop a policy that institutes a “no-jerk” rule.
  • Consider a zero-tolerance policy so that offenders get one chance to change their ways, or they’re shown the door.
  • Nip jerky behavior in the bud. By delaying dealing with bad behavior, you’re making it more difficult to confront, thus causing more collateral damage to your organization and other employees.
  • Institute 360-degree performance reviews where employees are encouraged to honestly assess their bosses and coworkers.
  • When there are serious conflicts, assign employees to new supervisors as appropriate. But beware of transferring subordinates, because Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigators may perceive this as an adverse employment action.
  • Institute an exit interview that is meaningful and take action when exiting employees report problems.

It’s not just workers who are directly affected by jerky behavior; studies show that employees who merely witness the behavior are also deeply troubled. And eliminating toxic employees can improve more than morale. After all, if an employee treats coworkers badly, how is he or she treating your customers?

Dependent Eligibility Audits Cut Costs and Restore Fairness

Many companies are asking whether dependent eligibility audits (DEAs) are still appropriate, given the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). According to industry experts, the answer is “yes” – many companies believe that DEAs still represent a good way to save on benefit costs, and with good reason. A recent article in Employee Benefit Adviser’s newsletter indicates that a DEA can provide savings of 10 percent or more.

Many companies are confused about the impact of the ACA on employee health benefits. For the most part, large companies with 50 or more employees are required to offer health insurance coverage. However, according to a recent study, almost 50 percent of small- and medium-sized businesses plan to keep their coverage but will look for ways to save. A DEA is a good option.

A DEA will identify ineligible dependents. Whether they’re there as a result of an oversight or by design, it’s obviously unfair to other workers. Ineligible dependents also create unnecessary liability exposures should they be adversely affected by a medical decision gone wrong.

Conducting a DEA can be disruptive to employees; however, there are ways to make it more palatable. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Convey the message that an audit will benefit everyone, not just the company. Provide details on your benefit costs and translate that into cost per employee. Then point out that ineligible dependents reduce the benefit dollars available to everyone who is obeying the rules. In the final analysis, a DEA, sensitively conducted, can restore fairness to your benefit plan and save you money.

Insuring at Replacement Cost Value = Peace of Mind

Many insurance experts recommend insuring your home at replacement cost value rather than actual cash value. And many home owners (and renters) believe it also makes sense to insure their contents at replacement cost value; your personal property is worth it, and so is your peace of mind.

To understand both forms of coverage, let’s look at their differences:

Actual Cash Value (ACV)

When you insure your home and personal belongings at ACV, your coverage reflects the current fair market value. If your home is currently valued at $300,000, then that is the amount you’d receive in a total loss claim. But, while the low premiums for ACV are attractive, rebuilding a home typically costs more than fair market value. You may be hit with penalties for being underinsured. Note that insuring your home for less than 80 percent of its value will reduce your claim benefits because your coverage is based on a depreciated market value.

Replacement Cost Value (RCV)

To avoid unexpected penalties and out-of-pocket expenses, insure your home for 100 percent of its replacement value. The premium will be more expensive, but if your home is totally or partially damaged, you’ll have peace of mind and, as important, an intact savings account as compensation.

Consider RCV for your personal belongings as well. Insurance companies will require that you actually replace the damaged items, but after your deductible, you’ll receive the full replacement value. If you have expensive personal property, consider scheduling it separately. Experts recommend you choose coverage at 200 percent of the total value of your personal property.

To determine RCV of your home, consult your insurance company or consider conducting a professional appraisal. To make sure you’re covered no matter what, opt for Extended RCV coverage. There are requirements to meet, but when it comes to everything you own, it’s always better to safe than sorry.

Keep your New Teen Driver Safe With These Apps

While your teenager is dreaming of the open road; you’re just plain scared. But when D(rive) day arrives, nothing is more important than keeping your teen safe.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that the top cause of all teen deaths is vehicle crashes: Teens 16 to 19 years old are three times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident than someone 20 or older. These days, one of the main causes of accidents is distracted driving, thanks to cell phones and other devices. According to online magazine Laptop, research shows that “texters-and-drivers” are 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash. And teens are particularly vulnerable to the lure of the smartphone.

Thank goodness you can keep your teen safe and paying attention while driving. These apps make it easy…and fun. BTW, don’t miss the Gas Buddy app, for forgetful teens (and their parents) who are always running out of gas.

Drive Scribe

While in motion, this app stops texts, calls, Internet use and keeps track of vehicle speed. To delight your teen, safe driving will earn him or her points, which can be used to buy gift cards.

DriveSafe.ly Pro

This clever app reads text and emails out loud so your teen can keep both hands on the wheel. An option is available to handle replies, which are sent automatically while driving. The DriveSafe.ly Pro feature that is especially popular with teen drivers is its ability to read text message shorthand. LOL.

Need Health Insurance? Here are Some Options

For many of us, 2014 is coming up faster than expected, leaving we procrastinators with the need to find health insurance quickly. So, where do you find health insurance? It may be easier than you think.

Group Plans. If you have coverage through an employer or a network of businesses, no action is required on your part. Your employer, however, will need to take action. While businesses with fewer than 50 employees (more than 90 percent of America’s companies) aren’t required to offer health insurance, those with more than 50 employees must provide affordable healthcare for no more than 9.5 percent of your income. Note that small businesses get a tax break if they offer health insurance to employees.

Individual Plans. Insurance companies will continue to sell plans directly to individuals. The ACA may result in more opportunities to purchase health insurance, but with such a diverse market, you may need guidance from a knowledgeable and reputable insurance professional.

State Exchanges. One of the biggest changes implemented by the ACA, is that every state is required to have an exchange website in place by October 1, 2013. On this site, individuals and small businesses can shop for health insurance plans in their area. For individuals seeking help in accessing and navigating their way around the new state exchange websites, you may want to contact your insurance professional or access online support.

Medicaid. Depending on what state you live in, the expansion of Medicaid may provide you with a health insurance option. This program is geared towards families living below a certain percentage of the poverty line.

As of 2014, anyone without a health care plan will have to pay a penalty. Initially, this is $95 for an individual, $285 for a family of three or more, or 1 percent of taxable income, whichever is greater, but they rise steadily until 2016. Avoid penalties. Don’t wait for 2014; do it now.

Seniors, the ACA and Medicare: For Most the News is Positive

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) affects every U.S. citizen, including seniors on Medicare. The changes it has brought and will bring are significant, but there remains a lot of confusion over the impact of the ACA on Medicare and seniors.

The good news: Medicare benefits are not only secure, but the majority of seniors will also view the ACA’s impact as positive. Here are some important facts seniors should be aware of:

Medicare coverage is protected. It cannot be reduced or removed, and you can still choose your own doctor.

Through coordinated care, your doctor, hospitals and other health care providers work together to ensure you receive necessary care at the right time.

Preventive services are free. Tests like mammograms and colonoscopies are covered, as well as yearly wellness exams.

The prescription drug donut hole will eventually be closed. The donut hole is the gap between the end of coverage and beginning of out-of-pocket maximums. In the hole, you now receive a 47.5 percent discount on brand-name drugs, and a 79 percent discount on generic drugs. Discounts will increase through 2020. Visit Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage for more information on prescription drug costs.

The Medicare Trust Fund is extended through 2029.

Bonus payments are now being provided to Medicare Advantage plans based on quality ratings, and in 2014, the ACA will require Medicare Advantage plans to reduce the share of premiums used for administrative expenses, meaning more costs will be directed to patient care. Ultimately, premiums are expected to decline as a result.

How Long do you Really Need Life Insurance?

Many people who buy life-insurance policies believe they’ll need coverage their entire lives. In fact, that isn’t always the case. There are a number of instances where your life insurance needs pre-date your death; you may not need life insurance until you die.

How do you determine how long you’ll need life insurance?

First, ask yourself why you’re buying life insurance in the first place. You’ll likely come up with a main reason why you are buying insurance.

If you have young children…

As an example, you may be buying life insurance to protect your children in the event you die early. In that case, you won’t need the life insurance policy forever; you’ll only need it until your children are out in the world – supporting themselves on their own and no longer in need of your financial assistance.

In this case, you may want a policy that is in effect until your youngest child reaches age 22. So, if you have two children aged three and five, you may want to consider a policy with a 20-year term.

To protect your spouse…

Another example: If you’re buying life insurance to protect your spouse in case you die early, you would want the policy to cover your lost income until the year you would have reached retirement age. After this date, your spouse would be covered by Social Security and retirement savings. So, if you’re 55 now, you’ll only need a 10-year policy.

Bear in mind that these are only general guidelines. Individuals may want to use life insurance to provide “bonus” income to a child or spouse, or to address complex estate-planning issues.

When considering life insurance, as is the case with any financial instrument, it’s best to consult your advisor for advice. He or she can help you determine which financial instruments best meet your individual financial circumstances and goals.