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This article was prepared for the
December 12, 2001 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights
Beware the Holiday Cheer
When planning this year’s company holiday party, don’t
forget to rent the bus.
The annual holiday party season is a nervous time for many employers.
Aside from providing good food and good cheer for their annual holiday
parties, many employers are using strategies to make certain their
employees are sober before getting behind the wheel to head home.
Many companies are tackling the problem by booking a party location
that is at least an hour’s drive from their worksite. "They use
shuttle buses," says Christine Purcell, senior human
analyst with the Employer Human Resource Support Services unit of
the New Jersey Department of Labor. "Everyone gets on a shuttle
bus and are then driven an hour out to the party. They make sure to
stop serving alcohol an hour before the party ends and then shuttle
everyone back. This gives their employees a good two hours for the
effect of the alcohol to wear off."
Purcell speaks on "Substance Abuse in the Workplace" on
December 18, at 9 a.m. at Middlesex County College in Edison. Cost:
$10. Call 609-777-1834.
Of course, the holiday season isn’t the only time of the year in which
substance abuse affects the workplace. While many employers would
prefer not think about it, substance abuse is a concern 52 weeks a
year. Although it is unpleasant for employers to consider, it is a
fact that one-third of all substance abusers are gainfully employed.
"Which is not to say that a third of a company’s employees are
substance abusers," Purcell says. "People get really scared
when I give that statistic out. It does mean, though, that it is very
likely that a company may have employees who are abusing drugs or
Purcell earned a degree in English from the College of New Jersey
in 1993 and a master’s in counseling and personnel services in 1999.
She initially worked at the Department of Labor as an intermittent
labor services worker before being hired as an employment counselor.
She then became an unemployment claims examiner and a vocational
counselor before getting her current position in the Employer Human
Resource Support Services Unit.
Spotting employees who may be abusing substances isn’t always an easy
task. "Many times an employer may just see a particular employee
as simply being difficult or troubled, not realizing that the actual
source of the problem is substance abuse," says Purcell. "It
is important to look for patterns of behavior."
A common red flag for recognizing employees who are abusing substances
is spotting patterns in employees with chronic attendance problems.
"A person who is always absent on Friday or Monday, or who is
always absent the day after a holiday or payday may have a
says Purcell. "That is a possible tip-off."
While other indications may seem obvious, such as an employee with
slurred speech, an impaired gait, or dilated pupils, others are not
that transparent. "Statistics show that employees who are abusing
substances are six times more likely to file Workers’ Compensation
claims than a non-abusing employee," says Purcell. "And we
all know that compensation claims cost employers a lot of money."
While substance abuse in the workplace is a sticky issue for employers
to effectively deal with, Purcell offers some advice:
only be done in safety sensitive occupations," says Purcell.
you can have a policy of `For Cause’ testing." "For Cause"
testing allows a person to be tested for drugs if there is a
suspicion that he or she is using drugs or if the company has a
stated policy, such as after any accident in the workplace all
involved will be tested for drugs.
employee is abusing substances in the workplace, it is important to
document as specifically as possible any observations the employer
witnesses. "Document as much as you can about the situation,"
says Purcell. "Do you smell marijuana? Does the person seem unable
to concentrate? Is the person being inappropriately aggressive or
is not behind you, your hands are tied," says Purcell. "So
make sure you have the full support of upper management before you
take any action."
stating a company’s drug policy is the same as not having any policy
at all. It needs to be in writing.
kits that are sold in drug stores may be cheap and easy, but they’re
not a good idea. "Drug testing is a whole involved process,"
says Purcell. "You have to have split samples and the room has
to be a certain way. It’s better to have an accredited laboratory
do it. It may seem at first like you’ll save money buying it from
a drug store, but not in the long run."
one may seem like a no-brainer, but many employers make this mistake.
"If you do this, and the person gets into an accident, you get
into liability issues," says Purcell. "They wouldn’t have
been on the road if their employer hadn’t told them to leave."
she is not just referring to illegal drugs. "Alcohol is included
in that too," explains Purcell. "There are special concerns
with alcohol, particularly around holiday time. Alcohol use is
acceptable, which is obviously not the case with illegal drugs. Many
employers have questions of whether or not to allow the serving of
alcohol at company parties."
If employers do decide to allow alcohol at their holiday parties,
measures can be taken to reduce the risks. "Having a party manager
is a good idea," says Purcell. "A party manager is someone
who monitors the party, walking around making sure things don’t get
out of hand." Also, it is a good idea to remind employees
that while the holiday party is a chance to let their hair down, it
is still a part of work, and that people are expected to act
— Jack Florek
Once you become a Pinto or a Firestone, it is hard to
get a second chance. So says career consultant Barbara Ann
Those of a certain age will remember the Pinto as an automobile with
a poorly placed gas tank that had a tragic tendency to explode upon
impact. Firestone, of course, is the manufacturer of tires implicated
in SUV accidents.
Sharon’s point is that once a company, or a product — or, indeed,
a person — is perceived negatively, there may never be an
to correct the image. She speaks on "Making the First Impression
Count" on Wednesday, December 19, at 7:30 a.m. at the Nassau Club
at a meeting of the Princeton Chamber. Also on the program is her
business partner, Hellen C. Davis. Cost: $21. Call 609-520-1776.
With Davis, Sharon founded BtoB Training, a company based in Malvern
and Collegeville, Pennsylvania, in 1998. Before striking out on their
own, each had spent 20 years within corporations doing sales,
leadership, and team-building training. BtoB Training is a virtual
company, which markets training and consulting services to companies,
and uses a team of trainers, acting as independent consultants, to
fill clients’ needs.
Some assignments involve coaching executives to be the best they can
be. A big part of that, says Sharon, is making a good first
"Corporations spend millions to project an image," says
Individuals will rarely spend as much, but they do need to place the
same importance on creating and protecting a perception.
"People like others to be confident, passionate, secure,
and honest," says Sharon, not denying that this combination of
attributes is a tall order. She breaks it down into four areas:
that the entertaining genius at the podium has egg on his tie should
not affect listeners’ impressions of his words of wisdom. But it does.
"Appearance does matter," says Sharon. Messages can be lost
if they are delivered by individuals wearing three clashing plaid
articles of clothing, all of them wrinkled enough to cause observers
to wonder just how the creases became so deeply grooved.
"It can be so disturbing that you don’t focus on what the person
is saying," says Sharon of more extreme cases. Clothing doesn’t
have to be expensive, she says, but it should be clean, and
"You should look well put-together," she says.
And, you should fit in. Wearing casual attire to business functions
can say "you’re not committed to the event, or to what you are
doing," says Sharon.
Watch the perfume and make-up, too. Just a little bit is enough for
most business meetings. And, men, avoid the too-short tie.
Knowing you are dressed correctly and neatly — that you look good
— boosts confidence.
is no way to fake a good attitude, and it is essential. Elements are
honesty, confidence, knowledge, and trustworthiness. "Most people
have all the qualities they need," she says, "but they don’t
display them." We live in boxes, comfort zones, in her opinion,
too easily saying "I have no patience," or "I can not
These abilities, and all the others we are likely to need, do reside
within us, Sharon says. To make a good impression, pull them out.
Or, as Sharon puts it, "What is your personal vision all
Companies can distill far-flung, multi-product businesses into a few
words — We bring good things to life (GE) or promise the real
thing (Coke). Individuals need to do the same. Include a sort of
mission statement into every business introduction, she counsels.
She says hers goes something like this: "I like to take people
to the next level of success." Bind yourself to what you do best,
and when people need that action, she says, they will think of you.
health, and spirit all need attention. "If a person’s balance
is out of whack, it’s obvious," says Sharon.
— are on display all of the time. Shine on all fronts and you
will be seen as a Lexus, or perhaps something more exotic, but just
as reliable. Neglect these cornerstones of a good first impression
badly enough and you may be slotted with the disastrous Pinto.
<B>Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey has
donated $205,000 through a company-wide program to assist the American
Red Cross’ September 11 disaster relief efforts. Over the course of
two months, Horizon BCBSNJ matched its employees’ and brokers’
to the program dollar-for-dollar.
victims and rescuers of the 9/11 tragedy. The money was a portion
of the funds initially set aside for holiday parties in all their
offices and was matched by a portion of the profits that were set
aside for the shareholders.
"The attack on the WTC and Pentagon left us all stunned, upset,
and looking for meaningful ways to help the living and honor the
says John Scott, president of CUH2A, the Carnegie Center-based
from all holiday functions from Thanksgiving Day through Christmas
Day to the Windows of Hope Family Relief Fund. The fund provides aid
to the families of victims of the World Trade Center tragedy who
in the food service profession throughout the entire complex.
Restaurants taking part in this effort helped to initiate a fund that
provided immediate emergency aid, as well as future scholarships and
funds for the families of the victims of the September 11 tragedy.
Wood Johnson University Hospital at Hamilton, the Hamilton Area YMCA,
and the Habitat for Humanity.
the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen on November 16. In addition to preparing
and serving lunch, the volunteers contributed soup, toothbrushes,
and other bathroom items for distribution to T.A.S.K. clients.
Anyone involved in an outstanding preservation project
completed in the past three years — or those who know of a
organization or individual who has helped save a part of America’s
local or national heritage — is encouraged to nominate the project
for a National Preservation Award, sponsored by the National Trust
for HIstoric Preservation. Deadlines for various awards are March
1 and May 1, 2002.
The awards recognize singular success in preserving, rehabilitating,
restoring or interpreting America’s architectural and cultural
Winners will be honored next October at the National Preservation
Conference in Cleveland.
This year a Corporate Responsibility Honor Award will recognize a
national or regional chain or franchise that has used historic
designed new infill construction compatible with historic areas, or
supported preservation-based revitalization.
In 2001, the 30th year of the award, winners included the Central
Park Conservancy, Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, the KiMo Theater in
Albuquerque, McClain High School in Greenfield, Ohio, and Redeemer
Missionary Baptist Church in Minneapolis.
Past awards have gone to projects such as Colonial Williamsburg,
Grand Central Terminal, Rockefeller Center, and Ellis Island; the
Old Post Office and Union Station, Washington, D.C.; Bunker Hill
College, Chelsea, Massachusetts; America’s oldest McDonalds, Downey,
California; Mission San Xavier del Bac, Tucson, Arizona; the Wang
Center, Boston; and the History Channel.
Call 202-588-6236 for nomination forms or E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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