Crafting a Stellar First Impression

Corporate Angels

Nominations Please

Corrections or additions?

This article was prepared for the

December 12, 2001 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights

reserved.

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

resource

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

Tuesday,

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

alcohol."

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

rehabilitation

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

problem,"

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:

Take the careful approach. "Random drug testing can

only be done in safety sensitive occupations," says Purcell.

"But

you can have a policy of `For Cause’ testing." "For Cause"

testing allows a person to be tested for drugs if there is a

reasonable

suspicion that he or she is using drugs or if the company has a

previously

stated policy, such as after any accident in the workplace all

employees

involved will be tested for drugs.

Observe and document. If an employer believes that an

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

verbally abusive?"

First check with the higher-ups. "If upper management

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."

Have a written substance abuse policy. Simply verbally

stating a company’s drug policy is the same as not having any policy

at all. It needs to be in writing.

Use accredited laboratories. The at-home drug testing

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."

Never send an impaired person home behind the wheel. This

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."

Purcell makes it clear that when she says "substance

abuse"

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

socially

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

beforehand

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

responsibly.

— Jack Florek

Top Of Page
Crafting a Stellar First Impression

Once you become a Pinto or a Firestone, it is hard to

get a second chance. So says career consultant Barbara Ann

Sharon.

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

opportunity

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,

marketing,

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

impression.

"Corporations spend millions to project an image," says

Sharon.

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,

authentic,

and honest," says Sharon, not denying that this combination of

attributes is a tall order. She breaks it down into four areas:

Appearance. Maybe it shouldn’t matter. Maybe the fact

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

well-pressed.

"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.

Attitude. "This is a big one," says Sharon. There

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

empathize."

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.

Action. This is the way you launch yourself as a product.

Or, as Sharon puts it, "What is your personal vision all

about?"

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

personal

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.

Abundance. This refers to striking a balance. Work,

family,

health, and spirit all need attention. "If a person’s balance

is out of whack, it’s obvious," says Sharon.

All of these — appearance, attitude, action, and abundance

— 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.

Top Of Page
Corporate Angels

<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’

contributions

to the program dollar-for-dollar.

CUH2A donated $70,000 to charities that will benefit the

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

fallen,"

says John Scott, president of CUH2A, the Carnegie Center-based

architecture

firm.

The Nassau Inn is donating 10 percent of its net profits

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

worked

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.

Roma Bank has given year-end contributions to the Robert

Wood Johnson University Hospital at Hamilton, the Hamilton Area YMCA,

and the Habitat for Humanity.

Mercer County’s Association of Realtors volunteered at

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.

Top Of Page
Nominations Please

Anyone involved in an outstanding preservation project

completed in the past three years — or those who know of a

company,

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

heritage.

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

buildings,

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,

Virginia;

Grand Central Terminal, Rockefeller Center, and Ellis Island; the

Old Post Office and Union Station, Washington, D.C.; Bunker Hill

Community

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 awards@nthp.org

or www.nthp.org/preservation_awards).


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