Archives for March 2016

What to Say If an Employee Asks for a Raise

Last month we talked about asking for a raise. What if you are the employer and an employee is asking you? How do you respond to their request? The employee believes that they are working above their current pay, and you hold the power to grant or deny their request.

It is a very rare case that an employee is granted a raise entirely on what they believe is fair. There are many decisions that go into the decision of a pay raise. The outcome must be beneficial to both, your company and the employee. If you give a raise to one, then others will ask causing a ripple effect has major consequences for the company.

  • Don’t react right away: give yourself some time to process the request. Don’t lash out at the employee for or give instant praise. You may not be the person to make the final decision, so giving yourself some time to answer is better than making promises you can’t keep. Watch your body language and facial expressions.
  • Ask for more information: The best way to respond to the request is to ask for more information. Find out why they want the raise, and if they have good reasons to ask for the request. By asking for more information, you are not dismissing the case outright, but you are also not answering. Take notes while they are explaining their “why.” It communicates that you are taking their request seriously. Remain neutral; you are Switzerland.
  • Acknowledge their courage: It take a lot of courage to ask for a raise, so be sure to acknowledge the effort they put into the request. This employee may feel vulnerable, so even if you are irritated, it is important to acknowledge their courage.
  • Evaluate the arguments: When the conversation is over, evaluate the arguments to see if they have a case for a raise. A good argument is one where the employee can demonstrate their pay does not reflect their value to the company. You then have to determine if the pay matched up with that of their peers or the open market. Gather your information about the industry and consider how important the person is to you and the company.
  • Know the limit: Every company has limits on salary. Does the employee deserve a one-time bonus for hard work on a special project, or is their performance above and beyond the everyday. There are other way to compensate employees if they are doing great work, and it may not be a raise.
  • Talk to the right people: Talk to your boss or HR to determine what the current salary is and if there is anything else that could be appropriate for the situation. Shift the responsibility away from you onto someone else that has the power to make the decision.
  • Go to bat: If you have an excellent performer and you are concerned about retention, then step up for them. Go that extra length to keep them in the company. It is hard for HR to say no when you know your employee better than they do. Make you case and back up your arguments with facts.
  • Deliver the news: Good or bad, you need to be fair and diplomatic with your deliver. Congratulate them if they are given the raise and let them know just how valued they are to the company. If the new is bad, let them know why. They are compensated fairly compared to others in the same position, but don’t make them feel bad for asking. Give them tips on how to improve their performance over the next six months and then have them try again. It is important not to give up.

Tax Scams to Watch Out For

Every year the IRS releases its list of the worst tax scams for the year. Each time the list changes slightly, but From February 1 through February 17, they highlight a new scam each day to allow consumers to be aware of what to expect. Here are a few that make the list each year:

  1. Identify Theft: This has become all too common in society. Someone steals a social security number and files a fraudulent tax return. While the IRS admits this is still a major problem, they are taking steps to correct this problem and are trying to catch the fraudulent before they are filed. There are more than 20 data points that are used to identify and verify tax information.
  2. Phone Scams: There has been many reports on the news about the IRS calling. They scammers tell the taxpayers that they own money and they will be deported, arrested or their license revoked if they do not pay. They have information on the victim and make the calls sound very official. The one piece of information people need to know to combat this scam is the IRS never calls to demand immediate payment. They only contact you in the form of bills or letters. You have to initiate the phone call, not them.
  3. Phishing: This scam is people looking for information. They are seeing if people will respond with personal or financial information. The IRS does not send out email about a bill or refund. If you receive one of these email then forward it to and they will investigate the email. Don’t open attachments or download any documents because they may contain malware that will infect your computer.
  4. Return preparer fraud: This is a hard one to figure out. Each year people trust accountants to prepare their taxes and trust them with personal information. Each year people put their trust in the wrong preparer and lose their money. The IRS provides tips for taxpayers to help them choose a competent preparer, including checking their credentials, making sure the preparer is available after the filing season, and ensuring the refund is deposited into the taxpayer’s account not the preparers.
  5. Hiding Money or Income Offshore: The IRS is making a concentrated effort to enforce actions that discourage people from illegally hiding money offshore. There are legitimate reason for taxpayers to have money in other countries, but these accounts trigger reporting requirements. The IRS has heightened reporting requirements under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, which went into effect in 2015, making it harder for taxpayers to conceal assets oversea.
  6. Inflated refund claims: Another scam is inflated refund claims, which unscrupulous preparers set up to lure unsuspecting taxpayers. Be aware of what tax credits you were eligible for in the past and know what you are eligible for now. If the amount seems outrageous, then it probably is. Taxpayers are responsible for their own tax return, regardless of who prepares it for them.
  7. Fake Charities: Legitimate charities give donors their employer identification number, which they can check the charities through the IRS website. Many fake charities have names that sound similar to real organizations. They may even have websites that look real. Fake charities multiply when there have been natural disaster. Do not contribute without checking first.

Questions To Ask Before Firing

There will be times when you have an employee that is not meeting you standards. Whether it is from not meeting sales goals to not fitting in to the environment. There are a number of reasons why employees do not meet expectations, and despite trying everything from performances evaluations, mentorship programs, and training, you finally say enough. It is a hard decision to make, but there are a few question to ask yourself before you make that final decision.

  • Has the person produced results in the past? If the employee has delivered results for the company in the past, then what is the problem now? Is there some way to recreate the success they had in the past. Look for specific behaviors that clue you into what may have changed and how it can be fixed.
  • Is the employee experiencing any personal problems? This can be a huge clue to why a person’s performance had declined. They could be experiencing health issues, a family member could be sick, etc. This can have a major effect on employee performance. Open a dialogue with the employee to see if anything is impeding their performance that you cannot see at work.
  • Are there recent changes inside the organization? Problems can be from recent change in the organization. There may be new expectations that they have not been told about, or are struggling to figure out. They may need extra support through this change and need longer to acclimate to the change in the organization.
  • Is the employee a right fit for the position? Not every employee is right for the position they are hired for within a company. Is there another position that they would be more successful? They may be a strength in another department. Focus on the strengths and articulate the difference they could make if given the chance to make a change. Move them to find a better fit, and then if it still does not work then seek other options.
  • Has the employee been coached or managed properly? This employee may not have a mentor to coach to help them through questions within the company. Give them a coach that will guide them through their difficulties. Engage them in one-on-one sessions to develop skills they may lack. Conduct meetings that focus on what is being done right. Find another employee that meets expectations and have them work with the employee for a few days.

It is hard to find good employees, and it cost a company more to fire the old and hire new. Through training, mentoring, and asking questions you have a chance to provide opportunity to this employee. It is important to exhaust all resources before permanently letting them go.


Employee Evaluations

Feedback for employees is important to everyone. It gives information to the employee and employer on their performance in the work place. What employees are doing well, and what they can improve upon is vital to the survival of the company. Your company is only as good as your weakest link, and by having an evaluation system that promotes development within the company will farther the growth of the company. Success should be measured on the improvements of the person. So a good evaluation system is the key to improving your business and your employees. So how do you improve your feedback and evaluation system? The following are simple ideas that can help make your system better:

  1. Simplify and reduce: Most performance reviews are two long. They take too much time to complete, have too many rating systems, and are too complicated for many work place settings. If you run a small business, you do not want to spend all your time evaluating your employees’ performances. Instead, eliminate all the extra parts that are redundant, robotic, and that tell you nothing.
  2. Eliminate your multirating questions: Many of these systems are based on an odd scale that leaving some people in the middle with no expectations at all. There are detailed examples for every attribute and the rater tends to rate subjectively and randomly based on their perception of the employees performance. This does not seem fair. If you want to keep these types of ratings, be sure to provide a through list of attributes the define each category. Each should be clear and concise based on what you want to see from your employees.
  3. Change up the way you evaluate: Look for a simpler framework. A popular one that is developing is the “Keep, Stop, Start” evaluation. This is a super short appraisal system that gets to that heart of what many employees want to know.

The evaluator answers three simple questions: “What is this person doing they should keep? What is this person doing that doesn’t work, and they should stop doing? What would we like to see this person start doing going forward?” The first question on what the person is doing right should be filled out with as many things as the evaluator can think of. This leaves the person knowing exactly where they are meeting expectations and what they should continue. The next two questions about what they should stop and what they should start doing should be limited to three items. It is too hard to assimilate to more than three changes at a time. This also gives them something to concentrate on that is important to the company and will improve how you operate in the future.

  1. Increase the frequency: If you chose a simpler evaluating system, you can increase the amount of time you give feedback. Feedback should not just be given once or twice a year, it should be done on a regular and continuing basis to allow employees time to make changes, and improve on their work habits.
  2. Teach how to give feedback: If you are not the person giving feedback, then ensure that the person giving the feedback is trained to deliver positive and responsive feedback to the employees. The training needs to be regular and reinforce opportunities for feedback.

Feedback is the best way to improve how people see themselves in your company. It needs to focus on the strengths, while highlighting the improves needed. It can make a difference on the way your company operates and conducts itself within the business world.