Answering your questions on explaining difficult promotions and using work phones for personal calls

March 1, 2002
Edited by Christopher S. Frings PhD, CSP

Promoting a younger person with less experience

Q: How do I explain to a senior worker why a younger, less experienced person has been promoted over him?

A: According to Terry Jo Gile, Seniority is only one of the reasons that promotions take place. If you have a point system that you use for evaluating a person for the job, share that with the staff so that everyone understands what will be weighted for each promotional opportunity that arises. Do you look for someone who always volunteers for overtime? Is attendance reviewed? What about additional schooling on the employees own time? There are many things that warrant a promotion. Seniority is just one of them.

Larry Crolla responds, Have a discussion by stating the requirements for the new job. Dont compare the two people the comparison is self-evident. Just state that the new person fulfilled the requirements. If there are skills the older person lacks, consider offering to the older employee training to help him/her gain the necessary skills to be advanced if an opening occurs again.

Alton Sturtevant recommends, First you must fully understand the reasons for the promotion of the one and not the other yourself. Listen to the person to determine how much they want/need to know. When you talk to the one passed over, be sure to keep the conversation positive so as not to be demoralizing. Point out the persons strong points, and let the older employee know what he/she can do to improve his/her skill set for future job development. If he/she talks negatively about the one promoted, steer the conversation toward the job requirements, and let the person make the conclusion that the other has attributes well suited for the job.

Marti Bailey adds, In a few words, with sensitivity and honesty, you need to be very clear regarding what skills and/or behaviors the successful candidate has that won him or her the position. Hopefully, these will be things that the more senior worker can recognize for himself/herself. This would also be a very good time to talk to the senior worker about his/her professional ambitions. You have the responsibility to let unsuccessful candidates know where they stand. Its easy enough to say something like, You were such a close second, which offers very little genuine feedback. Since the senior worker is obviously interested in advancement, this is your opportunity to help this person develop a plan to build the skills that he/she needs. On the other hand, if you think that advancement for this person is out of the question, you should talk to him/her about what you believe the barriers are.

Bottom line. Explain to the senior worker the skills he/she needs to develop in order to be considered in the future for promotions. If you are really interested in developing this person for a future promotion, set up a schedule to monitor improvement in his/her skill(s). Either coach this person, or delegate the coaching to someone else. Be specific in your recommendations as to what this senior person can do to develop the skills. 

Using lab phone for personal long distance calls

Q: Some of our techs are using our lab phone for personal long distance calls. They think this is OK because we have a Watts line. They have access to long distance because they have to call reports to other states from time to time. What does the panel think about this?

A: Unless you have information in writing that says its acceptable to make personal calls on the companys Watts line, then consider it stealing. Two types of stealing are occurring: 

  1. having the company pay for the long distance call, and
  2. the loss of productive time while doing personal things in the workplace. When you consider this as stealing, your attitude changes towards it. 

Larry Crolla advises, This all depends on lab policy. If the lab has stated that this is not acceptable behavior, then it should be stopped. Under any circumstance, tying up the line with personal calls, whether local or long distance, is unacceptable behavior, because customers may not be able to get through.

According to Terry Jo Gile, This is difficult to monitor with a Watts line. However, long distance calls for personal use is considered abuse of the system, and corrective action should be forthcoming. With the reasonable cost of cell phones, employees should use them or a pay phone to make personal calls.

Alton Sturtevant adds, Unless the company policy allows for it, this activity is theft and should not be tolerated. Not only is the employee spending the companys money for the telephone call, but he/she is also using paid time for unauthorized activities. The company should make sure that their policy is well defined relating to this topic, but should also make the employees aware that it will not be tolerated. Once this is done, the company should then enforce the policy. Employees should be made aware that the phone system will track all calls, and that the tracking system is reviewed for violations. A system of requiring individual long distance calling codes and restrictions on phones in areas where employees take personal breaks will also reduce unauthorized long distance calls. If the cellular phones are provided to couriers, they should have programmed restrictions placed on them to prevent nonbusiness calls.

Marti Bailey advises, Talk to whoever pays your Watts line phone bill. Just like any other phone bill, there should be an itemized list of charges. You also need to clarify your charge policy with your Watts line provider. A number of years ago, our laboratory was under the misconception that there was a standard monthly charge for our Watts line, so the staff felt that it was OK to use it for personal as well as business calls. When we investigated, we found that indeed we were being charged a rate/minute for all calls not just long distance so all these personal calls were actually being billed to and paid by the hospital. As soon as we realized what our charge policy actually was, we took immediate steps to educate our staff and to develop a policy that prohibited use of the Watts line for personal calls.

Ms. Bailey adds, If your circumstance turns out to be similar and you ban personal use of the Watts line, it will be worthwhile to audit the Watts line bills at least initially. Compliance may be less than desired unless the staff knows that youre checking up. Check any local phone numbers you see repeating on your bills against a master list of employee home phone numbers. This is the easiest way to spot abuse, but certainly wont pick up everything. If you see the need to increase surveillance, you can have your section supervisors review the bill to pick out their business calls. Following this exercise, what you have left may or may not be personal calls. One way to find out is to call the phone numbers and see who answers. Another way to audit the bills would be to have sections maintain a list of their Watts line calls, then compare this monthly with statements. Require reimbursement by employees for any personal calls with no exceptions. Last but not least, make sure that your staff knows how to bill charges to themselves in the event that they find it necessary to make a call using the business phone.

Bottom line. Unless there is a written policy that allows personal use of long distance services, use of your labs long distance services for personal use is probably stealing.

Christopher S. Frings is an internationally known consultant and speaker on the topics of leadership, managing change, time management, reaching goals, and stress management. His consulting firm, Chris Frings & Associates, is in Birmingham, AL.

© 2002 Nelson Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved.