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Monday, February 26, 2018

Guard Your Heart

Before we end February and a month filled with red emblazoned messages of love, one awkward love connection is worth considering. It’s those delicate workplace romances. Yes…of course they happen.

Just before Valentine’s Day, the Chicago Tribune briefed us on the quandary in which this has placed many employers. The article is titled, “#MeToo Revelations Have Made Workplace Romances Complicated for Employers.” One big takeaway from this story was the increased use of “love contracts.”

Love contracts? True. Okay, they have another name: "consensual romance in the workplace" agreements. A number of employers are having newly dating coworkers sign these to assure those in charge that their relationship is truly consensual. Apparently—and logically—most employees laugh at this.

Giving insight on the new dynamic of dating at work is Andrew Challenger, vice president at  Challenger, Gray, & Christmas—an outplacement firm based in Chicago. This company surveyed 150 human resource executives in January. More than 60 percent claimed they had to deal with a “failed or inappropriate relationship at work.” From that group, one-third involved a person leaving the company.

As a result of the #MeToo revelations, companies have become more resolved in training about the risks and dangers of harassment. The Challenger survey indicated a rise of 35% in companies reviewing their current policies. This should be no surprise.

What IS surprising is that some companies forbid their employees to date. As if this will stop true love from budding. And has even provided us five reasons why dating a coworker may be problematic.

  • The obvious would be one we’ve witnessed. When the relationship fails, usually one of parties leaves. And it might be the better of the two employees. That may hurt the individual who liked the job situation and the company.
  • Next was the the possibility that one of the daters (if this did not already exist) gets promoted. Now you have a subordinate issue. However, that could be managed in a larger company by reassignment. 
  • Another reason cited was the employee rumor mill may start up. Unflattering things get said. Feelings get hurt. Work distractions arise.
  • Last of the five: watching the couple together at lunch while perhaps isolating themselves from coworkers. 
  • And, of course, the harassment concerns.

Oddly enough, what was not mentioned among the five is the same challenge that married couples in the same workplace must guard against. When the two parties are speaking privately, is it personal? Or business? Will the couple romantically linked at the office avoid letting personal matters become priority at times?

All that being said, finding your true love at work will always remain a possibility. And a wise employer will not purposely squash that opportunity. In my fictional company, I would have a set of guidelines regarding dating fellow employees. And what to do if things so south.

If you’d like to read real life stories about workplace romance, I’ve provided another link below. Plus a rather humorous statistical look at meeting the love of your live.

How do you tell if you’re really ready for love? Read the love chapter in the Bible—First Corinthians 13. If you can commit to love like that, press on. Otherwise, work on the finer points of that passage. Here’s a quick reference:

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” (1 Corinthians13:4-7, NLT)

One final test. Buy a box of chocolates. Watch for the person who takes the ones you don’t like. That might be a very good match.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app.

For more information: 

Monday, February 19, 2018

Chaplain on Board

Almost exactly two years ago, Emma Green gave insight to the growing interest in workplace chaplains. Her article in The Atlantic was titled, “Why are More and More Companies Offering Access to Chaplains as an Employee Benefit?” Along with the real life examples of companies who have chosen to do this, Green provides some reality checks on a company moving forward in this direction.

As Emma Green explains, getting a firm estimate on how many workplace chaplains are engaged is difficult. Many are privately owned and are small or medium-sized businesses. And as for the religious connections, “Protestant non-profits claim to be the largest provider of workplace-chaplaincy services in the U.S.”

But it’s not just a growing industry in this country. There are chaplaincy related initiatives to be found in the U.K., Germany, Switzerland, Australia, and even Hong Kong. I say “even Hong Kong” since we know that the Chinese are not always real favorable to religious groups or causes.

One of those smaller organizations based out of Greenville, South Carolina, is EMPLOYEE CARE OF AMERICA (ECA). My friend Rick Ezell heads this up. As his website states: “ECA partners with businesses to improve productivity and profitability by providing care, coaching, and crisis management. The care occurs through onsite trained and compassionate Chaplains. The result is more productive employees, happier workplace, and healthier communities. Think of it as an Employee Assistance Program on steroids.”

Recently, Rick sent out ten reasons for having a Chaplaincy Assistance Program at your company. 

Here they are:
  1. Demonstrates appropriate and tangible employee care. 
  2. Completes your company’s wellness initiatives. 
  3. Speaks hope into people’s lives, in addition to providing help with daily struggles. 
  4. Establishes a resource before a crisis occurs. We are proactive rather than reactive. 
  5. Reduces “presenteeism,” where employees are physically at work but their hearts and minds are somewhere else. 
  6. Reduces employee turnover. 
  7. Reduces health and disability claims. 
  8. Prevents violence on the job.
  9. Improves workplace morale and the corporate culture. 
  10. Improves your bottom line.

Through trained Chaplains, EMPLOYEE CARE OF AMERICA offers support and encouragement for an organization’s most important asset, its employees.

Specifically, THE CHAPLAIN:
• contacts your employees on a regular basis through face-to-face, phone, and/or email communication.
• builds trust with your employees so when they are experiencing a tough time, they know where they can turn.
• keeps discussions confidential and offers a safe outlet.
• comforts those who are struggling.
• provides a listening ear during challenging times.
• speaks hope into people’s lives by providing help with employees’ daily problems.
• walks alongside the employee when a crisis occurs, such as a death, addiction, sickness, or family emergency, letting the employee know they are not alone.
• establishes a relationship before a crisis occurs.

If this resonates with you as something from which your company might benefit, check out Rick’s website for more information. Contact him at: or phone him at 864-770-3560.

Healthy mental, emotional, and spiritual employees can only lead to a better workplace.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app.

For more information: 

Monday, February 12, 2018

Unintended Fallout

A few days ago I interviewed Albert Erisman on his book, The Accidental Executive. Erisman was himself an executive with Boeing and currently serves as the executive in residence for the Center for Integrity in Business at Seattle Pacific University. Al uses the biblical story of Joseph to offer lessons for those in modern settings of business, government, and education. A good part of the book of Genesis focuses on the life of Jacob’s famous son.

Joseph did have a remarkable life. Get past the coat of many colors and you hear how his own brothers sold him into slavery. He later is put in prison unfairly. Then he rises to the rank of CEO for food distribution in Egypt. It would make a great story today in Forbes or Fortune magazine.

In an odd twist, Joseph also faced sexual harassment. You can read the account in Genesis 39. In brief, Joseph was in the employ of Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh. Potiphar saw that God was with Joseph and, thus, put him in charge of all that he had.

It worked out well for both parties. Success flowed and Joseph’s influence grew. Not only was he capable, he was a very handsome man. And Potiphar’s wife took notice—propositioning him several times. Joseph rejected her advances. But one time, while no one else was present, Potiphar’s wife grabbed for Joseph’s garment—and he fled. The woman lied and accused Joseph of attempting to violate her. His life was ruined. Temporarily. Again, the story of Joseph is filled with intrigue.

Rare is the man who would be tempted by a willing woman (who likely was quite beautiful)—and resist. But Joseph was a man of integrity. A good name was his trademark. And The Accidental Executive is a good read!

Toward the end of my conversation with Al Erisman, I brought up a recent item from the aforementioned Fortune magazine. It’s titled, “After #MeToo, Men are Uncomfortable Mentoring Women.” It raises the difficult challenge in the modern workplace raised by charges of sexual harassment. (Article link below.)

New research reveals that with the steady media coverage of workplace harassment, male managers are three times as likely to say they are uncomfortable mentoring women. And twice as uncomfortable working alone with a woman. Add to those statistics these findings: “Senior men were 3.5 times more likely to hesitate having a work dinner with a junior female colleague than a male one–and five times more likely to hesitate to travel for work with a junior woman.”

Sheryl Sandberg is the chief operating officer (COO) of Facebook and founder of Her LeanIn group helped fund the survey completed through Survey Monkey. And she’s not happy with the results, noting that men’s unwillingness to mentor female colleagues works against women by decreasing their opportunities.

Al Erisman believes she is right. Since men hold a majority of positions in senior and managerial leadership roles, their mentorship is of great potential value. To give that up denies much to an organization as well as to the individual woman.

To be honest, I completely understand why male leaders would react as they have. I just completed two hours of workplace harassment training as required by our company. Hearing the vast and varied ways that individuals and companies become liable for neglecting the issue—even perceived abuses—it’s enough to scare any reasonable mind. And should be enough to send off warning bells.

What should a male business leader do? Look at the life of Joseph. Determine, as he did, that your integrity is your first priority. Set parameters around meeting privately or creating real or perceived risk situations and avoid them. And then do your job by helping your team members grow like a responsible leader should.

The measure of your male leadership is directly related to how your ethics measure up.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app.

For more information:

Monday, February 5, 2018

Faith & the Workplace

This Thursday, February 8th, is the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. It’s been held there since 1953 and was once known as the President’s Prayer Breakfast. I’ve attended several times in past years.

As you might imagine, an event that has “religious overtones” and involves a ton of political figures, including the president and vice president, has its critics. I’ve been privy to know people involved in the development of the breakfast. It leaves me with no doubt that the highest measure of good that we can reasonably expect from such an event is generally achieved.

I say generally because the National Prayer Breakfast is not a political event. Yet there have been times when speakers have leaned into controversy. Mother Teresa did that as a keynote speaker who defended the rights of the unborn. Eric Metaxas did as well in his presentation. And there have been others.

But by and large, the event brings together a wide range of people. It is not a “Christian” event. But it does connect with Jesus. There are and have been Muslims, Buddhists, and just about every other religious group attending. They are there by invitation to see reconciliation at work. Jesus of Nazareth is the champion of reconciliation.

The event is opposed by several groups who see it a violation of the famed establishment clause against religion. The group Americans United for the Separation of Church and State sent out this statement in January of 2012. “The event has all the trappings of an official governmental worship service, with the president, members of Congress and other dignitaries gathering in a way that appears to merge religion and state. It may not technically violate the First Amendment, but it certainly tramples on the church-state separationist spirit that infuses the Constitution.” (See link below)

This group, and others, also argue against the appointment of chaplains for both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Freedom from Religion Foundation objects strongly to the financial commitment for these chaplains. They estimate Congress approves approximately $800,000 every year for these offices (chaplains and staff). And they minimize the work to simply “opening prayers.”

Informed people know better. I’ve met with the Senate Chaplain in his office and learned of the wide range of requests he receives. I’m sure the House Chaplain is equally as involved in giving counsel and encouraging spiritual health.

A friend of mine is an advocate for companies to hire workplace chaplains. Large organizations might find a full time position for such a person to be of great service and value. Part time chaplains are another option. Perhaps in the next couple of weeks we’ll consider a list of reasons to consider adding a chaplain to your team.

The wrong kind of separation—whether of church and state or in the workplace—is to ignore the reality that we are spiritual beings. Will Durant once wrote, "The hope of another life gives us courage to meet our own death, and to bear with the death of our loved ones; we are twice armed if we fight with faith." Of course, spiritual health goes well beyond that. Faith leads to hope.

So much good has resulted during the history of the National Prayer Breakfast. I trust it will again this year. Behind the scenes, more happens than simply the Thursday morning gathering.

As the Apostle Paul has taught, “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.” (1 Timothy 2:1-2, NLT)

Godliness and dignity. Anyone care to see more of that? Be praying.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app.

For more information: