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Posts from the ‘Workplace Culture’ Category


Adopt a Proactive Prevention Program and Increase Bottom-Line Profits

In today’s tough economic times, precious funds should not be wasted in coping with discriminatory harassment or union avoidance, or safety issues. These issues can be minimized or eliminated entirelyand critical funds saved for business operationswith a program designed to build the right corporate culture.

Corporate Culture Issues
The worth of such efforts may be seen in the example of one company with 15 steel processing plants and 1,500 employees, of which 1,200 are on industrial plant floors. You would expect this type of organization to be involved with several harassment lawsuits per year. With a typical settlement likely conservatively to be in excess of $100,000 and the typical defense attorney fees to be an even higher amount, the unnecessary expense is substantial. However, since 1999, this organization has experienced no employment-related lawsuits. Throw into the mix a diverse workforce (various religions, races, and national origins), and add women working on the plant floor, the record becomes even more impressive. Even more incredible is the fact that these plants are not limited to traditionally nonlitigious locations, but this company’s largest plants are in Detroit, Cleveland, northern Indiana, and Ohio.

This organization also had two of its plants vote in a union election in 1995. From 1998 to 1999, unions also obtained enough cards for an election to be held in two additional plants. In 1999, this organization won the election in one plant, the union withdrew before the election in the other, and the employees decertified one of the 1995 elected unions. Since 1999, this organization has been subjected to no union card campaigns.

In 1999, this organization recorded 300 worker compensation claims. Ten years later, with 50% more employees, there were less than 70 claims filed. That’s over 230 injuries that did not happen. Two hundred and thirty real live people went home to their families intact and could work the next day.

How was this done and how can other organizations replicate these results?

It was a matter of giving responsibility to the organization’s first-line supervisors and hourly workers.
Proactive Workplace Harassment Prevention
1. Redraft your Policy Against Discrimination and Harassment to be concise and understandable. Using plain English, such a policy can be reduced to as few as 350 words and still completely cover all topics.

2. Communicate and fully explain the policy with descriptive examples to all supervisory and salaried personnel. Use real-life examples, or a variation thereof, to enhance the learning process. Use imagery to get attendees to feel what it is like to be the victim of harassment or discrimination.

3. Teach all supervisory personnel how to effectively communicate the policy to nonsalaried personnel and require them to annually communicate the policy using a checklist. This demonstrates ownership in the program by a supervisor who is observed everyday by hourly employees.

4. Teach all supervisory personnel how to effectively investigate a complaint. Company liability often results from an ineffective response to a complaint and an improper investigation of such complaint by organization personnel once they are put on notice.

5. Convince all salaried personnel that it is in their personal best interest to address a potential harassment situation even when no one is complaining. Information, persuasion, reasoning, and involvement are the most effective means for obtaining ownership in any policy. Addressing issues early on is the best way to establish the right Proactive Prevention Culture.

6. Involve all employees in the program. A Proactive Prevention Program that involves all employees, both salaried and nonsalaried, creates a culture that does not tolerate harassment of any kind and is the most effective program to actually prevent harassment in the workplace. Peer pressure and the negative reaction of co-workers to inappropriate language, the use of derogatory terms, and unacceptable jokes or slurs will do more than anything else to eliminate and prevent harassment in the workplace.

Proactive Workforce Relationships
1. Create a new employee orientation program using the acronym  ‘MADRE,’ which stands for Maintaining a Direct Relationship with Employees. This should also be included in any employee handbook.

2.  Conduct pre-promotion supervisor-to-be MADRE education and Management Skills Training focused upon respect and appreciation. In this way, supervisory candidates can be further evaluated as to their ability to be effective supervisors.

3.  Conduct workshops on MADRE and Management Skills Training (Responsibility, Inclusion, Treatment, Attitude and Atmosphere) for existing supervisors.

4.. Executive Management MADRE education completes the training process. Having top management experience the same training sends the right message of commitment to MADRE.

Besides helping build a positive relationship between management and employees, MADRE can discourage unionization.

Creating a Safety Culture of Proactive Prevention
1. Every time an accident occurs, ask one question: ‘What can be done to prevent this, or something similar to this, from happening again?’ More training is not a silver bullet. ‘Employee carelessness’, ‘inattentiveness’, and ‘human error’ are overused cop-outs.

2. Investigate every injury as if it were a death. Going a step further, why not investigate every close call, inappropriately termed a ‘near miss’, as if it were a death.

3. Engineer a corrective action to not allow ‘carelessness’ to occur.

4. Instill a safety management style focused on why you are ‘insisting on seat belts’ (because you care about your people).
5. Expand the Safety Ownership/Awareness Hierarchy by explaining how it is in each employee’s self-interest to reduce injuries. This means you won’t need to deal with the trauma of a work-place accident, deal with lawyers, be deposed or called as a witness, find and train replacements, fill out reports, explain an accident to spouse and friends, etc.

6. Implement a legitimate, not-meant-to-punish, return-to-work program. Sitting home on the couch collecting a check is not in the employee’s or organization’s best interest. Identify meaningful work.

7. Provide supervisors with regular drug and alcohol training including how to detect signs of drug and alcohol use.

8. Conduct (surprise or planned) mock OSHA inspections (internal or hire contractor).

9. Use the non-enforcement, educational department at OSHA to perform informational inspections. The goal is to prevent accidents and injuries from occurring in the first case.

An effective Proactive Prevention Culture Program™ will improve your organization’s bottom line by (a) creating a more pleasant and productive work environment, (b) preventing your best employees from being subjected to harassment, forced into a union or injured and (c) significantly reducing, if not eliminating, wasted expenses such as defense attorney fees, lawsuit settlement costs, union campaign consultant charges, labor attorney fees for collective bargaining negotiation and defense of arbitrations, and workers compensation insurance premium increases. How better to demonstrate that you truly care about your people than establishing a program of Proactive Prevention.


Article in Corporate Counsel

A GC’s Battle With Parkinson’s Gives Hope to Others

Stephanie Forshee, Corporate Counsel

October 19, 2016

John Baumann worked in-house for 22 years at Exxon, Tosco and Steel Technologies. After being diagnosed with Parkinson’s, he was forced to quit his dream job. Now he’s a motivational speaker and author, but he still misses his days as an attorney.

John Baumann loved being a lawyer. He was sure he’d be one his entire life.

“I always thought I’d be one of those lawyers who worked until I had a heart attack at my desk,” he says.

One thing got in his way and forced him to quit his general counsel job at Steel Technologies in 2008: Parkinson’s disease. He’d been diagnosed in 2002 but continued to work as long as he possibly could.

“I had to quit,” he says. “Maybe it was premature but I didn’t want to continue to work and commit malpractice.”

After a 22-year career in-house with Exxon, Tosco and Steel Technologies, Baumann couldn’t believe he was going to have to retire at the age of 48. But he had been feeling constantly fatigued and was “freezing up” when he had to multitask. His handwriting had become illegible and eventually his right arm wouldn’t swing when he walked. His doctor recommended a specialist, and within minutes of visiting the neurologist, he was told: “You have all the signs of Parkinson’s.”

Naturally, he was in shock and started to think about all of the things that would change. One being the dream he’d had since he was in high school, watching Perry Mason on TV and imagining himself in the courtroom questioning a witness and making a dramatic closing argument.

After graduating from University of Massachusetts Amherst with a business degree, Baumann took a year off to save up money by working as a paralegal. He studied around the clock for the LSAT and was rewarded with a spot at Cornell Law School.

During Baumann’s final year of law school, he interviewed with Exxon Corp., which came on campus to recruit. Baumann made an impression and landed a job.

He worked as one of more than 300 attorneys for the oil and gas giant and in his first nine months found himself able to work on his first trial. The company had been accused of flooding the land of a tenant adjacent to one of Exxon’s properties. So for Baumann’s first trial in federal court in Galveston, Texas, he prepared a 17-page closing argument that he’s still proud of today.

Ultimately, he and his colleagues measured all four corners of the Exxon plant’s land, and determined it was naturally higher than the neighboring tenant’s so it couldn’t have avoided the flooding. Exxon also undermined the plaintiff’s credibility by getting him to acknowledge that he hadn’t filed federal income taxes for several years. “That was it. We won,” Baumann says.

That was one of the first victories Baumann had during his seven-year tenure at Exxon. There, in addition to being a litigator, he resolved employment disputes and advised on environmental issues—experiences that rounded him out and made him a desirable GC. He moved a few times with the company—working from Houston, New Orleans and New Jersey.

In 1992, a company called Tosco, which later became part of ConocoPhillips, acquired Exxon’s Bayway refinery in Linden, New Jersey, and Baumann stayed put to become the assistant general counsel of Tosco. He worked in that role for three years before being offered the role of general counsel with Steel Technologies in Louisville, Kentucky.

Six years into his role as GC of Steel, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Although doctors told him he wouldn’t see debilitating symptoms for five years or so, he informed his employer right away. “I told them, ‘I’m going to fight this thing and be transparent. When I’m not able to work anymore, I’ll let you know,'” he recalls.

And six years later, he told them it was becoming too much and he would no longer be able to fulfill his legal responsibilities. The company hired a lawyer to help Baumann and fill in for him after he retired.

After leaving Steel, Baumann decided to handle one more trial that was supposed to last two days and wound up lasting four. And the trials that had once been so easy for Baumann, like his very first with Exxon, quickly turned into an unbearable task. Those 18-hour work days—between being in court and conducting additional research afterward—put him over the edge. “I was in bed for two weeks after that. I was so tired,” he says. “I recognized again that I couldn’t be a trial lawyer.”

Now, he is a motivational speaker and gives speeches to people affected by Parkinson’s as well as doctors and nurses at hospitals. His 2016 schedule has taken him to places like Florida, Kansas, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Saskatchewan.

Sometimes it’s a small crowd and other times he has spoken for an audience of 1,100 people. In a recent speech in New Jersey, he recognized a few faces.

“I saw five people from the refinery that I haven’t talked to in years. They came to my talk just to say hello. That made me feel so good,” he says.

Although he’s frequently traveling, he doesn’t overextend himself. On his website, he offers workplace consultations of up to 15 hours per week. When he’s not on the road, he lives with his wife in Florida. And he’s proud that his son is in his final year of law school and hopes to become an in-house lawyer.

Just as he tells people in his speeches, he says, “I have good days and I have bad days, but you have to make the best of it.”

For Baumann, he’s proud of all the encouragement he’s been able to share with others in the past decade—whether they’ve been diagnosed with Parkinson’s or have a friend or family member who has. But there’s no denying he misses his days of working in-house.

“I loved being a lawyer. It’s a shame I can’t do it anymore,” he says. “I was a really good lawyer and I was one of the good guys.”



John Baumann is taking on a limited number of clients for coaching

John Baumann, internationally-recognized National Speaker Association inspirational, motivational and educational speaker, is making himself available to individuals for up to 15 total hours a week of coaching on his many areas of knowledge.

John’s academic coaching credentials are based upon his graduating summa cum laude from the University of Massachusetts, College of Business, graduation from Cornell Law School, being on the faculty of the University of Louisville, College of Business for a decade, and author of his critically-acclaimed book entitled: Decide Success – You ain’t dead yet.

John’s law experience prowess is based upon his experience as a General Counsel for 25 years focused primarily on employment, discrimination, labor relations, union and employment issues.

John’s experience effectively dealing with a chronic illness comes from his 15 years with parkinson’s disease and the over 100 Symposiums at which he has been a Keynote Speaker, Breakout session facilitator, and attendee. He may be the most knowledgable person with Parkinson’s alive and he is willing to share that information with a limited number of you.

If you want to be one of the limited number of participants, please call John at 502-262-3300.

The range of people who would benefit from John’s coaching include:
(1) Parkinson’s patients (especially newly diagnosed and early onset),
(2) their care partners,
(3) any person with a chronic illness,
(4) students who want to do better at school,
(5) the parents of children who want them to do better at school,
(6) students who want a better LSAT score,
(7) students who want help in passing the bar exam (John has passed three state bar exams),
(8) Presidents of businesses considering the costs and benefits of brining on an in-house attorney, or

(9) Presidents of businesses that need to address (or want to proactively prevent) harassment and discrimination issues.


2016 Speaking Schedule


January 21, 2016 – Naples, Florida
Bayshore Memory Care & Ageless Grace
“Life with Parkinson’s”

February 6, 2016 – Tampa, Florida
Michael J. Fox Partners in Parkinson’s
“You, Your Loved One and Parkinson’s disease”

February 12, 2016 – Ft. Myers, Florida
Hope Healthcare Services Annual Parkinson’s Symposium
“Embracing Challenges and Living an Amazing Life Goes Well Beyond 14 Year Journey with Parkinson’s”

February 29 – March 2, 2016 – Washington, D.C.
Parkinson’s Action Network

March 19, 2016 – Falls Church, Virginia
The Parkinson Foundation of the National Capital Area Annual Symposium
“YOU have the power to influence the quality of your life”

April 5 – 6, 2016 – Manhattan, Kansas
Parkinson’s Program of Manhattan
“Moving Forward – Positively Un-shake-able”

April 12 – Naples, Florida
Bayshore Memory Care & Ageless Grace
“Life with Parkinson’s”

April 16, 2016 – Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Parkinson Society Saskatchewan
“YOU have the Power to Influence Your Experience with PD”

April 18, 2016 – Sun City, Florida
Ageless Grace
“Life with Parkinson’s”

September 17, 2016 – Summit, New Jersey
Overlook Hospital Hope Symposium
“Moving Forward – Positively Un-shake-able”