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Paid Time Off After Shutdowns and More of Your Questions for February

Including overcoming the female boss double standard and making sure your sale blowout is truly explosive.




lady on the phone look at watch

Any tips on how to get more efficient on the phone? I often find myself looking at the “duration of call” display and thinking, “Darn! 12 minutes! I really can’t afford to waste that kind of time”?

Phones can be a time suck, which is why millennials love texting so much — you’re in control. But phone calls will no doubt be around for a bit longer. Business consultant Jo Soard suggests some tips to improve your telephone efficiency. First, get to the point. If you are the caller, say: “Paul — hi, I need two questions answered and I know you are the only person who can help me.” If you’re receiving the call, cut to the chase with the ever reliable: “Hi Lynn. Nice to hear from you. What can I do for you today?” And to avoid never-ending phone tag: Leave short instructive voicemails, telling the person you’re chasing what the purpose of your call is and what you need. For example: “Hi Kent, it’s Wimmer from ZZ Optical. Please call me with the shipment date for that line of croakies I ordered.”

After being closed for several months, during which we paid all our employees, are they still entitled to paid vacations this year?

The answer here, as always, is that it depends — mostly based on your state, says Sara Yood, a New York-based lawyer who works with small businesses. “In general, most states prohibit employers from taking away PTO (paid time off) that has already been earned, as these are considered ‘wages’ already earned under the law,” she says. However, she notes that employers can consider modifying their policies during the pandemic to account for business needs. Some options are:

  • Impose blackout dates during expected busy times, during which PTO would be limited or not available.
  • Limit, defer, or halt the future accrual of PTO that is in excess of whatever the state requires.
  • Create a “cap” on earned PTO for 2021.
  • Offer to buy out accrued but unused PTO from employees.

“An employer will have to balance these choices against the negative impact this will have on … morale during an unprecedented global pandemic,” Yood says, adding that if you want to consider these kinds of changes, it would be prudent to talk with an employment lawyer.

As a female boss, I find it difficult to balance my desire to be liked and do my job properly. How do I deal with this?

They say it’s better to be respected than liked, but this overlooks two things: 1) Society applies a double standard to “aggressive” women in business, and 2) the best managers strike a balance of hard and soft. Being a good boss means giving tough, clear, fair feedback. You can’t sugar-coat or sit on problems. But respect is about more than just being demanding. People will follow a manager and put up with even harsh criticism if they believe your ultimate goal is to bring out the best in them, and if you are able to show compassion when needed. Win their respect this way, and they’ll like you as well.

We’re planning a big sale to clear some inventory. Any tips?

When it comes to sales, price matters, says Bob Nelson, president of Power Retailing and author of 1001 Ways To Reward Employees. So be prepared to discount aggressively, especially on anything that’s been hanging around close to a year. Use a similarly aggressive approach to your advertising. At the very least do a mailer of your entire customer list. All ads should mention the type of sale, starting date, categories offered and markdown percentages. Radio ads are good ways to ramp up the “Act Now!” urgency. Finally, make sure you’ve got big signage in the store. Once the sale begins, Nelson advises you to keep an eye out for slow-moving categories. Change the displays and take even bigger markdowns if there seems to be little interest in a particular product. Don’t make customers play the stupid retail game “find the price” and the sale tag. Throughout the sale it is important that customers do not think the best items have already been sold.

Display fixtures must always appear to be as full as possible.

Does creative language in classifieds — like describing a sales associate’s job as one for an “obsessed sales ninja” — actually attract better candidates?

In a traditional business such as eyecare, it’s probably best to be conservative. Such language might lure ambitious young males to tech firms, but in most other sectors, it turns off older workers, people who have outside obligations like caring for children, and, in some cases, women. Sure, you want diligent and skilled people to apply, but imply your expectations are on the extreme side, and that the work might regularly spill over into their personal time, and you may lose the best candidates.



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