Tuesday, October 09, 2007

October 15, 2007


The following is an excerpt from my new book, "MORPHING INTO THE REAL WORLD - A Handbook for Entering the Work Force" which is a survival guide for young people as they transition into adult life. The book offers considerable advice regarding how to manage our personal and professional lives. As a part of this, I found it necessary to discuss the legal ramifications of employment.

Do's and Don'ts in the Workpace (Part I)

Life is full of rules and regulations. The only reason we write rules is to protect us from those who would break them. In past essays, I've discussed several unwritten rules for acclimating into the corporate culture. Now we will focus on the formal written rules you will be dealing with in your professional life, along with commentary on how to deal with them.

RULE #1 - GET EVERYTHING IN WRITING. Like it or not, we now live in a litigious society where lawsuits are issued at the drop of a hat. When you first join a new company you will likely be inundated with documentation requiring your signature. Be sure to review the terms and conditions carefully before signing anything and make sure you retain a copy of all documentation for your personal files at home. If you have any questions, ask for clarification. Some of it will only apply to your term of employment, others may follow you for quite some time thereafter (sometimes in perpetuity). Some of the documentation will pertain to government regulations, such as for income taxes and social security, some will relate to benefit programs, such as your health care providers, and some relates specifically to your employer. Most will use standard legal language. Regardless, read everything carefully and, when in doubt, seek suitable legal advice.


As a new employee, you must be cognizant of your employment status which is defined for government reporting purposes. There are two types of employment status:

EXEMPT - This represents professional workers who are paid a salary as opposed to an hourly wage (typically compensated on a monthly basis). The term "exempt" means the worker is exempt from certain wage and hour laws. For example, exempt workers may work many hours and are not paid overtime.

NON-EXEMPT - The opposite of exempt. This is normally administrative workers or laborers who are paid an hourly wage and subject to certain wage and hour laws. For example, they are limited in terms of the number of hours they may work (such as 40), are paid a special rate for overtime (extra hours), and may be entitled to specific breaks during the work day.


Regardless of your employment status, there will be defined working hours you will have to observe. The only difference is that non-exempt workers must watch the number of hours they work more closely than exempt workers which is inconsequential. Non-exempt employees can be docked for pay if they are late to work or leave early.

Most employees will follow a fixed schedule of working hours, such as 9:00am to 5:00pm. However, some companies make use of "Flex Time" for exempt employees. This is a time management program that allows employees to keep more flexible hours than a fixed schedule. They may come in early one day (and leave early), and late another (and leave later). This allows employees to make personal appointments either early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Regardless, they are still expected to work a certain number of hours during the day and week.

The amount of time allowed for lunch varies from company to company; most allow 30-45 minutes for lunch.

This emphasis on starting/stopping times, both in the workplace and in school, has created a generation of "clock watchers," people more interested in counting the number of hours they spend at work as opposed to the work they are to produce. Not long ago, I was visiting a client in Ohio where a young programmer bragged to me he had worked 14 hours that day. I asked him what he had produced during that time. After much hemming and hawing he admitted he hadn't actually produced much of anything. I admonished him that he should be more concerned about the volume of work he was producing as opposed to the amount of time he spent producing it, particularly since he was an exempt worker.

In every work day you will see people slowly getting started for the day and ramping down towards the end. Being a baseball fan, I would often use the analogy that the work day was like a professional baseball game, particularly for exempt workers. First, the players do not show up at game time, they are usually at the ballpark earlier to warm up and take batting practice. And second, they give it their all throughout the game until the last out is made. In other words, if you are a slow starter for the day, try to get to work a little earlier so you are awake by the start of the business day, and; give it your all until the close of the business day. After all, isn't this what you are being paid for?

Personal Time, Sick Days, Vacations and Holidays

During the work day you will be entitled to take some breaks to refresh yourself. Such breaks are invaluable for clearing your head and refocusing on your job. Of course there will be those "time wasters" who will abuse this privilege and take more breaks than normal. This type of person is putting his personal interests ahead of everyone else's. In other words, he is not a team player. Be leary of such people as management will inevitably weed them out.

You should not have any problems taking a break if you have developed a reputation for delivering on assignments and have developed a trust with your boss.

In terms of sick days, you will be entitled to take a certain number, but understand this: they are for illness, not for vacations or hangovers. Nothing raises suspicions with management more than excessive use of sick days. Some companies even mandate that if you are sick, you give some form of evidence to that effect, e.g., a doctor's note.

You will also be entitled to take a certain number of vacation days during the year. Check with company policy to see if they must be taken as contiguous days or randomly, such as on a Friday now and then. Perhaps the hardest part in terms of taking a vacation is scheduling them. It is not uncommon to have to request your vacation many months in advance. Because of the need to keep your department operational, a manager does not want to strip the staff down to a point where it cannot adequately service its customers. Consequently, vacation schedules must be arranged in advance. Further, vacation schedules may be based on seniority. This means you, as the Newbie, are often the last one to schedule a vacation.

In terms of holidays, you will be entitled to standard days, e.g., New Year's Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas. However, your company may also observe other days, such as Armed Forces Day, Veterans Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Presidents Day, Chanukah, etc. Consult management for all of the holidays you are entitled to.

Next week in Part II I'll describe such things as Moonlighting, Discussing Salaries, Job Titles, and Employment Contracts.

If you would like to discuss this with me in more depth, please do not hesitate to send me an e-mail.

OUR BRYCE'S LAW OF THE WEEK therefore is... "Focus more on what is to be produced and less on the number of hours to produce it."


Friends, as mentioned, we have just published a new book entitled, "MORPHING INTO THE REAL WORLD - A Handbook for Entering the Work Force" which is a survival guide for young people as they transition into adult life. Reviewer Bill Petrey praised it by saying, "Every young person entering the workplace for the first time should be given a copy of this book." The book includes chapters to describe how a young person should organize themselves, how to adapt to the corporate culture, develop their career, and improve themselves professionally and socially. Basically, its 208 pages of good sound advice to jump start the young person into the work force. Corporate Human Resource departments will also find this book useful for setting new hires on the right track in their career. It not only reinforces the many formal rules as contained in corporate policy manuals, but also includes the subtle unwritten rules we must all observe while working with others. The book lists for $25 and can be ordered online through MBA or your local book store. Complementing the book is a one day seminar of the same name which can be purchased separately for $4,000.00 (U.S.) plus instructor travel expenses. For more information on both the book and the seminar, visit our corporate web site at:
ISBN: 978-0-9786182-5-4

LIKE TO WIN AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF MY NEW BOOK? Be the first one to e-mail me a message with your name and shipping address. In the SUBJECT or BODY of the e-mail, be sure to write "Morphing Book 101507". E-mail it to me at Only one free book per person. I'll announce the winner on next week's broadcast.


Let me preface my remarks by saying I've been involved in the I.T. industry for over 30 years now and have seen a lot, particularly banking systems. In fact the Japanese used our "PRIDE" methodologies to design their latest generation of banking systems which are considered state of the art and ahead of their American counterparts. With this said, I recently went to my bank to make a deposit. I know most of the tellers there and enjoy a good relationship with them. However, on this occasion there was a new teller who dutifully processed my deposit and upon looking at my account told me, "Mr. Bryce I see you are not taking advantage of all of our on-line banking services. Do you want a pin number or a debit card? How about direct deposit and on-line payment of bills?"

I politely declined the offer and said, "No, that won't be necessary."

She kept pressing the issue and said, "Don't you want to know what your up-to-the-minute balance is?" I told her I shouldn't have a bank account if I didn't know what was in it.

This got me thinking about our on-line banking systems and how people interact with them. I've been writing checks and balancing a check book manually for about 37 years now. I don't find it complicated and actually enjoy balancing my check book; it's good mental gymnastics for me. I particularly like it when I find a bank error. My children though are different and take full advantage of on-line banking systems. They can't be bored with balancing a bank account, they like direct deposit, and often use their debit cards. I guess to each their own.

Somehow I've always had a problem with allowing others to electronically tap into my bank account and have resisted it for years. I know they have some very good security measures over such transactions, but I still have an uneasy feeling about allowing others to directly tap into my account. Call me old fashioned.

Actually, I don't find banking to be very complicated. I probably write 10-15 checks a month and make a couple of deposits. To me, writing a check and updating my register doesn't require a rocket scientist. True, I have to apply postage to pay my bills by mail, but I see this as a very nominal charge. I also have to visit my bank to make a deposit, but I find this to be a pleasant distraction from my work.

I'm sure these on-line banking systems provide some handy services, but I don't believe in change just for the sake of change. If this is how I like to operate, what's wrong with that?

I remember years ago when my grandfather passed away in Buffalo, New York, we went up to help my grandmother tidy up his affairs. My father was rooting around in the basement and found a small box containing quite a sum of money. My Dad confronted his mother with it and said, "Mom, why are you keeping such a large wad of cash laying around?"

"Well Sonny," she explained, "Don't forget the banks failed one time (a reference to the Great Depression), and they can fail again."

I guess I feel somewhat the same way and basically don't trust on-line banking systems. Even though I've been intimate with banking systems for a long time, I'll probably be the last person to make use of them. Don't forget I'll probably also be the last guy to buy a cell phone as well.

Yea, I know what you're saying, "This guy is out of step with the times."

Maybe, but I also know what's in my bank account and know how to pay my bills on time. Like I said, call me "old fashioned."

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.


Folks, a couple of years ago I started to include my "Pet Peeve of the Week" in these "Management Visions" podcasts. They have become so popular that I now syndicate them through the Internet and they are available for republication in other media. To this end, I have created a separate web page for my writings which you can find at Look for the section, "The Bryce is Right!" Hope you enjoy them.


I received a few comments regarding my "Pet Peeve" on "The Secret to Success":

An M.B. in Clearwater, Florida wrote:


Thank you Tim for validating my experience when I was forced to leave my former career (psychiatric social work) and go into the business world (real estate development). There were no jobs available in my field down here, so I had to use my typing and organizing skills to survive.

Having the high ethical standards common to social workers, I was appalled when I discovered that the term "business ethics" really is an oxymoron. I had always thought that was just a joke. It created constant conflict for me and resulted in my quitting a couple of jobs to avoid doing things that would have compromised my principles. One boss told me I had the brains and ability to be a Vice President of the company if I would "just leave those ridiculously high ethical standards of yours at the door. After all, this is business". He was one of those church-going, hypocrite bosses you wrote about. I asked him if he understood that I was working for another boss a whole lot higher up than he was!

I believe the resulting stress from my literally feeling like I had been deposited on another planet full of sociopaths depressed my immune system, and is one of the reasons why I came down with the deadly disease I have.

I am glad you are warning young people what they are in for. Considering the way parents coddle their kids today, they are in for one hell of a shock."

A D.B. in Tampa wrote:

"I could have told you that, all rich people are flaming assholes to the core.

You should see how cheap they are when they come in to buy a funeral for a "loved one," talk about cheap! I had one who wanted to bury his mother in a pine box, while he was driving a Bentley. Never ceases to amaze me."

Thanks for your comments.

Keep those cards and letters coming.

MBA is an international management consulting firm specializing in Information Resource Management. We offer training, consulting, and writing services in the areas of Enterprise Engineering, Systems Engineering, Data Base Engineering, Project Management, Methodologies and Repositories. For information, call us at 727/786-4567. For a complete listing of my essays, see the "PRIDE" Special Subject Bulletins section of our corporate web site.

Our corporate web page is at:

Management Visions is a presentation of M. Bryce & Associates, a division of M&JB Investment Company of Palm Harbor, Florida, USA. The program is produced on a weekly basis and updated on Sundays. It is available in versions for RealPlayer, Microsoft Media Player, and MP3 suitable for Podcasting. See our web site for details. You'll find our broadcast listed in several Podcast and Internet Search engines, as well as Apples' iTunes.

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Copyright © 2007 by M&JB Investment Company of Palm Harbor, Florida, USA. All rights reserved. "PRIDE" is the registered trademark of M&JB Investment Company.

This is Tim Bryce reporting.

Since 1971: "Software for the finest computer - the Mind."


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