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How To Create A Home Personnel Folder — And Why Bother

How To Create A Home Personnel Folder — And Why Bother

    Do you keep copies of your medical records? What about your tax returns? Most people do, because the information in those documents is important enough that it doesn’t matter whether your doctor or the IRS has a copy — you want to have a copy, too. The same goes for a wide variety of employment documents that many people keep at the office, if they keep them at all. But there are plenty of arguments against keeping your personnel information at work. Instead, it’s worth considering keeping copies at home and creating a home personnel folder.

    There are plenty of reasons you may need to check your copies of your employment information even when you aren’t at work: if you’re out with the flu, that memo on sick leave isn’t going to do you much good in your office. The same goes if you get a better job offer and you want to check your current contract. And if the worst happens and you lose your job, you may not be able to get copies of all the files left in your desk.

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    Documents That Belong In Your Home Personnel Folder

    Employment Contracts: While not all employers require written contracts, many do. They can take the form of formal offers of employment, letters of agreement or other documents — but no matter what form it takes, you should have a copy at home. While many people feel comfortable shredding their contracts as soon as their employment ends, it’s worth keeping your contract around for quite a bit longer. At the minimum, you should keep a contract through the expiration of any clauses (i.e. non-compete clauses), although it’s reasonable in most cases to keep copies of your contracts indefinitely.

    Benefits: From your parking space to your dental insurance, your benefits package is full of important information. As your benefits technically make up a portion of your compensation, it’s worthwhile to keep a copy on hand — and make sure that you’re taking full advantage of what your employer offers you. Furthermore, because your benefits can affect your home life — health insurance, anyone? — being able to consult that information at home can be crucial.

    Performance Reviews: In theory, performance reviews are your employer’s way of telling you where you’re doing a good job and where you can improve. In reality, most companies treat performance reviews as an easy way to determine promotions and raises. Keeping track of such information can help you find an opportunity or two with your employer.

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    Payroll Records: If things go south at your company and you find yourself in a position to file for unemployment insurance, you’re likely to be asked for certain payroll records. If there’s a problem processing your claim, you could be asked for several years worth of documentation. They’ll also want at least some of your tax records — in the U.S., most states require at least a copy of your W-2 form. The requirements may differ dramatically in other countries.

    Updates: All those memos and updates that get passed around the office regarding your health insurance, reporting times and anything else your supervisor or human resources manager comes up with seem like great wastepaper liner. But a surprising number of them are worth keeping, at least in the short term. It requires discretion to determine which updates are worth filling, but generally those affecting either your compensation or your responsibilities are worth keeping.

    Job Description: Your job description may change during your time with your employer, but it’s important to keep a copy of each version. It’s not so that you can argue against doing a task just because it’s not in your job description — but if you’re routinely taking care of tasks above your pay grade, bringing a copy of your job description to your supervisor might help you get a raise. If possible, it’s worthwhile to keep a copy of your resume at the time you receive each job description so that you can show your progression in terms of skills and experience.

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    Documentation of Problems: There are problems in every office situation, and some of them may require documentation. If, for instance, a co-worker is behaving inappropriately, you may feel the need to keep a record of the issue. Keep a copy of that record at home — in some cases, it might be worthwhile to keep the only copy at home. Such records can actually cause problems if they’re found laying around the office.

    Your Actual Personnel Record: In most places, you have a legal right to take a look at your personnel record any time you care to march down to the Human Resources department. You might consider asking to do just that — frame your question in a way that won’t lead those HR folks to file you in the back of the drawer when you’re done, though.

    Keeping Track Of All The Paperwork

    All these records can add up to a nice stack of paper. Ideally, you’ll go out and buy a bunch of folders and a filing cabinet — but that may not be a realistic option. Instead, any neat organization system that allows you to easily access any papers that you’re after works just fine. Tabbed folders and a box may be the best solution for you (as long as you store it somewhere dry).

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    You’ll want to hang on to most of this paperwork for a while. If there’s a problem with your employer (or former employer), you might be asked to provide documentation reaching back several years. If you haven’t run into any problems after four years, you’re generally considered to be in the clear. That’s the same length of time your employer is required to keep documentation.

    If you have any other suggestions for documents that need to go in a home personnel folder, please share them in the comments.

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    Last Updated on June 12, 2019

    Top 10 Ways to Lead More Effectively with Humor

    Top 10 Ways to Lead More Effectively with Humor

    Humor and laughter provide so many rewards. Studies have shown 20 seconds of laughter yield the same benefits as 3 minutes of hard rowing. A Robert Half International study reported 84% of executives believe a worker with a good sense of humor does a better job. Incorporating humor more effectively in the workplace allows you to defuse difficult situations, reduce stress, create attention for new ideas, build rapport, and be a more approachable and memorable leader.

    With those benefits, it behooves you to hone your workplace comedic skills. So in the tradition of David Letterman, here are the top 10 ways to more effectively lead with humor!

    #10. Look for Joy in Life

    An important step is continually looking for joy throughout your life. This happens in a variety of ways:

    • Focus less on yourself and more on helping others. Need help? Read “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” the classic by Dale Carnegie.
    • Laugh more – kids reportedly laugh 400 times per day vs. 15 times for adults. Aim for laughing 40 times daily to be at least 10% of your former self!
    • Regularly read humorous comic strips and look for quips and funny comments in your reading.
    • Even in challenging situations, hunt for something funny or humorous you can take away.

    #9. Learn What Makes You Laugh

    If you’re trying to laugh 40 times daily, it’s important to know what makes you laugh and have ready access to laugh-provokers. Figure out 107 things which make you laugh. Unrealistic? Hardly! Why 107? Because 107 is funnier than 100! Here’s a recipe for listing what makes you laugh by simply identifying:

    • 13 Movies
    • 11 TV Shows
    • 5 Words or Phrases
    • 19 Personal Stories
    • 5 Cartoons
    • 7 Audio or Video Pieces
    • 11 Comedians
    • 7 TV Personalities
    • 7 Funny Photos
    • 7 People You Know
    • 15 of Anything Else
    • TOTAL = 107 Funny Things

    Collect & save these humor starters in a “Smile File” when you quickly need a laugh or comedic inspiration.

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    #8. Use Your Own Comedic Material

    Personal experiences are the most genuine humor sources for effective leadership. Look for humor in situations from your own life:

    • Funny things you have said or others have said to you
    • Pratfalls, be they mental, interpersonal, & physical
    • Embarrassing moments or unexpected happenings
    • Times of change or learning
    • Difficult life events (yes, even these can be humor sources)

    When turning personal situations into comedic material, remember lessons learned from a childhood humor staple: Knock-Knock Jokes. These simple jokes work because the knock-knock structure highlights familiar situations, uses only essential words and phrases, and clearly signals a laughing opportunity. They also demonstrate how humor springs from surprise. The laughs come from not knowing who or what exactly is behind the door based on the initial response to “Who’s there?”

    #7. Adapt Somebody Else’s Material

    Beyond your own experiences, there’s a tradition of “borrowing & adapting” (I didn’t say stealing) funny stuff from others. That’s why old-time comedian Milton Berle was called the “Thief of Bad Gags.”

    Part of borrowing successfully is using easily accessible humor sources in ways many don’t consider. Beyond simply Googling “funny” in front of quotes, one-liners, definitions, pictures, or videos, here are two other common sources you can adapt:

    • Cartoons – You can use cartoons in various ways by showing one in a presentation, telling the cartoon’s story (potentially making yourself a character) without any images, or using its punch line as a starting point for new humor.
    • Comedians – Mainstream comedians’ jokes or catch phrases are another source to modify and adapt to your personality or work situation. Watch lots of comedians and learn how professionals do it so well.

    #6. Understand Your Audience

    Using humor in a leadership position requires understanding boundaries on its proper use. It all starts with really understanding your audience by:

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    • Paying attention to top management’s attitudes toward humor.
    • Knowing the audience’s composition – this directly affects which humor types are appropriate.
    • Loving your audience as much or more than you poke fun at them.
    • Inviting others into humor since you can’t assume they share your same humor sensibilities.

    In case you’re contemplating using ad lib humor, completely knowing your audience is even more vital. Ad-libs have the potential for going horribly wrong because audience sensibilities have been misjudged. It’s very beneficial to actually plan and rehearse ad libs. It may sound odd, but identify common work situations you encounter and think through what usually goes wrong or provides a source for potential humor. Work out some “safe” funny comebacks to use as “planned” ad libs.

    #5. Know the Rules and Boundaries

    There are blatant humor no-no’s in the workplace which are quite acceptable for an onstage comedian. At work, avoid harmful practical jokes or pranks, heavily sarcastic comments, and humor rooted in religious, sexual, ethnic, or racial themes. Think you know your work setting well enough to tread on this dangerous ground? Here’s some advice: DON’T. The way questionable humor will be perceived by a workplace audience is too much of an unknown to take big risks when your career is at stake.

    Use this checkpoint to actually see if your intended workplace humor is SAFE. To pass the SAFE test, all of these statements need to be true regarding your joke, comment, or image:

    • I can Say/Show this to my mother.
    • It wouldn’t Anger me if I were the butt of the joke.
    • This wouldn’t trigger an FCC violation
    • Everyone in the audience will be able to get it.

    With even a hint of one false answer, dramatically modify your idea or better yet, abandon it and start over.

    #4. Get over Yourself

    Effective leaders don’t take themselves too seriously. They’re comfortable laughing at themselves and letting others be funny as well. Leaders should become adept at appropriately using self-deprecating humor, i.e., self-directed humor downplaying your own talents, stature, or accomplishments

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    You don’t want to use self-deprecating humor on simply any topic, however. It’s most effectively & appropriately used in:

    • Situations where you’re comfortable & self-confident
    • Areas where your credibility & competence are clearly established
    • Ways that fit your known personality & sensibilities

    Remember – when trying to borrow someone else’s self-deprecating humor, you need to share that person’s perspective & situation. If not, it’s simply deprecating! I once heard a decidedly non-technical Marketing VP call out “data geeks” in the audience. While that’s what they called themselves, she wasn’t a part of their group, and her comment, intended to build affiliation, fell completely flat.

    #3. Need Humor Ideas? Just Look Around

    The workplace is filled with situations lending themselves to comedy. Humor springs from exaggeration, wordplay, misunderstandings, ambiguity, contradictions, paradoxes, pain, and inconsistencies. If you work in any type of business or organizational setting, there are plenty of these situations to go around!

    As a leader, it’s your role to use the proper opptunities to encourage and employ humor successfully by ensuring that:

    • Your humor makes others feel good about themselves.
    • Hurtful fun isn’t made of those less tenured than you in the organization.
    • You don’t use humor when agitated since it can lead to apparent meanness.

    #2. Surround Yourself with Joy

    If you’re looking for more joy and levity in leadership, surround yourself with joyful people. These are people who are funny, easily spur laughter, and routinely cheer people up through their presence.

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    Cultivate relationships with these types of people. Spend time with them, learn from their successful uses of humor, and emulate elements of their approaches that work for you.

    Beyond basking in the joy these people create, select 3 or 4 of them to be an informal comedy team. As your comedy team, solicit their opinions to help you generate and refine humor ideas. They can also provide perspectives on potentially questionable humor material that makes it through the SAFE test, but still feels like it might not be right for a workplace audience.

    #1. Dive into the Fun

    Ultimately, the most important part of successfully using humor as a leader is actually sharing it in the workplace. Here are a few final tips to keep in mind:

    • Practice your humor in appropriate, low-risk settings to find out what works before trying it out with a bigger audience.
    • Signal a laughing opportunity through your words, actions, and tone. It’s also a good practice to give people “permission” to laugh in the workplace.
    • Finally, be earnest in using humor; don’t focus on laughs so much as lightening and adding fun into work settings.

    Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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