TEAM BUILDING AND MAINTENANCE

INTRODUCTION

T eam building is an important tool for the construction supervisor. In Chapter 2, it was recognized that, whereas craft workers work with the tools of their trade, supervisors primarily work with and through people. Managing and organizing people to perform at a high level and to effectively carry out the tasks assigned by the supervisor are fundamental supervisory responsibilities.

Coordination of the activities and efforts of various entities on the construction site is also an important responsibility of the supervisor. The foreman must coordinate the activities of the crew with those of other crews in the work area. Higher-level supervisors coordinate the activities of multiple crews within their span of control, and they also work with supervisors from other companies to coordinate the work of all crews toward efficient project execution. The most effective way to coordinate the activities of individuals or crews is by forming them into teams.

is not a classical craft skill taught through apprenticeship. is a management skill that must be learned by most supervisors after they have completed craft training. Some new supervisors have a certain amount of natural ability to bring workers together to perform as a team. The ability to lead fellow workers and to coordinate their activities, forming them into a cohesive work unit, is one of the qualities that brings an individual craft worker to the attention of management, resulting in management moving this person into a supervisory position. However, natural team builders are not found often enough to meet the continual demand for new supervisors. In addition, those with natural team-building skills can improve the skills they already have to enhance the performance of their teams and the teams with which they interact.

Thus, team building is a skill that needs to be taught to most new supervisors and that can be improved even in those that have some natural team-building ability.

This chapter will begin by recognizing the need for effective construction teams. It will next define the meaning of a team in the construction context and then move on to review several team-building theories. It will discuss practical team building and maintenance of an ongoing team. Finally, it will review successful practices in a team environment.

 

THE CRITICAL NEED FOR EFFECTIVE CONSTRUCTION TEAMS

As the construction industry changes, the demand increases for highly effective teams to successfully execute projects. Among the drivers are:

Changes in the workforce

Changes in the breadth of company services

Changes in project owner expectations

Changes in technology incorporated into the product

Changes in technology available to execute construction

Changes in project organization

Construction has always been highly dependent upon the cooperation of individuals and entities to achieve project goals. Only in very rare cases does an individual procure land, design the facility to go on the land, and then build the project from beginning to end. When this happens, the project is usually a small residence in a rural area.

Projects of any complexity require many people, with specialized skills, each to contribute to the project. Commercial construction projects are executed by a large number of focused specialty companies, employing workers with narrow craft skills in a wide variety of areas. The trend is toward more specialization and the employment of larger numbers of lower-skilled workers.

Consider changes in the workforce. Craft skills are becoming more specialized with varying levels of skill. Take, for example, the carpenter. The broadly skilled carpenter of several generations ago that could work throughout a project from layout to finish work has given way to the framer or rough carpenter, the finish carpenter, the cabinet maker, and other such classifications of carpenter. There are fewer highly skilled carpenters who excel at such complex skills as work layout and finish carpentry, and there are more less-skilled carpenters who can competently perform elements of the work in a narrower area if supported by a few highly skilled craft workers. This trend will continue as prefabrication becomes more pervasive throughout the industry. A few skilled craft workers are required for layout and quality control, but most craft workers can be less-skilled component assemblers, assembling components manufactured offsite. This trend will continue because it drives the cost of construction down, while providing access to a broader pool of potential workers who are less skilled.

For many companies, areas of specialization are becoming more narrowly focused. Also, new companies are starting up in niche areas. For example, the electrical industry has expanded to include not only companies providing traditional electrical work in power and lighting but now companies that specialize in low-voltage work in such areas as electronics, controls, security, data, and communications.

In related parts of the industry, companies are working to broaden the services that they can provide. An example is in material supply and distribution, where traditional suppliers are expanding their services to provide logistics support to help contractors better manage their materials on the site. Thus those who traditionally only entered the site occasionally to deliver materials are becoming part of the job site team, involved in job site operations in new ways.

The bar for the traditional measures of a successful construction project based upon time, budget, quality, and safety is continually being raised. Owners are demanding the execution of projects faster, at lower cost, with zero defects, and zero tolerance for accidents. The understanding of objectives defining the successful project for contractors is also being refined. For example, more stress is being placed on profitability, not just being “under budget.” New objectives are being recognized, such as maintaining strong customer relations with an expanding understanding of who the customer is. Chapter 3 described the importance being ascribed to customer relations.

Additionally, projects are becoming more complex, embracing new technologies, in terms of both materials and equipment used in the project and construction tools and equipment employed to execute the project. Newly defined outcomes for completed facilities include such things as energy efficiency and minimized environmental impact. New technologies, rapidly gaining acceptance on the design side, are driving changes on the production side as well. Building Information Modeling (BIM) is making great changes in the way construction is executed from concept through design and construction and on into facility operation and maintenance.

New approaches to organizing and managing construction projects are being developed and more broadly embraced. Public sector owners are gaining more latitude in how they can procure construction services and package construction projects. Implementation of new concepts of project organization and management, such as the application of lean principles to construction operations, as described in Chapter 15 are changing relations among project participants.

All of these changes are making an understanding of teams continually more important. The supervisor must understand how to organize teams, how to operate within a team, how to maintain a team’s effectiveness, and what teams can do for the project.

Foreman
Craft worker 1 Craft worker 2 Craft worker 3 Craft worker 4

Figure 5.1 The Basic Crew as a Team

 

THE CONSTRUCTION TEAM

The concept of a team in the context of a construction project is very simple but has extensive ramifications. A construction team can be defined simply as a group of two or more individuals engaged in a common activity.

Certainly, one of the most basic teams in construction is a craft crew. This could be under the leadership of a lead craft person, or a foreman. It can include craft workers of varying skill types and levels. Figure 5.1 illustrates a simple crew based team.

As the project grows in size, companies will employ multiple crews, each operating as a team, in which case the company field operation could be considered a super-team under the leadership of a general foreman or superintendent. Figure 5.2 illustrates the company field team or super-team.

On most projects, there will be various specialty contractors, each with their own team structure, but as a whole, they form the project field team. This team is typically under the leadership of the project superintendent. Figure 5.3 illustrates the project field team.

A subset of the project field team is composed of the supervisors of the various trade contractors that form the supervisory team for the project. This is a horizontal concept of team across the project. Figure 5.4 illustrates the project supervisory team.

THE CONSTRUCTION TEAM

The concept of a team in the context of a construction project is very simple but has extensive ramifications. A construction team can be defined simply as a group of two or more individuals engaged in a common activity.

Certainly, one of the most basic teams in construction is a craft crew. This could be under the leadership of a lead craft person, or a foreman. It can include craft workers of varying skill types and levels. Figure 5.1 illustrates a simple crew based team.

As the project grows in size, companies will employ multiple crews, each operating as a team, in which case the company field operation could be considered a super-team under the leadership of a general foreman or superintendent. Figure 5.2 illustrates the company field team or super-team.

On most projects, there will be various specialty contractors, each with their own team structure, but as a whole, they form the project field team. This team is typically under the leadership of the project superintendent. Figure 5.3 illustrates the project field team.

A subset of the project field team is composed of the supervisors of the various trade contractors that form the supervisory team for the project. This is a horizontal concept of team across the project. Figure 5.4 illustrates the project supervisory team.

General Foreman
Crew 2 Crew 3

Crew 1

Figure 5.2 The Company Super-Team
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Project Superintendent
Specialty Contractor 1 Specialty Contractor 2 General Contractor Specialty Contractor 3 Specialty Contractor 4
Figure 5.3 Project Field Team

One might also consider a vertical team concept encompassed within each construction company engaged on the site. It starts, again, with the crew under a foreman, and expands to the super-team described above with multiple crews supervised by a general foreman or superintendent. The company team for a project would include participants from the company office, such as the project manager, the purchasing agent, the yard manager, and various other company-level people from such divisions as accounting, payroll, estimating, and human resources. Figure 5.5 illustrates the company project team.

Another concept of the project team moves outside the context of a single company, or the context of field operations and would include managers from the various trade contractors, the general contractor or construction manager, and designers, aswell as the project owner. Figure 5.6 illustrates the highest-level project management team.

It becomes clear that a construction project has a multitude of teams, many interrelated. Team members on some teams participate as team leaders on other teams. One conclusion is very important, however. A clear understanding of teams is of critical importance to the supervisor.

TEAM CHARACTERISTICS

Consider the characteristics of successful team members, successful team leaders, and successful teams. It might help to keep in mind high-performance teams you

Project Superintendent

Specialty Contractor 1

Specialty Contractor 2 Specialty Contractor 3

Specialty Contractor 4

Supervisor

Supervisor Supervisor

Supervisor

Figure 5.4 Project Supervisory Team
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Figure 5.5 Company Project Team

have known. This could be in the context of sports, entertainment, the military, or wherever teams operate.

Characteristics of Successful Team Members

For a team to be successful, it needs to have high-performing members. Some of the characteristics necessary for a highly performing team member include the following:

Technical skill

Able to communicate well

Ability to take direction

Willingness to give up some personal interests in the interest of team success

Desire to help teammates operate at a higher level

A strong work ethic

Figure 5.6 Project Management Team
Many sports stars have reported that early in their careers, they sought to gain recognition as a superstar, feeling that this would lead the team to greatness. Only after they discovered that team success depended on team performance, not just on the performance of a single great player, did such stars really become the superstar they desired to be.


Successful team leaders will display the characteristics of successful team members, but additional characteristics are needed, as well, such as:

Honesty and integrity

Respect for others, both on and off the team

Vision

Confidence in the team members

A problem solver that enjoys challenges

A strong desire to lead

Many successful team members do not want to be the team leader. Many successful team members do not succeed as team leaders because they lack leadership characteristics. Chapter 7 expands significantly on what it takes to be a strong leader.

Characteristics of Successful Teams

Great team performance tends to be a fleeting thing. It is very difficult to maintain a high level of performance over an extended period of time. Certainly, a successful team needs to have successful members and a successful team leader. In addition, the team needs to have such characteristics as:

The ability to develop well-defined team performance objectives


Mutual, internal accountability

High credibility and trust

To perform at a high level, the team members must know exactly what is expected of the team and of each member on the team. Any lack of definition will result in hesitancy, and hence, diminished performance.

Accountability is important in performance at any level. For a team, there is hardly any stronger motivation to perform at a high level than the motivation to support other team members and not to let the team, or any of its members, down.

Credibility and trust are essential to a high-performance team. Each member must trust the other members. Each must trust the team leader and have confidence that following the leader will result in the best possible outcome. When the team makes commitments, the members must believe that the commitments will be kept. Those outside the team must also believe that commitments made by the team will be achieved. Chapter 15 gives more insight into the vital role played by credibility

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when dealing with the effects of unreliable and reliable planning on a construction project.
TEAM FORMATION

Various theories of team building have been proposed over the years. The predominant one divides team development into four distinct phases: forming, storming, norming, and performing. A variation on this theory adds a final phase of decommissioning, recognizing that teams, especially those involved in projects, are temporary in nature.

Forming

In the forming stage, individuals are brought together to form the team. There are many ways in which teams are formed, depending on the circumstances. Sometimes, team members are brought together by selection, each team member being chosen for a specific set of skills. Many times, teams come together based upon availability, rather than as a result of having the opportunity to select based upon specific characteristics.

During this forming phase, the base level of expectations is defined for the team and for each member. Common ground is identified for the members, such as common goals and similarities among members. An inventory of team member capabilities is made, and these capabilities are analyzed in the context of the team needs. This analysis determines such things as how evenly matched the skills and capabilities of the members are and what unique capabilities are brought to the team by each member.

As the team is forming, team members get to know one another. They begin bonding and developing an initial level of trust. Common goals will be agreed upon and the members will express their dependence upon one another. Leadership emerges either by a formal selection process or through a more unstructured process of the leader beginning to assume some control.

Storming

During the storming phase, team members identify and resolve issues of power and control. As differences are recognized, members try to work out solutions. Leadership begins to exert its influence and team members react to this influence in various ways. Some members appreciate the leadership and fall naturally into a supporting role. Other members might reject the new leadership, either because they envision themselves as the leader or because they do not think the one assuming the leadership role is leading where they want to go or in a manner in which they want to be led. Settling these issues of leadership can often be a stormy process. During the storming stage, team members tend to act more independently, testing limits and determining what is allowable and what is not, and what the consequences are of engaging in behavior that is not allowed.

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Norming

Successful teams move past the storming phase and into the norming phase. Team members begin displaying trust in one another and in the leadership. Communication skills among team members are developed and improved. Team resources are again evaluated and external resources are sought to augment team resources. Based upon team member capabilities, together with a considerable amount of negotiating and consensus building, roles are assumed and assigned. Team processes are developed for various aspects of team operations. The team begins to perform useful tasks.

Performing

Successful teams will achieve the performing phase, where the team works together collaboratively. A unique team identity is developed. Team members begin to feel comfortable with their roles and with other team members. They become interdependent upon one another, trusting their fellow team members to carry their part of the team responsibilities. At this point, the team begins to develop effective and valuable solutions and to produce at a high level.

Not all teams achieve this high level of performance. Some teams never get past the storming phase. Such teams are rarely productive and eventually fall apart or must be disbanded. Many teams operate within the norming phase, not quite achieving the cohesiveness of a great team. They will achieve some level of performance but seem unable to gain that ultimate level of finely tuned team performance.

MAINTAINING TEAM EFFECTIVENESS

Once the team is formed, continued team performance at a high level is not automatic. A number of factors affect team performance.

If the team composition changes, the team as initially developed ceases to exist. The team-building process must be repeated. This can generally be done in an abbreviated manner, but it still needs to be done. A change in team composition could be the result of a team member being reassigned or leaving the project. It could also take the form of a new team member being acquired. In any case, the team must reform.

Maintaining Team Effectiveness at the Crew Level

The fact that team performance is significantly impacted by loss of a team member has several ramifications for work crews. Whenever a worker calls off, there is a significant negative effect on the crew. Even though another worker can be reassigned to the crew for the day, the crew (team) does not have the same composition, and hence productivity is impacted, as well as quality and safety. If a crew member comes in late, the team is again impacted negatively during the time the

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crew member is not present and until the crew member can be integrated into the day’s activities.

Sustaining high-level team performance is a difficult task. For many reasons, physical and psychological, individual team members perform at different levels at different times The team leader needs to be cognizant of the performance of each team member, and if performance is substandard for that team member, the team leader must determine why and what can be done to remedy substandard performance. This is most apparent in ongoing crew performance in construction. The foreman must always be aware of individual worker performance and when that lags, she must determine why and what can be done to bring the crew member back to strong participation on the crew.

Over time, team performance will vary, and if the team is ongoing, team performance will tend to deteriorate. Team performance can be renewed by repeating some of the team building steps enumerated above. Team performance can also be reinvigorated by restating performance goals and objectives, or by establishing new objectives consistent with the team mission and current status.

If team objectives are too distant, team members will lose focus, so if performance is dropping off, one way to renew performance is to develop interim milestones so that shorter bursts of performance can be used. Rewarding team performance with verbal recognition will often encourage continued strong performance. Awarding recognitions of superior performance or strong safety records also helps. Finally, supporting team identity by providing crew or project identifiers, such as hats, tee-shirts, or stickers for hard hats, can also be effective.

Maintaining Team Effectiveness at the Project Level

Each time a new project begins, participating entities assign their work teams based upon capability and availability. However, the project leader rarely gets to select who is on the project team. A partnering process has been developed to jump start the team-building process on new projects.

The project owner is responsible for establishing the new project as a partnering project. Key representatives of all participating entities are brought together for a facilitated team-building exercise. This exercise can last a few hours for smaller, simpler projects of shorter duration, or could last for several days for larger, more complex projects.

Participants are led through a number of bonding exercises that break down barriers and establish lines of communication. The group discusses goals and objectives for the project overall, and for the entities engaged in the project. They recognize significant consistency in goals, such as a desire for a safe project and striving to complete the project quickly, efficiently, and with high quality. A nonbind-ing contract is drawn up outlining the common goals and objectives and establishing a commitment by all to work to help each entity achieve their goals. The contract is signed by the various entities. Though the document is nonbinding, writing and signing a document reinforces the moral responsibilities and commitments.

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The objective of the partnering meeting is to jump start the team-building process. It tends to bring project teams together more quickly and more effectively. However, as the project progresses, the effects of this initial team-building exercise tend to dissipate, so from time to time, a much briefer partnering exercise is carried out to rekindle the partnering commitments.

Without a formal partnering process, individual participants on the project team need to work to establish and maintain strong team relationships throughout the project. No opportunity should be lost at routine meetings to renew and strengthen communication and bonding. Team participants can, from time to time, share a meal or set up specific meetings in the context of which relationships are maintained and strengthened. If a relationship becomes frayed, every effort should be made to repair the connection and reestablish the strong team bond.

Maintaining Team Effectiveness at the Company Level

Wise company owners understand the importance of building strong team relationships across the company’s human resource pool, especially with supervisory and management personnel. The company should provide opportunities for supervisors and managers at various levels to get together, both with others at the same level, and with those at other levels.

It has long been a tradition in construction that project managers meet periodically (generally weekly) to discuss their projects and learn company news. At these meetings, they can share successes, thus propagating lessons learned. They can also identify problems on their jobs that might be resolved from the experience of others.

It is much less common, though not less important, for supervisors to have the same opportunity. One company owner relates his practice of having all superintendents come into the office for a short meeting at the end of the week. They share work progress on their jobs and maintain bonds with one another that enable them to call upon one another whenever a problem arises in the field that requires some consultation. This also debriefs supervisors at the end of the week with the expectation that they can leave their work at the office and enjoy a good rest with their families over the weekend, with the added benefit of preparing them for the week ahead.

Such a meeting is generally not possible with lower-level supervisors or supervisors dispersed over a wide geographic area. However, with the availability of modern communications technology, such a meeting could be held in a virtual or digital environment with the same benefits. The supervisory corps of a construction company is a great internal resource, and it is important for companies to develop ways to employ this resource for the benefit of the company.

PRACTICAL TEAM BUILDING

Formation of the team varies depending upon how much latitude the team leader has in selecting team members. When team members can be selected, the team

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leader identifies the qualities team members should bring to the table based upon the mission of the team. The pool of candidates for the team can then be evaluated to determine which potential members bring the best set of characteristics. This can improve the formation of the team, but even with a relatively large pool of candidates, it is not practical to expect to find the ideal set of team members that display all the right characteristics for the team.

At the crew level, it would be nice if a foreman could choose among craft workers to select those with the requisite skills and compatible personality traits. However, in most practical settings, team members cannot be selected and the team leader must form the team based upon either team members who are available or team members that have been assigned by others. In this situation, the forming step of resource evaluation, that is, identifying what each team member brings to the table, becomes very important.

Whether the team leader has choice or must accept either team members that are available or have been assigned by others, a forming process is followed. Team members are introduced to the team, or introduce themselves to the team. Where possible, some bonding time should be allowed so that team members can begin to get to know each other. They may exchange work-related information, such as what their work background and experience are, who they have worked for, what projects they have worked on and what parts of the country they have worked in. If time permits, this might be a good time to ask about what they feel are their strengths and within the team mission, as they understand it, what part they would like to play. This does not have to take a long period of time, but it can provide valuable information for the team leader, as well as a degree of bonding for the team members.

The team mission needs to be clearly defined and explained to the team members. Goals and objectives for the team are laid out. At the crew level, this may be simply laying out one or a few specific tasks for the crew to work on today. At a higher level, the goals might be weekly tasks. For example, for a systems contractor the mission might be roughing in a specific area of a building by the end of the week. Milestones are defined, which will enable the team to evaluate its progress toward achieving the mission. Metrics are defined that will enable measurement of progress in moving through the milestones.

Ground rules for team performance are laid out. These need to be laid out when the initial team is brought together and repeated whenever the team changes. If a team is ongoing, they might need to be reviewed from time to time. The ground rules define the expected behavior of team members in terms of what is acceptable at a high level, what is acceptable but not desirable, and what is not acceptable. The ground rules will define how performance is to be measured and the consequences if acceptable performance is not achieved.

The ground rules also define the power structure of the team, including who is in charge and what level of authority leaders have. Questions of whether authority can be challenged and, if so, to what extent, are discussed. The question of whether authority can be changed and, if so, how, also needs to be addressed.

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These practical steps in team building will tend to be informal in a field setting, but nevertheless need to be carried out if the team is to work effectively.
SUMMARY

In this chapter, the following key points have been presented.


Construction is a complex activity that is best carried out by teams.

There are many types and levels of teams operating within a construction project.

Supervisors participate as members on some teams and as leaders on other teams.

Characteristics of successful team members, team leaders, and teams were reviewed.

A four-step team-building process includes forming, storming, norming, and performing.

Once established, teams need to be maintained and reinvigorated from time to time.

Practical team building is important, even in an informal field environment.

Learning Activities

1. Building the crew into a team

A standard process for building a crew of craft workers into a well-performing team is not typically found in construction. The objective of this exercise is to design a standard process for company foremen, guiding them through the team-building process with a crew. This is most easily accomplished by focusing on a specific task on a specific job, then generalizing for application to similar situations.

Start by defining the type of work the crew will do (for example, the company is a concrete specialty contractor and the crew is a forming crew). Define the crew. How many workers are on the crew and what crafts are involved (for example, three carpenters and two laborers)?

Define the steps in team building, starting from when the crew initially gathers. Steps might include: introductions, skill assessment, defining crew goals, defining performance expectations, explaining the process to answer questions, etc.

The process is complete when work is assigned to the new crew.

(continued)

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Once the initial team-building process has been developed, try to generalize it for other tasks. For example, for the concrete subcontractor, how will the reinforcing steel crew be developed into a team? How will the concrete placement and finishing crew be developed into a team?

2. Developing the field supervisory team for a new project

You are the superintendent for a general contractor about to start a new project. Your task is to develop the field supervisory team consisting of your supervisors and the supervisors of the various specialty contractors. What steps will you take to accomplish this?

Begin by defining the specifics of the project and the entities represented on the team. What work will be self-performed and what company supervisors will be needed to accomplish this work? What work will be subcontracted? Anticipate one supervisor from each of the subcontractors.

What preparatory work is needed prior to bringing the team together for the first time? Examples might include getting the contact information for each supervisor. Developing or getting copies of the company field policies and procedures to review and hand out at the meeting. Inviting key participants who will contribute to the team but not be a part of it, such as the owner’s representative and various design specialists to participate in the initial team meeting.

Lay out the agenda for the initial team meeting.

The exercise concludes with closure of the initial project field supervisory team.

CHAPTER 6
MAINTAINING THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE EMPLOYEE AND THE EMPLOYER
INTRODUCTION

A critical responsibility of any construction supervisor is maintaining a strong and positive relationship between the employees and the company. Chapter 3 dealt with the importance of the supervisor’s role in maintaining good relationships with customers—those outside the company. The supervisor also has a responsibility to maintain good relationships between the company and the internal customer, the employee. The supervisor is the face of the company to the workers. As the link between the company and the workforce, as you saw in Chapter 2, the supervisor is a part of the management team, and the first line supervisor, the foreman, is the direct link with craft labor. Thus, the supervisor plays a key role in employee relations.

NASA describes employee relations in the following way:

Employee Relations involves the body of work concerned with maintaining employer-employee relationships that contribute to satisfactory productivity, motivation, and morale. Essentially, Employee Relations is concerned with preventing and resolving problems involving individuals which arise out of or affect work situations.

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Office of Human Relations (2001)

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This chapter will deal with employee relations in the context of the construction company. It will begin by looking at the supervisor’s role in evaluating worker performance. It will then consider what current federal law says about employee relations by considering issues of discrimination and harassment.

EVALUATING PERFORMANCE

Supervisors at all levels have the responsibility to evaluate the performance of their workers. This is accomplished in both formal and informal formats. The primary purpose of performance evaluations is to maintain an open line of communication between supervisor and worker so that each can understand the expectations of the other and be informed about progress in meeting those expectations.

Evaluations at higher supervisory and management levels are typically formal. Formal evaluations are also required for apprentices or novices in training programs. Formal evaluations are carried out on a scheduled basis, but these should not exclude ongoing informal evaluations when needed or when an opportunity presents itself.

Much of the evaluation of craft workers is informal on an ongoing basis unless a specific problem has been identified, at which point a formal write-up may be called for. Some companies do have a formal evaluation process for all employees, including craft workers.

Objectives of Performance Evaluations

A performance evaluation, whether formal or informal, should accomplish several objectives for both the evaluator and the person being evaluated. It should provide an opportunity to discuss performance from the point of view of both the employee and the supervisor. It also offers an opportunity to monitor progress toward the achievement of current performance goals and to recalibrate those performance goals as necessary. Whereas formal evaluations are scheduled on a regular basis and focus broadly across the full spectrum of performance, informal evaluations typically are done on the spot and consider a single performance area. Informal evaluations tend to take place much more often than formal evaluations.

Both the employee and the employer should have clearly defined objectives when entering into the evaluation process. The employee’s primary objective in a performance evaluation should be to align her performance objectives with those of the company. To the extent that an employee can align with company objectives, the result will be positive for both employee and employer. Second, the employee should identify opportunities for improvement and map out a strategy to accomplish the improvements.

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Employee Creating Opportunities

To illustrate an employee identifying opportunities for improvement and mapping out a strategy, consider a worker working on the site of a major industrial client that stresses safety. The worker understands the importance of a safe work environment to herself and to her family and her fellow workers. She also recognizes the particular interest her company has in worker safety. She has already completed an OSHA 10 course but has learned that a more extensive course is the OSHA 30 course. In addition to helping her perform her job more safely, an OSHA 30 certification will also better qualify her for consideration for a promotion to supervisor the next time an opportunity comes up.

She looks for available courses and among them finds one that is offered on four consecutive Saturdays over the next month. She presents this to the supervisor, who is delighted with the suggestion and offers to have the company pay for the course if the worker takes the course on her own time.

This scenario is good for the worker and for her family. It is good for the company both because safety will be improved on the job and because the worker will be better qualified, and it is good for the client who will benefit from a safer work environment at the facility.

The supervisor’s objectives should be to clearly and concisely communicate the company’s expectations to the employee. The supervisor is in a particularly good position to help his or her workers recognize the role they play in company operations and how they can have a positive impact on the company. The supervisor should also listen closely to the employee to find out what the employee’s expectations are so that the employee and the company can embrace common expectations and seek ways to align those expectations that are not aligned. Finally, the supervisor should work to identify impediments to effective performance and to develop means to remove or mitigate those impediments.

Benefits of Performance Evaluations

Benefits derived from evaluations accrue to both the employee and the supervisor. For the employee, evaluations provide an opportunity to learn of, or to clarify the supervisor’s expectations and to get an evaluation of the degree to which the employee is achieving the expectations. This feedback to the employee is recognized as an important element in the motivational process. Evaluations also create an opportunity to define expectations for future performance and to map out a process for realizing those expectations. Finally, the evaluation process provides the employee with opportunities to voice concerns formally and in an appropriate environment.

The first benefit to the supervisor, who represents the company, is to have an opportunity to evaluate individual employee effectiveness, consistent with the mission of the company and the expectations of the supervisor. Performance evaluations also provide an opportunity to identify ways to strengthen employee performance,

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thus building value in the company’s human resources pool. Craft labor is such a major component of the value of any construction company that any opportunity for the company to enhance that value is important.

Well-executed and -documented performance evaluations should lead to improved worker performance. They will also help the company to avoid disputes over disciplinary actions. However, if a disciplinary action must be taken, a properly documented record of consistent performance evaluations can strengthen the company’s position in defense against claims or legal actions that might result.

The Process of Evaluating Performance

In evaluating performance, positive reinforcement is very important. Reinforcing positive performance strengthens already good performance and can mitigate the detrimental effects to the employee of corrective elements within the evaluation. Positive reinforcement motivates employees, builds company loyalty, and helps to develop the worker’s potential. Acknowledging the contribution of the employee to the project and to the company gives the employee a sense of value and connects them with the success of the project and the success of the company.

When giving a low performance rating, the specific activity in question must be defined clearly. Reasons leading to the rating must be accurately and completely described. The low rating should not be a surprise to the employee, nor should it be in question, if proper and timely notification was given and appropriate documentation has been developed over time. The concerns must not be diluted to avoid confrontation or to cushion the message. On the other hand, accusations must not be falsely created or strengthened to “build a case.” A clear, accurate and succinct presentation of the infraction and underlying circumstances helps the employee to recognize the problem and to understand why the low rating was given. An accurate and honest presentation will also support the company later, should a claim arise or legal action be taken.

In evaluating negative performance, certain elements are essential:

Describe the infraction.

Cite the rule that was broken.

Give specific examples of the employee’s behavior that triggered the low rating.

State performance expectations after the performance is corrected.

Suggest how performance can be improved to an acceptable level.


Lay out the consequences if performance is not improved.

Describe the employee’s appeal process.

Agree on a time when performance will be reevaluated to determine if improvements have been made.

These elements are essential whether performing an informal or a formal evaluation.

MAINTAINING THE EMPLOYEE–EMPLOYER RELATIONSHIP 93
Informal Evaluation Based on Tardiness

Consider the situation in which a craft worker is often tardy to work. The discussion might take the following path.

“Joe, you are a good craft worker and an asset to the company; however, you are late to work at least twice a week. Company policy states that ‘tardiness more than once a week without a legitimate excuse will result in a warning, a reprimand, and possible dismissal.’ Your tardiness causes the entire crew to be late and decreases the amount of work the crew accomplishes for the day.

In future, when you must be late for work, let me know beforehand when you will be late, why you will be late, and how late you will be. If it is not possible to give me prior notice, provide a written explanation after the fact citing why you were late and whether this situation is likely to arise in the future.

I will need to write this up for the record and will keep an eye on your work schedule over the next couple of weeks. If you would like to talk about this with a company officer, or if you feel there is something the company can do to help you, please make an appointment to talk with Jim Smith, the general superintendent.”

Formal Performance Evaluations

In a formal performance evaluation, it is important to include as much positive reinforcement as possible. Not only does this shine a positive light on the overall performance of the worker, but it will support the worker in seeking to improve a few negative behaviors in order to deliver better overall performance.

Objective measures of performance enhance the performance evaluation process. Objective measures support consistency in evaluations. They are more likely to be applied evenly across the workforce and across time. They also tend to take emotion out of the evaluation, enabling the supervisor to focus on fact. Examples below show forms used to evaluate craft workers, apprentices, and supervisors.

Figure 6.1 shows an evaluation form used by Cannon & Wendt Electric Co., Inc. in Phoenix, Arizona, to evaluate the performance of their craft workers. This form is used by first line supervisors (foremen) to evaluate all craft workers every six months and is the basis upon which the company sets the wage scale. Given that this evaluation serves a very important function, the process is formalized and standardized. If a worker is deemed to be performing at a significantly different level than his wage scale indicates (typically at a higher level), the supervisor can evaluate the worker at any time so that the scale can be appropriately adjusted.

Figure 6.2 shows an evaluation form used for apprentices developed by the Electrical Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee.

Prior to meeting with a worker to carrying out a formal performance evaluation, the evaluator should prepare for the meeting. The evaluator will first provide the person being evaluated with a packet of information to help him or her prepare. This will include the job description for the position held by the person being evaluated,

94 SOFT SKILLS
Employee Name/No.______________________________

Class_____________________________________________

Project

CANNON & WENDT ELECTRIC CO., INC. EMPLOYEE PERFORMANCE EVALUATION

Date:

Supervisor:

Last Hourly Rate:

Type of Work:

Performance Measures: The employee’s performance should be measured by the criteria listed below, as well as

by any additional items you believe to be appropriate, which should be added to the list by you.

NOTE: “AVERAGE RATING”=15.0 POINTS  EVALUATION NO. (1 TO 20)

1 Positive, safe work ethic _____________

2  Neatness of work (does their work meet Company Standards?) _____________

3  Amount of work produced (compare to labor units) _____________

4  Organization of work (lost time or lost motions) _____________

5  Quality of skills (mechanical ability) _____________

6  Accuracy of work (does job correct the first time) _____________

7 Technical capability (electrical knowledge) _____________

8  Assumes responsibility in completing assignments (how much supervision is required?) _____________

9  Self-motivation (waits to be told what to do?) _____________

10 Attendance and punctuality (starts and quits at work station) _____________

11 Attitude (understanding of industry problems-both labor and management) _____________

12 Other_______J.W. Course = 5 points maximum (not safety courses)

_______Personal appearance (does customer and company approve?)

———–Leadership ability

Subtotal Item 12 to Maximum 15 points ___________

TOTAL:
Evaluate the employee’s performance on his/her job over the last______in terms of the performance criteria listed

above. Opposite each criteria, insert the evaluation number you feel best describes his/her performance.

Evaluation = points (each point = .14 per hour for JW and .14 per hour for IJ)

IJ. 45% IJ. 50% IJ. 55% IJ. 60% IJ. 65% IJ. 70%

81.0 = 11.16

90.0 = 12.40

99.0 = 13.64

108.0 = 14.88

117.0 = 16.12

126.0 = 17.36

Pay: Effective: $ per hour

75% 80% 85% 90% 95%

135.0 = 144.0 = 153.0 = 162.0 = 171.0 =

18.60 19.64 21.08 22.32 23.56

AGW
Average JW Rate 180 180.0 = 24.80
Sub-Foreman +5% 190.0 = 25.80 200.0 = 26.04
Foreman Rate +121/2% 208.0 = 27.90
General Foreman Rate +251/2% 210.0 = 28.18

220.0 = 29.00

230.0 = 30.00

236.3 =
31.00

240.0 = 32.00

Employee’s Signature
Figure 6.1 Example Evaluation Form for Craft Workers
an agenda for the evaluation meeting, and a request for the person being evaluated to gather certain information about performance during the period under review.

Next, the evaluator will pull together as much factual data about the worker’s performance as possible, such as performance quality, quantity, and timeliness. This information should be documented throughout the period between evaluations to expedite the process of preparing for the evaluation meeting. Comments or informal evaluations received during the period will be summarized. The

MAINTAINING THE EMPLOYEE–EMPLOYER RELATIONSHIP 95
Apprentice Evaluation Form

PHOENIX ELECTRICAL JOIN APPRENTICESHIP

AND TRAINING COMMITTEE

FOR THE ELECTRICAL INDUSTRY

APPRENTICE PERIOD

WORKING FOR DATE

PURPOSES OF THIS EVALUATION:

To take a personal inventory, to pinpoint weaknesses and strengths, and to outline and agree upon a practical improvement program. Periodically conducted, these evaluations will provide a history of development and progress.

INSTRUCTIONS:

Listed below are a number of traits, abilities, and characteristics that are important for success in business. Place

an “X” mark on each rating scale, over the descriptive phrase that which most nearly describes the period being rated.

(If this form is being used for self-evaluation, you will be describing yourself.)

Carefully evaluate each of the qualities separately.

Two common mistakes in rating are: (1) A tendency to rate nearly everyone as “average” on every trait instead of being more critical in judgment. The rater should use the ends of the scale as well as the middle, and (2) the “halo effect,” i.e., a tendency to rate the same individual “excellent” on every trait or “poor” on every trait based on the overall picture one has of the person being rated. However, each person has strong points and weak points and these should be indicated on the rating scale.

ACCURACY is the correctness of work duties performed.

Makes frequent Careless; makes Usually accurate;  Requires little Requires absolute

errors recurrent errors. makes only average  supervision; is exact and minimum of supervision;

number of mistakes.  precise most of the time. is almost always accurate.

ALERTNESS is the ability to grasp instructions, to meet changing conditions, and to solve novel or problem situations.
Slow to “catch on.” Requires more than Grasps instructions Usually quick to Exceptionally keen

average instructions  with average ability.  understand and learn. and alert.

and explanations.

CREATIVITY is talent for having new ideas, for finding new and better ways of doing things, and for being imaginative.

Rarely has a new idea; Occasionally comes Has average Frequently suggests new Continually seeks new

is unimaginative.  up with a new idea.  imagination; has ways of doing things;  and better ways of doing

reasonable number of  is very imaginative. things; is extremely

new ideas. imaginative.

Figure 6.2 Example Apprentice Evaluation Form

evaluator should have an idea before the meeting of the employee’s strengths and weaknesses and be prepared to review the strengths and weaknesses during the meeting. Specific examples of both strengths and weaknesses are quite helpful. For weaknesses, the evaluator should be prepared to offer suggestions or work with the employee to develop a performance improvement plan addressing the weaknesses. Figure 6.3 shows a checklist for an evaluator’s preparation for a formal performance evaluation.

96 SOFT SKILLS
DEPENDABLILITY is the ability to do required jobs well with a minimum of supervision.
Requires close  Sometimes  Usually takes care Requires little Requires absolute

supervision; is  requires prompting. of necessary tasks supervision;  minimum of supervision.

unreliable. and completes with is reliable.

reasonable promptness.

DRIVE is the desire to attain goals, to achieve.
Has poorly defined  Sets goals too low;  Has average goals  Strives hard; has high Sets high goals and

goals and acts without  puts forth little effort and usually puts forth  desire to achieve. strives incessantly to

purpose; puts forth  to achieve. effort to reach these. reach these.

practically no effort.

JOB KNOWLEDGE is the information concerning work duties that an individual should know for a satisfactory job performance.
Poorly informed about Lacks knowledge of Moderately informed; Understands all phases Has complete mastery

work duties. some phases of work. can answer most of work. of all phases of job.

common questions.

QUANTITY OF WORK is the amount of work an individual does in a work day.
Does not meet  Does just enough Volume of work is Very industrious; Superior work

minimum requirements. to get by. satisfactory.  does more than production record.

is required.

STABILITY is the ability to withstand pressure and to remain calm in crisis situations.
Goes “to pieces” Occasionally “blows Has average Tolerates most pressure; Thrives under pressure;

under pressure; up” under pressure; tolerance for crises; likes crises more than  really enjoys solving

is “jumpy” and is easily irritated. usually remains calm.  the average person. crises. nervous.

OVERALL EVALUATION in comparison with other employees with the same length of service on this job.
Definitely unsatisfactory. Substandard but Doing an average job. Definitely above Outstanding.

making progress. average.

Figure 6.2 (Continued)

Prior to meeting with the evaluator, the person being evaluated should prepare for the meeting. In a management setting, the evaluator will often ask the person being evaluated to prepare some documentation. Figure 6.4 shows a checklist for a construction supervisor’s preparation for a formal evaluation of her performance.

Evaluation meetings should be well organized, starting with some basic information about the ground rules and agenda for the meeting. The evaluator can then ask the person being evaluated for a summary of how he or she felt the period has gone, giving the person an opportunity to present the materials that were requested and giving the person a chance to ask questions. The evaluator can then summarize her evaluation of the person’s performance and solicit a response. There should be ample time for questions and the person being evaluated

MAINTAINING THE EMPLOYEE–EMPLOYER RELATIONSHIP 97
COURTESY is the polite attention an individual gives other people.
Blunt; discourteous; Sometimes tactless.  Agreeable  Always very polite Inspiring to others in

antagonistic. and pleasant. and willing to help. being courteous

and very pleasant.

PERSONALITY is an individual’s behavior characteristics or personal suitability for the job.
Personality Personality questionable Personality satisfactory Very desirable Outstanding personality

unsatisfactory  for this job.  for this job.  personality for this job. for this job.

for this job.

PERSONAL APPEARANCE is the personal impression an individual makes on others. (Consider cleanliness, grooming, neatness, and appropriateness of dress on the job.)
Very untidy; Sometimes untidy and Generally neat and Careful about personal Unusually well

poor taste in dress.  careless about  clean; satisfactory appearance; good  groomed; very neat;

personal appearance. personal appearance. taste in dress. excellent taste in dress.

PHYSICAL FITNESS is the ability to work consistently and with only moderate fatigue. (Consider alertness and energy.)
Tires easily;  Frequently tires and Meets physical energy Energetic; seldom tires. Excellent health;

is weak and frail. is slow. job requirements. no fatigue.

ATTENDANCE is faithfulness in coming to work daily and conforming to work hours.
Often absent without Lax in attendance Usually present and Very prompt; Always regular and

good excuse and/or and/or reporting on time.  regular in attendance. prompt; volunteers for

frequently reports for work on time. overtime when needed.

for work late.

HOUSEKEEPING is the orderliness and cleanliness in which an individual keeps his work area.
Disorderly or untidy. Some tendency to be Ordinarily keeps work Quite conscientious Unusually neat, clean,

careless and untidy. area fairly neat. about neatness and and orderly.

cleanliness.

Figure 6.2 (Continued)

should be asked if there is anything the supervisor can do to enhance the worker’s performance. The meeting should close with a review of what will happen next. Typically, a written summary will be prepared and the person being evaluated will be asked to read and sign the summary, indicating only that he or she has reviewed the summary, not that he or she necessarily agrees.

Figure 6.5 provides an example of an agenda for the evaluation meeting.

Informal Performance Evaluations

All supervisors carry out informal performance evaluations of those working for them. In fact, an ongoing process of any supervisor should be continuous evaluation of

98 SOFT SKILLS
COMMENTS
Major weak points are – 1. 2. 3. Major strong points are – 1. 2. 3.
and these can be strengthened by doing the following: and these can be more effectively by doing the following:
Rated by (Name) (Title)
(Date)
Rated by (Name) (Title)
(Date)
Rated by (Name) (Title)
(Date)
Rated by (Name) (Title)
(Date)

THIS REPORT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY

Evaluate the Apprentice fairly and honestly.

Discuss each weak point with this Apprentice.

Figure 6.2 (Continued)

their workers’ performance. For those receiving formal performance evaluations on a regular basis, there should be no surprise during the formal process since the supervisor should be informing the worker about performance issues (positive or negative) as they come up.

For first-line supervisors who work with construction craft workers, there is no tradition of formal performance evaluations, so informal evaluations take on a much

MAINTAINING THE EMPLOYEE–EMPLOYER RELATIONSHIP 99
The Phoenix Electrical Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee for the Electrical Contracting Industry
SAFETY IS THE MANNER IN WHICH THE APPRENTICE FOLLOWS THE COMPANY’S SAFETY POLICY.
Does not follow  Usually follows Always follows

company safety  company safety  company safety

policy.  policy.  policy.

Comments:
Figure 6.2 (Continued)

higher level of importance. The supervisor is responsible for continuously evaluating a worker’s performance, recognizing excellence and identifying where the worker fails to meet expectations.

To the extent possible, the evaluation should start off on a positive note. This may not be possible if an acute situation arises that calls for immediate corrective action. However, in most instances, the supervisor identifies performance that is subpar and the intent is to bring the performance back up to an acceptable level. In such a case, a few positive words at the beginning will help to couch the interaction in a positive vein. The supervisor should end the discussion agreeing with the worker on what corrective action will be taken.

100 SOFT SKILLS
Evaluator’s Pre-Evaluation Meeting Checklist
This checklist is to be used by an evaluator prior to a formal evaluation meeting as a tool to improve evaluator preparation for the meeting.

Procure job description for the person being evaluated.

Set time, date, and location for the evaluation with the person being evaluated.

Time: Date: Location:

Develop and give to the person being evaluated a packet of information, including

Meeting time, date, and location Purpose of the meeting Job description Meeting agenda

Copy of the evaluation sheet to be used

List of information to be prepared and brought to the meeting by the person being evaluated

Develop data on the person’s performance over the review period.

Figure 6.3 Checklist for Evaluator’s Preparation for a Formal Performance Evaluation
Checklist for a Supervisor’s Preparation for a Formal Performance Evaluation

Review the documentation provided by the evaluator

Prepare information requested by the evaluator

Prepare any additional information that you would like to

present to the evaluator

Prepare your own objectives for the meeting

Prepare questions for the evaluator
Figure 6.4 Checklist for a Supervisor’s Preparation for a Formal Performance Evaluation
MAINTAINING THE EMPLOYEE–EMPLOYER RELATIONSHIP 101
Formal Performance Evaluation Meeting Agenda

State the purpose of the meeting

Define ground rules for the meeting

Provide a copy of the job description for the position held by the person

Ask about the person’s perception of his or her performance during the last period

Review conclusions from the last performance evaluation meeting

Discuss progress in achieving the goals set in the last meeting

Provide the supervisor’s evaluation of the person’s performance during the last period

Agree on areas of improvement

Develop a plan for performance improvement

Summarize the remaining steps in the evaluation process

After the meeting, develop a written summary consistent with the oral summary in the meeting

Get a signed copy from the person being evaluated

Note: The signature only indicates that the person has had a chance to review the written summary. It does not indicate that she necessarily agrees with the report.

Figure 6.5 Agenda for Formal Performance Evaluation Meeting

It will help supervisors if they have a checklist in mind so that when they see a problem, they can address it in an organized manner. Figure 6.6 shows an example of a checklist for an informal worker evaluation.

Any informal evaluation should be reinforced with a written follow-up. If a serious infraction has been identified, the written follow-up statement should be signed and dated by the worker to indicate that he or she has been made aware of the infraction. Again, a signature does not indicate agreement with the statement; it just signifies that the employee has been able to review what has been written up.

DIVERSITY AND DISCRIMINATION

The workforce at a construction site is very diverse, and it is important for any supervisor to understand and embrace diversity in the workforce. Increasing diversity together with a better understanding of human rights and concepts of equality has led to an increasing awareness of discrimination. As a result, laws have evolved to protect against discrimination.

Unfortunately, in today’s construction industry, problems related to discrimination are very common. This is the result of several factors. Much of the workforce

102 SOFT SKILLS
Example Checklist for an Informal Worker Evaluation

When sub-par performance is identified, the supervisor should:

Call the worker aside

Tell the worker why he has been called aside

Describe the performance that is sub-par

State performance expectations after the performance is corrected

Explore options for improving performance, which might include:

o Training

o Different equipment or tools

o A different approach

Agree with the worker on how performance can be improved to an acceptable level

Lay out the consequences if performance is not improved

Agree on a time when performance will be reevaluated to determine if improvements have been made

Figure 6.6 Example of a Checklist for an Informal Worker Evaluation

does not understand current standards of what constitutes discrimination. Also, supervisors are not as well prepared to recognize and handle problems inherent in managing human resources as they are prepared to recognize and deal with technical problems. As a result, problems associated with discriminatory practices often are not identified early enough, and when they are identified, supervisors often are not able to deal with them effectively.

Workforce Diversity

The traditional skilled workforce in construction has been predominantly white, male, and Protestant. However, the white, male, Protestant population has not grown as rapidly as the population as a whole, and the construction industry has expanded considerably. This has led to two problems. First, there has been decreased ability to find enough workers to replace those leaving the industry and to meet the labor needs of an expanding industrial sector. Second, there has been an increase in the number of workers coming from nontraditional backgrounds.

Not only are demographics changing in terms of gender and race but diversity in terms of culture, religion, and age is also expanding. To be effective, supervisors must be sensitive to differences in people. They need to understand how to manage a very diverse workforce and to harness the diversity to enhance overall

MAINTAINING THE EMPLOYEE–EMPLOYER RELATIONSHIP 103

performance. This involves understanding what diversity in the workforce means and how to effectively manage workers with a variety of backgrounds.

Diversity is a good thing and our society loves diversity. We like to go to different restaurants, and we look for a diverse menu when we get there. We enjoy having a broad selection of automobiles to choose from and when we go to the store, we like to have a broad selection of products to choose from. We even like a broad selection of stores within which to find the broad selection of products. Diversity enriches all aspects of our lives.

Diversity in the workplace is also valuable. It brings different points of view and new ideas. Diverse workers bring diverse skills to the workface. If the supervisor understands how to harness the power of diversity, diversity will enable more efficient execution of work.

Unfortunately, a diverse workforce also brings to light stereotypes and prejudices. It is the responsibility of supervisors to help workers to recognize, understand and overcome the biases that they have. It is also the responsibility of supervisors to help their workers embrace diversity in their work environment and harness it to improve production rather than letting the diversity negatively impact their work.

Diverse cultures and background manifest themselves in many ways in the workplace. Examples include the comfort level of people based upon such things as personal space, accents, and gender roles. Other examples are found in basic worker expectations in terms of such things as time management, quality, and responsiveness to direction. Generational differences are observed in what motivates workers and what expectations workers have of the employer and of other workers. Religious differences are seen in practices and in tolerance or lack thereof for certain behaviors.

This diversity can be very beneficial to the job and to the company if workers embrace diversity rather than resisting the changes resulting from the diverse environment. The supervisor plays a key role in helping workers to accept and work within the diverse environment, thus reaping the benefits of diversity and avoiding the pitfalls resulting in conflict and litigation when diversity is not accepted.

Equal Employment Opportunity Laws

Laws have been enacted to help protect employees within the diverse work environment. The laws generally fall under the category of Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) legislation, and they protect individuals from discriminatory practices in the workplace. It is very important for supervisors to have at least a basic understanding of EEO laws so that they can participate in protecting their workers, as well as their companies and themselves.

Discrimination in the workplace is characterized by treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit.

104 SOFT SKILLS

EEO laws are written to protect people in various categories that tend to draw discriminatory acts. These categories include:

Race

Gender


Age

Religion

National origin


Citizenship

Disability

Military status

Laws are written at various levels, including federal, state, and local. The most stringent law is typically the one that governs in any given area. Companies and projects can also have discrimination policies and procedures that need to be observed.

One of the most far-reaching laws prohibiting discrimination is the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII under that law prohibits discrimination based upon race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Pregnancy was specifically included under Title VII in 1978. Title VII also deals with reverse discrimination, protecting those not in protected categories from discrimination based upon a protected category.

Other laws have been enacted to protect people in additional categories, such as older people (over 40) covered by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and people with disabilities covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). All of these laws are restricted to companies employing at least 15 employees for at least 20 weeks at some time within the last 2 years.

In recent years, immigration has become a very controversial topic. Immigration particularly affects the construction industry because a significant portion of the workforce in construction is made up of immigrants. The Immigration Reform and Control Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of citizenship and visa status. Another act that prohibits discrimination is the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination against applicants or employees based upon military status or service obligations. It also provides protection for those returning from service.

Retaliation against those seeking protection under EEO laws is prohibited. An employer cannot discipline or discharge a worker for using the protections afforded by the law, or refuse to hire a person known to have brought charges based upon EEO laws, regardless of the outcome of the legal action.

Reasonable Accommodation

The laws relating to religion and disability have provisions such that, if requested, the employer must make adjustments (reasonable accommodation) to enable an employee to perform the essential functions of their job. The determination of a

MAINTAINING THE EMPLOYEE–EMPLOYER RELATIONSHIP 105

disability is based upon a record of disability, the perception of a disability, or actual impairment in functioning that affects one or more life activities.

Reasonable is a flexible term. Such accommodation must not place an undue hardship upon the employer or upon other workers. It must not create an unsafe situation. It must not have a detrimental effect upon quality or quantity standards of the job. The outcome must be such that the worker can perform the basic functions of the job if the reasonable accommodation has been made. The accommodation does not need to be the best accommodation or the one requested specifically by the worker. It simply needs to enable the worker to perform the basic functions of the job. An accommodation that would violate a labor agreement clause is not required. In the case of a disability, the employer can request documentation from a doctor.

Family and Medical Leave Act

Another law that is important to the supervisor is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This law provides for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year for an employee’s own health, to care for ill family members, or for a pregnancy, child birth, or adoption. This leave can be continuous or intermittent, that is, taken in a single block or at various times throughout the year.

Certain conditions are required for FMLA to take effect. The employer must have at least 50 employees employed within 75 miles, and this number must have been reached at least 20 weeks during the previous 2 years. The employee must have been employed for 12 months prior to the time leave is to begin and must have accrued at least 1200 hours during that 12-month period.

If those conditions are met and an employee requests leave, the leave must be granted. Furthermore, benefits, such as medical insurance, must be continued, and the employer must ensure that there is a job for the employee when he or she returns from leave.

Avoiding Discrimination Claims

A number of steps should be taken to avoid infractions of the EEO laws. First, the company must have well-defined, written policies and procedures regarding the various laws. All supervisors must be well trained in understanding the laws and their enforcement, as well as the company’s policies and procedures. A supervisor must give due consideration to any request or claim that arises with regard to any of the EEO laws. Finally, the supervisor must enforce all company policies consistently across time and evenly across all employees.

HARASSMENT

Harassment is a behavior often found on the construction worksite that is detrimental in many ways and can be illegal. Harassment encompasses all words, conduct, or actions, especially persistent that are directed at a specific person and alarms or

106 SOFT SKILLS

causes substantial emotional distress in that person while serving no legitimate purpose. All harassment is counterproductive, but not all harassment is illegal. Bullying is harassment, but it is not illegal unless it meets the definition of discrimination. On the other hand, harassment associated with a protected class is considered discrimination and is illegal. Sexual harassment is considered a special case of discrimination and is also illegal.

Harassment has numerous effects that are counterproductive, including:


Negative effects on production

Negative effects on morale

Increased turnover


Detrimental to the company’s reputation

Conducive to legal action

Although counterproductive, harassment only rises to the level of being illegal if it creates a hostile environment. One or a few isolated events that fit into the category of harassment generally are not considered to rise to the level of creating a hostile environment. However, they are early warning signs of a brewing problem and must be dealt with accordingly.

A hostile environment is the result of repeated, unwanted behavior or conduct in terms of a protected category that interferes with work performance or creates an offensive work environment. If a supervisor allows a hostile environment in his work area, not only are productivity, quality, and safety negatively impacted but legal action based upon harassment is likely to ensue.

The supervisor has first-line responsibility for identifying harassment and a hostile environment and dealing with the situation immediately. This may involve direct action, but it may well involve passing the problem up to a higher-level supervisor or manager and eventually to the person in the company who is responsible for human resources issues. Supervisors must know how to respond when confronted with harassment, what the limits are of their capability to deal with the situation, and when to hand it off to higher authority.

As a legal representative of the company, the supervisor puts the company at risk for being liable for a charge of harassment unless the company has protected itself from such a situation. To protect itself, the company needs to have a written harassment policy and to demonstrate that the supervisor did not use the policy, or it must demonstrate that as soon as the company became aware of the problem, it took immediate remedial action in accordance with its harassment policy. Such legal actions by the company to protect itself may put the supervisor at personal risk if the supervisor does not respond appropriately when a harassment situation arises.

The hostile environment could be caused by a supervisor or by another company employee. It could even be created by a non-company-employee, but the company becomes legally liable for the actions of this non-company-employee at the point that it knew or should have known about the alleged harassment and failed to take action to protect the harassed individual. Thus, actions by an individual working for another subcontractor or contractor on the site or by a material supplier, a

MAINTAINING THE EMPLOYEE–EMPLOYER RELATIONSHIP 107

representative of the designer, or even the owner could put the supervisor and her company in jeopardy.

Many defenses are ineffective against a harassment charge. “I did not know” will not hold up if it can be demonstrated that the company had the opportunity to know or should have known. “It was just a joke” or “I did not think it would be offensive” are not legitimate defenses against a harassment charge. Racial or ethnic remarks that are tolerated within certain circles are often not tolerated by an outsider, so a racial comment by an individual cannot be defended by claiming that the comment was used by others in that community.

Offensive language can be associated with any protected class. It can be racial-, ethnic-, or gender-centered. It can relate to sexual orientation, a disability, or religion. Any language that could be considered offensive has no place in the workplace, and the supervisor must deal with any instance of language impropriety immediately and decisively.

Sexual harassment is one of the most obvious and pervasive types of harassment. Sexual harassment is considered gender discrimination. It can originate from either sex against the other sex, or it can be same-sex harassment. One of the most pervasive types of sexual harassment is offering something in exchange for sex. This could be couched in a positive form, such as a raise or special consideration in return for a sexual favor, or it could be couched in a negative form, such as “you will lose your job if you do not go out with me.” An example of same-sex harassment might be asking a new male employee to go along with the guys after work to a “gentleman’s club” and berating him when he refuses to go, perhaps based on strong religious convictions. In this case, the hostile environment could be off the job site, but it could still be a situation in which the company is liable because it affects performance on the job and, hence, becomes discernable in the workplace. The refusal to go along could be based upon moral or religious grounds, but it does not matter. If a person does not want to go along, he has the right not to go without any type of harassment. A case of religious discrimination, though not harassment, might involve the same person asked by the company to do work at a bar or a show club, where he does not feel comfortable. A reasonable accommodation might be reassigning the worker to another job.

Prevention of Discrimination and Harassment

Prevention of discrimination and harassment is not difficult. Supervisors must recognize and help their workers to recognize that the workplace is a workplace, not a place of entertainment. All workers must be trained to keep actions professional. Respect must be shown for all others as professional colleagues. Language and conduct must be maintained on a professional level. All workers must recognize and embrace the fact that others have different standards of humor and propriety. All must work to understand, recognize, and respect the standards of others. A company policy outlining standards for nondiscrimination within the company and on company jobs, together with training for each employee, is essential to ensure that every employee understands what is expected.

108 SOFT SKILLS

There will be times when an offense is committed. To best handle these situations, the offending party must apologize, the offended party must accept the apology, and all parties must move on, learning from the situation.

The supervisor must be vigilant to detect a potential discriminatory situation. If someone wants to talk with her off the record about such a situation, that person needs to be reminded that as a company representative, the supervisor must act on anything she hears. If the person would like to talk about it, the supervisor should listen, but then must take action if actionable information is shared. Any observations and discussions must be documented thoroughly and consistently. Any possible incidence of discrimination must be moved up to higher authority in the company. Finally, discrimination issues must never be discussed with anyone not directly involved or in the upward line of communication to higher authority.

If workers and supervisors follow common-sense procedures with respect to discrimination and harassment, in addition to the policies and procedures of the company and the project, they should be safe from disciplinary or legal action. Even more importantly, the job should be more productive and safe, and the work experience will be much more enjoyable.

SUMMARY

In this chapter, the following key points have been presented.

Performance evaluation is a key responsibility of the construction supervisor.

The performance evaluation process benefits both the company and the employee.

Performance evaluations can be either formal or informal.

Diversity in the workplace can have great value.

Increasing diversity in the workplace and enhanced understanding of discrimination have led to a legal structure to protect worker rights.


Supervisors are in a key position to identify and deal with discriminatory practices and situations.

Learning Activities

1. Development of a supervisor evaluation form

When carrying out evaluations, evaluation forms are important to ensure consistency from one employee to another and across time. They are also important to provide documentation of the process.

MAINTAINING THE EMPLOYEE–EMPLOYER RELATIONSHIP 109

Choose a supervisory position to evaluate. Describe the position, including such information as level of supervision and industry sector. Develop an appropriate evaluation form for this position.

Start by identifying the characteristics of this position that are important to evaluate. Describe each characteristic clearly. Determine an appropriate rating scale. Then determine the relative value of each characteristic. The form should begin by describing the evaluation process and then listing the characteristics. Each characteristic should be followed by a column for the rating and a second column that has the relative value. A third column should have the product of the two (rating and value). The third column should be summarized at the bottom to give the employee a single numerical rating.

2. Discrimination in the workplace

By researching construction literature, identify an instance of discrimination in the construction workplace. Write a case study based upon this instance. The case study should describe the situation, the way it was handled, and any ramifications from the situation. The case should then reference the law that has been broken, and suggest what could have been done to avoid the situation and how the situation should have been handled in the field when it surfaced.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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