Mental Illness in the Micro-Business Workplace

by Joy Johnson on August 24, 2012

According to the Social Security Administration’s statistics, Mental Illness is the second leading  cause of disability in the United States and strikes one out of every five people. It usually affects people between 25 and 40.  The recent economic downturn has put a strain on everyone. If someone breaks a leg, you can see it, sympathize, and react appropriately. You can’t ” handle ” things you don’t know exist and mental issues are generally not visually detectable. Employees, customers, vendors, people in general, are at risk for mental disorders. In a larger business, the development of a mental disorder or illness in a single individual may not be catastrophic, but it can pose serious challenges for a micro-sized business. For that reason, it’s helpful to recognize it early and develop a strategy for dealing with it.

If one member of a very small staff develops a mental disorder, work life for everyone will be affected. The situation is made more difficult, and more complex by lack of disclosure. Mental disorders cannot be seen. We’re taught to be ” understanding. ” Behavioral changes may not be radical, or may be explained away. Any mental disorder, however, diagnosed or not, may affect an employee’s ability to react normally to the demands of their jobs.

If someone has a mental disorder, they may have difficulty communicating. They may not process corrective criticism normally, or they may be overly critical of themselves. If someone becomes depressed, they lose the energy they typically bring to projects. Most mental disorders and illnesses interfere with sleep patterns. Lack of sleep generally translates to a drop in performance.

While we need to be sensitive to people who have problems, changes should trigger enhanced observation. If people seek help, get on medication, and stay on it, they can often function normally.

While employers must always be compassionate, they need to maintain professional detachment. It’s difficult not to  get close to individuals you work with, particularly when the period of employment becomes lengthy and the staff is very small. Still, it is the best policy.

Having a personal attachment to an employee renders you incapable of making sound business decisions. Maintaining a professional detachment will allow you to be objective when analyzing your employee’s performance. If the employee has historically performed well, you’ll tend to overlook performance problems. Documentation is a key in helping to avoid that.

Just as it’s difficult to tell if someone you see daily is losing or gaining weight until a substantial change has occurred, you may not notice a gradual slide in performance. Constantly measuring performance using analytical methods will remove personal bias or inability to perceive small amounts of change. Sliding levels of performance should be addressed promptly and consistently. If standards are not maintained, use Human Resource procedures for scheduled, as well as spontaneous, performance reviews. Document findings and comments, have employees acknowledge the content of the conversation with their signature, and provide them with a copy.

Individuals suffering from mental disorders and diseases are considered ” disabled ” and cannot  be discriminated against. You will be expected to make special accommodations for their needs. They may well be eligible, by virtue of their own disorder affected perceptions, for Unemployment Compensation, should they choose to quit. In some cases, they may also attempt to file for Worker’s Compensation. Stay detached, measure performance, document deviation, and develop an operational strategy.


Decisions: Six Things You Should Track

by Joy Johnson on July 27, 2012

When you’ve made a decision that ends in failure, the lessons you learn generally are worth more than the money you lost. Knowledge gained will propel your forward progress. Do you remember Adam Sandler’s movie, “Fifty First Dates”  Drew Barrymore’s character was stuck in time – constantly repeating the same day.  Only Adam Sandler’s approach was different. Business is often like that.  A great many tries end in failure.

The initial human tendency is to get bitter, angry, and look for others to blame. When that happens, the lessons taken from the experience are all the wrong lessons. Tuition paid to the “University of Entrepreneurism” - otherwise known as the “School of Hard Knocks,” is wasted. The key thing is how you respond to failure. Reviewing why you made the decision will contribute to responding in a constructive way.

Understand that things happen the way they happen for a reason. Even if ”luck“ played a part, as it so often does, you need to be in the right place at the right time to get ”lucky.” If you keep backing the logic down, action by action, you will find a point in time when someone make a decision that wasn’t “luck” enabling the recipient to “get lucky.”

Whether it’s luck, or just hard work, that drives your success and your failures, the greatest contributor, overall, is how your own mind works. Understand your own thought processes. Other people, organizations, banks, etc. – that whole list of people and things you are tempted to blame - never enter the picture until you decide to let them. It still boils down to your thought processes. If you don’t remember why you made the decisions you made, you are likely to repeat the cycle - or at least waste valuable time rediscovering old thought processes. That’s substantially slows forward progress.

The best way to understand yourself is to keep a “Decision Journal.” In decision making, you must describe the problem clearly.  Give thought to the way you want to word the problem since the exact wording of the problem will affect where your mind goes to solve it.  For example, never ask, “can I” – ask “how can I.”  A good portion of the time, our businesses suffer because we asked the wrong question to start with.
Once your question or problem is phrased properly, you can begin the decision making process – and that process should be logged.  Key components of a Decision Journal are:

  • Your mood or attitude -if exceptionally good or bad, you may wish to provide detail.
  • What you think
  • Why you think it
  • Is it “pro” or “con”

If there are only pros or only cons, we generally just ”do it” and it never reaches the point where it requires a process that reaches the conscious level of “I have to think about this.” Chronological order is important. You can use a lot of words, or a few words - it’s your journal. It’s not a new concept, but in scouring the web for suitable software, I find it to be a much underserved market.

You can use a basic spreadsheet to start simply. Assign a new sheet in your Decision Workbook for each new decision you want to track. The columns I use are:

  1. General Assessment of Mood (Mood and attitude are very important. Create a key like “1 through 5″ that you can sort.)
  2. Date
  3. Thought
  4. Reasoning
  5. Pro or Con

When you’ve come to a decision, it will be reflected in the last entry on the page. I work from the bottom up so I insert new lines at the top each time I add new entries.

Whether decisions prove to be good, or bad, go back periodically to review your decision process. You might want to highlight observations or thoughts that hindsight have proven to be right in one color, and those hindsight shows to be wrong in another. Many people spend time analyzing what went wrong at the expense of looking at those things that went right. They also fail to be brutally honest with themselves about why the things that went wrong did so. That never helps.  As you get more comfortable and more familiar with a more structured approach to decision making, you may want to move on to software that assists you in the process.

Not understanding how you arrived at a particular decision coupled with not being honest with yourself about your contribution always leads to repeated failures. There is no guarantee, however, that even complete understanding leads to success. Business is risky. That’s why there is the opportunity for substantial reward when you get it right.


Creativity: Better then Money

July 15, 2012

This post by Seth Godin is the heart and soul of micro start-ups and the concept of bootstrapping. Lack of money can be a micro startup business owner’s biggest asset.  It’s easy to shop.  The world is full of “good” for a “reasonable price.”  Everybody has “it” – the very same “it” – the “it” [...]

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Obama’s Small Business Initiative

July 11, 2012

President Obama instituted six new initiatives to help “small” business.  CNBC, on Facebook, asked for comments.  I’d like to comment on them here for clients, friends, and readers, of Success Center USA. We serve mico clients and the small end of the small business world.  Keep in mind that the government definition of “small” business runs up [...]

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The New Way to Pay

July 11, 2012

Did you know some Big Box Stores are accepting PayPal? It was announced in January. PayPal’s 15 new national retailers include: Abercrombie & Fitch, Advance Auto Parts, Aéropostale, American Eagle Outfitters, Barnes & Noble, Foot Locker, Guitar Center, Jamba Juice, JC Penney, Jos. A. Bank Clothiers, Nine West, Office Depot, Rooms To Go, Tiger Direct [...]

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You Are Competing on Price

May 25, 2012

The permalink to this post is Seth Godin wrote a thought-provoking post today called “The Tyranny of Low Price.”  He starts by saying,”If you build your business around being the lowest-cost provider, that’s all you’ve got. Everything you do has to be a race in that direction, because if you veer toward anything else [...]

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The Big Costs of Small Transactions

May 24, 2012

The permalink to this post is There is one basic challenge we all need to think about and work hard at. Scale. No – not the one you step on, although that’s a challenge too, but scale as it applies to life and business. The business term is “Economy of Scale.” Fact: It costs [...]

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Morning Mental Stroll: What’s Your Transaction Cost?

May 23, 2012

I was having a discussion with my sister last night when she uttered these words, “Water – God only knows what’s in our water.”  I instantly realized these are the costs – this time, health costs – of trust and distrust.  As you have discussions with people, notice the high cost we pay for lack [...]

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Reflections on Facebook’s IPO

May 8, 2012

As I listened to talk about Facebook getting it’s IPO, I started thinking about how it took off and MySpace died. Why? My conclusion is “packaging.” MySpace was butt-ugly. Just hideous. Pages would absolutely hurt your eyes. It was the best example I can think of for “don’t do it just because you can.” Otherwise, [...]

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Groupon Gets the Spa Treatment

April 25, 2012

I was intrigued by an article posted by Guy Kawasaki on Facebook and one of his friend’s responses. The article talked about the steps a spa took to make sure the Groupon experience was a good one.  The adamant response on Facebook was that the article couldn’t possibly be true because, basically, everyone knows that spa owners [...]

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