30 of the Worst Holiday Business Gifts to Employees Ever

Now that Thanksgiving has passed us by, we have officially entered the end of the year holiday season. That means it’s time to start seriously thinking about what to give to your employees as recognition for all the hard work they have put in to the business throughout the year.

Just a word of caution, though. Regardless of your gift budget, make sure that your giving is appropriate. Your employees will quickly build up resentment, lose their moral, and harbor an assortment of other negative feelings if they deem your gift to be insensitive, condescending, or grossly in adequate.

What exactly do I mean by “insensitive, condescending, or grossly in adequate”? Take a look at the examples below of some of the worst holiday gifts to employees given by their bosses collected from around the web:

Real-Life Examples of Horrible Business “Gifts” to Their Employees

  • “One year my sister worked at a major theme park and was required to work on Christmas Day. In acknowledgment of this, her boss gave all of the hourly employees a present: A gift certificate for one of the in-park vendor stands for a medium soda OR a banana. (Yes, those were the two choices.) When she cashed hers in for a banana, she was told that the gift certificate did not cover sales tax and had to pay that out of pocket.”
  • “Last year at Christmas each employee at my husband’s firm received an envelope containing $100 cash. Presuming this was a holiday bonus, we spent it on groceries, some things for our two kids, a dinner out, etc. Like a lot of grown-ups, our paychecks are deposited electronically and we have many bills drafted out the same way, such as our utilities, car insurance, etc. A week later, on payday, we discovered in the worst possible way that the $100 was not a gift, but was simply deducted from my husband’s salary and presented as cash. Because his week’s pay was now $100 less, suddenly all the drafts of our bills began coming out of an account that was $100 smaller than it was supposed to be, until finally, a check bounced and the bank charged us $36.
  • “At the annual Christmas luncheon my boss presented me with a Christmas present….which was a coffee mug. When I got back to the office, I had a bill on my chair for the cost of the Christmas luncheon and the mug.”
  • “At one of my first jobs, Management brought a caterer in with 50 or so frozen turkeys at the start of my shift a few days before Thanksgiving. We were all given one. Not a gift certificate FOR a frozen turkey, but an actual frozen turkey. Unfortunately, as you might imagine we did not have room in the break room refrigerator for 50 frozen turkeys. And we were not allowed to go home to drop them off…”

  • “I once received a Harry and David tower of treats. Gourmet, yes. But the package had my boss’ address pasted on it. He had regifted it to me.”

  • “Years ago, I worked for a boss who took us all out to a very expensive restaurant in New York City one December evening. Throughout the night, he encouraged us all to eat, drink and be merry. He urged us all to order the choicest and most expensive items on the menu. So we did. At the end of the meal, he asked for separate checks.”
  • “A boss gave me a high five. Two years in a row.”
  • “Worst gift I can ever remember receiving was a pack of sanitary napkins. The wrapping was nice, mind you, with ribbons and all. And even with a card that says, “Something useful, from:” And when we all opened it there in the office afterward, imagine our shock when we found all the women in the department received the same gift. Our boss (a guy) was known to be a chauvinist, but until that day, we did not know how bad it was. He came over after seeing us opening the presents and even smirked, ‘I hope I got your preferred brands correctly.’ Needless to say, we resigned one after the other in quick succession in less than two weeks.”
  • “The first year at my current company they called everyone down by team and gave them grocery store gift cards for $7.58. And they made you sign for them. “
  • “One large retail company in Michigan I used to work for gave all of their employees a coupon for a free doughnut in the bakery… At another company we had an employee gift exchange and my boss gave a picture of himself and a few roles of toilet paper in a nicely wrapped box. Thank goodness, I didn’t fall for the pretty wrapping and had selected another gift.”
  • “My boss pressured us to chip in $100 each to give the CEO a remote car starter for his Cadillac, and in the process, we grew to believe that our boss expected a gift, too… This put us in the awkward position of feeling it was expected that we buy a gift for our immediate boss. Which we did. I gave him a $40 bottle of his favorite liquor… Imagine my shock to open my Christmas bonus of $70 which is half of what I spent on them.”
  • “As a supervisor in a manufacturing plant, one year I was required to give out these chintzy watches that looked too cheap to have even come from a 25 cent machine or the claw game. What made it better is that we had been working 7 days a week for the last month (with nearly a month left of this schedule to go) and it felt like a slap in the face to the people that had been working so hard to give them such an obvious piece of garbage.”
  • “We used to have a workers’ Christmas party, paid for by the company, that we could take a guest to. Then we had to pay for a guest. Then we had to pay for ourselves and any guest. Then we discovered that the fee we were paying paid for management to continue to attend for free.”
  • “A dog leash. From the president of the company. I was his personal assistant. I quit after a year.”
  • “I once received x-rated shot glasses from my supervisor. Not pictures that were x-rated, but the actual shot glass formed in a naughty body part. Gross. “
  • “Each year we get turkeys just waiting for the cut to make it a Cornish game hen.”
  • A copy of the children’s book, The Little Engine That Could from a VP who “…pile[s] as much work on employees as they can possibly take. He seems to relish pushing people straight to the edge of their capabilities—and their sanity. (Perhaps he has delusions of being Jack Welch?) In any case, at least one employee was pushed too far and had to take a stress-related leave of absence this past fall. Others are fleeing the company.”
  • “A Mars Bar for the anniversary of working with the organization. It made me feel unappreciated”
  • “Microwave popcorn and one bottle of sparkling to share amongst 10 people to celebrate major account resigning”
  • “For my five years of service – a choice of a wallet, a $5 bottle of wine, a plastic picture frame, playing cards and 2 other pieces of garbage – what an insult”

  • “A Taco Bell watch for 5 years of service and a letter misspelling my name”
  • “A pen that didn’t work”
  • “$5 iTunes Gift Card for Christmas”
  • “Herb sachets from a Channel promotion”
  • Rancid food, dead or bug infested plants
  • Nice gifts, such as watches, necklaces, with the message that the item would be listed on the employee’s W-2 as income related item.
  • Stock options in a struggling company
  • A Bic pen, a rock that says “You rock!,” a plastic key chain, used coffee coasters
  • A wooden hairbrush sent to a bald male employee
  • A donation made to a charity that the employee doesn’t like

What are your holiday employee gift nightmares?









The Best Healthcare Options for Small Business Owners & The Self-Employed

Underlying all the political rhetoric regarding the state of U.S. Healthcare, underlying all the finger-pointing and posturing about how it should be fixed, who should fix it, and when, the fact is many people are struggling to afford adequate healthcare for themselves and their families. Among the nation’s small business owners and the self-employed in particular, recent statistics shed light on some alarming trends.

In a recent post at Small Business Trends, Scott Shane made the following observation based on statistics from the Kaiser Family Foundation’s annual survey on employer health benefits, “…since 1999 [till 2008] the average cost of employee health insurance premiums (for family coverage) has risen 84 percent in inflation adjusted terms (148 percent in nominal terms).” He then goes on to point out, “But between 1999 and 2008, the revenues at the average American company fell 5 percent in inflation-adjusted terms. Over the same period, employee health care premiums went up 64 percent when measured similarly. The rapidly rising cost of employee health insurance means that the cost of health insurance has increased from 5.4 percent of total worker compensation in 1999 (PDF) to 7.7 percent in 2012 (PDF), according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.”

These statistics certainly don’t paint a pretty picture. Furthermore, underlying these trends is that fact that if small businesses simply give up on health insurance, they can experience ramifications that extend way beyond lost healthcare benefits. For small business owners and the self-employed, lack of adequate healthcare can also mean the loss of key employees and work productivity. Employer-sponsored health insurance is one of the benefits workers value the most. Offering employees a health insurance plan can help small businesses hire and retain the best workers.

That said, there are ways to obtain healthcare even for cash-strapped small business owners and self-employed professionals. The following are the most popular (and successful) methods of keeping healthcare related costs manageable.

Research your options. If you want to ensure that you get the best healthcare coverage to suit your situation then you have to do some research. Specifically you want to pay attention to the size and nature of a plan’s deductibles, out-of-pocket expenses, and any caps on coverage, as well as policies on health maintenance and wellness visits. Keep in mind that a lot of this changes if you have a pre-existing condition. You should also be aware of the various tax incentives for small business owners to encourage employer-sponsored healthcare coverage.

There are numerous sites online that can help you connect with your affordable healthcare opportunities. For starters, be sure to check out the following sites:

Join a membership organization. Even if you’re in business for yourself, there are a number of both industry-specific and general business membership organizations you can join to help reduce your healthcare costs via association-sponsored healthcare plans. These plans allow small business owners to purchase coverage through their membership in the organization. Often, these plans offer significant discounts in health coverage; you may have a nice selection of options to choose from as well. But before signing up, make sure to check with your State Insurance Department to make sure the plan is insured with an organization licensed with the state. Because many association-sponsored plans are multi- state, you can also consult the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) Web site.

Alternatively, you could check out the AARP if you are over 50. If you are running a small business then you can inquire about healthcare plans at your local Chamber of Commerce and the Small Business Service Bureau. If you are self-employed you can check out the plans offered by the National Association for the Self-Employed.

Rely on the high-deductible/HSA combo. One strategy to reduce healthcare costs while still maintaining coverage is by signing up for a high-deductible insurance plan coupled with a tax-advantaged Health Savings Account (HSA). The funds contributed to an HSA are not subject to federal income tax at the time of deposit. Unlike a flexible spending account (FSA), if the funds are not spent, they can be rolled over from year to year. HSAs are owned by the individual and may be used to pay for qualifying medical expenses at any time without federal tax liability or penalty.

Join a discount health benefits program. For a small fee these programs offer savings on prescription drugs, dental visits and other health services by connecting members with affiliated doctors, dentists, and health centers. In this way, a health benefits program can fill in any gaps in coverage from your existing health insurance policy.

Look into specialty supplemental policies. As insurance premiums continue to rise, putting extra financial burden and risk on the shoulders of small business owners and the self-employed, the insurance companies themselves realize that they’re just created a market for a new set of insurance products. These “supplemental policies” are being introduced all the time. One example is a policy that ensure that out-of-pocket costs from an accident or critical illness do not endanger company finances. Such a product could be useful to a self-employed, independent business owner like who has a risk of injury in a day-to-day routine.

Get group coverage even where there are no employees. Small group health insurance plans cover between two and 50 employees, and the larger your group, the lower your premiums will be. Small businesses with only a few employees and self-employed individuals have the option of creating a group purchasing alliance with other small businesses and individuals to offer employer sponsored health coverage. You can locate a purchasing coalition on your state Department of Insurance (DOI) website. Be aware that there are special tax incentives available to businesses providing group coverage to employees, and no one in a group can be turned down due to a pre-existing medical condition.

Initiate a wellness program. Seek free or low-cost advice on maintaining a healthy diet and following an exercise plan and get your employees involved. Encourage your employees to attend wellness seminars and to avoid or reduce unhealthy habits, such as smoking and eating junk food. Take advantage of free health screenings at local clinics, hospitals or health fairs. In the end you and your employees will feel better, and that could mean fewer trips to the doctor.

How to Build a Wellness Program in Your Small Business

With the rising costs of health care and the tangible benefits that come with living a healthy life style, it’s almost a no-brainier that implementing a wellness program in your small business can offer a potentially big payback. And don’t think that it will necessarily cost you big bucks. Just because you can’t afford to sponsor an expensive spa or gym membership for your employees nor provide extensive health-related workshops and other services, it doesn’t mean you can’t have a wellness program in your business.



You may be surprised by how far a little thought and creativity can go. If you are considering building a wellness program in your business, but need to do so on the cheap, then here are some tips to keep in mind:

First, take a look around. You need to take a real good look at your business and your employees and identify those key areas that need to be changed. Are there a lot of smokers in your business? What do break times look like? What do you and your employees eat, drink, or snack on? Does you business involve long periods of sitting or standing in one place? Pick one or two areas to start with.

Create space. Before you introduce any changes in your business, make sure that you prepare your employees and ask for their input. Having a discussion about some possible options for your wellness program is definitely a start. There are two main benefits to starting things in this way: first, your employees may offer many ideas for the wellness program that you could not have come up with on your own, and second, you want to get your employees excited about the program. If they “own” it, then there is a greater chance of it being a success.

Be flexible and creative. With a little flexibility and creativity, there are many healthy activities you can introduce in your business, and the best part is that these activities can also be great team builders. Some free or low-cost ideas to consider include:

  • Starting a walking, hiking, or biking group
  • Cooking healthy lunches together
  • Going as a group to a health fair
  • Setting fitness goals, such as losing weight, running a certain distance, quitting smoking

Be patient. Rome wasn’t built in one day as they say, and neither will your business’ wellness program. Old habits and patterns are typically the hardest to break, so make sure you introduce any changes slowly and deliberately.

Communicate and evaluate. If you really want your wellness initiatives to have a positive, lasting effect, then make it a point to both communicate with your employees and evaluate how the program is going. This will allow to tweak things along the way. If, for example, you started putting out healthy snacks, but these items aren’t being eaten, then find out why and see if there are alternatives. If you set group fitness goals, but your employees are having a hard time sticking to them, then maybe the goals were set too high.

In short, if you would like to start a wellness program in your business, but are afraid of what it might cost you, don’t sweat it. Those little, healthy changes can really go a long way.

5 Things You Must Do Before Hiring a Virtual Assistant

If your to-do list is fast becoming unsustainable, you do not have to wait till you are literally drowning in tasks you do not have the time, skills, nor expertise to accomplish. You could hire a virtual assistant (VA) to help you. As small business profit margins stay slim and trim while sales continue to languish, bringing a VA on board is not just in vogue, it’s a strategic, cost-saving move.




But, in order to capitalize on the arrangement, you need to start the process on the right foot. The following are five things you should do before you even start searching for virtual staff:


1. Be very clear about what you are looking for. When it comes to working with a virtual assistant, you don’t want to be spending too much time and money making decisions based on trial and error. To get things moving in the right direction, make sure you can adequately answer the following questions:

-Which tasks will your virtual assistant be responsible for?

-What kinds of skills, experience, and personality should this person have?

-What are the software and hardware requirements for the job?

-How many hours a week do you anticipate having your virtual staff work, and how much do you expect this person or team to accomplish in that time?


2. Determine how much you can afford to pay. Creating a budget for your virtual staff is a must because it will help you to focus your priorities. It will also give you an idea as to which sites and services you should use to recruit your virtual staff. Keep in mind, though, that with VA’s in particular, cheaper does not always mean better.


3. Create a job description. Once you have an answer for the questions mentioned above, your next step is to get it all written down in a clear job description. Just keep in mind that the more thought you put into the job description the more it will help to keep both you and your VA on the same page in terms of the job’s requirements, the expected level of performance, and the compensation being offered. You will also save yourself some time by attracting appropriate candidates for the position.


4. Decide how you will go about screening applicants. The amount of effort you put into screening applicants will largely depend on what your VA will be doing for you or your business. Where your VA will be handling sensitive information or will be directly communicating with either customers, business partners, or other established contacts, then investing some time and thought into the vetting out process is a must. Make sure that you or your chosen virtual staffing firm are conduct a background checks and verifying the applicant’s stated experience and skills. Also, make are to get a list of at least three references and make it a point to get in touch with them.


5. Create a system for evaluation. This is a step that many small business owners and entrepreneurs seem to overlook, yet it is an essential part of the whole process. If your motivation for hiring a VA is to save time and money, then make sure you don’t waste away that savings trying to force a VA relationship that just isn’t working out. Moreover, by knowing what to look for in your current virtual staff, you can make smarter hiring decisions in the future. Hiring, communication, and management “mistakes” then become valuable lessons learned that can be later applied to increase productivity and efficiency.


In short, with a little forethought and effort, you can help to ensure that your virtual staff will bring you and your business a very real savings.

Why Google+ Works Great for Recruiting

Most people know Google+ as another social network for individuals to connect with friends and companies to connect with customers. However, many colleges and universities know Google+ to work well in a different way—a great tool for recruiting.


The website Mashable recently found that many universities are using the networking tool as an opportunity to create an entire page based upon what their school can do for a particular student. This therefore works in the favor of the students just the same because it will save them time. Considering where you want to go to school for four years is a tough decision, so it’s nice to be able to go to one place and get all the answers. While some may argue that this is the job of a school website, I think many would agree that young people today feel comfortable using social networks. They are already on Google+ with their friends, so they will be more apt to check out a college or university while they’re there.

This led me to wonder: Should businesses be doing the same thing with Google+? While Facebook and Twitter are great places to promote deals and connect with potential customers, they are rarely dedicated to recruitment. Being that Google+ is so new, should businesses use it as a recruiting tool? It has worked for over 150 colleges and universities, so this may be something your business wants to consider.

Below lists a few ways your company can follow the model of these colleges and universities Google+ pages to recruit the best talent possible:

Follow By Example

  • Highlight the achievements of former employees and current employees.

This is a great way for a small business to grab new talent. If some of your former employees went on to have great careers, even if it wasn’t with your company, you could sway some of those young graduates your way. While you likely highlight your achievements on your current social platforms, they can be hard to find through all of the other announcements going up on your “wall.”

  • Let prospective employees know where your company is headed.

This works great for companies who are growing. Most people want to work for a company that has the potential to grow, so if you’re company fits into this category it is important to make it known. Consider posting videos or speeches that discuss where your company plans to be in the next five years and how it plans to get there. This could sway anyone looking to get in on the ground floor. For example, if you’re a company in the business of selling paper you may want to let others know that soon you will also be selling business phone systems and printers (The Office fans anyone?).

  • Give those interested a look into the day to day routine of your current employees.

Colleges and universities use the site to showcase the campus lifestyle, and your company can to the same. Some things never change—if you are thinking about going to a school, you want to know what it’s really like each and every day; if you’re thinking about taking a job, you want to know the daily routine.

  • Let prospective candidates know where their hard work will lead

Use Google+ to let everyone know why your company is worthwhile. What do you do to help the public and/or the community? Are you just a telemarketing company, or a telemarking company with something to say? You will want to highlight what you have to offer an individual who works for you, but also let people know what you have to offer others.

Google+ has worked great for colleges and universities, and there is no reason it shouldn’t work just as well for companies. You already have your Facebook page to promote deals and your Twitter account to connect with customers, so consider using Google+ as a place for recruiting.

Amanda DiSilvestro is a writer on topics ranging from social media to postage meters. She writes for an online resource that gives advice on topics including credit card processing to small businesses and entrepreneurs for the leading b2b lead generation resource, Resource Nation.

Moving Your Full-Time Workers to Part-Time

Even with the somewhat promising employment report and holiday shopping rush that the media has been sticking under our noses, sluggish sales and strained cash flow are still making headlines for countless small business owners. In order to sustain the prolonged economic restraint, many small businesses have had to restructure their workforce. Often, that means either letting go of employees or cutting back on hours worked.


If you own a small business and are considering moving some of your full time staff over to part time positions, then there are three words that you need to keep in mind: proceed with caution. Not only do want to avoid creating resentments and frustrations among your loyal workers, but you also want to create a setup that will actually save your business money- both in the short-term and over the long-run.

Here are five things to consider:

1. What responsibilities will the part-time position have? If you want a surefire way to build up employee resentment, then make your employees work a full-time job while offering the hours and pay of a part-time position. Not only will your workers be unhappy, but such practices are bound to backfire as the quality and pace of your workers’ output declines. If your employees will be working less then see what responsibilities can be comfortably taken out of the full-time position.

2. Do you have enough manpower to cover the workload? Before deciding whether or not to convert a full-time position to one that is part time, make sure your business has enough workers to get the job done without them having to overextend themselves.

3. How many hours will the employee work? Once you are clear about the job description for your new part-time position, then you can go about determining the amount of hours required to complete the job. Depending on your business’ setup, you may want to do a trial run at the beginning to see if the part-time job requirements can be comfortably fulfilled within the time allotted, and make it a point to ask your employees how they are holding up and if they have any suggestions for the position.

4. How much should you pay? If the full-time position was a salaried one, then you will need to determine an equivalent part-time wage. To do this you have to convert the yearly salary to an hourly wage by dividing the total salary by the total number of work hours in a year. Once you have an hourly wage, you can then multiply it by the number of hours you expect your part-time employee to work.

5. What benefits if any will you be offering? One of the most important parts of employee compensation is the additional benefits associated with it, such as a qualified retirement plan and health care plan. Sometimes these benefits can be worth as much to the employee as the actual wages received. That said, any changes to your employee benefits package should be done carefully- especially for those workers who were previously engaged in a full-time position with your company.

Also, keep in mind, that some benefits, such as healthcare, will require a minimum amount of hours worked, while others, such as retirement plans, must by law kick in if an employee works over a certain amount of hours per year.

How Small Business Owners Can Increase Employee Pay When Money is Tight

According to a recent Wells Fargo Business Insights survey, poor cash flow continues to be a major worry point for small business owners across the nation. These findings come as no surprise given the overall decrease in consumer spending and consumer confidence coupled with inflationary pressures and high rates of unemployment.


But as more American workers succumb to debt-related stress and illnesses, small business owners in particular may be struggling to both hold on to their talented, experienced workers while keeping them motivated on the job. The problem: these days, money has become a big motivating factor, even as the owners of many smaller businesses are looking for low-cost ways to encourage their workers without having to offer them a raise they just can’t afford.

So how can you as a small business owner break out of this cycle- especially if you are struggling with your daily cash flow? One answer to this predicament is to offer performance-based pay increases, and the more that you can align your employee performance measures with the company’s overall bottom line, the better. Some examples of this in action: giving employees a cut of the revenues from all new accounts that they help to set up, offering a bonus for coming up with ways to improve quality or efficiency, offering bonuses for high customer satisfaction scores.

Why does this stand a good chance of working? If employee goals are in line with company goals, then your compensation methods can be a simultaneous call to action- as this entrepreneur discovered. Employees will be motivated to give it their best, to help both themselves and the company as a whole, and this could just be the boost your business needs to successfully ride out these difficult economic times.

Stressed Out, Depressed Employees = Sick Employees: Keeping Workers Healthy, Happy

Part of the fallout of all the economic uncertainty, the government’s petulant turf wars, and the day-to-day struggle with money, has been an overall increase of stress, anxiety, and depression among the majority of Americans.


There is a well-know correlation between chronic stress and anxiety and the increase of stress-related illnesses, and according to a recent PwC Health Industries Survey, as the number of Americans fighting depression, anxiety, and stress increases, stress-related health conditions have been on the rise. Moreover, this is all coming at a time when many have put off seeking health care in an effort to keep their health costs to a minimum.

So how can small business owners keep their employees happy and healthy, especially where money is an issue? Here are three tips to consider:

1. Make sure employees’ jobs are doable. As the economy drags its feet after our recent recession and subsequent “recovery,” many businesses, both big and small, have had to cut back on their workforce, often combining the jobs of two or three positions into one- and doing all this while offering lower compensation.

Where this is the case, business owners should seriously and deliberately keep an eye on their workers to ensure that their workload and responsibility level is still doable. Where it isn’t, then the cutback is no longer profitable, since much money will be lost due to a subsequent decrease in productivity, motivation, quality of work and overall employee loyalty. It is better to see where responsibilities can be reduced by either hiring another worker, outsourcing, or bringing in temporary help. Even changing a worker’s schedule to include more flextime or home-based work, can do wonders to employee moral, productivity, and ultimately health.

2. Institute a “wellness program.” Having a wellness program in place does not necessarily mean building an on-site gym or providing expensive health seminars to your employees; it means promoting a culture of health in the business.

Here are some ideas: organize business-wide outings to local parks or other rustic areas, keep an eye out for free or low-cost health services, events, and seminars in the area and let your employees know about them, re-examine the work breakdown schedule to ensure that a proper amount of vacation time and personal days are worked in, make break time fun and healthy with healthy office snacks, occasional potluck lunches, and even company games or stress relievers; institute “nap time” breaks- where employees can put their heads down and rest for a few minutes.

3. Care about your employees. Having healthy, happy workers often starts with a positive attitude. If you truly value your workers and their input, it will come across to them. But, you have to also make sure that your feelings are followed by actions, such as offering raises or bonuses when and where you can and keeping the lines of communication open between you and your workers. The worst thing you can do is give over the attitude to your workers that they should just be happy that they have a job, while you turn a blind eye to their issues and concerns.

Make Sure Your 401k Isn’t Fee Free-For-All

As a small business owner, offering a employer-sponsored 401k retirement plan to your employees is an attractive benefit that will generate both goodwill and loyalty among your workforce. This is especially true these days, when countless businesses big and small have been reducing or dropping altogether their health care and retirement plans.



But, it is not enough to merely offer a 401k plan. In order to protect your employees’ future retirement assets and to protect yourself or your company from a potential lawsuit, you need to make an effort to ensure that the 401k plan you are sponsoring is not charging excessively high fees.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the fees for 401k plans typically fall into one of three categories:

  • Plan Administration Fees. As the name implies, these fees are incurred in order to cover the daily operation and administration of the plan.


  • Investment Fees. This basket of fees is tied to the management of plan investments. Fees for investment management and other investment-related services generally are incurred as a percentage of assets invested.


  • Individual Service Fees. This section of fees covers specialized or optional features, such as being able to take a loan out against the plan’s balance or initiating personalized investment directives.


Some of these fees are covered by the employer, while others are charged to the account holder. As a rule of thumb, you should aim for a plan that charges no more than a total of 1.5% in fees. To get at the actual number being charged you should contact your plan provider since some fees (especially those in the investment fees category) may not show up in your employees’ statements. If the fee is too high, then see if it can be reduced by cutting back on services, choosing to invest in a index fund, or changing service providers altogether.

Bottom line: when it comes to your employer-sponsored 401k retirement plan, exorbitant fees have no place.

7 Warning Signs of Employee Burnout at Work

Even though the economy may be showing some signs of life, when it comes to small businesses and hiring, slow and steady seem to be the operative words. If you are running a small business and have been asking for more from your employees while providing fewer resources, then your employees may be at risk for work-related burnout.


Burnout is a serious concern. It’s not something that should be so quickly ignored- especially since instances of burnout on the job will typically occur among your most valuable, loyal workers. These are the people who are willing to tow the line to keep the company and it’s profits afloat.

As the owner or manager of a small business, make sure to be on the lookout for these 7 warning signs of burnout among your employees. Keep in mind that where burnout is an issue, many of these signs will come together and that their sudden appearance will generally stand out as both noticeable and unusual compared to past performance and behavior:

1. Lethargy, less productive. Workers known to be enthusiastic about their jobs start producing less. You may even notice a kind of heaviness, or conversely, a kind of dreamy disconnect as they go about their day.

2. Decrease in quality of work. Often, a drop in productivity will be accompanied by a noticeable decrease in the quality of the work produced. Tasks may be left unfinished or incomplete; there may be increased sloppiness or other work-related defects.

3. Health issues. Often, the stress underlying employee burnout can lead to a host of medical problems, from benign conditions, such as migraine headaches as well as unusually incidents of colds, flu, and other common viruses, to more serious medical conditions, such as high blood pressure and heart problems.

4. Higher rate of absenteeism. When employees are not healthy, then they may claim more sick days. Moreover, even where an employee experiencing burnout is not sick, there may a reluctance to come in for work. Loyal employees who rarely missed a day, may suddenly have spotty attendance.

5. Moodiness and irritability. Workers who were once relaxed and amicable, suddenly become hard to work with. It will be as if they are surrounded by a dark cloud that follows them around. This moodiness and irritability may be directed at both co-workers and customers.

6. Less sociable. Employees who are experiencing burnout on the job, may suddenly become anti-social or more secretive at work.

7. Self-destructive behavior. Another possible warning sign of burnout is the appearance of drug and/or alcohol abuse. Even a drastic change in diet can be an indication that something is off.

In my next post, I’ll discuss what you should do if you suspect that either you or your employees are experiencing work-related burnout.