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Rethink the Shark: Don’t Let Fear Hold You Back

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Despite their bad rap, sharks aren’t quite the bloodthirsty animals Hollywood has made them out to be. While Jaws may have been the box-office champ of its time, reality paints a different picture of these toothy sea creatures. Thanks to that 1975 film, its sequels, its rip-offs and other pieces of pop culture across several media – including Discovery’s ever-popular, annual Shark Week – we fear sharks.

But why? Our chances of being the victim of a shark attack are far less than being involved in a car accident or even being struck by lightning. While shark attacks do occur, they are extremely rare. In fact, according to conservation organization Oceana, an average of just 4.2 fatal attacks occurs each year. Between 2006 and 2010, a total of 179 shark attacks occurred in the U.S., resulting in three fatalities. During the same time period, there were 176,937 fatal car crashes, all while you sat on the beach, afraid to get in the water because of … y’know, sharks.

You may be wondering how sharks relate to your business. All too often, we rely on fear to determine our survival, working world included.

The cavemen ages are far behind us. We no longer have to worry about the slightest rustle in the bushes for fear a lion might be our demise; yet, like our ancestors, our brains are wired to think this way: overanalyze every situation and cause ourselves anxiety over unlikely situations.

Don’t fear the ‘shark’

How do we overcome this fear? The answer to this is twofold.

First, stop worrying about the sharks. Taking precaution is smart, but spending your time sitting on the sand is no way to become the world’s best surfer. Don’t waste your energy; rather, jump in the water and start paddling, because when it comes down to it, as President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

Becoming completely free of fear is neither easy nor something that everyone should do. It is a work in progress. However, if you can get to a point of freedom, the possibilities are endless. For a few tools to help you along the way, consider these three tips:

1. Think positively.Take a moment and think about your greatest fear right now, whether in life or in business. Now, if this catastrophe did occur, can you list ways in which it could be seen as an opportunity? This is the first step to overcoming your fear. Countering these fears with positive thinking and purpose will start to shrink those “sharks,” making them seem a little less intimidating.

2. Break the cycle. Worrying isn’t necessarily a bad thing; some things merit it. Traffic making you late for an interview; your teenager taking the car out for a spin; or not being able to find an important document you need for tomorrow’s meeting: All are situations in which a negative outcome is possible, so they demand a bit of worry. However, when your worrying becomes chronic, that’s when it becomes a bad thing.

Chronic worriers feel that by worrying, they can prevent the bad things from happening or catch them early. Thinking about your fears does not give you more control; instead, it seriously hinders your ability to move on and let go.

If you are this type of person, keep a journal of worry topics. Write them down as you experience them and you may start to piece together similarities when they appear. Another great way to overcome your worry is to retrain your brain to see what you call “threats” as challenge, and then follow through with action steps to meet said challenges.

3. Accept that you can’t control everything. Life happens as it is supposed to happen, and while you may want to manipulate every aspect as it unfolds, you can’t. Some things in life cannot be controlled, so why drive yourself crazy?Manage what is reasonable to manage; take precautions; and trust that your ability to cope and overcome is far stronger than your fear.

Face reality

The second half of this two-folded answer begins after you’ve rechanneled your fear away from the “sharks.” Now it’s time to face the killer reality: that the problems you thought were worth worrying about were actually distracting you from the true problems right under your nose.

For instance, if there any situation you currently are ignoring, it might be because you don’t know how to handle it. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make it go away. Rather, consider taking a proactive approach and creating a to-do list to help shift it.

Or maybe there is a situation you think is beneficial, but really is not. If you’re nodding in agreement, take a step back to reassess the situation. Perhaps you’re too into your own head, in which case a third-party opinion would be beneficial.

The point is that “sharks” don’t have to be so scary; it’s all a matter of perception. By simply repositioning the way you think, those fears that once held you back are slowly diminished. Now you and your business can reach full potential.



Author Bio: Lauren is an enthusiastic writer who is passionate about numerous topics surrounding the HCM industry including talent management and acquisition, technology, document management and leadership, just to name a few. Lauren has been with Paycom for over a year and has taken on roles as a blogger, social strategist and community relations coordinator. In her spare time she enjoys DIY“ing,” exploring the city and keeping up with her two dogs, Deacon and Cookie.

Death of an employee

Staying Compliant After the Death of an Employee

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When an employee passes away, you need time to process your emotions. But as an HR professional, there are also timely actions you should take to help your workforce grieve, and a few things you’ll need to address to remain compliant. While the death of an employee is never easy, it’s important to ensure any compliance matters are handled consistently with your current policies but with added grace.

Initial Steps

Although your employee wasn’t actually terminated, it’s still a best practice to follow your existing termination checklist. The checklist will help you determine what security access the deceased had so you can disable or redirect it. It will also help with remembering what keys and technology (like a laptop or cellphone) the employee may have had. Be respectful of the employee’s family and ask for these items in as sensitive a manner as you can. You may work with your internal IT department to secure devices remotely, which can protect your sensitive data while you work to connect with the right family member.

In some instances, you’ll also need to obtain a death certificate from the family. This may seem like a uncomfortable request, but you’ll need the certificate before you can proceed with many of the following steps you need to take for the employee.

Paycheck

Check your state laws to make sure you’re following the correct procedure about paying final wages. For example, some states require you to pay out unused vacation. If your state doesn’t have a law, follow your company policy.

You’ll also need to find out who the deceased’s beneficiary is so you will know who should receive his or her final wages. This should be documented either in your HRIS system or on a form in the employee’s personnel or benefit file.  If a paycheck has already been issued, but not cashed, you should reissue the check to the deceased’s beneficiary or estate.

COBRA and Life Insurance

If the employee is covered on the benefit plans, their death is a COBRA-qualifying event. If you sponsor group health plans, you must offer a continuation of group health insurance for up to 36 months to the deceased’s surviving spouse and dependents. The family must be notified about coverage within 30 days of the deceased’s death.

Prepare any relevant information for life insurance claims, if the employee had a policy in effect. They will be dealing with so many decisions that pulling this information together for them before they request it can help give those grieving one less thing to worry about. Employers may also choose to include EAP information or other company sponsored grief resources for eligible family members.

Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 requires that retirement, pension and other plans provide survivor benefits to the surviving spouse of an employee who worked after reaching the earliest possible retirement date under the plan but passed away before retiring. Since this law only pertains to employees who were able to retire but hadn’t yet, you’ll need to refer to your company’s policies to ensure compliance if the deceased was of retirement age. Benefit administrators should contact their plan providers to confirm if there is any additional action required on the deceased employee’s behalf.

To learn more about how your business can start to build procedures for an employee’s death so you can navigate the difficult time as smoothly as possible, visit our blog, “4 Questions to Consider When Handling the Death of an Employee.”

 

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Posted in Blog, Compliance, Employment Law, Featured

Callie Johnson

by Callie Johnson


Author Bio: As a writer for Paycom, Callie Johnson creates content for the company’s various marketing and communications initiatives. Having earned her bachelor’s degrees in journalism from the University of Oklahoma and web design/development from Full Sail University, she has written for companies of all sizes. Outside of the office, she enjoys hand-lettering, going to the movies and spending time with her family and dogs.

Office Relationships

How HR Could Have Helped 3 Complicated On-screen Office Relationships

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With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, love is in the air and sometimes that romantic air makes its way into the office. Workplace romances may seem like something only seen in film or on TV, but according to Career Builder, 38% of American workers said they have dated a co-worker at least once in their career. That’s over a third of employees, which makes workplace romance an item every organization should have on its radar.

To better understand how HR can prepare and handle potentially tricky conversations, let’s take a look at three complicated workplace romances from film or television – and how HR could have helped.

Subscribe to HR Break Room to hear more about managing office romance.

Mulder and Scully – The X-files

For almost 25 years, special agents Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) from The X-Files have been solving supernatural and extraterrestrial cases on television. This pair of government agents work for one of the most well-known organizations in the country, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Throughout the series, they slowly become more than just friends or coworkers and have even become romantically involved in the most recent seasons. Each episode features a case that often involves aliens, weird occurrences … and yet another development in Mulder and Scully’s evolving relationship.

How HR can help: The on-again, off-again relationship between Mulder and Scully has left audiences wondering about their status for years. That ambiguity is what makes their relationship unhealthy for the workplace. It’s important for an organization’s policy to hold employees accountable for reporting a romantic relationship with a co-worker. This transparency allows HR to hold a consistent policy that can protect both employees if they break up.

Tom and Summer – 500 Days of Summer

The greeting card industry can be tough, but a brutal breakup in the office can make it even harder! Just ask Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon Levitt) and Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel) from the 2009 hit romance film, 500 Days of Summer. The romance that sparked between this on-screen couple turned out to be a bad fit that eventually led to Tom’s depression and complete disengagement from his work. It’s a classic example of how even the most beautiful romances can sometimes go sour.

 How HR can help: It’s important for HR to treat their employees like adults who are allowed to make their own mistakes. It is equally important for managers and supervisors to know about office romances so they can be prepared to handle potential drama.

In this film, Summer is the personal secretary of Tom’s manager, Vance. As the long and painful breakup unfolds, Vance is not clued in on the reason behind Tom’s disengagement, which leads to awkward workplace encounters and poor productivity. By incorporating some form of documentation confirming a workplace relationship into your organization’s policy for managers and team leads, you can foster a culture that equips leaders to better address the impact of those painful breakups.

Lois and Clark – Superman

The iconic comic book couple Lois and Clark have appeared on the screen together many times over the last several decades, but let’s take a look at the 1975 film Superman starring Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder. Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Lois Lane works closely with Clark Kent, who (unbeknownst to her) lives a life of fighting criminals. In the workplace, they are coworkers with great chemistry, but Lois’ professional-turned-romantic relationship with Clark’s alter ego, Superman, eventually makes her and the entire Daily Planet a target of his rivals. Clark’s dual identities complicate the root of the problem within the workplace, so that his interest in Lois puts the entire organization at risk.

How HR can help: Krypton’s last son may be great at hiding his identity, but ultimately living a life of two identities endangers people in both. That includes his coworkers Jimmy Olson, Perry White and most importantly, his romantic interest, Lois Lane.

It’s up to The Daily Planet’s HR department to screen their candidates through an applicant tracking system with thorough background checks before making a hiring decision. This can help identify potential red flags or conflicts of interest before a new employee joins the team.

 This Valentine’s Day, take the opportunity to look closer at your existing workplace romantic relationship policies. These stories make for great entertainment – but an effective policy on workplace romance can help you make sure the drama stays on the screen and out of your office.

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Posted in Blog, Featured, Talent Management

caleb.masters

by Caleb Masters


Author Bio: Caleb is the host of The HR Break Room and a Webinar and Podcast Producer at Paycom. With more than 5 years of experience as a published online writer and content producer, Caleb has produced dozens of podcasts and videos for multiple industries both local and online. Caleb continues to assist organizations creatively communicate their ideas and messages through researched talks, blog posts and new media. Outside of work, Caleb enjoys running, discussing movies and trying new local restaurants.

Understanding the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

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With the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) being signed into law by President Donald Trump on Dec. 22, 2017, several changes to individual and business taxation were made. How those changes affect each taxpayer depends on that individual’s specific situation.

Below is a “big-picture” overview of various provisions affecting businesses and individuals, with more focused guidance on how the new law will affect employer withholding of employee income taxes.

 

Changes for individuals

The TCJA affects individual income taxes in a number of ways. While the law maintains the seven income brackets used in tax calculation, it reduces the tax rate for five of the brackets:

Previous Rates 10% 15% 25% 28% 33% 35% 39.6%
New Rates 10% 12% 22% 24% 32% 35% 37%

 

The new law has also changed the withholding rates for supplemental wages. For wages up to $1 million, the current rate is 22%, and for wages over $1 million, the current rate is 37% (previously 25% and 39.6%, respectively).

TCJA has eliminated the personal exemptions for individuals, spouse and dependents. Previously, a married taxpayer filing jointly could claim two exemptions: one for his or her spouse and another for themselves. In that instance, two exemptions of $4,050 each would reduce taxable income by $8,100 total.

While that exemption is gone, the TCJA nearly has doubled the standard deduction. Last year, the standard deduction was $6,350 for single filers and $12,700 for joint filers. For 2018, these levels increased to $12,000 for single and $24,000 for joint filers.

The TCJA makes several other specific changes to individual income taxes, including:

  • The individual shared responsibility mandate within the Affordable Care Act (ACA) essentially has been removed, as the penalty for noncompliance will become $0, effective Jan. 1, 2019.
  • Individuals no longer will be able to claim unreimbursed business expenses as itemized deductions.
  • A $10,000 limit has been placed on the deductibility of other taxes (state income tax, property taxes, etc.).
  • Donations to universities for athletic seating privileges are no longer deductible.
  • The child tax credit will double from the previous $1,000 value, up to $2,000 per child.

 

Changes for businesses

Businesses will need to take note of several changes within the TCJA as well. One key change: The corporate tax rate has been reduced from 35% to 21%.

Additionally, a new short term incentive is in place for businesses who offer FMLA paid leave to their employees. Such businesses will receive a credit of 12.5% for every dollar paid for FMLA leave, up to 50% of an employee’s pay, with an additional 0.25% credit for every 1% paid above 50% of an employee’s pay.

Among various reductions or removal of deductible expenses that businesses should note include:

  • transportation fringe benefits
  • limitations for employer-operated eating facilities
  • deduction limitations for pay to highly paid employees and C-level employees
  • limitations to the write-offs for sexual harassment settlements
  • limitations for the deductibility of entertainment expenses

 

All of the above items will need to be discussed with your CPA or tax counsel to determine how they apply to your situation.

 

Frequently asked questions from employers

Some of the most frequent questions we have received since the president’s signing of the law pertain to the withholding tables and Form W-4 questions.

Withholding tables

The IRS released the new 2018 withholding tables on Jan. 11 in Notice 1036, with more detailed guidance released on Jan. 29 in Notice 2018-14 and Publication 15. (These changes already have been implemented in the Paycom system, ahead of the Feb. 15 implementation deadline from the IRS.)

The IRS designed the 2018 withholding tables so that employees’ existing Form W-4 data could continue to be used. Therefore, the IRS does not require employees to complete a new W-4 for 2018.

Extensions to the 2017 Form W-4

The IRS currently is working on a new 2018 Form W-4 that will allow employees to modify their withholding to take full advantage of the changes in the TCJA. The new form’s expected release is after Feb. 15.

As a result, Notice 2018-14 highlights these items relating to the 2017 Form W-4:

  1. Existing 2017 Forms W-4 furnished to claim exemption from withholding for 2017 would be extended to Feb. 28, 2018.
  2. The 2017 Form W-4 may continue to be used temporarily to claim exemption from withholding in 2018.
  3. The agency temporarily has suspended the requirement that employees must furnish new Forms W-4 to employers within 10 days of changes in states that would reduce withholding allowances they may claim.

 

Allowances and exemptions

When discussing the effects of the TCJA, it is important to understand the distinction between “allowances,” as claimed on the W-4 that are used for withholding, and “exemptions” that an individual claims on a year-end tax return.

Historically, these numbers are usually the same. For instance, last year they were $4,050 per allowance in withholding and exemptions in year-end tax returns. The number of allowances claimed on the 2017 Form W-4 were multiplied by $4,050, and an employee’s annual wages were reduced by that product to arrive at taxable wages used in withholding calculations. If the employee claimed exemptions on his or her annual return, the number of exemptions claimed likewise was multiplied by the same $4,050 to reduce taxable income on the Form 1040 year-end return.

While the TCJA has eliminated exemptions for 2018, the allowances (as used in calculation of withholding) have not been eliminated; in fact, they were increased to a value of $4,150 per allowance claimed on the W-4. Thus, for every W-4 allowance claimed, an employee’s gross income will be reduced by $4,150 to arrive at taxable wages for use in the withholding calculation. However, no exemptions will be allowed on the employee’s Form 1040 at year-end; moving forward, it is anticipated the worksheet on the 2018 Form W-4 will not include exemptions in the calculation of withholding allowances.

Voluntary submission of 2018 Form W-4

While submitting a 2018 Form W-4 is not required by the IRS at this time, an employee may elect to do so. Employees should look at the 2018 W-4 once it is released, because of the removal of exemptions from the income tax provisions. Employees should calculate the allowances on the new form to determine if they would benefit by submitting a new Form W-4 to their employer to adjust their withholding.

Until the 2018 Form W-4 is released, an employee may voluntarily choose to submit a copy of the 2017 Form W-4 if he or she wants to adjust their withholding for the period prior to the 2018 form’s release.

The recent tax reform is complex, leaving many items to consider for your employees as they head into 2018. Businesses and employees alike would benefit from consulting tax counsel to help determine the most appropriate next steps for their specific situations.

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Posted in Blog, Compliance, Featured


Author Bio: Robert Barclay has been the Tax Research Team Lead at Paycom since 2012, and has been instrumental in such company projects as the development of its Affordable Care Act compliance product, implementation of geolocation services and redesign of Form W-2. He joined Paycom in 2011, bringing more than 20 years of experience with the capital markets consulting practices of Ernst & Young in Memphis, Tenn., and Birmingham, Ala.; and Causey Demgen & Moore in Denver, Colo. A native Oklahoman, Barclay is a graduate of Rhodes College in Memphis, where he played football as linebacker.

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