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Just last weekend you might have gotten dressed up as your favorite character, went out with friends, and ate a lot of candy, right? It was, after all, Halloween, and so it is perfectly acceptable for us adults to behave like children for the one night.

I, for example, donned green face paint and a purple wig and called myself an alien, and I went out to the city with a pirate, Tony the Tiger, and Audrey Hepburn, because shouldn’t they always hang out together?

At any rate, I hope that you got to have as much fun playing dress up as I did, and that you are still in that fun and playful mood. Halloween may be over now, but there are still some child-like lessons that need to stick around all year long.

Kids can teach us a lot, both good and bad, and this shouldn’t be a lesson we look at once a year. So, let us take a moment to sink back down into the child-like persona we adorned this weekend and examine childhood in general.

5 Childhood Lessons that Work at Work

Here are five things that children have taught me that correlate to the workplace:

  1. Be a giver.

You probably work hard to teach your children the value of sharing. Nobody wants to be the parent of the Greedy Gus who doesn’t want to play with their toys until another kid wants to play with their toys, and then they cry and throw a fit because, “That’s their toy, and nobody else can touch it!”

And if your child does act like that, there is a good chance you do something to discipline them for this bad behavior. At least the rest of the world would hope so as to curtail the problem and not lead to further incidences.

Well, guess what? In the business world, there are laws out there that are intended to instill the value of sharing into the hearts of every business. If you do not want to get in trouble, you have to learn to be a giver.

There are many laws out there dictating what and how much you have to give to your workers (though to create happy, engaged workers, feel free to go above and beyond the law of the land). What these laws are will be in part determined by where you are, as federal, state, and local law will all apply. However, here are just a few of the examples that you need to consider:

  • Minimum wages;
  • Leaves – such as medical, voting, jury, and emergency;
  • Health insurance;
  • A safe workplace; and
  • Breaks.

Do you get the points? Your workers are giving you a lot: their time, energy, and skills, just for starters. So you should pay it forward.

And remember that elections aren’t once every four years. Just because the presidential election is the big kahuna of elections, doesn’t mean that every election isn’t just as important and just as covered by applicable voting leave laws. So let your workers go and vote today – these elections matter too.

Remember to practice what you teach to your kids and be a giver. Because if you don’t give them what they are owed, you are throwing the business owner version of a tantrum, and a court will not hesitate to punish you just as you would not hesitate to punish your little one for not obeying you.

That is, after all, how we teach valuable lessons.

  1. Honesty is the best policy. 

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You’ve heard the expression, “Out of the mouths of babes” or “Kids say the darndest things,” have you not? That is because when you are young, you have yet to learn to implement that filter. Sometimes this is a problem and they say something a little too honest to a stranger who you can never look straight in the eye again. However, most of the time it is refreshing. When they tell you something, you know you can believe it.

In business, this can be a hard concept to grasp, but honesty is always the best policy.

Let’s look at just a few of the many claims that can be brought against a business for less than honest business practices:

  • Defamation;
  • Fraud;
  • False advertising; and
  • Libel.

Let’s set aside the whole ‘unethical’ argument right now – though obviously that’s an important one. However, you know how when your child does try to lie, you can tell because they just aren’t good at it yet (hopefully)?

Well, that is the thing about dishonesty at any level: eventually, you will get caught. Take the recent VW scandal as an example. By this point, you have probably heard about the fact that VW has been lying about its emission standards for a while now, and the more research done into the story, the wider it becomes.

Falsifying documents, breaking standards, lying, and otherwise practicing unsavory business trends might serve to help in the short run, but it is almost guaranteed to come back and seriously hurt you in the long run.

So take a lesson from your overly truthful child, and remember that honesty is always the best policy.

  1. Family Is Important.

Kids are pretty much dependent on their families. I mean, they don’t work for a living or anything. They can’t drive themselves around. They don’t feel safe living by themselves. They are the definition of needy. And you would not have it any other way. Kids grow up fast. However, while they are growing, they need a family to support them, and they are not afraid to show it.

There are a lot of reasons that business need to learn the meaning of the word family, both practically and legally. From a legal standpoint, many businesses must follow the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, which requires them to give employees unpaid leave for family and medical reasons under certain circumstances.

Similarly, many states have similar, more comprehensive laws. Take, for example, the California Family Rights Act, which was amended earlier this year.

With laws of this nature on the rise and ever changing, it is vital that businesses stay on top of the changes.

  • Make sure to evaluate policies and procedures on a regular basis.
  • Have measures in place to be informed of changes to the law.
  • Conduct training to make sure HR and supervisors are aware of employees’ rights and how to implement those rights.
  • Make sure employees know what their rights are and how to take use those benefits.
  • Hang any necessary posters in the correct manner.

These are just a few of the steps you need to be doing in order to ensure you are remaining compliant with these laws.

  1. Cliques are real.

Not everything we can learn from kids is 100% great. However, that does not mean we cannot gain a valuable lesson from it anyway. For example, let’s be honest (because that is one of the lessons that kids have already taught us): cliques are real.

People are by nature social, and as those social personalities mesh, some mesh better than others. However, what is apparent is the fact that groups are forming out there on that playground, and there is absolutely nothing we can do about it.

Cue to the workplace: your workers are out there being social and talking. And they are talking about work. And perhaps they are organizing. And guess what? You cannot do much more about it than you can about that group forming by the swing set.

That is because of a little something called the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

You are hopefully aware by now that you cannot stop your workers from coming together to discuss topics such as wages and workplace conditions – this is true even if they are not unionized. However, a recent decision in a Connecticut case took this to an even further level.

When a former employee of a sports bar criticized the bar on Facebook for a taxing issue and a current employee liked the comment while another replied to it, the bar fired both the current employees who then sued under the NLRB. And just last week, the former employees won.

This just goes to show you once again what anybody watching a group of kids play can tell you, you just cannot stop people from talking. It’s human nature. And also, it’s legal human nature, at that.

  1. It’s always cool to hang out with the older kids.iStock_000002575062_Small

When you are young, gaining the attention of an older crowd makes you cool because everyone knows the cool kids are all older. Yet, at some point in time, our mindset seems to switch and we find ourselves actively trying to push out the older people in place of the younger crowd.

That’s just asking for disaster, though. So before you start bringing in a bunch of young hires and pushing out the old, make sure you take a page from your kid’s playbook and remember that keeping the older “kids” around makes you a whole lot cooler – with the law, if with no one else.

As an example of why you should not ever dismiss the older kids (at least not just because they are an older kid), take a look at Genova Products, where Donald Dinkgrave was just awarded over half a million dollars after having been fired allegedly to be replaced by a younger group of employees and after he was called a dinosaur.

See? Once again, kids have the right idea.

Finding the Child Within

If you have kids, then you know you don’t want to emulate every aspect of their character. Please, let’s none of us go to work tomorrow and throw a tantrum over not getting our way. However, young or not, they can still teach us many valuable lessons in being legally compliant business leaders. That and the tax breaks make them worth it, right? And also something about them being cute and loveable too, I guess …


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