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Management Buzz 09/04

Check your spelling, pay equity and more

Mind Your P's and Q's

Imagine the chagrin of one eBay seller who tried to sell some software for an "IMB" computer. In fact, misspellings were so common on eBay, the company installed a spell check feature for sellers earlier this year. "People will still look for those fortuitous misspellings, but they will be fewer," says eBay's Hani Durzy.

Misspellings in advertising, marketing materials and letters quickly erode your company's credibility, especially if you're selling professional services, says Rick Keating, CEO of marketing firm Keating & Co., in Florham Park, New Jersey. "[People in] industries that are detail-focused expect that you'll be diligent with their work," he says. "People underestimate the power of a misspelled word."

Spell check catches most errors, but it isn't a reliable way to check the proper use of words or grammar. If you don't have a staffer who's a good copy editor, hire someone to proof your materials before sending them to the printer, Keating advises.

While it can be difficult to quantify the actual impact of a misspelling-an ignored sales pitch or the customers who don't call-a badly placed misspelling can cost you if it forces you to reprint material or products.

Pay Attention

"Don't ask, they won't tell" is a dangerous policy when it comes to monitoring pay equity.

If you don't monitor the total pay earned by each of your employees, broken down by gender and ethnicity, you might be overlooking inadvertent discrimination, says Mary Graham, associate professor of organizational studies at Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York. In her studies of the personnel records at major companies, she's found that women often get 3 percent less than men with similar jobs and performance appraisals working at the same firm.

"It's not surprising that it's overlooked," she says. "You don't want to take away managers' discretion to reward performance. But look on an annual basis to see who got the promotions and bonuses to see if it is unintentionally discriminatory."

Gender pay inequity tends to widen over time, adds Vicki Lovell, study director for the Institute for Women's Policy Research, based in Washington, DC. "It's more equal when people are just entering the labor market," she explains. "For people who are fresh out of college and just starting out, their initial job offers are about equal."

But over time, inequities start to creep in. The mathematical certainty is that just one or two below-par raises guarantee that a woman or minority will continue to lag behind white men, even when they do the same work. That's why it's so important to review pay patterns annually.

22%
of employees say they've witnessed misconduct at work.
SOURCE: Ethics Resource Center
49%
of small-and midsize-business leaders say they are likely to hire new employees over the next year.
SOURCE: Penn Schoen & Berland Associates Inc.

Joanne Cleaver has written for a variety of publications, including the Chicago Tribune and Executive Female.

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This article was originally published in the September 2004 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Management Buzz 09/04.

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