Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day
Nothing gold can stay

                                  Robert Frost

Do you know when my first post was...some time back in 2006. 

Yeah, almost seven years ago.

Back when I wasn't even in HR yet and I was writing witty (okay, snarky) observations about the world around me. 

Well, seven years, one change in career path and three jobs later and I'm still pretty much making snarky observations about the world around me.  Only now I'm doing it with a much more professional and diplomatic lense.

The truth is I have been struggling to find meaning in this blog.  I know I've been at a similar point  before, but then it was more about feeling like I was compromising other things to write the blog - that I wasn't focusing on what I needed to. 

I never tried to compete with others in the blogger community, particularly the HR blogger community.  There are way more comptent, well-spoken, well-informed HR folk to refer to.  This blog was a place for me to talk smack about things that bugged me, which often was HR-related.  The blog was my gold.

And I enjoyed the feedback that I sometimes received, but clearly my thoughts were for my benefit and others took it as such.

This feeling has been brewing for a bit, but today it finally hit me with absolute clarity.  I'm done with Corporate Daycare / Bent but not broken.

So, no big deal, but only a brief note to say thank you for reading and aurevoir.

Stay gold, Pony-boy.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

My life as a speed bump

I recently joked in a tweet that my job in HR is to slow down managers who are moving too fast and to push who that are moving too slowly.
Okay, I wasn’t joking, but I also do not feel that playing traffic cop is my sole role or raison d’ĂȘtre. I do spend a lot of time in this mode.
Like this week.  I was brought on-board to focus on recruiting and to improve the processes, efficiencies, and ROI on staffing.  If you’ve read some past blogs, like this one, or even this one, you will know what an ironic situation this is.
Truthfully I don’t hate recruiting – it’s just not my favourite thing to do.  But what I do like is trying to improve processes and bringing the logical into the illogical.  To-date, I’ve been successful and have been given positive feedback.  Well, they haven't let me go, so that’s another vote of confidence.
There is one VP however who threatens to derail me.  At any and every curve she is trying to avoid doing what needs to be done…like interview candidates, or verify whether the candidate is a good fit for the job.
She recently sent me her timeline and task (to be done in this particular order) for a new position she was creating:
·         Draft key tasks for job
·         Meet candidate that was recommended to her by colleague
·         Have job evaluated so we know the pay, oh and qualifications
·         Post job
·         Offer position to candidate
·         Ensure no other qualified applicants have applied
·         Have employee start
The total time frame from the first bullet to the last…7 days
Now I’m flexible and willing to switch things up if it means meeting a qualified candidate outside of a job being posted. I’m completely willing to work with the VP to get this moving asap, and I’m not about to moan about HR steps and procedures, but I do feel strongly about making the right choice in candidate and doing it right the first time. 
And not in six months.
Which is what I foresee happening when we re-post the job because we rushed it.
So this is why I dig my heals in and say shit like, “you realize that the candidate may not actually sign on the spot and will actually need time to mull over/ negotiate the offer” or “have you considered that we should do our homework and verify his references & credentials” and then the eye-roll inducing “are you comfortable that this is the right person for the job considering you’ve only talked to him for 15 minutes and have not even considered anyone else?”.
Stupid HR.  Always bogging the system down.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Life interrupted

Maybe it's a carryover from school but I've always finished reading a book that I start, no matter how much I am not enjoying it. It just seemed like a matter of principle to me.

And I would only read one book at a time and refused to start a new one until I was finished the old one (which,as I just pointed out, I would finish, no matter what).

So it's rather a mystery to me how and why I have 7 books on my night table, all at various levels of completion. One them is actually one chapter from being completed and yet there it sits.

I've typically stayed away from non-fiction, but now I'm actively seeking good reads in this genre - particularly topics that I feel might help me in HR. At the same time, I'm trying to remain loyal to the authors that I have always enjoyed.  It's as if I feel like I'm at risk of missing something

So I decided to finish all my books in progress, one at a time. Last night, I picked up the one on the top of the pile and started reading and quickly realized that I can barely remember what happened in the first few chapters.

And that pretty much sums up my life these days.

I have my fingers in everything, I start one thing, only to jump to another. I don't profess to be multi-tasking...it feels more like juggling. My focus is fragmented at best...and I find myself signing on for more and more...volunteering, projects, etc...

While it's a bit of a rush to feel more involved, there is also a nagging feeling in the back of mind that I'm dangerously close to letting something slip.

And the problem is that life is not like reading a book.  I can't just go back and re-read a few chapters or even start from the beginning again.  It's something that I need to pay attention to as it's happening.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Undivided Attention

I woke up at 4 am this morning and lay in bed trying to figure out what is wrong with me.

Now that’s a pretty big issue to tackle at that early an hour, and quite honestly the possibilities are endless. But what I was really trying to figure out is why, for the past few week’s I’ve been struggling to feel so distant, distracted and just an observer in my own life – someone just going through the motions.

There really is not anything wrong, or so I thought. Work is fine; the family is great, the weather has been awesome…what is there to be down about.

So back to this morning at 4:00 am.

I start to go through the list of possibilities – I’ve been pretty solitary the past few days, just wanting to think, to do my own thing. And Nature’s rule is that if you want to be alone, people (re: kids) will want to be with you. I’m there, but not there.

Presenteism at it’s best.

The only thing that I could think of that’s been going on is my on-going battle with my foot problems. Over the past six month’s I’ve been dealing with common foot ailments that have left me frustrated and bouncing between physio, acupuncture, and orthotics.

It will get better, but in the meantime, I’ve immersed myself in trying to find stretches, exercises, postures, treatments, anything that could help me. One positive result is that I am now much more aware of what’s going on.

And at 5:00am, I realized that this is the problem.

I am hyper-aware of what’s going on ALL the time: I’m cognizant of how I step, my pace, my stride, my footwear, my muscles at rest, my muscles when I’m stretching, how I’m sitting, how I’m standing, how the discomfort shifts from my heel to my knee to my hip, how there are seemingly unrelated tendons and nerves firing up when I over-do it

I am constantly thinking about it. Constantly. It is always there in the background of my brain.

So unless I manage to distract myself completely, I have this topic running in the back of my head. And the minute I’m not doing anything or not talking to someone, it jumps to the forefront. This means that I’m rarely giving anyone or anything my undivided attention.

I have let one issue take over the prime real estate in my brain…something that we often do with work (when we are at home) or home (when we are work). It’s like that stupid annoying news ticker on CNN (or Twitter for that matter)…constantly running messages …insisting that you pay attention to it, and not to whatever is actually happening.

It was like a slap that I needed to say “Hellooo…obsessing over here”. It was a physical and mental relief to realize that I was not shutting down, which is what it felt like, but just over-processing was enough for me to let go.

So while I'm not struggling with financial strains, a marital breakdown, kids gone wild, or a job loss...I can appreciate how having an ever present issue can absolutely wreak havoc on your peace of mind and compromise your ability to give someone your undivided attention.

With this in mind (no pun intended), it's given me a new perspective on people who seem distant or unable to focus.  They may not be the social misfits that I was ready to assume they were. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Warning: non-HR related vent

So I warned you, no HR-content or even a  remote tie-in.  I wrote this for me. 

There are few things that people universally agree is okay to do like the right (and need) to judge other people’s parenting skills.

I, of course, am no exception. However, I try to reserve my judgement for those parents that participate in things like Toddlers & Tiaras, because, well…come one. Do I need to explain that one?

And while I feel comfortable in my parenting style (the results have been pretty damn good so far), it does irk me when I hear people make back-handed comments like:

“I would never let me my son/daughter skateboard on a ramp…it’s way too dangerous”

“I can’t believe that some parents let their kids play with BB guns”

“Really?! They are making fireworks in the garage…but they could get hurt.”

So let me tell you something. The child in question (mine) has been hurt – he’s had to get stitches, he’s burned himself, and he nearly hit someone (me) with a BB.

He has also developed an incredible thirst for learning new things, a knack for coming up with unique ways of solving problems, pretty good grasp of chemical reactions, an understanding of consequences, and wicked hand-eye coordination.

In essence, he’s learning about life by actually living it, not by being a by-stander.

So while my kid may have a few more bumps and bruises – I’m going to be less worried about him when he’s out on his own compared to a child who has not experienced fear, frustration, pain, and success on his own terms.

I’m not saying that my way is better.
I’m just saying let me be the judge of whether it’s working for us.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

House of Cards

Sometimes rainy days make me think of being a kid stuck in the house with NOTHING to do.  Actually, this isn’t true – I relished the idea of being able to sit around and read or play board games.  But sometimes even that would get old, so I would pull out a deck of cards and endeavour to make the tallest house of cards that I could.
Handling cards and arranging them into a tower is an art.  You had to ensure that the base wasn’t too slippery (carpet worked well) and you had to use really worn cards…preferably sticky from overuse (yeah…gross, I know).
Then you started building layer by layer until you got to the point where you literally had to hold your breath as you placed each card.  And heaven help the idiot that inadvertently created air movement within a 2 metre radius of the structure.
At some point a card would give in the middle layer and I would try to reposition it or remove it without affecting the overall structure.  And you could get away with this with one or two cards, but beyond that the house of cards became too unstable and collapsed, leaving you with a pile of cards to clean up.
Good times.
So yesterday I found myself across the desk from a colleague staring at a new proposed org chart and it hit me that this org chart had a striking resemblance to a house of cards.  And it struck me that the management team was playing a similar game…adding layers and forbidding anyone from coming near the table.
Now, I may only be in HR; however,  I understand operational needs, but more importantly I understand consequences.  And the reality is that you can only re-position, remove, and restrict so much before you weaken the structure.
 Because despite being really worn (and potentially sticky) these are people, not cards.  And 52 pick-up is not the same game when you have to consider legal, termination, and severance.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Whose experience is it anyways?

We all think we know what a new employee wants, after all – we’ve all been there.  And we’ve all had bad experiences…you know, your manager takes vacation your first week in the new job, your colleagues stay in their cubicles, your computer isn’t ready, you can’t access what you need to, and they’ve left you binders to read and  “get up to speed”. 
Yes, we all know what we should do – there are clearly identified steps on how to make someone’s new employment absolutely brilliant.  But even the best intentions and practices can fall short if they don’t suit your new hire. 
My daughter recently went on a trip with family members.  This is a gal who is a homebody – who likes to eat healthy (and not very much), who needs time to herself to decompress, and doesn’t like to be rushed. 
This was a huge trip for her as she has never gone away without one of her parents and certainly not to somewhere that is about as different from our Canadian rural home as it gets (think desert in a south-western State).
So, if anyone needed some easing into a new situation, it was definitely her.  Alas, her hosts were more concerned with running through a pre-arranged agenda of all that you can do in 10-days.  This included eating out most evenings, a go-go-go itinerary, and minimal input from her.
A few nights ago I received a text from her at midnight…she was upset, frustrated and wanted to come home.  She had finally worked up the nerve to say what she wanted (and didn't want) to do, and it was pushed aside…because plans had already been made. 
The lack of flexibility, lack of input from her, and failure to see whether things were going well may potentially have ruined what could have been a fantastic trip. 
And so the same could be said about bringing a new employee on-board.  If you are so set on following a prescribed Orientation plan, it will truly work for maybe 10% of your new hires.  The rest are going to feel like you don’t consider them individuals.
So, are you willing to ruin a potentially good start, just because you aren’t willing to bend from the plan?  I think not - because I'm sure you don't want to get the equivalent of the middle of the night text from an upset employee.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Venn will they learn?

What this clever Venn diagram demonstrates (other than the fact that I can't draw a proper circle) is the challenge of recruiting for a role when everyone has a different idea.

I had an existing job posting which is tweaked based on feedback that I had received from the manager about the role.  I sat down with the manager, with the the job posting sitting on the desk between us, and asked, "yes, but what are you REALLY looking for in a candidate.  Then I met with other members of the team to get their thoughts on what would make a successful candidate.

Note the blank space right in the centre.

Note the blank shared space between the Manager and the Team Member circle.

Notice how some of the characteristics listed only in the Manager's circle are somewhat opposed to those listed in the Team Member's circle.


Never mind the myth of "war on talent" and a lack of qualified candidates out there.  To me the battle is on the home front and trying to get the three circles to overlap a bit more. 

You can see what the challenge of recruiting for this position would be if I relied solely on one perspective.

If I listened only to the manager, there is a possibility that there would be issues with team dynamics and, let's be real, the actual day-to-day working.  However, if I listened only to the team members, then we would likely hire someone who plays nicely, but may not add the value and depth that we need to the organization.  And then, if I went solely on the job posting...well, that would just be a big fail.

So to me the bigger challenge isn't finding a candidate that fits everyone's expectations - it's about getting everyone to agree on some of the expectations, not just for this one role, but for the team and the business.  If everyone is working with completely different agendas, it doesn't matter how qualified or "perfect fit" the candidate is - they are going to encounter resistance and push-back at every turn.

And then I'm back to square one....or is it circle one?

Wednesday, August 01, 2012


BUI:  Blogging under the influence.

Don't do it. 

I reviewed a draft (thank gawd it was a draft) that I recently typed after a few glasses of wine.  I remember thinking it was witty and that maybe I was getting my groove back.

However, upon inspection in that harsh glare of daylight...um...it all but disintegrated in the sun.  Yeah, it was lame.

And fortunately I get to keep my dignity for yet another day.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Drawing lines in the sand

Over time I have changed my tactics for defining my personal space. 
When I was younger I distinctly remember identifying the border between my brother and I in the backseat of our parent's car.  The double-stitched piping.  That was it.  He was not to cross into my space or risk death by tattling. 

I've since matured, having realized that writing my name on personal objects and drawing lines in the sand were effective measures for delineating "my space", but lack a certain finesse needed for today's world.

So while my need for personal space has not changed, I find that my ways of dealing with this have had to because apparently taping lines on the office floor is not viewed as acceptable "team-player" behaviour.  Truthfully I have never been that bad.  No honestly, I haven't. 

Despite what people who actually know me will tell you - I'm cool.  I just need a bit of space.  Okay, I need about a 1.5m circle of space.  But that's all about the physical - that's easier to work with.  You get too close, I take a step back. 

So what about the non-physical?  As in, you text/ email/ call me incessantly....uh, I mean too frequently for my liking.

I have a colleague who I enjoy working with, but she's much more "connected" than I.  And by "connected" I mean she is virtually attached to her BB and texting non-work people while at work and work people while not at work.  And I was on that list until recently.  I would receive texts from her minutes after leaving the office asking me if I had left...and then we would chat about things.  Which, I actually didn't mind.  Until she started texting me when I was at home....to talk about work-related, but not work, things.  She needed to vent, needed a sounding  board...I get it, but at the same time I was thinking that this was getting dangerously close to my space. Then came the phone calls to me at work when she was home sick or on vacation...yeah.

So a few weeks back I went on vacation and when I go on vacation, I disconnect.  I do not check my work emails, I do not check my voice messages, I do not call in to see how things are going.  I realize that I am fortunate enough to have a job and work culture that allows this.  I also realize that my choice to do so may limit me in my career.  I am okay with that, because truthfully what I envision as my legacy has absolutely nothing to do with being a diligent employee who always responded to her emails/texts within 20 minutes or working 60 hours/week.

While I was off I received one text during my vacation asking me if I was having a good time.  I responded that yes I was and thank you for asking.  Stop. End.

That's rightr people, keep moving, there's nothing to apologize for here.

So even though there were no issues during my absence and I had left everything in order, I noticed that my colleague was distant when I came back.  (Sigh).  Not one to leave shit alone I spoke to my colleague and made a point of mentioning that while we h(ave  very different approaches to work, I believe we are a good team and I hoped she had not taken it personally that I did not contact her during my vacation (honestly, I did say this and I cringe at the fact that I actually did...gawd!). 

As expected she said everything was fine and she completely understands. 

I'm not sure that she did, but she does now.

And that was my goal...to point out the line in the sand.  I may  not be able to stop people from crossing it, but at least I can give them fair warning.