Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The view from my side of the desk…the month of October so far

1. Two threatened resignations because we had the nerve to ask them to be at work. Every day. For the full work day.

2. It's pension session time. These free of charge, held on company time sessions geared toward the employees' stage in career life should be of interest. There was a small group of employees not interested/ not willing to participate. Interestingly enough, many of these same employees have used up all their accumulated sick and annual vacation leave. A few of them are the coordinators of the office lottery pool and I'm certain that they put more time and effort into choosing numbers and purchasing tickets than planning for their financial future or how they will cope if they have to go on STD leave. Way to live in the NOW people.

3. A potential candidate that sent in their résumé, but specified that they were only looking for work that paid cash. (As opposed to livestock?!) Interestingly enough their academic background was in Accounting.

4. An employee decided to bond with her team over the past few days. Apparently her idea of sharing personal information included telling everyone, but her supervisor, that she has applied for another job and it was basically a done deal. Can someone please explain to me WHY people don't get the concept of discretion.

And there's still two more days to go.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Just call me Skywalker

In my quest to learn and further my development, I have recently signed up to be part of an HR mentorship program. Of course, I’m not the mentor. The only thing I’m qualified to mentor someone on is on how to make sarcastic remarks and if I have to explain sarcasm to you…it’s just not happening.

No, I’m am the protégé. I just like the sound of that. Protégé.

Although I haven’t met my mentor yet, I have been thinking about how this is going to unfold. I’m not too sure what to expect – I mean, I have my reasons for doing this and certainly they have their own. What if these aren’t compatible, like I’m looking to learn more about a Generalist role and networking, and they are looking for a whipping post for all the crap that have endured through all their years of experience (we are talking HR here).

Okay, maybe it won’t be that dramatic, but just that thought spun me to the idea of a mentor, which reminded me (like almost everything does) of Harry Potter and the Dementors. That very thought stopped me in my tracks.


A mentor is a more senior/experience person who provides their expertise to less experienced individuals in order to help them advance their careers, enhance their education, and build their networks (thanks wikipedia).

A Dementor is dark cloaked figure who can suck the happiness and soul out of a person, make them feel like they will never be happy again, feed on peoples' happy emotions, and force them to recall the most horrible memories they have had in their lives. (thanks JK Rowling)

The way I see it, there’s a fine line between the two. One wrong move from the senior person and you are heading for a dull and dreary existence.

Then I started thinking of the other similarities between the working world and Rowling’s.

Ten things that readers of the Potter series can learn about the work world:

1. No matter how nice you are, there’s always going to be someone who hates you – accept it and move on

2. Sometimes, it’s not your skill that matters, but luck

3. Don’t go it alone when others are willing to help you – especially when they know more than you

4. You will always have a teacher (boss) that you hate – and who hates you back

5. Nepotism is rampant everywhere – eventaully you will have to deal with Daddy’s precious

6. It truly is our choices that define who we are – if you take credit for someone else’s work, it will bite you…maybe not today…but some day

7. Good leaders aren’t always aware or willing to take on this role – of course, this doesn’t
minimize their influence

8. Fear of a name only increases the power it has over us – Voldemort? Organizational Change? Budgets? Performance Reviews…face your fears

9.Some times it is smoke and mirrors and not real magic – if it seems too good to be true, it probably is

10. There are places between Good and Evil – sometimes you will need to slide between the two and do “evil” things for a good reason and “good” things for a bad reason.

So back to me.

I’m trying to picture my first meeting with my Obi-wan.
How do you think that conversation will go? Here’s what I picture.

“Hi there, it’s really nice to meet you. Will you teach me in the ways of HR.”
“Yes Tree-san. First, my car is out front. Remember - wax on, wax off”

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Don't believe the hype

We all have hype in our lives. And if it doesn't occur sponteously, we tend to develop it. Oh sure, we may pretend that we don't want it there, but in reality - it's an essential part of getting us through the day.

I mean, without hype - there would be no letdown. Without letdown, well for one, there would be nothing to gripe about and for two, there would be no reason to try again. Right?

So what the hell do I mean about hype. I'm referring to the actual build up that we create for events in our lives of both the ordinary and extraordinary variety.

Example - that movie you have been dying to see is coming out soon. You read everything you can about it, without going so far as to know exactly what is going to happen. You get excited about it, you make plans to go see it with your friends, you may even arrange some cheesy movie-themed dinner before going to see it, and god forbid, you dress up like a character from the movie (unless it's a Harry Potter movie, in which case...I understand. I wouldn't do it, but I understand).

And then the day arrives. You go to the movie and.....nyah. It's okay. You know what, it's probably more than okay, but honestly, nothing will live up to the expectation that you've been driving for the last few weeks. That's the hype I'm talking about.

Example of the ordinary variety - you are running late for work and don't get a chance to make coffee before you leave. You decide to treat yourself to one at the café. It's going to be so good. It will be so worth the wait of the very long drive you have ahead. The cup will be steaming - the aroma fantastic. You won't likely spill this coffee down the front of your coat when you hit a pothole and change gears at the same time (damn the city, damn standard autobiles). It will be worth the $1.50 you pilphered from your kids change jar. And you know what...You probably won't even remember drinking it while you read your emails, answers questions, and sort your files. You may not even finish it before it gets cold (which of course you realize when you take that large mouthful in and then spit it back into the cup). Nothing short of being transported to a street-side café in France is going to live up to the expectations you've placed on this cup of coffee. (And I'm not even going to tackle the level of hype reserved for Starbucks coffee drinkers..can you say C-U-L-T)

Hype exists in all shapes and sizes, particularly in the workplace. Sitting from my side of the desk, I see it often.

There is the hype placed on the potential candidate based on a piece of paper. I've had managers start taking development and career planning and I haven't even pre-screened the candidate. They pull out org charts and start discussing how they are going to move this person here, and re-distribute case loads here, and take the opportunity to get that cross-training program started. No joke - 9 times out of 10 we never even interview the candidate because when we jokingly said, they looked too good to be wasn't a joke. Enter crash.

There is the hype of the reduced hours workweek, which for some strange reason people forget means a reduced pay workweek. And doing five days work in four. And the fact that life goes on without them in the office every Friday and in fact, Friday is generally the best day to be at work since that's when all the good shit happens (gossip, treats, and bosses are away). So the plan of having that extra day off to get all your housework and laundry done before the weekend means that you are spending an entire day (generally a Friday) staying indoors and doing something that you have been avoiding all week for a reason. Cue crash.

There is the hype of moving up the ladder, becoming a supervisor for the first time, starting in a new direction...all scenarios begin with the rush of someone wanting to make a difference only to have that ultimate crash of reality when the person realizes that the expression "same pile, different day" does apply to them. Not so different anymore.

I am not a fatalist, pessimist, or even an evangelist. I am a realist and as a realist, I believe that at some point everyone needs to fall on their face or hit a wall. Aside from being into violence, it's the low points that make you realize just how tentative the high points are. They don't last forever and they certainly don't last if you don't work at them.

The hype is what gets you going, gets you motivated, creative, and pumped - and that's a good thing. But if you don't have substance to fall back onto - then you are in for a nasty thump. If you don't truly believe in what you are pushing (hyping) for, then you will get the hype-blues.

My suggestions:

Work hard.
Get excited about what you do and your ideas.
Keep working hard.
Expect obstacles, set backs, and back-stabbing co-workers (I am in HR remember).
Keep working hard.
Do a gut check - and make sure you believe in what you are working hard for.
If you don't - re-evaluate why you are doing this? Is it because you feel it's expected of you or because you expect if of yourself?
If you do - keep at it.
And most of all - don't believe the hype, use it and keep going.

Mastercard is on to something

Price of one night at hotel: more than I would normally want to pay

Price of dinner for family of four: good, but again, more than I would normally want to pay (incidentally, anything over $20 is more than I want to pay)

Price of ducking out of all family obligations this Thanksgiving: absolutely priceless

This year, I am thankful that I finally got the nerve to do what we've been saying we should do for years - get out of dodge on the next long-weekend-that-means-three-family-dinners.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Judgment Day

I have been humbled.

I have discovered someone who could be the twin that I was separated from at birth (if I had one) and who grew up in a very different environment and ended up in a very different world, but still we managed to have similar traits and personalities which would identify us as nothing short of kindred spirits. I'm sure there is a movie out there about this. Maybe two.

I was recommended a book whose title just spoke to me (Bitter is the New Black:Confessions of a Condescending, Egomaniacal, Self-Centered Smartass,Or, Why You Should Never Carry A Prada Bag to the Unemployment Office ) - aside from the Prada part, I thought...*gasp* this could be about me (or my mother)! And before I had a chance to get it – I checked out her blog, which apparently is where it all began (check it out).

If I were into shrines, I would make one for her and pay homage to it, with the hope that I could be as articulate and sarcastic as she is. (For the record, I am not into shrines…I’ve seen people set them up in their cubicles and they scare me)

I know, helluva ambition – articulate and sarcastic, but you must understand that I’ve been working towards these for many years now. What blows my mind is that it is her job (and she gets paid) to be the very things I do for free (be judgmental, sarcastic, and bitchy).

Oh don’t get me wrong – I am not in her league at all. Particularly the bitchy part – she says out loud and does things that I only think of (oh who am I kidding, I couldn't even think of some of the stuff she said/did), but my god – how absolutely refreshing to hear someone be so unapologetic about her thoughts, her actions, and her life.

I bought her first book yesterday. I finished it today. I neglected basically everything (housework, kids, personal hygiene) to read it. Was it a literary masterpiece – no, of course not; I didn't buy it for that reason. However, I was unable to put it down – it made me laugh out loud in some places and cringe in others. It was like sitting down with the friend that tells great stories and having them talk and talk and talk. You just want to say, “and then what happened?” or “and what did you say?” and even, “you did not!!”

The funny thing is I have about two or three different blogs I would like to put out there, but I thought…naw…it’s just me picking on other people or making more judgmental comments. I’m often saying to my husband that we are probably the most judgmental people around…no one is safe…we are equal opportunity a-holes.

Then I read Jen and I realized that I’m not alone in feeling this way. Of course, I’m not about to go write a memoir about all the people that piss me off (tempting as it is some days) because one, it would be a 10 volume series and two, I just couldn’t. But I can blog.

My blog. I was going to try to make it all HR and professional and stuff, but then realized…hello…this is me. I am one part trying-to-be-HR professional…one part family gal…and one part sarcastic bi-atch. In all fairness to me, I need to be able to be in touch with all parts of who I am.

This is me embracing me.