Thursday, November 12, 2009

Giving the little black dress a new meaning…

I had the unpleasant task of conducting a termination today. I don’t enjoy them, but it needed to be done.

Shortly afterwards an employee stopped me in the hallway and asked, “Why do you always wear black on days when you do terminations?”

I answered, “Why do people always notice what I’m wearing only on days that I do terminations?”

For the record, I wear black every single day.

Based on the employee’s comment, this is not going to change anytime soon…maybe it will keep them guessing.

Potential confrontation averted

Yesterday a manager sat with me to go over a plan of action that he had put together regarding a difficult female employee. He knew what he wanted to achieve, had a good approach, and even had planned for follow-up.

He just needed a sounding board and I was happy to provide this. It’s part of my role. It’s what I’m trained to do.

At the end of our meeting, he said that he appreciated my insight as he wasn’t exactly sure how to approach this particular situation and that it would be good to get my perspective…as a woman.

I have to admit that I was stunned. The thoughts running through my head were something along the line of: “I did not work my ass off to get my education and then go through the incredibly painful and stress-inducing process of achieving my HR certification, not to mention trying to soak up and learn all I can about HR, only to have someone thank me for being a woman”. I mean, it’s not like he asked me what kind of flowers I should get her.

I went home that night and vented to my husband about this. It’s insulting I told him. Why couldn’t he say he appreciated my HR perspective? What an ass.

Now, I should add that the manager’s comment was sincere (or sounded that way) and I believe he meant it as a compliment. But it was still a slap.

I asked my husband, who has a female work partner. Would you ever tell her that she does her job well because she is woman and not because of abilities or training?

His answer: yes.

Really?!

Well yes, he explained. In some cases, the medical calls they deal with involve situations/ people that it makes much more sense to have a woman deal with (if forced to choose better a male or female), such as pregnant and/or distressed women. He then added that he handles the calls involving children, since he has two and his partner has none…he can relate better.

Oh.

This made me sit back and realize that the manager likely didn’t mean to disregard my other abilities, but just to say that he valued my perspective on a situation where he was concerned that he might not handle properly – me having the advantage of being a female. And he didn’t go to any other female manager/co-worker; he did come to HR.

I realized that I was being way too sensitive about the situation. But that’s probably because I’m in HR.