Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Pick me, pick me!...oh!...oh!...pick me!

Grade six was one of the best school years I had. I don’t know exactly why, but everything just seemed to flow right and I had fun.

One of the highlights from that year was being “allowed” to play baseball with the boys because a) I could throw, b) I could catch, and c) I did not screech every time the ball came near me. So lunch hour would find the group of us running to the ball diamond to stake claim and set-up a game.

When it came to picking the teams – we did it the good old fashion way of having two captains pick teams from the rest of us hopefuls standing there. The captains were generally the boys that were the best ball players and the most respected in the class.

As the only girl representing, I would understand if you thought that I was one of the last, if not the last, picked for the team, but I wasn’t. I was a decent player, but not the best by any stretch. And yet I was consistently in the first half of the picks. I was a good team player, I didn’t suck out when I got called out, and (I suspect) I was the only one wearing a training bra.

This was a big deal for me and was what I would consider to be the most little-known and incredibly motivating moment in my life.

Until yesterday.

I have recommended and referred to My Hell is Other People in various blog posts because I think that it’s a great blog. It’s intelligent, it’s funny, and it challenges me to think. And rumour has it the blogger behind the blog is a tall British guy…which just makes everything that much better.

So when I read through his annual My Hell is Other People awards that he had listed I was absolutely thrilled to see my blog listed. Honestly. I’m good at being bossy, correcting people’s spelling, and witty retorts, but not so much when it comes to promoting my work. To have him do this for me…wow.

So getting picked first for the grade six lunch time baseball team?! Pfff…whatever. TheHRD picked me...I now have a brand new little-known and incredibly motivating moment in my life.

(Incidentally, as a result of these awards I have now added a number of new blogs to my list of those that I will follow…great work!)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A tale of two parties

This past weekend was my company's Christmas party. It was my first one with them, so I was both interested and tentative to see how things would be.

It was held at a beautiful venue - very classy, with good food, and very generous amounts of free alcohol, which would have been great if I could actually have had some. Being new, being in HR, and being told by my director - the three reasons why I ended up being the DD last night. As far as parties go, it was okay - there was nothing bad per se, but it wasn't very inspiring either.

Now at this same venue were a number of other company parties - one of which we happen to know someone attending, so we snuck out of mine and snuck into theirs to say hello.

And it was hello - Hello real party!

The difference, not only in decor (video screens, glow bracelets, and a photo booth), but the atmosphere and "vibe" was incredible. We ended up finishing our evening there.

As in many cases, an outsider opinion is often more perceptive and valuable.

And in this case, the outsider was my husband. He has attended many a Christmas party at the various companies I have worked with and he said that at each, even knowing all the bullshit and politics going on behind the scene, he has bought into what they are selling. This goes beyond how much money was spent or how hip the event was. Generally at some point the GM, VP, or CEO has stood up and talked about the year that has gone by and the one to come and was able to draw in someone who doesn't even work there.

His comment on this year's company function - nothing. It was cold and emotionally detached. There was nothing specific that was wrong, but you just didn't get the feeling that everyone was on board or enjoying themselves. There was a great divide between the demographics, with little to bridge the two. When the meal was over, there was a significant drop in attendance.

Interestingly enough, this is exactly how I have been feeling about the company within the workplace. Apparently its an under current that flows through all events.

At the other party, it was jumping - it seemed like everyone was upbeat - whether they were mingling, dancing, or sitting at a table chatting. You just got the sense that people wanted to be there. I can only surmise that this is how they feel about their workplace.

This has made me think that perhaps before joining a new organization, I need to find out what their Christmas party is like.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Going out on a limb

Remember when you were a kid and you did things with very little thought about consequences beyond, “will I get in trouble”.

I enjoyed climbing trees – those with a ton of branches that allowed you to scale up to a considerable height. I didn’t think much about the “danger” of it until it came time to come down, and even then it was it was only a momentary pause.

So I find myself at the bottom of a tree looking up at the branches and wondering just how high I want to climb and how thin a branch do I want to rest on. Because as any good tree-climber will tell you, there are good sturdy supportive branches, and then there are questionable twigs.

I’ve recently interviewed for a position that would allow me to reclaim some much needed personal time, but perhaps at the cost of putting me right out of my comfort zone.

To make things more interesting, my husband is considering making a similar move.

Neither of our decisions would be ridiculously drastic, but we wouldn’t be perched on the sturdy branch either. No doubt there would be some swaying in the wind and holding on tightly, but I’m imaging the view.

On those occasions when I made the wrong branch choice and it either broke under my weight or I slide off, I typically slide down a bit and then regained my footing. Sure my knees, arms, and clothing got scrapped and cut. But overall it was so worth it.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

It's not easy being green

Interesting fact:

Frogs that live in colder climates hibernate. Some dig holes or find cracks in logs or rock areas. Their heart beats and breathing slow down and their body temperature reaches close to the outside temperature.

Apparently I have more in common with frogs than I realized.

Yes. I am still here.

I have recently re-emerged from the rock that I had crawled under. A tad dramatic? Perhaps, but it really does feel that way.

Of late, I have done a very good job of adapting to my work surroundings. So good that I have slipped into the manic mode during the day and then compensated by crashing every evening to conserve my energy for the next day. I have passed on reading books, blogging, communicating with people that do not either a) work with me or b) live with me. In short, I've gone into a form of hibernation.

I realize that for various reasons this is not healthy, but truthfully it's so damn easy to do. Sadly, not everyone feels that this is a bad thing. I have tried on a few occasions to talk to my boss about this and the response has been "...I've been doing it for 3 years; you get use to it."

Interestingly I tend to do the opposite of what I should in these situations. When I'm tired, I drink coffee and not water, when I'm lacking energy I sit on my arse rather than exercise, and when I should talk to people I shut down.

I understand it's up to no one but me to take responsibility for anything that I'm lacking in my life. And sure, I could compensate by donning my Wonder Woman outfit, filling every waking hour with "life balancing" activities, but quite frankly red knee-high boots are just not my style.

Maybe I'll just start by this post and gradually move myself back up the evolutionary chain.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Head cold vs head case

Holy mother of god.

Not only am I suffering from a head cold, but I have had to endure the most painful interview. A wise person might equate one situation with the other and reason that the interview seemed painful because I am sick.

Wrong.

It was painful because the candidate proved to be a head case. The person I spoke to on the phone - the business-minded, well-spoken, intelligent, highly motivated person - did not show up today. Instead, it was Agnes the cat lady.

And apparently Agnes had a tough time picking out what to wear, which might explain her tardiness, so she opted for the same thing she has probably been wearing since Monday.

Or perhaps she was exhausted, since she seemed unable to hold her head up with only her neck muscles.

Or maybe she was concerned about her upcoming medical treatment, which she felt the need to shae in the interview. It's to help her breathing. Good, because apparently the cigarettes you had before coming in are not working.

Or maybe it's the fact that she would have to work with and report to a woman, which she pointed out she's not fond of doing.

Or maybe it was the plethora of excuses as to why her testing results were going to suck.

Nah..it's probably just my head cold that made the interview seem so bad.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Recognition shouldn't be kitschy, but it can

I don't often delve into my personal feelings and circumstances because, well quite frankly as an HR person, this is not my comfort zone. (wink) However, it happens that a recent event has taught me a powerful lesson.

My grandmother had this really kitschy ceramic cookie jar. It was really nothing special, with no antique-road-show value. I just thought it was cool, partially because it had been on her counter top for the 39 years of my life (and likely before then).

I never really said anything to anyone about it, but on a visit to her house not too long ago, when there was no reason to suspect she was going to become very ill, I joked with her about it. I told her if she ever want to get rid of that jar, I would love to have it. She seemed surprised and told me the back story of how she got it.
I figured that was the last of it, since it did seem to have sentimental value to her and quite frankly, in the hierarchy of dutiful and favourite grandchildren, I wasn't at the top.

Fast forward to this week.

My grandmother recently passed away and her family was cleaning up her house. My dad called to tell me he had a few things he picked up and said he had something I might be interested in - the cookie jar.

I was overwhelmed and thought, what an amazing coincidence. I hadn't told anyone about it.

Except my grandmother.

Apparently in all the chaos and noise that was her family (6 kids plus their spouses, 11 grandchildren, 9 great-grandchildren) and the fact that I'm sort of fringe family (not part of the inner sanctum)she heard me. In fact, she not only heard me, but did something about it by telling another person to ensure that when the time came, it would happen.

I can often come across as a jaded and cynical HR person. And I often am.

To me, most employee recognition programs smack of the kindergarten days of gold stars and can seem impersonal and trite. They recognize people for things they are being paid to do. And rarely to do they recognize the actual person. I do not need a paper weight or a gift certificate that tells me - you did a good job on Project XYZ. I don't believe most people do.

However if , among the chaos and noise of an organization, with it's numerous employees, both member of the fringe and inner sanctum, someone were to actually listen to an individual and act upon that person's need or request - I cannot begin to tell you how invaluable and powerful that gesture would be.

What means infinitesimally more to me is not that I will have that cookie jar on my counter, but the fact that my grandmother heard my passing comment and remembered me.

My grandmother would have rocked as a manager.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

It's crunch time!

As predicted, I'm down to the final few months of the year and I'm starting to look at how I can eliminate the remainder of my To Do List - 2010.

I have knocked another 14 off the list, which leaves me with 26 of the original 52. Crap - some I have no control over, others are completely and utterly in my control - I just need to get the lead out.

1. Use stairs instead of elevator at work for an entire week (well kind of, since the stairs only go to the 5th floor and I have to take the elevator from the 5th to 7th)- must do this daily at my new work, not as many stairs, but no elevator.

8. Clean-up and organize my home filing system. Did it!

14. Submit at least one pay input without it coming back needing revision (you have to know our system to realize that this is a huge thorn in my side) Did it and no longer have to do it!

18. Create my Exit Plan for my next job (see Punk Rock HR for inspiration)Done and it worked pretty well!

20. Have a Harry Potter movie marathon pre-Deathly Hallows release (I know…geeky, but come on, it’s so worth it) Booked for the weekend of November 6th.

23. Stay in town and attend family function for at least one holiday function other than Christmas. Attended my Grandmother's b-day party, which I am very grateful for considering her recent passing.

27. Replace and/or get rid of all my ill-fitting or unworn clothing. Check


30. Re-paint the entire main floor of the house (okay…pick out the paint colour and have hubby paint the entire main floor of the house)Almost there (picking the colours)

31. Shift the focus of my job from Administration with HR functions to HR with Administrative functions (either here or elsewhere)New job, new focus.

32. Land me a couple of interviews for opportunities that will get me closer to where I want to be (home)Okay on the interviews, but not closer to home...yet

34. Get another tattoo…this time not so plain-Jane Decided to x-nay this one.

37. Get over my bum knee and ageing hip and get out skiing this winter. I am ready for ski season - thank you yoga.

44. Add some annual plants to the gardens and not just rely on the perennials to make me look like an accomplished gardener. I did this and forgot that it was even on my list.

51. Learn my grandma’s recipe for butter-sugar pie. Sigh, this one will never happen.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Perspective

A not so stellar day at my work:
- Interviews
- An Admin asst (not mine) who feels it is absolutely necessary to punch holes in paper. All day. At her desk. Which is across from mine
- Ambiguous directives from my boss
- A disillusioned colleague that I'm trying to encourage to hang in there


My husband's not so stellar work day:
- 12-hour night shift that becomes 14 with OT
- No down time
- No break from same colleague for entire shift

Yeah, okay.

Perspective slap.
I needed that.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Wastoids of my time

Generally speaking, recruiting hasn't been my favourite aspect of HR, but I still try to do a good job at it. And every once in awhile, I start to get into a groove and I really don't mind it.

Then something like this arrives in my email box.

(from actual cover letter, which was wittily called "Not a cover letter")

I'm not really a cover letter kind of guy, I've read many in my day and to my experience, they're usually quite narcissistic. My resume speaks for itself. If you find by my skills and experience that I'd be a fit for your company, I'd be more than happy to tell you how wonderful I am over the phone or in person.

Sincerely,


Now some people might think - hey this is different, it will make him stand out, and it will probably get him an interview since they will just want to meet the guy.

Sure.

If I had nothing else to do in my day than to meet people for the sake of it. Quite honestly this was stupid. Yes it got my attention. Hell, I'm even blogging about it, but I am certainly not calling him.

Why? Because this person wasn't applying for some hip, creative, "out-of-the-box" position. He applied to a technical job that we need to fill; a job that we need to fill with a professional that will "fit our company".

My analysis: He sent me a cover letter (that isn't a cover letter)that reads like his dad told him to apply for the job, but he didn't really want to and is hoping like hell that his piss poor attempt at an application with be rejected.

Mission accomplished.

And this is what bugs me about recruiting.
The wastoids of my time.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Eyes wide shut

As an experiment, I have left one of my daughter's shirts on the floor outside of her room. I wanted to see how long it would take before she realized it was there and picked it up. There was no way she could leave her room without either stepping on or over it.

Hours later and countless trips in and out of her room and it was still there. Finally, I couldn't take it anymore and asked when she planned on picking up her shirt.

Her response, "What shirt?"

Although it was blatantly obvious and unavoidably there, she just didn't see it.

The frustration and disbelief I felt was so similar to what I deal with at work when talking to mangers about employee retention that I felt the need to go find a coffee machine and caffeinate my sorrows.

There are some really obvious things we can do to improve retention. So easy, that even the employees are coming to us and telling us what they need and want - Never mind reading their minds or assuming.

And yet, what I hear is, "what retention problem?"

Exactly.

Admin?! You can't handle the admin!

 
Okay, here is today’s recruiting beef:
 
Unlike being a One-Hit-Wonder/ Top 40 singer, not everyone can be an Administrative Assistant.
 
Just because you know how to use Word, answered a phone, and can make copies without jamming the machine – you are not automatically qualified for this job.  
 
In fact, if you have innocently equated a receptionist with an administrative assistant, I would argue you have absolutely no idea of the value and worth of this job.
 
A good admin assistant will make it look easy.  They will organize and coordinate the hell out of things so that even you look good.
 
So people, stop insulting me by assuming that since you are in between professional jobs that you can swing it as an admin assistant – I don’t want your résumés.  You are wasting both of our time since you are missing vital qualifications - the “istant part…the “ass” part, you seem to have covered.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Mid-way to where?

Please tell me – is there some sort of unofficial handbook for men that reach middle age?

Is there a chapter on mode of transportation, that goes a little like this…

“Congratulations – you’ve made it. Upon achieving middle age, one must purchase a convertible car (preferably Miata) in an eye-catching colour (preferably red).

To attain this, you may be required to dispense of more practical and economical vehicles. However, remember to save enough to purchase a ball cap, which must be worn at all times when driving your car.”


Oh sure, I’m generalizing, but there are enough examples out there to support this idea.

Interestingly enough I don’t see people my age (those damned Gen-Xers) going through this. And why, well I was trying to explain it to a colleague the other day, but something I read yesterday summed it up perfectly.

…how can you have a mid-life crisis when you’re still waiting to grow up?

I’m not a big on generalizing behaviour based solely on what year you were born in (except for a certain group waiting in line at their Mazda dealership), but there is no doubt that there is some truth to the “generations”.

As X-ers, not all of us decided Ethan Hawke was a role model. Many of us chose to walk the more traditional route – get a job, buy a house, get married, have kids…damn the divorce rates and boomers.

And yet, how we approached this and how we lived through them has been different. We’ve been completely naïve in some respects and completely jaded in others.

I work hard, plug away, and get frustrated with people that whine about ridiculous things like not having access to Facebook at work. I still believe in progression based on merit (I’m a hopeless optimist) and cringe at the policies in place in schools (unlimited re-takes on a test, one warning (per assignment!) for plagiarism…WTF??).

I’m always shocked when I remember how old I am (not that a quick glance in the mirror or constant reminders from my kids doesn’t confirm it), but because I just don’t feel that weighted, wizened, and experienced person I expected to become.

It’s true – I don’t feel like I want to relieve my youth…I’m still waiting to move out of the first one.

Friday, October 08, 2010

I weep for the future of this person's kids

Consider this as proof that we are not out of the woods with regards to economic issues.
A brainiac we know was explaining, smugly I might add, that he had reconsidered moving houses as it was going to be too expensive. He then bragged that he had chosen instead to pay off his car and boat loans. Impressive only until he explained that yes, he put the expenses on his mortgage. Ah yes, paid off in full since he no longer gets a monthly statement from Visa.

Brilliant.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The one where I become open to new concepts

I haven't been a big believer in “personal brands” – it smacks of the latest and greatest marketing ploy. I know, I’m cynical that way.

And speaking of cynical people (nice segue, huh?), I was visiting Laurie’s blog and was struck by her latest post. i encourage you to read all about it here.

I would like to share some of it though - here are the signs that she feels may be an indication that your personal brand is on the downslide.

There are no easy ways to figure out if your personal brand is in the toilet, but here are some signs.

1. You reply to people on Twitter and no one responds back. (Yup.)

2. You post really awesome stuff on Facebook and it’s met with crickets. (Not FB, but blogger, yes)

3. Calls go unreturned.

4. People keep telling you that they never got your email messages and/or your messages went to the spam folder.

5. You’re pushing out great content — in conversations, on LinkedIN groups, on various social networks — and it doesn’t get picked up. Hmmm...


Shit. I’m in big trouble.

I test positive on many of these – particularly the last one. Which is exactly why I’m sharing Laurie’s thoughts…she says it best, as she generally does.

And now I’m starting to think this personal branding might have something to it.

Perhaps I am just failing in my personal brand. And up until now, I’ve just chalked it up to me being a bitch.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Running a home-based business

I would like to put a question out there and it may be more directed towards those that have children, but I will extend it to those that do not have children, since typically they have an opinion on child-rearing and while it’s not as valid (just kidding…sort of), it might be interesting to hear another perspective.

Do you (or would you) pay your children to do specific chores at home?

Before you answer, allow me to elaborate.

My son asked me last night if I would pay him to make his lunch for school the next day. I didn’t hesitate with my answer – “No.”

We give our kids a monthly allowance with which they can do what they will – save or spend, (although we do offer subtle suggestions towards the saving). How do they earn it – well, it’s based on a set of expectations– nothing complicated, but to sum it up – doing their part to contribute to the running of the household – whether it’s keeping their room tidy, doing laundry, or setting the table.

We do not assign a monetary value for a specific task because I don’t need my kid determining whether it’s worth a dollar for him to empty the trash bins. They need to be emptied and he needs to do it.

I know from personal experience that this is how they might look at the situation. My parents did opt to do the fee per service route and whether I did something would depend more on whether I needed the cash then whether the task needed to be done. A quick check in my wallet revealed I had five dollars…yeah, I’m not cleaning any stinking toilets this week.

I work with people that may have grown up with this mentality – the person who does A-L (because M-Z are not part of their job). The person who submits 15 minutes of OT, but has no issues taking multiple smoke breaks. The person who complains that they were passed over for personal advancement, but does nothing to demonstrate that they are willing to contribute to the overall team/department.

So, my kids get a monthly amount for doing their job – being part of the household. By not getting bogged down in specific tasks, I have eliminated the “it’s not my job” and have allowed for progression – as they develop, so do their roles. It also provides me with the ability to change their role at my discretion.

Sound like I can’t leave HR at home? Possibly, but consider that I offer constant and immediate feedback, frequent monitoring, regular progress reviews, and their allowance is reviewed annually.

I’m not suggesting you should work 60 hours/ week when you are only paid for 40. I believe that work is work and that you are entitled to a life outside it. However, I also believe that there are times when you should do something without asking what’s in it for.

So, back to my son’s request to be paid for making his lunch…I did say no, but I also provided him a rationale. I explained very nicely that I wasn’t going to pay him since I didn’t hire him to do that job and quite frankly he has little to no experience in food preparation.

I consider him more of an unpaid intern learning many lessons.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Regularly inconsistent

Okay, confession time.

I’m willing to put two things on the table: one personal and one professional.

#1 – I don’t floss every day.

I know. Don't judge me. Not only do I know that it is important not from an oral hygiene point of view, but apparently also from a heart-healthly point of view. Oh and then there’s the whole role model thing I’m suppose to be doing for my kids.

Hey, there have even been times when I’ve even skipped brushing. Tiredness, laziness, illness, whatever the reason – sometimes it just isn’t going to happen. Don’t say it - I know.

But here’s the thing. I went to the dentist’s this morning and she said things look fine. No issues – keep up the good work. I admitted that I don’t floss every day (I did not mention the occasional skipping of brushing) and she said that it happens.

Overall though, things look fine. Keep up the good work. I and my teeth have survived for another 6 months and I did it without stressing out that I did not floss twice a day every day.

#2 – I don’t use standardized questions in interviews

I know. Again, no judgment please.

I do plan out questions to ask and go into an interview with a list, but then I may get creative. I add sub-questions to dig more, I skip questions that are applicable to that person, and I re-word questions depending on the candidate.

Many out there will tell me that this is not an accurate way to compare candidates – how can you compare apples to apples if the meeting room, seating arrangement, questions, and weather are not the same for each and every interview.

Well, quite simply you can’t…because people are not apples. The amount of variance that exists among people ensures this. I’m doomed to fail even before I begin.

Oh sure there are basics that I am going to cover with each person – certain answers that I need to get, but really it’s about having a discussion between you and the candidate – what are they looking for, what can the offer, what are we looking for and what can we offer them.

And I’m not talking complete free-form interviewing – I’m just pointing out that interviewing is not a science. I have worked in a R&D environment and I am very familiar with the concept of control testing – one sneeze and a week’s worth of work can be ruined by a little mucus. This is not the way to handle people.

Being consistent is a good thing, but being a slave to it is not.

So to all those suppliers trying to push their products and systems on me - go sell crazy somewhere else.

Monday, September 27, 2010

My job description in Twitterspeak (140-words or less)

I don't enjoy small talk, I like conversations to have a point, and I like simplying things. This is one reason I'm good at my job - I look at ways to increase efficiency without adding layers and window dressing.

I have been struggling of late with what are the expectations are for my job (it's a new position). I was reviewing my job description and realized it is way too wordy, which may have led me down this path of confusion.

I've taken the liberty of re-writing it:

Responsibilities:
Whatever my boss doesn't feel like doing that day

I am much more comfortable knowing that I am not expected to know what I will be doing on any given day.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Working on the follow through

I recently observed possibly the stupidest piece of HR-ing that I’ve seen in some time.

An HR Manager decided that her Admin Assistant just wasn’t cutting it (and she truly wasn’t). The Manager made the decision to let her go. Yeah – a decisive, timely, and professional move!

The HR Manager then told her management group that she was letting the Admin Assistant go. She told another Admin Assistant, who could possibly help out, that she was letting her Admin assistant go. But, and I think you might be able to guess where this is going, she did not tell the actual admin assistant in question.

Now, the Admin Assistant may not having been performing well, but she wasn’t completely unobservant and sensed something was going down. She went to the manager and initiated a conversation about feedback, needing more time to prove herself, a second chance etc…The manager was caught of guard by this (as she had not prepared any kind of package) and admitted there were issues, but granted an extension on the probation period.

So, the way I see it, we are now have two issues:

1 – We are paying the Admin Assistant to look for another job. She knows her time here is limited, but she bought herself some time.

2 - The repercussions of the Manager not following through with something she had openly committed to.

Between the two issues, I believe that the second has the biggest immediate and future impact on the company.

The reality is that when you don’t follow through – not only does the job not get done, not only does your credibility take a hit, but people that had a vested interested in what you were suppose to do will never forget.

Ever.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Giving HR a bad name

Today at an industry seminar I met the HR Director of my husband's employer. This was unintentional and I would say serendipitous; however, that would imply some level of whimsy and coolness.

And this most certainly was not.

This person was an ass. Actually, worse than that, he was a smug and smarmy ass.

The sad thing is that my husband has been telling me this for some time. I was hesitant to believe him since he doesn't have an appreciation for HR and all the convoluted and deep thought-processes that those of us in it must go through. I believe my exact words were, "You just don't understand HR."

Turns out he was right about this one.

This Dick-rector was an idiot who, even after I mentioned that my husband works for his employer (and yes I was tempted to not say anything, but felt it was only "fair" to give the guy a chance to zip it), went on to make marginalizing and disparaging remarks about the work setting and the employees.

First of all: Know and respect your audience.

Second of all: This is your employer as well. Your employees. Your credibility. Shut the fuck up.

I'm nothing if I'm not passive-aggressive, so I didn't say much at the time - I need time to process and simmer, but before leaving the session, when we were saying our good-byes, I pointedly said:

"It was enlightening to meet you - it explains so much about what I've heard."

At least he had the decency to look a bit taken back by this. Either that, or he didn't get it.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Crushed realities

I have recently accepted the fact that the unrequited crushes that I have developed over are just not going to happen:

• Edward Cullen (fictional character)
• Jake Ryan (fictional character)
• Neil Patrick Harris (apparently I’m not his type)


So it is with this realization that I have come to see that there are similar situations in my work life:

• Employee engagement (urban myth)
• Management that accepts full responsibility and accountability (another bed-time story)
• Universally accepted and applied employee development plans


It saddens me to think that I would have to resort to living a fantasy life for these things to come true.

And yet, a girl can dream.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Why I'm signing up for sensitivity training.

The English language is a wonderfully complex and convoluted thing. With only a few syllables you can encourage, compliment, insult or isolate a person.

As an example, let’s talk about the r-word.

Yes, that word that gets tossed around innocuously in day-to-day conversation. Some people feel it’s no big deal, others get completely and utterly up-in-arms over its use. I suppose it depends on your background and your current status.

Personally, I think people take it much too seriously.

Honestly, it’s a just a word, people and I’m not ashamed to put it out there….

Retired.

There, I’ve written it.
Let the comments and backlash begin.

There was a time when people yearned for the days when they could stop going to their job and enjoy the next stage of their life. A time, when not only were they proud of their non-working status, but reveled in it.

Not so now. There is so much identity tied to work and work status, that the thought of no longer being connected to an organization or job title is absolutely scary and unthinkable. And while water-cooler talk may have employees imagining what they would do if they won the lottery – few are able to articulate what their plans are for retirement.

I’ve witnessed various people make the transition and some take to it so well that they often claim, “I don’t know how I had time to work before…” Others, struggle with the change. Although I’m not in their shoes, I can imagine that lack of preparation (and I’m not talking financial) is the key. If you have nothing else in your life other than your job, what ARE you going to do in retirement?

We’ve often heard the recommendation to find what you’re passionate about and then make it your career. For those of us that don’t luck in to this as a job, you can make it your retirement. But like the on-going investment of funds you need to take care of – you need to start developing this portfolio now.

I recently made the mistake of implying to a new retiree that she was “no longer working”…apparently this was the wrong thing to say. Boy, was it the wrong thing to say. Calling her a retiree was tantamount to calling her Granny (which, incidentally she is, and generates a similar reaction).

Like I said, using the r-word can produce some strong reactions.

First day jitters

Today is the first day of school for kids in my area.

To make it doubly-fun, it’s the first day of high school for my daughter. I am young enough at heart to remember high school – some events are in such clear techno-colour detail that it makes me shudder. Like most people, you could not pay me to re-do this time in my life, even with what I now know.

It is with these thoughts in my head that I worry for my daughter. She will make her own mistakes, social faux-pas, and discoveries. She is not doomed to repeat mine – I realize that.

My first day of high school, I was late for homeroom (couldn’t find it) and pretty much late for every subsequent class that day as I didn’t know the floor plan. I wouldn’t dare ask anyone that wasn’t in my grade as you were labeled a “minor niner” and I believe there was an unofficial punishment for speaking to someone in a grade lower to you. Sure, it was exciting, but more than that it was intimidating and ridiculously stressful.

The glimmer of hope I see for her is that her school has done a tremendous job on on-boarding the grade 9. Sure there were the presentations, the parent-night, and the BBQ. But they’ve have taken the extra step of creating groups and having students in older grades help them out, not only the first, not only the first week, but the first few months. They will help them find their classes, encourage them to join groups, touch base with them, and generally – make them feel part of the school.

This is brilliant. This is so easy and yet, has so much impact.

Interestingly enough, I have a new hire starting today…it is my plan to encourage a similar on-boarding for him.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Pro-Am circuit of HR

There is such a push to prove that HR is a legitimate business operation, that this “push” has become a business in itself. The amount of designations, categorizations, silos, and so forth have made HR Associations worldwide a pretty penny in their personal development and training sessions.

Along with this need to prove, is the need to justify. I recently attended an HR training session (to earn recertification points, of course) and I was struck with level of defensiveness in the room. The entire crew of participants consisted of HR folk and yet, the amount of one-upping was incredible.

There was such a large amount of shouting out that they were not “Personnel”; that they were not soft, kind-hearted, motherly figures; that they were hard-nosed, business-speaking, HR professionals. And yet, I fear that they couldn’t walk the talk.

With this much energy and passion spent on promoting yourself and your profession, I wonder what you have left to give to your job. And make no mistake, it is a job – hopefully one you enjoy and are good at, but a job nonetheless.

And then I have to ask, at what point do you become a professional? After you take a degree and/or a few courses? After a few years of experiences? A combination of both?

I myself fall into this category – I have a designation, which if I breakdown the acronym, ends with Professional. I do not believe I have earned this title, nor do I see myself yet worthy of it. I am not trying to being modest; I am being realistic. I understand HR, I work in HR, but I am not yet a professional. I have many years of work ahead of me, many experiences to go through, before I would be able to confidently represent myself as a professional. And even then…

When someone asks you where you work or what you do for a living – do you answer: I am a HR Generalist for Company X or do you answer, I work in HR as a Generalist for Company X.

Semantics perhaps, but there is a significant difference – one is a lifestyle, the other is your job/career. Is HR your life or your work?

Heaven help you if HR is your life.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Selective tolerance

I really hate when people say this in interviews:

“I get along with everyone.”

That’s just not realistic.

I would like to consider myself a tolerant and patient person, particularly since I’m in HR, and I am. Just not with everyone.

I don’t like everyone, I don’t tolerate everyone and I’m certainly not patient with everyone. Just ask the new admin assistant who moved into the cubicle next to me.

And really, why should I be?

Why should I be tolerant of employees that aren’t cutting it? Why should I be patient with someone who disregards the obvious and won’t take accountability, and quite frankly annoys the crap out of me?

I realize this says much more about me than the person draining my energy, but what it says is that I’m not willing to put up with poor performance and irritating habits.

You telling me that “you get along with everyone” implies that you may not be willing to challenge people that need to be challenged and that you are willing to overlook poor behaviour in others.

Either that or you are a liar.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Recruiter Droppings

I had lunch with a recruiter yesterday and even though I knew it would be painful, I was still surprised at HOW painful it was.

Why?

The woman spent the entire time name-dropping. She went out of her way to show that she had memorized our spaghetti-like org chart and then proceeded to list off how she knew them, where they first met, and what they were wearing. Okay, that last one isn't true.

It didn't matter which company, topic, city, socioeconomic issues, or television show we discussed. She knew someone. In fact, she knew someone who knew someone. And she wanted to make sure I knew this.

On the surface seems like a great quality for a recruiter: large network, exceptional memory, loves to share info...

The problem I have is what her lack of a filter. Or how I did I put it in my head yesterday..."shut the fuck up". Seriously.

Use your powers for good, not to try and impress me. And beyond impressing me - I knew for a fact that many of the facts and links in the web she was creating were incorrect.

Recruiters - there is a fine line between sales and bullshit. Walk it carefully.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Life lessons: Getting the answer you want & not necessarily the one you need

Lately I've realized that my kids inspire many of my musings. Something happens with them at home and I can generally apply the situation to work or life in general.

Yesterday my son came up to me and proudly announced that he has discovered how to climb up on the roof of the garage without a ladder. No problemo AND Dad is okay with it.

I have learned over the years to question this last statement. It's not (entirely) because I don't trust my husband's judgement, but this is the same parental figure that thought it was okay to teach my son how to build the proper bonfire using a gas-oil mix as ignition.

So, I asked for clarification: "Dad is okay with you going on the roof?"

And my son said, "yes".

I asked for further clarification: "Dad specifically said it was okay for you to go on the roof?"

And my son (who is honest to a fault), answered: "Well, he didn't say it was okay, but he didn't say I couldn't."

A-ha. Okay then.

My son, in addition to discovering his spider-monkey skills, has learned the art of asking the right person at the right time. In other words, ask dad something when he is busy working in the garage and isn't really focusing on the question and apt to answer "That's cool" to whatever you tell him.

Getting the answer you want, and knowing who to ask for it, is an important skill - it requires persuasion, it requires perception, and it requires knowledge of the power infrastructure.

How much time is wasted by people that ask stupid questions (and YES, there is such a thing as a stupid question) to the right people or conversely, asking the right questions, but to the wrong people.

I'm glad my son is off to a good start in this respect.

I'm also glad that the hasn't discovered the fine art of humility and keeping his mouth shut, which allows me to step in and provide the answer he needs. Call it whatever you want...perspective, common sense, or in this instance (as per my son)"over-reaction".

Having that last point of contact before you jump is an important step. Being able to bounce an idea off of someone can save you a whole lot of grief. That is what I see myself doing in HR - no, not being a mother to the employees - but rather someone who can play devil's advocate and ask whether your current course of action is based on a need or a want.

Sometimes the difference between the two is as fine as a hairline fracture in your arm.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Deadliest Candidate

There is a cool TV show called “Deadliest Warrior” based on the age old premise of “who would win a fight between X and Y”. It has become a staple in my 10-year old’s life and the fact that he can watch last season’s episodes online is about as close to paradise as it gets (it also supports his argument that everything he needs to know in life can be found on Youtube and the Internet in general).

I love the idea of the show, since I remember debating the whole Batman vs. Superman showdown when I was a kid. The fact that a few other people haven’t grown out of this habit, created some fancy-schmancy computer simulation programs, and made a TV show pitch is kind of cool. The fact that it’s geared towards couch-ninjas that love the idea of testing weaponry on pig carcasses…not so much.

In addition to pairing up unlikely enemies, the program analyzes the effectiveness of each warrior’s short-range, mid-range, and long-range weapons. They then plug all of this into a program that runs simulated battles to determine who would likely come out the winner.

I want this for recruiting. Imagine the possibilities. You are down to two potential candidates. One is stronger in the technical area and the other seems to have a better organizational fit.

Which one will fair better?

So we skip the pig carcasses and plug into the computer program their various strengths and arsenal, from their ability to engage in small talk to creating a viable department budget. Then we let them battle it out.

Who will walk away with a few scratches, but their head held high and who will be left lying on the battlefield, bleeding and wounded?

Not only would this make candidate selection easier – it would be a hell of lot more fun.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Who is getting the best of you?

Part of working in a professional environment is well, dressing the part. I'm not really a fashion-gal, but do like to dress nicely and look part HR and part sexy-librarian. I am SO kidding on the second part.

Anyhow, I dash off in the morning and then arrive home some 9 hours later with one thought in mind - comfort. Full fledge yoga pant/ pyjama pants, t-shirt and flip flops. Despite the fact that it takes me a good 30 minutes to get ready in the morning, it takes me 2 minutes to un-do it.

Of late, I've noticed my husband's wistful look when I arrive home all professional-ed up only to disappear and return moments later as Comfort Woman.
Does he complain? No.
Is that a damn good thing?
Oh ya.

But, I've often wondered, who IS getting the best of me?

Who gets to see me looking my best and acting on my best behaviour? Who gets to listen to me discuss a number of topics in an assertive and persuasive manner, in English and French? Who gets to see me stay calm in the face of idiocy? Who benefits from my focused and undivided attention?

It doesn't take much to realize that it isn't my family.

And while this may not seem fair, I am truly comforted by the fact that they see me looking less than stellar, losing my shit over little things, jumping from one topic to another, as well as one activity to another, and making absolutely no sense at times...and yet they love and accept me.

It doesn't take much to realize that my work wouldn't be so tolerant.

So while the pay may not be as good, the benefits are certainly better. For that reason, I'm going to try and save some of my best for home.

Tomorrow, I will speak only in French and I will dress up when I do the dishes.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Can I expense a mirror?

So I'm slowly settling into my new job and one thing that has really helped is that my boss went on vacation. It appears my boss has either been a) sheltering me from the horrors that are HR or b)not bothering to delegate work to me. I'm going with option B.

Once people have been reaching her out of office messages they've contacted me and soon found out that I AM more than just office eye candy. In one instance, I had a discussion with a manager who wants me to look into some "soft skills" traning for one of her employees.

The manager's diagnosis: the employee has a confidence issue. He doesn't come to her for help and whenever he does (either in person or by email), he acts likes he's bothering her. He seems to require contsant reassurance that he's doing the right thing.

I'm pretty decent when it comes to displaying a neutral reaction, but I do have this one facial quirk (a certain eyebrow) that I seem unable to control in the face of questionable situations. This was one instance.

I asked the manager:

1. Do you give him feedback on his work? - Yes, when he comes to me.

2. Are you often too busy to help him? - Yes, I have a heavy workload.

3. The employee is relatively new - how was his training? - It's pretty much on-the-job and as we go along. I let them tell me when they don't understand something and then we go over that.

At this point, I am hoping that the manager is picking up what I'm shelling out, but alas...the manager then asked again, do I know of a course that might help the employee with these issues?

I'm seriously considering that my best investment is to take the money we would spend on a course and purchasing a large gilded-frame mirror that I could hold up to the manager.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

All aboard

Much has been said, posted, tweeted, AND blogged about proper on-boarding and/or orientation of new hires.

You call it orientation, I call it on-boarding. Tomato, tomatoe.

One reason I like the term on-boarding, is because to me it sounds like you are going to be given a set of guidelines on what you need to do to get through your first few weeks. As in - the safety rafts are over there, the life jackets are under the seats, and oh, no smoking in the lavatories.

Orientation (again in my opinion) means we will point you in the right direction and then you are on your own. Look for the signs, avoid the black diamonds, and next Friday is Hawaiian shirt day.

I realize that I'm basing all of this on semantics (and over simplifying), but I don't think I'm that far off. And really, a fancy three-page scheduled orientation means squat if the person doing the orienting is an ass. Or doesn't know what they are doing. Or fills up three days with fluff.

Please people, get to the good stuff. Oh I know that you need to cover the policies (especially the important ones like dress code), procedures, health & safety, and IT, but come on...get to the stuff we really need to know in order to be successful in our jobs...like the gossip and where the post-it notes are kept.

In my recent experience, I didn't really have an orientation (why would I, I'm in HR), but my boss did spend some time on-boarding me to the company.

In that hour, I got some pretty important information, such as:
- which person I needed to be careful with my words around, because it was a direct link to the VP
- which persons are having inter-office relationships that are causing issues because of reporting structures and possible fall-out
- who really called the shots among the senior management group
- who were the people identified as stars and who is on the shit list

Now these are things that I can work with. So, after the necessary seat belt demonstration and pointing out of the obvious exits, remember to ensure that someone is providing your new hires with the REALLY important information.

Friday, May 21, 2010

From cougars to crow...

I’m now into week three of the new job, which means that I’m slowly approaching the one month mark. This is good. If I knew exactly what I was suppose to do, I might be getting into a groove, but fortunately I get to keep guessing.

Jokes aside, I’m digging the new role, but know I have to get my ass moving on demonstrating my value. This company is dynamic and moving and it will be important for me to not just look busy, but actually be busy.

Since my departure from my previous employer, I have received a number of emails from senior management asking me:

- Where can they locate the employee file folders?
- Where they should order these from?
- Where can they send the company-logo coffee mug that I left behind?
- What is in the boxes in my old office?

I’m completely serious.

Apparently senior management had been relying on me to not have to talk to the employees. Apparently they I dealt with ordering the supplies. Shit, no wonder they were so upset when I left.

When I handed in my resignation, my former employer did ask if I wanted them to counter. They asked whether it was salary, vacation, and work hours… what they could offer to make me stay. I did not entertain this because my role would not have changed and I would have begun searching again in a few months. A parting comment was that if I wanted to come back – they would take me.

At the time I thought this was a nice gesture, if only lip service. However, yesterday I received an email from my former boss who forwarded me a “potentially serious email” (it was spam telling me that my offshore bank account that I don’t have had been suspended). She ended the email by saying that she hoped all was well, unless I was ready to “eat crow”.

Again, I’m completely serious.

I know that my role has not been filled. I know that she is doing double-duty right now. I know it would be “so easy” if I just walked back in. So I’m keeping this in mind as I read into her comment.

My former employer seems to think it knows me well enough that I have made a grave mistake; that I should not have left, but like an indulgent parent, will let me learn my lesson and then take me back (after the I-told-you-so spiel).

Well here’s the rub, if my former employer knew me well, they would know that even if I had made that mistake, there is no way in hell I would admit it to them, especially after that comment.

Yes, I will learn lessons, but I’ve vowed not only to take the harder paths, but also avoid backtracking.

Oh, and eating crow. I mean, what do you even serve with that?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

I'm thinking the mascot for our team will be a cougar

One of the reasons I was looking to make a change in my HR career was that I wanted to work with like-minded individuals. No, scratch that - that would be way too messed up. I wanted to work with other people in HR.

In my new job I am now a member of an HR group - spread among three different divisions, but still we are all on the same (dark)side.

This week we went to a lunch with a recruiting firm that was looking to wine and dine, I mean sell their services to us.

Let me set the scene: four late-20s/mid-30s...okay, late-30s HR gals, with two 20-something, fashionably hip recruiter guys....The lunch was good, the sales pitch was meh, but the insight following the lunch was fascinating.

Upon returning to the office, we HR gals debriefed on the recruiting firm:

HR Gal#1: So? What did you think of Company Y?

HR Gal#2: They were really hot.

HR Gal#1: Yes, but they are totally gay.

HR Gal#2: Really - how do you know this?

HR Gal#1: I've gone out partying with them before. Trust me. I know.

(HR Gal #3 calls bullshit, but in her head, since she hasn't been there long enough)

HR Gal#3: That doesn't matter anyways - they were good-looking. You can be gay and hot.

HR Gal#1: I know, but still...

HR Gal#4: I don't think they could offer us anything in terms of recruiting services that we don't already have.

HR Gal#1: Agreed, but at least we got a good lunch out of it.

...

Turns out I have found my HR group AND like-minded individuals.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Something to think of before you drink the kool-aid

I'm now into week two and the shiny car smell is leaving the job. This is not to say that's it no longer a good job, but well...it is now feeling like a job.

I don't drink enough water, not because I'm not aware of the all the wonderful life-prolonging, wrinkle-preventing, cleansing benefits, but because it's very plain tasting. So every once in awhile I try to jazz it up - add a slice of lemon or brew herbal tea. This helps.

Then there are times when I get sucked into one of those jazzy new water drinks. Adult kool-aid, if you will. And I drink these down thinking - wow, I love the taste. Think of how much more water I'm going to consume.

Then reality hits. The flavour becomes slightly cloying and then unpleasant, and I'm left with the thought that I haven't come across some fantastic elixir - I'm drinking flavoured water. Plain ole water, with colour and taste added to make it appealing.

And so it is with a new job. Jazz it up with a new title, new office, new people, new responsibilities, and even a new salary, but when you get past the flavour - it's still a job that involves work.

It's a good idea to keep that in mind before you decide to make that next big move. Never mind grass being greener..think about the water being sweeter in Kool-Aid. It may taste different, but it's still water.

Incidentally, no regrets here on my move. I spent the day trying to decipher comp billing and feel as though my eyes have sunk into the back of my head so my state of mind isn't too perky.

Stay tuned.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Culture Club

Being the dedicated employee that I am, I have managed to book my final week with numerous interviews for positions we are recruiting. What better way to end my employment relationship with my employer than by bringing on-board people that I will have absolutely nothing to do with.

Today I had two positive and productive interviews - one which will most likely lead to a hire. The other, while still good, will not; however, I should point out thaat she was quite prepared to ask me questions and one stuck with me.

She asked, "what is the culture like in the office?"

This is hardly a show-stopping and unique question, but surprisingly few people ask it (or some variation on it). It's a good question because although you will likely not get a 100% honest answer, you do get a good sense of how the company will promote itself.

With the question on the table, the manager turned to me with a look of desperation. Clearly she wasn't prepared to articulate who were were. Maybe that was for the best. It would have likely been something along the lines of - 'we all get along'.

I was more prepared to handle this one and while it may have seemed that I was spinning off in sales mode, I was being truthful. I rather think that it is what I do not say that means more.

I do not say we are like a big family. My experience with family includes heavy doses of dysfunctional, so I certainly don't want to promote that as a core value.

I do not say everyone gets along. Pu-leeze. As if.

I do not say that we are a very flexible organization. Yes, there are some options, but the flexible ones - they are exceptions. Our organization is comfortably behind in this respect.

Instead, I speak more of a community atmosphere, which captures the idea that there is representation from different walks of life - from the professional, to the not so professional. From the lifer to the employee that is just bidding time until the next job offer comes in.

I point out the open concept which means that we don't have the "silo" syndrome going on. Of course, it also means you have absolutely no privacy.

I know I do a good job of promoting our company culture and it's not because I make it so appealing, but because one month after someone starts with us, after the haze starts to wear off, they aren't surprised to find out where they are.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Internal issues - like jobs and heartburn

This blog entry is in response to a comment on my last post regarding my personal decision of resigning (and how people take it personally).

My response became too long-winded for a mere comment and really, I had nothing else to blog about.

Congratulations on your new job! I too am looking for a new position - mostly within my current company - so I hope to be experiencing some of your pain (and excitement) in the near future. Any advice on moving one within the company?

Caveat: I like to tell people what to do, but please don't see this as an 'official guide' or an exhaustive list. I'm just happy to share my insight.

First, thank you very much.

My recent experience was outside of my current company (hence the branding of traitor). Without knowing the details about your company, your current job, and your goals - the best advice I can give is that you treat an internal job move the same way that you would an external.

That means:

1. Be discrete: don't talk about this with your coworkers. Sure there's a chance they will figure it out or hear about it, but at least you were professional about it. Besides, you don't know who else might have applied.

2. Research the department and/or role you are looking for; you have every advantage of knowing the company, the culture, and the business challenges - use this!

3. Prepare for the interviews as if they don't know you (nothing is worse than hearing, "well you know what I do..." in an interview)- don't assume the interviewers will fill in the blanks

4. Acknowledge any elephants in the room. This doesn't mean treat the interview like a confessional, but the reality is that supervisors/managers talk amongst each other, so there's a good chance they know about your recent job error or attendance issue. You need to assure the new manager that you are committed to improving.

5. Dress the part. I don't care if you get comments from your co-workers - show that you want this. The external candidates are.

6. Avoid giving the impression you are trying to escape your current role. You need to demonstrate you are looking to move forward, not away.

7. Depending on your company, there may be (and likely is) political manoeuvring going on that has nothing to do with you personally - you may not get the job and it has NOTHING to do with your skills and fit.


Now - if you are successful.

1 - Congratulations - you obviously followed my advice above to a "T"

2 - If you are prone to heartburn or stomach-wrenching bouts of guilt, load up on Xantac, you are going to need it.

3- Be prepared for the fallout from your current boss/group - not everyone is going to be thrilled about your new move, especially when they realize they will have to pick up the slack for the short (or possibly long) term.

4- Be prepared to work your ass off to prove yourself in your new role - internal transfers don't always get the leeway that new hires do - you will be expected to know more than you may;

5- Do. Not. Burn. Your. Bridges. Ever. No matter how much you may have hated your former colleagues and/or boss.

6- Don't apologize for getting the job. (refer to #3)

7- Make sure you get a deadline for a transfer. Going externally means the luxury of giving a firm notice period. Internally, departments tend to blur this and will have you work dual roles...sometimes for an indefinite period of time or until the replace you (which often time is synonymous).

Like any kind of change, there are positive and negative aspects. Remember why you are doing this - hopefully it's for career advancement and new challenges.Ultimately you go to work to do your work; it's not your responsibility to ensure that everyone's auras are glowing.

Good luck with your the potential move.

(Oh and if anyone else would like to add any other advice, since I'm certainly not an expert on this, please feel free).

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The post in which I make the decision to tell you it's not about you

A wise man once told me there is no such thing as coincidence. I agreed with him then and still do.

I was prepared to sit down and blog out my experiences of the past few days, but checked into my email before doing so. Why? Because I'm addicted to checking my gmail.

Interestingly enough a former colleague (and wise guy) wrote to me this afternoon about the fallout of an employee's recent resignation and the manager's handling of the situation. To sum it up - it was ALL about him.

Why this is coincidental for me is that I resigned from my job yesterday and since that time, I have been on the receiving end of some expected and unexpected responses, but the common thread among them was how my departure was about THEM.

I suppose it's human nature to try and relate to any situation by first applying how it will impact our self. How will this affect me? Now, who will do this for me? What does this say about me? How could you do this to me?

The reality is that my decision to resign has little to nothing to do with you. It's about me and my desire to move on to new challenges, to make more money, and to change things up. This is very hard for people to accept.

First off all, it's considered selfish. How can you place your needs above those of the greater good (read: us)? And yes, I was told this.

Secondly, it makes people question their own situation. Why am I still here? I wish I could make a change, but I can't? Again, this was said to me.

Thirdly, it's a change that the other person had no say in and god knows, most people aren't big on change. People that hardly acknowledged me (other than to avert their eyes as I passed), have declared that this is devastating to them - they were comfortable with me and now they have to get use to someone new.

Fourthly, and this is for the supervisors and managers out there. There is often a sense of panic that sets in when they realize that they need to replace someone and they remember that they never got that back-filling training plan going and now they are going to have to get their hands dirty. And for those lacking cnfidence, there's the thought that maybe people will assume it's because of their inadequacy as a manager that the person resigned. This panic can often manifest as anger.

For many, this is personal. I have betrayed them. I am a traitor. One of my VPs has not spoken to me since I advised them. Unless there is an audience, I don't expect him to change this behaviour.

I'm sure enough of myself and my decisions that I can handle this. I am aware that people's acceptance of change often has to go through stages before they can truly accept it. I can ride it out for the next few days and if it doesn't improve, I'll move on.

After all, it was my decision.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Twist of fate



Rarely are things as simple and straightforward as I would like them to be.

In a strange twist of events, on the same day that I get the job offer I have been waiting for, my colleague calls me to tell me that she's leaving in a few weeks.

This means that I will be the pourer of salt , instead of the initial wounder. And you know what a bad rap salt has these days.

The situation has become bittersweet for me and for a short time, made me reconsider my next move. I respect my manager and don't want to create an even more difficult situation, but is that truly a good reason to decline an offer?

Like the route on the sign above, I am determined to avoid taking the easy route (my usual modus operandi)...it may be easier to manage, but it's probably not as interesting.

I will take the new job, I will leave in 2 weeks, and I will likely feel like a shmuck in the meantime.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

My poker face may not give me away, but the fact that I'm curled up in the fetal position might...

I could never be a double-agent. My stomach lining just couldn't handle it.

Although currently employed with a good company, I am seeking new opportunities. I like to consider this while things are going well and not wait until I've hit the wall of desperation.

So, I talk to people, I watch the postings, and from time to time I apply for a position that I believe I am qualified for and that I'm interested in. I state these seemingly obvious reasons for an application, because not everyone meets these two checks, as evidenced by the pile of CVs I've rejected.

So, last week I had an interview. More of a meet and greet, but an interview none the less. I've been called back for a second one and I'm very eager about the opportunity. The rub is that now I'm starting to get a wee bit panicky about the whole "how do I explain I'm heading out again". I start to wonder whether management has become suspicious, I worry about staying focused at work, and I start imagining all the things that I need to take care of should I resign.

When I'm very nervous I get hives. When I'm anxious, my stomach and all its contents are in constant motion. So combine this with the family get-together and Easter chocolate this past weekend and I'm in fine form.

I am hoping that I can keep up the calm demeanour and hide the telltale signs that I see in employees that I suspect of being part of the same mission I am.

It's an odd feeling to be back on the other side of the desk and vulnerable to all the weaknesses of mere employees.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Patience my dear...patience

Recruiting has increased significantly in the past few weeks around here and along with the extra work comes the increase in supervisors' stress level and a decrease in their patience level.

A supervisor came to me yesterday to advise that an key employee has resigned and given just under 2 weeks notice. My mind automatically started making a to-do list for posting, potential candidates, interview times, etc....

The supervisor then looked at me, very seriously, and said - ideally they want someone in the role by this Monday so that the existing employee can train her.

I reminded the supervisor that Friday is a holiday and for many (although not us) so is Monday. Although it typically takes 4 weeks to fill a role (assuming the candidate we hire is already working and needs to give some notice), we may be able to pull this off sooner.

The supervisor understood, but asked if we could skip the whole posting/ screening/ interview thing and just hire someone.

I looked at the supervisor, very seriously, and asked - does the body I put in the chair still have be warm or are you flexible on this?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Proof that life isn't fair

I spent the entire day manning our company booth at a Job Fair yesterday. It was so much fun that I'm heading back today. I suppose it's HR penance.

Actually there are many interesting people, but there are only so many ways to repeat the same information, in both English and French, that by the end of the day I was getting close to that "lose it" point.

Something that I saw which really surprised me was that I had quite a few parents visit me on behalf of their "child". This is debatable since not many adults would be seeking permanent full-time employment for their 13-year old, so I'm assuming these are fully functional near adults that have over-involved parents. There were also a number of students there with their moms, with the mom doing most of the talking.

I worry about this. I'm a parent and I know how it feels to want to do everything for your child, whether it be the obvious math homework or spread peanut butter on a piece of toast, but the reality is they have to do this. They have to experience the errors, the learning curves, and joy of ensuring the peanut butter doesn't get on the crust and you don't rip the bread.

I recently attended a session on generations in the workplace and while I don't fully subscribe to labelling someone based on the year they were born (I am Gen X, I'm suppose to be skeptical), there is certainly truth in the fact that many newcomers to the workforce are operating with a different set of expectations.

Part of this comes from the fact that at no point has anyone pushed them off the diving board and said - Now swim to the side of the pool; we won't let you drown, but you've got to find a way to do it on your own.

Harsh, perhaps...but who said life was fair. Or easy.

Just to show that I'm not entirely bitter, I do believe that more direction, expectations, and feedback should be given to all employees - not just the Gen Ys who supposedly demand it. At the same time I caution automatically dolling all of these out without allowing someone to develop their resourcefulness and iniative.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Where there's smoke...

I've made no bones about the fact that recruiting is not my favourite HR activity. It's very time-consuming, very frustrating, and akin to speed dating.

Now I'm sure some recruiting-loving person out there will point out that if I was doing it right, then it would be a breeze. Fine - give me your sales pitch and then move along. Odds are you are you are going to present some excellent points and provide great techniques, but it's not going to change my mind.

This is why.

In an interview yesterday the candidate walks into the room abso-freaking-lutely reeking of smoke. Now I shouldn't assume anything...perhaps she had just rescued a trapped family from a burning townhouse, but my HR-instinct told me she just powered down a few cigarettes prior to the interview.

Here's the rub. The role that we are filling is a group that is struggling with absenteeism and presenteism. There are production issues. There are training issues. There are issues. The supervisor has to deal with a number of employees with regards to the amount of time that employees take to get a "breath of fresh air". As we are on an upper floor of a multi-floor building, any break takes considerable time away from the workplace.

So, when my first whiff of this candidate provides me with an indication that they may contribute to this issue, I lay a few rows of bricks in the wall that may go up.

When the only questions that the candidate ask about the job are - how long do I get for lunch, how many breaks can I take, how often can I go to the washroom (seriously!), and is a hoodie considered "business casual", I'm in full-fledged wall-building mode. I can envision the next meeting I would be having with this employee, which would be to say, thanks, but no thanks (which incidentally is my favourite thing to do in HR).

I would be interested in hearing from others what your views are on candidates that
show up with a blatant red flag, whether it be inappropriate clothing or a cloud of smoke.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Things that are debatable

Some weeks I am entrenched in the mire of HR. I am challenged, I am busy, and I am productive.

Other weeks, I find myself up against the forces of ridiculousness. As such, these are the highly controversial and important things I have debated with colleagues so far this week

1.There is such a thing as a mercy interview (for internal candidates) and there are times when it is less damaging to do the interview than not to.

2.Saying “that’s not my job” is a career limiting move and I don’t care which generation you are from, it applies from A-Z

3.As HR, it is not my responsibility to ensure that you have hand sanitizer available at your desk. It's not that I don't care, but I'm not picking it up when I'm out on my lunch.

4.Documenting is a pain, I know, but it really is worth the trouble and no, I’m not your stenographer, do it yourself. You and your employee will thank me. I promise.

5.Being Team Edward does not make me a cougar – he is a fictional character; I don’t equate the character with Rob Pattinson (but he does create a nice visual)

Friday, March 05, 2010

I'm in re-run mode

When I get into a tv series (and it doesn't happen very often) I am dedicated, loyal, and will schedule my evenings around watching my show. (And yes this means I'm one of the poor slobs who hasn't embraced PVR-ing.)

So when a show goes on hiatus or re-run mode, I become agitated for a few weeks and then I move into acceptance. My interest starts to wane. I start to forget what I enjoyed about these shows. Sometimes I drop it, just out of principle because the interval is too long and/or it's just a ridiculous schedule.

Unfortunately, my work and personal schedule has been such that I haven't been able to blog anything coherent for some time. I've even neglected visiting many of the blogs that I enjoy. Strangely enough, when I started to catch up this morning, I saw a similar message at My Hell is Other People and HR Fishbowl. I am not alone.

This is a temporary situation. I plan to get back on track with following and sharing, but it's amazing how much I can shift all of my focus to one or two areas, and lose sight of the other parts of my life that add interest and balance. It's actually scary.

So, the sun is shining today. I'm slowly lowering the blinders that have kept me heading down one track for the past few weeks and I'm sharing again.

As for the TV programs. Lost, you lost me with a 9-month hiatus and starting back up during the Olympics. I'll catch you in re-runs.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Is that a question mark at the end of your sentence or are you just trying to fool me (into doing what you want)?

Short, sweet and to the point. I really don't like when people ask a question that isn't really a question.

My husband is very good at this. "You are going to fill up the car before you come home tonight, right?"

This is not a question. This is a statement with a question mark conveniently tagged on to the end in the hopes of disguising the fact that you are telling me to do something, rather than asking me.

Work is no exception to this type of thing. Yesterday, a senior manager that has been using me more and more as a resource on her projects asked me for another "favour".

She stared right into my eyes and said, "You know that you can always say no, right?".

Uh....yes. I know what my options are.

Limited.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A tale of two managers

In the span of an hour I had two very different conversations with two very different managers.

Manager #1 – Came to me because “I was never told”* that they were required to provide electronic copies of their staff’s performance reviews. They have never done this. And by the way, we don’t provide detailed enough time lines. Beside, the manager was leaving soon to go on vacation and did not intend to meet with the employees until they returned, at which point they will work on the comments.

I responded that we did communicate that we need e-copies and explained *again* why. I indicated that it was interesting that they were the only manager that was kept in the dark about this. As for deadlines, we did provide three separate due dates – each for a different step of the process, with the goal of having everything done by the end of February. I was unsure as to which part of this was confusing?

The manager’s response was “that’s not how we work in the office…we need a specific final-last chance date. We work under tight deadlines and generally run around at the last minute to get things done to meet that date. We need someone to remind of this up-coming date regularly, even though we will not likely do anything until the eleventh hour. This is also why providing an electronic copy does not work, since we are likely writing up comments the day before”.

(I would love to say that I’m twisting the manager’s words for effect, but I’m not…this is essentially what was said to me)

I asked the manager, “Do you happen to see any issue with this particular way of handling things?”

Manager, “No.”


*absolutely hate this - explain to me that you were not aware, but don't shift the blame by implying it was someone else's responsibility to tell you
--------------------------------

Manager #2 – Came to me to discuss an upcoming return to work of an employee. The manager has never had to deal with a situation like this and it is sensitive on many levels.

The manager asked many relevant and good questions, was receptive to my feedback and suggestions. They didn’t expect or want me to tell them what to do and say. Ultimately it is their responsibility to have this conversation with the employee, but they saw the value in seeking another person’s opinion and perspective.

The manager clarified time lines and procedures. They have since provided me with updates on what has happened.


You can imagine who got the gold star that day.
You can also imagine which manager’s employees will have a better run at 2010.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Staying the course

I realize you are dying to know how I'm doing. Admit it.

In order to keep myself honest with the process and to prove that I can blog more than just petty complaints...here is what I have accomplished from my list of 52 items.

Considering we are only 5 weeks in...not too shabby. This will make up for the inevitable lull that will hit in April.


2. Bring in rather than buy a coffee a work for two weeks Since original two weeks, I have continued bringing in coffee, but I've added buying a second at work...must rectify this

4. Stop by and talk to someone at work (who I generally don’t) each day for a week - will keep this up, not as bad as I thought

6. Call at least one family member once a week (and I suppose I should specify that it can’t be the same one every week)...will try to keep this up, also not as bad as I thought

13. Get a massage

17. Attend an HR association event that I have to pay for (not just the freebies) - did it. It was incredibly boring, but I've since learned they aren't all that bad.

19. Go back to being a brunette

21. Blog once a week (regardless of how inane the topic)...still going and today's topic is proof that I will resort to the inane

25. Wrangle myself an invite to attend (a portion of) the next monthly management meetings to present HR update I invited myself!

26. Challenge at least one manager in the above mentioned meetings when they inevitable say something requiring challenging You so had it coming Speakerphone Boy

28. No snacking in the car for a week - my car doesn't smell like rotting apple cores anymore!

33. Finish writing this g-d list! So done.

39. Try to go a day without saying the word “seriously” in a way other than for which it is intended I did this and did not realize it. Seriously!

New vacation policy

To all my colleagues who have a planned winter vacation that will take you away from our freezing and snowy climate and into a 5-star resort that has 16 swim-up bars, kilometres of white sandy beaches, and a hammock under a palm tree for everyone.

Shut the f-ck up.

We are trying to improve morale around here.
You are not helping.

(And yes I'm envious, but I still don't want to see the website.)

Monday, February 01, 2010

I am not amused

I am one of those people who will pay good money to get on a mechanical contraption that takes you up 20 stories and then plunges you (and the contents of your stomach) back down at a ridiculous speed.

Again

And again.

I really enjoy the thrill of riding a rollercoaster and consider it the highlight of a trip to an amusement park.

Oddly enough though, I do not enjoy the same sensation when the conditions are considerably less mechanical and I’m getting paid to go on the ride.

With the number of climbs, dips and curves on the horizon, I should be willing to line up for hours just to experience it. And yet, I’m not all that enthusiastic about it.

Maybe if they served cotton candy in the lunchroom I would be more into it.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

What would Mr Rogers do?

I’m having a bit of a love-hate relationship with my next door office neighbour.

Actually, there’s no love there. None what so ever. And I’m not one to throw around the word “hate” – it’s such a strong word. So, let me retract that and say I loath him.

The following is the email I have drafted to send to him:

To: Tommy Boy
From: Corporate Daycare

Subject: Your complete disregard for those around you

Good morning,

I would like schedule a brief meeting with you to go over a few concerns that I have.

Below is a suggested agenda of the topics I would like discuss:

1. Speakerphones – when to use them (my opinion: never)
2. Ignorance – it really is not bliss (or why you need to know what’s going on in your department)
3. Lunch etiquette & why eating fish at your desk is poor decision
4. Shirking responsibility – yes, as a manager you are required to do managerial things
5. Center of the universe – it isn’t you (I have scientific proof)
6. Delegation vs. passing the buck – there is a difference

I believe in keeping meetings short and sweet, so I’ve limited the topics. Perhaps we can discuss the other 15 items of concern in follow-up meetings.

I realize that scheduling a time for this meeting may prove to be difficult as you have a very erratic schedule, which includes a start time of somewhere between 8:00 and 10:00 am. Perhaps you can stop by my office when you have a moment.

I looking forward to your thoughts on how we can improve on these items.

Regards,
Corporate Daycare

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Recommended reading

I’m quite irked over the increasing fear over employment references and referrals. Specifically, the refusal to provide any. It’s not unusual for me to disagree with a company policy, but still go along with it as I enjoy receiving bi-weekly pay cheques.

In theory I understand the “why” behind this policy…we don’t want to provide undeserved positive reference for an employee and have them send their new employer into bankruptcy because of their incompetence (which we blatantly neglected to reveal).

Similarly, we do not want to provide a completely honest and scathing reference for an employee and have them not get a job. Because if we can’t have them, then we don’t want anyone to have them. Right.

I realize that for the sake of this post I’m over-generalizing the potential problems, but as someone who does recruiting – I have rarely had a make or break situation over a reference. I do get pissy when a candidate cannot provide me with any references since their employers do not allow it. This of course is ironic since the company I work for does not provide any. We want from others what we are not willing to provide for them.

In addition to not providing employment references to a potential next employer, my current employer will not allow any managers/employees to provide recommendations. This means that for sites such as a LinkedIn, one cannot request a recommendation from a current co-worker/manager.

My argument is that a recommendation on LinkedIn was not unlike a cocktail party conversation where I say to the person standing beside me, “Oh, I know a reputable and competent dentist"…and then provide her with that dentist’s name.

If I am foolish enough to recommend someone that does not deserve to be, then it says much more about my judgement than it does about the company where I work. Yet the concern is not for the individual, not for the person named in the reference or the person providing the reference. The concern is for the company.

So, I find myself in an interesting situation whereby I could be a excellent worker, with a list of impressive work accomplishments...but I can't get anyone to substantiate this.

I cannot understand why, for the love of god, in our HR industry that is crying out for credibility and recognition, we would throw a wrench in the wheel.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Wearing other people's footwear

So the other evening I was watching the hockey game (shockers) and sketching with my daughter. You see, we only have 6 months to plan and purchase/make a dress for her elementary graduation. I’m along for the ride, but bringing along a suitcase of perspective with me. Or so I thought.

When we compared drawings, hers were (predictably) more suited for a high school level celebration, but she did have some good ideas. Mine, in my opinion, were a good balance of fashion and coverage.

My daughter pointed out that my idea looked remarkably like my grade 8 grad dress. When I took a closer look – it kind of did. I pointed out that fashion and trends are cyclical, so it’s only natural that the style could apply again.

She didn’t buy it.

It became very apparent that although I do remember what it’s like to be a 13-year old (so much so that I would not be one again), I do not know what it’s like to be her at 13.

It made me realize that perhaps all my attempts to “relate” my work experience and thoughts to new hires left them groaned inwardly at how off I was.

Or that maybe making decisions how to handle employee situations based on me “putting myself in their shoes” was simply making assumptions on how they would like to be treated based on how I would want to be treated.

Really when I consider it, “putting myself in their shoes” doesn’t give me much insight other than how I would feel wearing someone else’s footwear…and not taking into account their other individual circumstances.

It’s very irritating to me when employees and managers repeatedly spout off about “when I was at Company X, we did it this way”. You may have learned some valuable skills and/or lessons at Company X., but here’s me pointing out the obvious…you are no longer at Company X. It may have worked there, but that does not mean it will work there.

Evaluating other people’s needs and requirements has to consider more than your limited scope of imagination. Call it the basics of change, but sharing your perspective and experience on how to do something is a good place to begin, but it’s not the best place to stop.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Déjà-vu

Employee performance scores were due on Tuesday. That meant a lot of scrambling and grumbling for the managers, but kudos to them – they got them in on time. All except one set – from the big cheese.

He came to me the day after they were due to tell me he had not handed his is in yet. Remarkably, I was aware of this. He then asked if there was a template or form he should use.

Why yes, there is. It’s the package we provided you a few weeks back. Allow me to re-send it.

Now, is this similar to the template we used last year?

Yes it is.

Do you still have my scoring from last year?

(I see where this is going). Yes I do.

Good. Send that to me.

The big cheese submitted his managers’ score sheets that very same morning. Amazingly they are similar (dare I say, the same) as the previous year's. How fortunate for him that his managers are so consistent.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Nothing to do with HR.

I recently dyed my hair very noticeable darker. I really like it, so it didn’t matter to me what others thought, but of course other people have to offer their feedback. As if we didn’t know that men and women act/speak differently, the reactions that my recent decision provoked only serves to reinforce this.

Among the comments I received from women:
What made you decide to do that?
Are you having an affair (I WAS asked this)
Did you change something with your hair? (Seriously?!)
What does your husband think about it?

From the men, I heard this:
You changed your hair – it looks very nice.

I have to say, the guys (and a few ladies who said something similar) won out on this one. I did not change my hair to generate a discussion – I did it because I felt like it.

My thoughts have less to do with the gender differences than the communication differences. Honestly people, don’t overcomplicate your feedback - it takes away from the message.

Oh, and don't live for the feedback.

Apply this at work.
Apply it at home.
Apply it in the playground.

And before anyone should imply that I appreciated the men’s opinions more only because I require constant reassurance that I am attractive, let me clarify: first and foremost, I prefer short, sweet, and factual feedback and then comes my need for constant reassurance that I am attractive.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Black & White

I am repainting my bedroom. No scratch that, like #30 on my 2010 To Do list, I’m choosing the colours and my husband will be painting (not because I can’t, but because both our standard levels are above my abilities).

Overall I know what I want and have asked my husband for his input…either a brownish-grey or grayish-brown. One of the reasons I married my husband was not because he knows the difference between brownish-grey and grayish-brown, but because he completely understands what I mean when I say stuff like that.

You may be wondering, does it really make a difference. Of course it does. If you go in one direction, it could end up peachy and the other could end up looking like I am aiming for that prison cell look. There is a multitude of variations between the spectrum of brown and grey. Lighting, deco, and purpose are all going to affect what my choice will be.

This is not unlike the two words I use frequently at work: “it depends”.

I drive managers mental when I say this, but the reality is it a justifiable answer. The guidelines and protocols may seem black & white; however, the fact is that employee, performance, department, time of the business cycle, precedents, and many other external conditions will impact a decision. There are various shades of grey that can be applied.

Some may argue that this is ambiguous – how can you ensure that you are treating everyone fairly. Well to that I say (and have said here before), fair does not mean equal. When you terminate an employee, you need to consider their age, their performance, the likelihood of them finding similar employment, the length of service, did we “entice” them into the role, etc…Each and everyone of this will move the final decision further from grey and closer to brown (or vice verse).

If you cannot step back and see the spectrum then you risk missing out a number of choices between black and white (or grey and brown!).

Friday, January 08, 2010

Theory vs practice

Interesting revelation at work today – the Office VP revealed to me that he subscribes to the MBWA (Manage by Walking Around) way of doing things.

He feels that it’s a good way for employees to see him and for him to keep his finger on the pulse of what’s going on throughout the office.

It was very tempting to point out that if continues to limit his “walking around” to the area from his office to the outdoor smoking area or the coffee machine he’s only exposed to a few of the employees.

But dammit, those 6 employees are well managed.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Silver lining

It’s no secret that I’m a hockey fan. Love the game. So it was only a matter of time before I wove in some hockey as a metaphor for life/ work. (Actually, sports and business analogies abound so I’m not talking about anything original here.)

This past Tuesday night I was anxiously awaiting the Gold Medal game for the World Junior Hockey finals. Canada was playing USA, which always proves to be a good match-up. For the record, I’m a Hockey fan which means I believe the best team should win, but please, please, please let the best team be MY team.

It was a good game – it had all the elements that I could want - scoring, nail-biting moments, reasons to curse the opposing team, reasons to curse the referees, and reasons to cheer on your team.

With just under 3 minutes left in the game, the Canadian players (okay, player) managed to tie up the game by scoring 2 goals, thus forcing over-time. I didn’t bother sitting down to watch OT – I was planning on being on my feet most of the time anyways – and it seemed like it was over way too quickly. USA won.

They deserved to – I will give them that. I won’t pout and make any comments about a few penalties that SHOULD have been called that weren’t. It doesn’t matter at this point. These young Canadians played their hearts out and left it all on the ice. But the reality is that they still lost.

My daughter commented that she felt really bad for them. I did too. She then said, well…at least they got silver, they can be happy about that. I pointed out that none of the players looked remotely happy about coming in second.

I don’t blame them one bit.

We can tell ourselves and our kids that it’s all about trying your best and it doesn’t matter if you win, but when it really comes down to the crunch – it does. You do not put yourself through all that to come in second and be happy with that.

To relate all this back to my world of work, telling a candidate that they didn’t get the job, but they were a close second may seem like a compassionate and nice thing to say, but really…they didn’t get the job…they don’t want to hear that shit.

We will keep you in mind and call you if anything comes up
We are really impressed with your skills and background, we can see you working here, but not in this role
It was a tough decision, you were this close to getting it

These are meant to be silver linings to the grey cloud that they did not get hired, but when it comes down to it silver is not a consolation – it’s still a loss.

Getting silver, coming in second, almost getting the job…these are circumstances when you should hold your head up, clench your jaw, outwardly be as graceful and classy as you can… but not be content.