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.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

My To Do List (or my contribution to the "What I hope to accomplish in 2010" bandwagon)

Here are some things I would like to accomplish this year. No resolutions, just ideas and plans. It encompasses home, personal, work, and even spiritual aspects of my life.

I purposely chose to have #52 items, with the idea that I could tackle one a week for the next year. Of course, I will likely cross off 10-20 in the first few months and then leave the remainder for November and December, but whatever. I’ve tried to be reasonable and only list things that I could possibly do this year and that are mostly within my control (#43 being an exception)

In some cases I have put a minimum time. It would be great if I could extend these well beyond, but knowing myself as I do – I needed to establish a lower limit.

I hope to update this regularly, but it will not be the focus of my future writing. How boring would that be for me and my dedicated readers?

To Do List for 2010

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)
2. Bring in rather than buy a coffee a work for two weeks (this will likely have to coincide with #5) Didn't coincide, but DONE..will try to keep this up.
3. Go for a walk every day at lunch for two weeks (I can opt to do this once the snow melts)
4. Stop by and talk to someone at work (who I generally don’t) each day for a week
5. Do not use snooze button on alarm (but still get up) for a week
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)
7. Clean-up and organize my digital photos
8. Clean-up and organize my home filing system
9. Make home-made pasta
10. Put in a permanent veggie garden
11. Take kids to the art gallery
12. Book most of my annual vacation time in advance
13. Get a massage - Done, Done Done
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)
15. Finish the scarf I started knitting
16. Plan for a weekend get-away for hubby and I sometime this year
17. Attend an HR association event that I have to pay for (not just the freebies)- Booked for week of Jan 18th
18. Create my Exit Plan for my next job (see Punk Rock HR for inspiration)
19. Go back to being a brunette (not as easy as it sounds) Done!
20. Have a Harry Potter movie marathon pre-Deathly Hallows release (I know…geeky, but come on, it’s so worth it)
21. Blog once a week (regardless of how inane the topic)
22. Re-visit NYC (possible link to #16)
23. Stay in town and attend family function for at least one holiday function other than Christmas
24. Learn to change the oil in my car (rather than getting hubby to do it every time)
25. Wrangle myself an invite to attend (a portion of) the next monthly management meetings to present HR update
26. Challenge at least one manager in the above mentioned meetings when they inevitable say something requiring challenging
27. Replace and/or get rid of all my ill-fitting or unworn clothing
28. No snacking in the car for a week (another one of those harder than it sounds things)
29. Write a short story
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)
31. Shift the focus of my job from Administration with HR functions to HR with Administrative functions (either here or elsewhere)
32. Land me a couple of interviews for opportunities that will get me closer to where I want to be (home)
33. Finish this g-d list! So done.
34. Get another tattoo…this time not so plain-Jane
35. Order and try a martini (yup…never had one)
36. Beat my son at NHL 2K9 on the Wii (the bugger is getting too cocky for his own good)
37. Get over my bum knee and ageing hip and get out skiing this winter
38. Get a new battery for my watch (yes, this has to be on this list…it’s already been about 6 months since it died)
39. Try to go a day without saying the word “seriously” in a way other than for which it is intended (Seriously.)
40. Go a day at work without using the Internet for non-work related reasons (just to see what will happen if I do…will the Earth continue to spin?)
41. See my friend that I’ve been trying to connect with for about a year – we are in the same city and it’s ridiculous that we haven’t been able to manage face-to-face interaction
42. Ditch work to watch a movie (on a day when the power is NOT out at the cinema)
43. See the Aurora Borealis at least once this winter
44. Add some annual plants to the gardens and not just rely on the perennials to make me look like an accomplished gardener
45. Leave my actual office at lunch time for at least one week
46. Have a picnic with my family (actually make food, pack and go to a location)
47. Stay up an entire night…and then sleep the next day
48. Learn to identify at least 5 wild plants/flowers in my neighbourhood
49. Learn to identify at least 5 models of cars beyond those that I can already pick out
50. Go to a church service in the next year other than for a wedding or funeral
51. Learn my grandma’s recipe for butter-sugar pie
52. Find and walk the wavering line between selfish and selfless – realize there will be times when it’s all about me and times when it’s not about me at all