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.