Thursday, December 01, 2011

How to have a really good Christmas

Our family likes to wait until the last minute to decorate and put up our Christmas (yes, an HR person said CHRISTMAS) tree. It’s not because we are procrastinating, it’s just that it doesn’t seem right to have it up mid-November. A month is a very long time to look at sparkly, twinkly, musical items. And it’s not because we do the real tree thing – we have a cool and realistic looking artificial tree…it’s one of the few items that I prefer to go “fake”. Real trees are awesome, but they are messy.

We just like the Christmas mood to come to us and not force feed it down our throat.
For some reason it surprises people that I’m not a big fan of the Christmas time thing. I’m not sure why it’s a surprise – it involves committing to plans in advance, socializing, excessive consumerism, and guilt.

Now it’s no secret to those that know me that I’m a less than stellar daughter. I don’t play by the official rule book (daily phone calls, consulting on all decisions, overdoing the gratitude, caring about every ache and pain), but this doesn’t mean I’m cold and callous. I just don’t feel the need to force something that is very awkward and fake to me.

But at Christmas time, some people would rather the artificial sentiment, so long as it looks and smells like the real thing, rather than the real deal. They have the Hallmark/ Norman Rockwell image of what a family at Christmas should be, and dammit we will look the part…even when the other 364 days of the year we don’t even come close.

Like real trees, real sentiments and feelings are messy, but unlike trees, artificial sentiments just don’t cut it.

My very short list of items which are better as the real thing:

• Chocolate
• Coffee
• Cheese
• Books
• Feelings & sentiments

All of these have a cost associated with getting the real deal; however, they are infinitely more satisfying.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Why I'm not planning on serving crow anytime soon.

I was feeling nostalgic and decided to read some of my old posts.

Old posts from when I worked at my previous employer. And posts from when I left my previous employer, and then ones like this one.

I believe that I have found the support I needed.

Reality check. Check.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Going back

If you had the opportunity to return to a former employer (that you left on good terms), into a new role, would you take it?

Is it enough that the role has changed and more in line with what you are looking for?

Is it possible to go back, with a new and fresh perspective, and tackle the issues that you previously faced? Or is it naive to assume that you will be able to re-integrate without people resenting and/or resisting your return?

How will the boomerang move look on the résumé? How will it look when you potentially leave them again in a few years? How will it feel when after the dust settles you start to remember that you didn’t just leave because of a new opportunity, but because there were other reasons? And those reasons are still there?

Despite the fact that I have HR insight into how this might play out and be perceived, I’m struggling with making the quick and obvious decision.

Why is it that the “easy” option is so damned tempting?

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Too much information

We have an occupational nurse that comes to our office every month to meet with employees regarding health concerns, follow-ups, and providing health and wellness information.

All this is great and I am glad our company provides this service; however, it would be so much better if she didn't send out a reminder email with the Subject line: My monthly visit.

I really do think it's too much to ask a group of adults to refrain from snickering every time that email goes around.

Myself included.

Friday, November 04, 2011

I'm a Gen-Xer. Get the hell off my lawn.

Employers must prepare to engage grouchy Generation Xers, study finds

Really? Are we still harping on this? Are we still stretching the blanket of discontent over an entire generation?

Are Gen X-ers still the disillusioned, “grouchy” group that boomers, I mean people, claim we are. Probably, but is it because we grew up listening to Nirvana and watching Ethan Hawke? Or could it have anything to do with the fact that we, like most people, would rather be doing something other than work? Like reading comic books and wearing doc martens.

I find it insulting that it’s being theorized that the reason I’m not thrilled with my job is because I came home after school and my parents weren’t there until 5:30pm. Oh, my struggle with work-life balance – it’s because my parents got divorced. It's couldn't be because, maybe it's just an okay-job and well, work-life balance is tough to achieve.

The article suggests that “Generation Xers' expectations are not being met with regard to aspects such as pay, career advancement, and training and development” and “that these employees reported the lowest levels of satisfaction and met expectations, as well as the highest levels of conflict between work and family life."

Let me look at this from a slightly different angle. Gen Xers, who are currently between 32 and 46 years old, are feeling a little overwhelmed with work, kids, and their life not being what they thought it might be. Well no shit. Are we really the only generation to have gone through this?

Seriously.

I want to see this study repeated in 10-15 years when they Millennials are at this age. I’m sure they will be just having a blast. Granted their parents will continue to shelter them from the stressors of life, so maybe they won’t really notice that it’s not easy to work full-time, raise a family, pay bills, and still meet all those expectations that you had when you left school.

They will go through the same phase, but instead of blaming it on the grunge movement, it will be because of technology, social media, and those damn grouchy Gen-Xers who are now manning the show.

Remember, it is a generation’s obligation to blame the one before it for all its problems. That’s the natural order of things.

Oh, and get the hell off my lawn.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Asking the questions that matter

I am seriously thinking of adding a new question into my interview repertoire.

What kind of car do you drive?

Oh I know the pitfalls and lack of “validity” that this question has, but I can’t say I much care. Based on my 2-hour commute each day, I’m starting to build up a generalization theory based on the kind of car people drive.

Right off the bat – Echo, Corolla, and Ford Focus...odds are you are going to be late for work (drive a little bit slower?!) or calling in because your vehicle is broken down. Again.

Jeep anything – especially Liberty or Wrangler –I’m going to be wary of attitude. First of all let me clarify, you do not own the fuckin road – so stop driving like it. I’m anticipating that you will be wasting people’s time at work explaining how some other idiot driver caused you to get into an accident

PT Cruiser, Scion, Honda Element – I’m questioning your ability to make good
decisions. Honestly.

Escapade, SUV, Suburban – you are likely going to be highly focused on the salary as you are getting tired of choosing between food for your kids and gas for your vehicle

Honda (except Element, see above) and Mazda (except Miata, see my thoughts on these) – you are going to go with the flow, not stir it up too much and blend in

Mercedes, BMWs, Audis – you will still have to show me some substance in an interview, I am not impressed by a car that is referred to by alpha-numeric BS (seriously hate the demise of car names)

Hybrid or Smart car – good on ya, but do not get preach-y with me and sell me a story about how you only want to work for a company that has a 25-year Environmental and Social Responsibility Strategy…or whether our free coffee is also free trade

Bicycle – Awesome, you won’t need a parking pass and you are in good physical condition, but your serious lack of judgment when it comes to biking into work during -a 25C snow storm (and creating havoc on the roadway) makes me wonder about the chaos you can cause in the workplace

There is nothing I like more than simplifying my screening process – especially when it involves using heavily biased personal opinions. Makes me think of how recruiting must have been in the “good old days”.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

HR-ing myself to death

The expression “physician heal thyself” speaks volumes to me.
Aside from the obvious fact that I am not medically trained in any way, shape or form at all…I am a big believer that before you can start to help others (and by this, I actually mean judge them for their short-comings), I need to get myself straightened up.

Especially in terms of HR.

Often I find myself sitting around at a meeting table, asking an employee on how they feel about their work, the company, their future with us and they are telling me about how happy they are here, how challenged they are, how they want to come to work every day.

Of course, my first reaction is actually – bullshit. No one WANTS to come to work every day. And happy?!

Honestly. My first reaction to someone telling me that they like being here – at a company that I promote throughout recruiting process – one that I’m trying to improve in terms of adding value-added resource – is bullshit.

I am thinking I need to give my head a serious shake. Either that or I need to take a near-lethal dose of smarten the hell up. Really, what I would tell an employee sitting in my cute new brown loafers is – either get with the program or leave.

And I know I’m not the only one. I’ve talked to quite a few jaded HR people and it’s not about naively accepting everything someone tells you, but we are a little too quick to look for the “real” meaning behind the words.

Before we can expect anyone else to buy into HR, we have to believe in ourselves.

So, I’m prescribing myself a dose of optimism, which oddly enough, is recommended to be taken with alcohol.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Getting my yang on

So I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but I’ve been away.

I haven’t been travelling extensively across the world. I haven’t started a new company. I haven’t been camping out in a park across from Wall St. I haven’t been sitting in a cave trying to find myself. I’ve just been… being.

I’ve been purposefully lazy. I have been somewhat introspective, trying to figure out what I should be doing (now and next), and doing yin yoga. I love Yin because it’s quiet, it promotes deep stretching, and it helps me to focus on what’s going on rather than the parade of absurdity that’s constantly running through my brain. I really enjoy it; however, it’s coming to an end.

I’m getting antsy and feel like I need to be more physically active. I got out of my sparse attitude and having been buying new clothes. I’m bidding my time, but slowly lining myself up to drop-kick my boss. I don’t mean up and quit, but more like stop being the flippin’ doormat that I feel I’ve become around her. I feel like writing again.

Maybe it’s the cooler weather. Maybe it’s the fall-back-to-school routine, but I feel a change in momentum.

For every yin there is a yang.

And Yang I am.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Living under (ground) cover

This time of year finds me knee deep in my garden admiring my handiwork. Scratch that. Admiring Nature’s handiwork. I’m a lazy gardener that relies heavily on perennials that come back every year bigger and better. It’s true. Almost every year my garden looks better, with little interference from me.

People think I’m pretty damn good at gardening. Oh sure, from far away and if you squint, it looks lush, but a closer inspection reveals that some plants have taken over, causing others to disappear, and then it just looks out of whack.

So I decided that maybe I would intervene and clean it up a bit. You know, do some actual gardening. One of the major culprits is some of the ground cover I put in. In the early spring it looks great because it fills in the open spaces and provides an instant garden. The problem is that at this time of the year, it just doesn’t know when to stop, and looks somewhat out of control.

So I slowly started pulling it back and realized there’s a whole freakin’ garden hidden under it. Slow be damned, I started yanking it out like a madwoman. And within a few short hours, I had a new garden; complete with plants that I forgot had existed. Once again symmetry and harmony existed in my world.

It took me by surprise that I was so hesitant to reduce the amount of ground cover – I felt almost guilty because it’s not like it’s a weed, so it seemed sacrilegious to get rid of a “real” plant. But truthfully, it was acting like a weed. I had to remind myself that I’m the gardener – the one in control – and not the plants. Seriously, until they start walking and taking over the world à la Day of the Triffids, I should be the one calling the shots.

The truth is that ground covers do have a purpose in my garden – they are fillers, they are the plants that allow my garden to “fake it until it makes it”. But the problem is that it was too easy to become lazy and let them do all the work for me.

I often read about people giving others the career advice to “fake it” until they actually know what they are doing in a new role. I think there is some validity to this – sometimes you can smile and nod at the right time and get up to speed without others realizing that you weren’t really who they thought you were. By the time you are in full swing, no one is the wiser.

Often though, people forget to remove the cover – the fakeness. They get so used to just winging it that there’s little substance to who they are. They are continually deferring decisions, they can’t commit to an answer, and they frequently parrot others, because they just haven’t put in the roots to establish actual competence. They have lost sight of the real reason that they needed to go under “cover”, which was a temporary blanket until they established a real base.

So I my advice to those giving out advice – you need to add a caveat: Fake it until you make it, but you need to be aware of when you should stop faking it.

At some point someone’s going to mistake you for a weed and yank your ass out of the garden.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Why sometimes it's just not worth pointing out the obvious

Okay, so I've decided to put my high horse in the stable and get back down to talking about the meat and potatoes of my world - stupid shit people do at work.

We have a temporary administrative assistant who I think is quite quirky and nice. She's fast, she's efficient, and gets bored at an impossible to respond rate. She is an educated mid-20 something, who doesn't know what to do with her life. She considers herself spontaneous, but I would counter with erratic.

We often share stories of family woes - she lives with and deals with her younger 20-something sister and I have a teenage daughter. Oddly enough, we share very similar stories.

The other day, after I listened to her vent about how irresponsible, immature, and totally dependant her sister is. She can't make a decision to save her life. I listened & nodded a lot. She went on and on about how she was more mature, how she was being held back in life, how she is challenged with trying to live her life independently and sometimes against the culture of her parents. Still I listened & nodded.

After lunch the admin jumped on me. She had received a text from her sister and had been waiting for me all lunch before responding - "She wants to meet for coffee after work...what should I do? Tell me what to do? Seriously, tell me what I should do."

Apparently it's a family trait.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Detached reality

What a weird breed of people we are brewing.

It use to be that a kid who managed to get himself cut bad enough to require stitches would be hurt, a bit upset, and none too pleased about the idea of having a doctor use a fishing lure to do needlepoint on the cut.

And I'm thinking that mine would have reacted this way too, if he hadn't been viewing it through a screen. Rather than suffer, my kid decides to capture this event on video (ipod).

Watching it later (and yes, I did watch it as I wasn't with him for the live procedure), I was amazed at my son's calm questions to the doctor about the procedure. It was like he didn't realize it was his leg that was being worked on (except for that last stitch, where there wasn't as much freezing).

And I think that's the key. Watching it the way he did created a detachment that is usually reserved for television shows and video games. It's all too easy to forgot that this is really happening, that it involves a real person, with feelings and emotions. Only when it hit a sore spot (literally) was he reminded of this.

I have to admit, my first thought was that maybe he'll be a surgeon. My next thought, a sociopath. Seriously, to me the fundamental difference is the level of detachment...can you relate and empathize with the person you are cutting up?

I'm no worry-wort, but it disturbs me when people can completely detach themselves from what's going on when they see it on the screen. Even if it's someone they know. Even if it's them. It may seem likes it's just a video, or a picture**, but it's of a real person.

(** This doesn't refer to the jackasses who do stupid things and post them on youtube or the ignorants of the world who take naked pictures and text them around...I'm talking about the people who were captured in their less than finest moments and made a public mockery).

Friday, June 10, 2011

For the best

I was eating lunch at a local coffee shop the other day with a colleague when a woman standing beside our table suddenly leaned down and hugged me. I had not really noticed who was standing there, but quickly recognized her as a woman I used to work with at a previous employer, where neither of us are anymore.

In HR, meeting former employees can be pleasant, but it's mainly awkward. Whether there was a good work relationship or not, I know more about the employee than former colleagues do. And if it wasn't the greatest working relationship - then I really know more than others.

I would classify this lunch time meeting in the very awkward category. I knew about the poor work relationship, I knew too much about her personal life because she had no privacy boundaries, and I knew about the circumstances leading up to her termination (through former managers)...that occurred after I left the company.

This woman was in the wrong job for her skill set. I knew it, her supervisor knew, and eventually she came to know it, but management wasn't ready to admit defeat. So, instead of flexibility we end up with a break in the employee. She went off on leave - tried to deal with her problems (few of which were work related) and postponed coming back a few times. When she finally did come back, management finally saw what the rest of us had seen earlier on. So they terminated her.

When I saw this woman the other day, she asked me if I had heard what happened to her and I replied vaguely that I heard she was no longer there. Her response was a blunt - they fired me because I had depression. Based on the sequence of events and the way things played out, this is what she was left to believe.

She has found a replacement job that pays the bills while she goes back to school to pursue her "dream", but she's not grateful for the experience nor is she praising it as being "the best thing for her".

Please remember this when you are terminating someone. Maybe it is the kick in the pants they need. Maybe it will motivate them to do something they are more suited to. But please don't act like (or even say that) you are doing them a favour by terminating them.

It's humiliating, it's demoralizing, and when you screw it up, you contribute to the development of one bitter person.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

What choice do I have?

I know. It's been awhile.

I've been here, but not really - I've been reading and contemplating, but just not going that extra step to put my thoughts down here.

It was a choice I made.

A huge pet peeve of mine is when people lament that they "don't/ didn't have a choice". Of course you do, you always have a choice - you just may not like the options.

This is especially true at work when it's easy to defer accountability by saying, I didn't have a choice - my boss told me to/ my colleague wasn't there/ no one said I couldn't do that...you ALWAYS have a choice.

So, I had to make a choice on how I wanted to spend my precious and limited spare time. And while it was an option to try and maintain Twitter conversations during the pm only, and try and put out meaningless drivel, I mean a blog post on a more regular basis...I chose another option.

I have started a work journal - sort of a blog-lite...all the analysis of my work, without the heavy side of sarcasm. This allows me to hash out my thoughts about work, while at work, and not feel like I'm doing something that HR will get riled up about. (Hang on a minute...)

Do I miss sharing all this vital information with the world? Not really.

I'm re-thinking what I do want to share on this blog, because quite honestly it was never meant to be a diary, nor a page from my day-timer (8:30 am - At Starbucks enjoying organic coffee...mmmmm). I have considered how I could contribute to the HR discussions out there; however, there are WAY more interesting and intelligent HR blogs out there.

So many choices....

Monday, May 02, 2011

Milestone

Today was my one year anniversary at my current employer. And to celebrate, I did what I have done for the past twelve months - I congratulates myself for making it through another week and rewarded myself for a job well done. I am the best boss I have ever had.
Too bad I can't approve a raise or a work from home arrangement. Oh well, I'm in HR - there's only so much I can do.

So raise a glass and join me in a toast.

To me.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Writing a wrong

There are frequent intervals in my life when I just close up shop and work on autopilot (and apparently use a ridiculous amount of clichés).

This is one of those times. There's nothing wrong, no impending situation - just me being me.

I'm going through my days and nights, with little resistance, but also little challenge and I'm okay with that right now. Some times I just like to coast. But, I can see that there are some hills looming and I'm going to have to switch gears if I'm going to make it over. For now though, I'm enjoying cruise mode.

Something I've always wanted to do is write. Some may argue that through this blog I already have, but the blog is interesting (I think) short bursts of thoughts. When I think of writing, I think of a longer more developed thought process. The problem is that my scope of imagination is quite limited. Which is one of the reasons I don't blog frequently.

Advice out there will tell you to write often and about anything - just write, write, and write. I get that, but I'm not one to talk for the sake of talking, so a by-product is that I don't blog for the sake of blogging. I'm not really interested in sharing where and what I had for breakfast - that's what Twitter is for, which I've also stopped using (no offence to anyone, but I really don't have the persistence, patience, and continual web-access to make it worth my while).

Although I do like blogging.
And writing.
But, just not for the sake of it.
Despite the fact that this post is really starting to prove me wrong.

Seriously, I think that I just needed to state to myself and anyone who might be reading that it's okay if I'm not "on".

I realized that it doesn't make me less of a writer just because I write less.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Stretching

Turns out I have a bit of an issue with tension in my neck and shoulders.

Shocking, I know.

It's always been there, but it seems though that things are not getting better and, in fact, may be causing other physical issues. Not to mention it can make me downright bitchy.

So I've sought some help with this - visited my first registered massage therapist and received some homework in the form of stretches.

The therapist recommended that I tape the pictures of stretches up in my work area to remind me that I need to do my stretches. I am a visual person, but I really don't want these crappy sketches taped to my cubicle wall. My solution was to keep them in my drawer for reference, but I typed up a relatively inconspicuous one-word reminder that I put in front of me.

The word: Stretch

When my neck starts to bug me and I look at this word it does remind me to take a few minutes. Interestingly enough, there have been other times when I've felt like I'm just going through the motions and not getting anywhere new and I've found myself glancing over at the word and it reminded me that perhaps I need to stretch more than my neck muscles.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday Fav's

And here are the things that helped me make it through my first week back from vacation:

1. Candied ginger
2. My slightly neurotic, but completely hilarious admin assistant
3. Paramore
4. Lunch-time conversations with my colleague (why yes, we are 12 years old)
5. Planning summer vacation get-away
6. Grass has been sighted (the snow is almost gone)
7. No bootcamp (yessss)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Warning signs

This week we had the unfortunate experience of having to deal with an emergency evacuation in our building. No, this wasn't an ill-timed fire drill, but reaction to a real threat made to our organization.

As is the case in many of these scenarios, it turned out to be a hoax. Oh, the call was real, but there was nothing that materialized. Whether it was some jackass having a good laugh or a seriously upset person - they made a claim that we couldn't ignore. You can't take a chance and need to follow procedures, because you just never know.

The fallout included an incredibly unproductive workforce the next morning, numerous meetings, a realization that the procedures in place are not really adequate and loads of theories and gossip. It also prompted an awareness among everyone - suddenly people were a bit more sensitive to their work environment.

When I arrived home early and thought about the situation further, I mulled over something a wise man (oh, alright, my husband) said - "it's not the one's that call in before you have to worry about.." And it's true. It's the ones that call in after to claim responsibility that chill the bones.

And because I'm in HR, I have to over-apply my revelations and in this case, I'm thinking about those employees that often gripe and complain that they need to find a new job, or they hate their manager, or they are feeling stressed out. It's because they are so vocal about it that we are able to talk to them about whatever is pissing them off that day and can hopefully help them (or their managers).

My thoughts are that it's the ones that you don't hear from that should worry you. They are the employees that just quietly show up at your desk one day to hand in their resignation letter.

Really, there are always warning signs - some are very obvious and easy to see/hear - these are the ones we tend to focus on. We can't ignore them, because you never know.

However, it's other warning signs - the subtle and almost undetectable - that we need to watch for because they are the ones you are not prepared to handle. And it's here that a sensitivity to the work climate can come in handy. You need to be able to sense when something's off with an employee or a group. And when I say you - I mean HR, Managers, colleagues, whoever...

Really - why would you wait until after to make the call on something like this?

Monday, March 21, 2011

From nothing comes much

A funny thing happened to me on my week’s vacation. I did not think about work at all. Therefore, by funny, I mean interesting and not ha-ha.

The week flew by with equal parts of being busy and doing absolutely nothing. In fact, there were times when I did so little that it made me tired. Ever feel that way? It’s a great feeling.

During my week, I puttered away with spring-cleaning. I attacked piles of stuff that have been lingering in closets and backrooms for years. After a brief moment of reflection on whether I would truly need some items – I purged.

We are also in the process of re-painting, which as any good re-painter knows, involves completely emptying the rooms. As such, we need to decide what will go back in the room and I’m adamant that only those things that we want in there will make it back. This means that many a knick-knack or picture that was a gift will be relegated to accessory purgatory. (An advanced apology to anyone who gave us something that we have now deemed unworthy).

And to complete my cleansing, I dumped my bootcamp class. I know that it’s normal to not “enjoy” exercising, but for christsake, if I have to mentally verbally abuse my self into doing something that I don’t want to do – then it’s time for the old heave-ho. Honestly, I’m HR right? What would I tell someone who came to me and presented the same story. Give it up – you don’t need more guilt in your life. Find something you enjoy doing.

And so I took my own advice.

Turns out, I like doing nothing.

Of course, like most indulgences, it should be enjoyed in moderation, so I will savour those moments and try to balance it out with a little chaos, some business, and a dash of stress - that’s where work comes in.

Happy Monday.

Friday, March 18, 2011

This week's top 5

I may have been on vacation this week, but there are still things that make it that much better (as if not working wasn't good enough):

1. Dark chocolate
2. Dire Straits (feeling kind of nostalgic)
3. The smell of Spring...it's true, I can practical smell the sap in the maple trees)
4. My freshly painted hallway/entrance/stairwell....wow, 1 down..2 rooms to go
5. Unrestricted reading time

I hope to have something more stimulating to share, but without the inspiration of workplace follies, I'm somewhat at a loss. The good news. I'm back on Monday, so that's likely to resume.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Drip. Drip. Drip.

There are often points in the interview when the candidate pauses just a few seconds too long before they continue their thought and I just know what’s coming.

The big reveal.

The moment when they cross the line and say something that you really don’t want them to say. Honestly, with the amount of information available out there on what you should or shouldn’t say in an interview, it’s incredible how people just don’t know to shut the faucet off.

When I really think about it though, it’s not that much of a surprise. People have become so use to sharing everything about their lives (what they ate for breakfast, where they are standing, what they are thinking) that it really isn’t far fetched that they would continue this in an interview scenario.

Think about it, many people I know don’t think too long and hard about their Twitter and Facebook posts – seconds after they have a thought, they post it. This is much to their detriment since nothing can make an intelligent, balanced person look like an emotional idiot as quickly as an ill-timed and hastily typed tweet.

So, when people get use to thinking/sharing like this, it’s only natural that the same thing will happen in a face-to-face interview. Instead of telling me that you’ve overcome some personal challenges, you decide to tell me that you took your two kids and left an abusive relationship. Instead of telling me that you did have difficulty managing stress, but now practice yoga and exercise – you tell me that you had a breakdown, had to take Prozac and were warned by your doctor to find better ways to deal with it.

Maybe it’s me with the issue. Maybe my nature to keep my private life private (except as a blogger who hides behind a cute picture and witty name) is the problem. Perhaps I need to be able to sift through all the blah, blah that you are sharing and recognize that you will hopefully use more discretion in the workplace. That the fact that you feel comfortable enough to talk about personal and irrelevant parts of your life with someone you doesn’t really know is a sign that you are an open communicator and good at building relationships.

Yeah. Maybe it is my issue.

But the reality is that since I’m the one sitting on the other side of the interview table, my issue is now yours. I’m no plumber, but when a faucet won’t stop dripping, I know how to make it stop.

It's Friday. Finally.

Here are the things keeping me sane this week:

1. Raspberry-Lemonade lip balm (if there was any kind of nutritional value – I would eat it)
2. The view out my back windows at home
3. Coldplay
4. Coffee
5. My colleague at work
6. The fact that I’m off on vacation next week

This week I needed every last one of them to help me make it through.

Friday, March 04, 2011

A few of my favourite things....

In an attempt to remind myself that not everything sucks (melodramatic much?!), I have been creating mental lists of thing that I like.

I’ve decided to share what’s on that list and Friday seems like a good day to it. I need to point out that I am not going to list my family and friends, as they are a given and transcend any list that I could ever make. I’m talking about the little things, the not so obvious and the sometimes very trivial things that make me smile.

So, as of today – these are the things that are helping me get through the week:

1. Goat cheese – on pretty much anything and for any meal
2. The Kings of Leon
3. Ginger tisane
4. Younglovehome.com
5. Planning the redo of my main floor (as inspired by #4 on the list)
6. My son’s stories of what happens in a grade 5 lunchroom (you couldn’t pay me to be a monitor in that room)
7. Listening to Breaking Dawn in the car (to numb the pain of my commute)

Friday, February 18, 2011

Turning Corners

I am always amazed to find myself in the places that I end up. One minute I’m wandering around, not entirely sure of where I’m going, and then *bang* I’m there.

I have a pretty good sense of direction, but readily admit that it’s based more on instinct than some innate compass or photographic memory of maps. Although I often hit traffic, obstacles, and sometimes have to circle back – I always end up where I want to be.

The physical layout of my workplace is very open concept – everyone is in work stations (and I mean everyone). In many ways it’s good, but for those people like me that like some structure and guidance, the lack of hallways and defined paths to take can be a bit annoying. Often times I find myself walking through someone’s workspace because it’s the most direct route to get where I want to be.

Of course there are external and some internal walls and these walls naturally have corners. Interestingly enough, when I use these as a point of reference, I can keep my bearings.

Then there’s the whole figurative element. The cultural environment of my workplace is not what I would consider “open”, but it certainly lacks the structure and guidelines that I would normally rely on. This has left me feeling disoriented, unsure of which way the traffic is flowing, where the obstacles are and, some days, a bad case of road rage.

However, recently I turned a corner – it was mid week and I had the revelation that I knew where I was and what I was doing. I worked on projects, answered questions, and felt productive – all without wondering whether I was heading in the right direction.

Like I said, *bang* I’m there.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Great expectations

Thought for today:

What if you realized that in order for you to progress in your career with your company you would have to focus on the smoke and mirrors of business: work over-time whether it's needed or not, constantly rush around, focus on quantity and not quality work, and put your needs above those of others.

Would you play the game to get that "exceeds expectations" rating?

Or would you be okay with "meets expectations" and leaving the office and work behind at the end of the day?

I guess it all depends on whose expectations we are talking about.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

How NOT to fire someone

No one likes to terminate employees, whether they deserve it or not. It's not fun, it's disturbing, but it is sometimes part of the job.

There are more theories out there on when, where and how to do the deed than you can shake a stick at. And some would argue that there is no perfect time, place, and way to do it.

Agreed.

But, there are are certainly things to avoid. Allow me to list a few:

1. Do not schedule the meeting on a Friday in the middle of the afternoon.
2. Do not invite the employee to this meeting by saying it's their performance evaluation.
3.Do not push back the meeting 30 minutes before it's scheduled.
4. Do not push it back a second time.
5. Do not hold the meeting in a central meeting room.
6. With glass walls
7. And have employee facing outward.
8. Do not allow the meeting to last 35 minutes.

I would love to tell you this really didn't happen. But it did.

I would love to tell you that it wasn't within an HR group. But it was.

I am embarrassed for all those that were involved.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Play it forward vs Pay it forward

I'm often comparing management to parenting. It's not so much that I think (all) employees are like children, but rather that both are roles that you only really learn by doing.

No one is born a manager any more than they are born a parent - people learn how to do these things. And despite the plethora of how-to books in both areas promising to make people better managers/parents, it doesn't happen. These books just give you something to think about and interesting facts to quote on Twitter.

I would imagine that most managers and/or parents have witnessed others in these roles and, at one time or another, have said to themselves, "I won't do what my manager/parent did..." or conversely, "When I have employees/kids, I will do what my manager/parent did..." We learn from others and hopefully we take away both the positive and negative experiences - they provide us with a portfolio of experience, without having to actually go through every situation ourselves.

The problem is that there is a certain population in both roles that don't learn, or perhaps I should say they learn the wrong lesson. Rather than taking their own experiences as an employee/child and building on it - they twist and pervert the message until they do exactly what was done with them, with the rationale that if that's what they got, then it's what they will give.

How sad. How petty.

Today I had a "Pre-evaluation". Why pre? Because my manager hasn't completed mine yet, but still had to provide me with my score, along with some rationale for it, before I saw the renumeration table. There was no apology for the fact that this 2-minute talk was lacking in consideration or detail. In fact, I was told I was lucky since it was 1 minute longer than the one she got from her boss. And then went on to repeat the same message that was she was told.

And there we have it.

She got a crappy hand-out, so goddamit, so was I.
And I'd better like it too.

Instead of taking the opportunity to stop the cycle and make a conscious decision to provide better management, she chose to keep the it going.

When you chose "play it forward" over "pay it forward", you are re-cycling bad habits, you are passing along the wrong message, and you are losing people.

Trust me on the last one. I know.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Peter's Principle in Practice

Reason #467 on why I don't think I want to be top dog in HR.

Apparently it inhibits your ability to act like a mature adult.

I am uncertain whether this is a chicken or egg argument - does the job make you an idiot or do you have to be an idiot to get it?

I know I am using an extra-wide brush to paint this situation, but let me add the following caveat...MY experience with HR Directors makes dealing with my 14-year emotional, irrational daughter seem easy.

There. I got that off my chest.

(And before someone beats me to it...I know, us Advisors, we are all a bunch of whiners)

Friday, January 21, 2011

A conversation worth having

I have the habit of having an entire conversation in my head, with me playing both the role of myself and whoever it is I want to talk to. I do this because I like to be prepared and have a sense of how things are going to play out. I like to know which words are coming next

Oh, and this irritates my husband.

Because sometimes after about 10 minutes of internal debate, of which he is completely oblivious, I will turn to him and say, "Oh never mind."

You see, I've gone through what I want to say, what I know he will respond, what I will counter with, and so on and so forth until I get the the end. If I know that it's an argument not worth having, then I don't have it.

I did admit to doing this once and he was insulted that I would presume to know what he would say. I then re-enacted the internal conversation to him. He agreed with my assessment of what he would say. Quelle surprise.

And I do this with just about all situations that eat at me. Such as the conversation that I want to have with my boss. I need to talk to her about the (lack) of communication and direction that I am feeling, the fact that she often makes me feel incredibly stupid, and whether I'm doing a good job.

I know. I'm a 20-year old employee trapped in a 40-year body.

The problem is that every time I start rehearsing, I mean preparing, for the conversation - I hit walls. I counter my own arguments and I am honestly having a hard time determining whether it's my voice or hers that I'm hearing.

Shit like this floats around in my head:
No one can "make" you feel stupid - you have to let them
You are over-analyzing her behaviour - she's just busy
You said you like to work independently
You could always just ask her if you want to know something


And so, I rationalize - how can I go in there and come across like a mature, professional adult when the basis of my point sounds something like "why don't you like me".

I know, I know - don't provide problems, provide solutions. Well, my solution, at this present time, is "stop being such a douche bag and start being a manager".

Sigh.

And the conversation continues to turn in my head like a 45. (And I'm banking on someone reading this to know what the hell a 45 is). Of course, not only does the conversation continue, but so do the issues.

I would love to end this post neatly with some insightful comment or a witty tie-in to another point, but the reality is that this is one time that I just cannot seem to find the words that should come next.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Definitely not the best buy

Recently I brought my son to a certain electronics box store (cough…Best Buy…cough, cough) to purchase something that he had been saving up for over a year. He had been hoarding gift cards received for birthdays and Christmas and finally had enough, along with almost all the cash in his account, to buy in iPod Touch.

There was no talking him out of this purchase (and I tried) – he was focused, determined, and had stuck with his plan for well over a year. This kid was excited.

So what a complete and utter freakin let-down that some kid working there had to dampen the experience. My son is 10 (but looks more like 8), and it should have been a dead give-away by his ear-to-ear grin and the way he carefully pulled out the gift cards from his wallet that this was a huge purchase for him. And maybe the kid (and he was a kid) working the cash would have noticed, had he even acknowledged my son or looked at him. But he didn’t.

Oh I get it. We interrupted his conversation with the cute girl working at the other cash. He was likely tired because he had to be awake before noon on a Saturday and quite frankly, getting paid to work is over-rated.

I’ve been there and done that. And I was also brought back to my senses by a woman who once called me on my crappy attitude while working customer service in an hourly job. She bluntly asked me, “Do you like your job?” I was embarrassed and caught of guard, but answered that yes, I did. She then pointed out that I sure didn’t act like it. That has resonated with me since it happened, over 20 years ago.

So I was primed and ready to ask this kid at Best Buy the same question, but he had already walked away.

There are days when I don’t want to come to work. There are days when I hate my job and the last frickin thing I want to do is smile and act like I care about someone else’s issues. But you know what – I do it.

Why?

Because maybe it’s the 50th time that someone has asked me that same question or maybe it’s the 10th interview and I can’t stand the idea of saying the same spiel, but for the person on the other side of the desk it IS important and it isn’t the same ole-same ole.

When it comes to providing good service, the sooner you realize it is not about you, the better it will go. And to the dude at Best Buy, if I ever get you again – I definitely won’t hesitate before I ask my question.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Bring out your fertilizer

I’m often reading about what HR needs to do or stop doing in order to improve its image/value/presence. I think I might have come up with something....

Recently I had an epiphany while doing groceries:

Bananas are excellent source of potassium.

Actually, my epiphany was that HR needs to go organic.

Seriously.

You slap the word “organic” onto a product and suddenly it is not only more appealing, but its worth more. A lot more. And the bonus is that you don’t really have to be fully organic, you can just claim to be. The methods for evaluating this are iffy at best.

Think about it. It’s also probably easier than petitioning to have HR recommended by 4 out of 5 dentists.

(And I wonder why I’ve never been invited to a branding meeting…)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Degrees of competency

At lunch today, the conversation with my colleague started as it generally does - with one of us saying, "I can't stand my boss".

Today was her turn.

I know it sounds petty and almost cliché-ish to be bitching about your boss (so, 2000), but the reality is that we are both struggling with values and ideas that conflict with those of our bosses and the company.

It seems that my colleague's boss has taken to repeatedly bringing up the fact that she doesn't have her university degree. My colleague is in the process of completing it (part-time, on her her own time and own dime), but yet her boss keeps throwing it in her face. It's mentioned when salary increases come up, development opportunities come up, and when...well pretty much anytime.

What the boss has forgotten is that she hired my colleague. Nothing hidden.

My colleague is very mature and insightful - she's incredibly perceptive and a person with very strong values. She knowledgeable, personable, organized, energetic, enthusiastic, experienced, and hard-working.

But she doesn't have a degree. And this - apparently - trumps everything.

The reality is that a piece of paper does not make you better in HR. It gives you background, a foundation, and a potentially unrealistic idea of how the real business world actually works.

My armchair assessment is that her boss is threatened by the fact that my colleague is very competent and has a better grasp of HR than she does, despite all her education. The boss' degree did not come with a cape of confidence and user manual on how to apply it. And that pisses her off.

My colleague has listened to me piss and moan about my circumstance. She has given me feedback on work situations, and has been a never-ending HR resource. She may be younger, but she is very wise.

So, it sit in this comfy armchair with my degree and designation hanging on the wall behind me and the idea of being smug is so unfathomable. How can I be - I've learned so much from someone who is supposedly "lacking".

Thursday, January 13, 2011

HR Four-sight

Although I have a relatively clean work area, I had a manager recently ask me: why in the world would I have four pairs of black shoes tucked underneath my desk.

(Do I need to point out the manager was a man. The fact that this question was asked pretty much screams it out.)

I tend to be a witty...sorry, scratch that...sarcastic person, but I did refrain from using this tone when I explained the necessity of multiple pairs of same-coloured footwear.

This manager is responsible for a group of accountants and I asked him whether, on a functional basis, they all have the same job/ responsibilities. He said that yes, technically they did.

Then I asked. Are they all the same type of person? Do they bring the same qualities to work? Do they have the same strengths? Same personality? Do they offer the same dynamics to every situation? Do you respond to each one the same way? Do you feel differently when you interact with each one?

His answer:"...uh,…no....and yes..uh..."

Exactly.

And that. THAT is why I have four pairs of black shoes neatly tucked underneath my desk.

Monday, January 10, 2011

What motivates you - an axe or a carrot?

Interesting fact about me: I do my best at work when I'm on my way out the door.

I mean this both literally and figuratively.

I've noticed that nothing ramps up my productivity like when I'm preparing for being away from the office - whether it's for an afternoon away or a vacation. I clean shit up, I put together lists that mean something, I get those nagging little tasks done, I make those calls I've been putting off....

Similarly, when I'm either leaving my job (or think I might have a good opportunity to), I get organized - I start documenting my processes, I clean up my emails, my files, my drawers...I'm much more open with my opinion, particularly when I don't agree.

And nothing motivates me to work harder than being given feedback that I might not be meeting expectations - suddenly I'm out to prove my worth again.

What this means is, that despite the hives and gastro discomforts, and loss of sleep that stress can cause me, I do my best with one foot out the door.

How's that for a motivation strategy. Apparently I'm more motivated by an axe behind me than a carrot in front of me.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Temporary insanity

Here is a tidbit for any job seekers out there that may stumble across my blog and be so inspired by my wisdom.

Managers are scared of temporary employees. And not for the reason you might think.

When an employee goes on leave, let's say a maternity leave (which is 1 year in Canada), a manager has the choice to try and backfill the role using existing staff (this doesn't generally go over well) or they can bring in a temporary employee.

First, it's hard to find a good temp because, well, they are temp. Most people I know are looking for a long-term commitment and want silly things like benefits, vacation, and security (highly overrated!). However, when you have a 1 year contract, you can draw people in because there is the possibility of an extension or getting another position within the same company.

For managers, the scary factor is not about bringing in some headcase that irreversibly screws everything up - it's quite the opposite. What if the temp employee is better than the permanent employee. What if they like them better? What if they are more efficient? What if all those complaints and excuses that your permanent employee had suddenly evaporate when the new person comes in - because they weren't valid.

And the reality of any of these happening is great because a good temp will work their ass off - they will learn everything they can, they will do the right things, may the right choices, ask questions. It's like a permanent interview for them and they are not going to blow it.

So it's very likely that a manager may be left thinking...I don't want "Jane" to come back. I like "Joan" better.

And that is where I, along with my manager, find ourselves. We have a Jane that quite frankly would make my 2011 but not returning to work. We also had a Joan - a brilliant Joan that I wanted to keep, but she was good enough to get a perm job with us, elsewhere.

And now I have another Joan starting tomorrow.

And I'm both excited and scared.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Resolutions: The Ultimate Blame Game

At this time of the year, many people are gearing up to start a new and better life (Jan 1st), only to slide back to their normal routine, somewhere around January 15th.

To start the process, it is important to take stock of what you currently have, what you want, and what you need to do to get where you want. Unfortunately, many people add another element.

Blame.

For them, it's important to establish who is responsible for their current situation and who are the enablers in their lives. Who are those evil people holding them back or pushing them in the wrong direction.

Because the reality is that it is so much easier to blame someone else than it is to accept that you are ultimately responsible for your choices.

So please people, do yourself and others a favour and take a pass on the blame this year and help yourself to an extra serving of accountability. I think you will find that it will help you in all the goals that you make set out in the New Year.

Happy 2011