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