Credit Where It’s Due

Posted on October 5th, by Deirdre Honner in Leadership. 2 comments
It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.
– Harry Truman


A long, long time ago, I worked for an EAP doing public outreach, presentations, and programming. It is really the job that helped my launch my HR career but I had forgotten about it until recently, when culling through some old papers. What a trip down memory lane.

I worked in an office of several psychologists and social workers. The person I worked for took credit for all my work – and I do mean everything. He took credit for my programs, my ability to connect with our clients – both individual and business, and he took credit for my presentations like he did the work himself. He took credit for virtually every success I had.

Problem was he didn’t do anything for me. Zero. It was appalling really. He bragged to his colleagues about how I had blossomed under his tutelage and coaching, presented my ideas for programming and outreach as his own, and would call the clients after I did presentations to solicit feedback. Anything unflattering would be shared in his meetings, demonstrating how much time he needed to work with me.

I didn’t know any of this going on until a colleague befriended me. What I learned was he hated  the counseling part of his job – you know, meeting with paying clients –  and used any excuse, me included, to get out of his work.


I realized that I didn’t have much leverage; I was young, not sitting around the decision-making table, and frankly, who really cared that I worked for a jerk?

Despite my youth and virtual ignorance, I made a decision. As much as it confused, disappointed, and demeaned me, I kept going. We were doing so much good for so many people that I decided the good outweighed the bad. By a lot.

Eventually I left the job and  took the lesson with me. I never, ever take credit for other people’s work. I go to extremes to make sure people know who is doing the great work coming out of our office. Or any other place I am – online, at home, on my job.

Sometimes, people presented in life do nothing but demonstrate how not lead. Or manage. Or be colleagues. Or just be friends. I learned it early. For that, I am grateful.

Photo by Deirdre Honner

Musings and Messages from the Lake

Posted on August 24th, by Deirdre Honner in Wellness and Balance. 2 comments

It’s hard to think about work while on vacation, much less write about it. But I will because it’s my turn.

Some of you know me. For those who don’t, I travel through life with a Nikon camera over my shoulder and a German shepherd dog underfoot. Staples for me.

During the day, I am an HR practitioner at a college in Michigan. I am fortunate; I really love my job. I work with amazing people and get to do very cool stuff. I haven’t always been in jobs, with amazing people, doing work that I loved. Sometimes it paid the bills. And that’s what was needed at the time.

Laurie Ruettiman wrote a fabulous piece about essentially forgetting passion, just do your work. I am paraphrasing, but it is a really good post. I see too many articles on Twitter, in career advice columns, from so-called experts (who isn’t an expert these days?), advising you to do what you love and are passionate about.  

This notion has always made me a bit uncomfortable; as if you aren’t doing what you love, finding your passion, experiencing joy in your work, then YOU are doing something wrong. Your job doesn’t have to, nor should it, fill ever bodily void of curiousity, creativity and wonder. That’s what cameras are for. Or whatever your own interests may be.

I whole-heartily embrace Kahlil Gibran’s perspective on work from the Prophet,

You work that you may keep pace with the earth and the soul of the earth.  

Work gives me structure, a sense of accomplishment and contribution, a place for me to give and get. With a fair amount of down time the last few weeks, I reflected on two questions: 

What am I doing when I lose track of time and hours feel like seconds?

What am I doing when I think that I am going to die of complete and utter boredom before the world ends? When time stands still?

I love these questions.  They make me think and, in a curious way, help me to say “No” when approached to do something where perhaps I feel obligated. They are my litmus test.

Time flies when … I pick up my camera, sit on my beach, play with my dog. Whips by like it’s on steroids. Any time I sit and talk with a colleague or an employee, work with teams, collaborate on new ideas around technology or workflow, the end of the day has already passed. Any time I get to talk to students, present in a class, do some advising, or listen to dreams and hopes around careers, it’s the blink of any eye. I get energized just thinking about it.

The world stops spinning when … I am cleaning the bathrooms, culling through painful details of complex immigration instructions or sitting in meetings where I know nothing will happen or get resolved until the meeting AFTER the meeting. Suffocatingly still. Each minute is an hour. Or two.

But it’s manageable because I have all the good stuff. The dog.  The camera. Other stuff. Most days, the good stuff makes the dreadful stuff quite tolerable. Time away allows me to recharge and refresh; coming back to meetings and details will be okay.  

So here’s to hoping you get to do a little of what you love wherever you are.

Photo by Deirdre Honner


Posted on May 18th, by Deirdre Honner in Women of HR Series: Hindsight 20/20. 5 comments

If we had a crystal ball, life would be grand. But, because we don’t, we often find ourselves at the mercy of hindsight. Hindsight being 20/20, what is one setback you faced in your career that ended up being a blessing in disguise?

Many years ago, in a galaxy far, far away, oh wait.  I was in LA.  That’s as close to a galaxy as I might come.

Really, many years ago, I thought I had the perfect job.  I was working hard, delivering results, and taking no prisoners.  It was fabulous. I made a lot of money. It was great work until things started to change.  I moved 40 miles to open up a new branch for my boss.  Mistake, or so I thought at the time.  In retrospect, I lost my mojo – regretted the move, didn’t like the location, didn’t like the people with whom I was working, didn’t like the clients, didn’t like the community, missed my old friends.  Frankly I lost my gas.  And eventually, I lost my job.

There is a lot more to this story. Plenty of blame and ill will to go around. But I get bored with details and I am no longer in a phase where I blame others;  while it wasn’t just me, it was me.

And from that one decision – the decision to move and open up a new location that ended so badly was the very best awful event that ever happened to me.  Eventually, I picked myself up, dusted my ego off and took a new job.   I found people who were honest and appreciative.  I worked with some of the best clients ever, met some wonderful people, the best of the best, my dear friend Lynn and eventually got hired by a client (my dear friend Lynn) who is directly responsible for where I am now.  In a job that I love.  In a city I adore.  With people who inspire and support me.

That one event -which, in the moment, felt like my own private hell instead provided a pathway to joy and adventure and success, surpassing my wildest dreams.  That one event, that in the moment, I cursed, I now bless daily.  I learned from it – I grew, I recovered and now am filled with such gratitude that it is hard for me to imagine my life without that one moment.


Photo credit Deirdre Honner


Posted on March 1st, by Deirdre Honner in Leadership. 5 comments

I kept a few papers from undergraduate and graduate school – the ones with an A+ or comments that made me happy and affirmed. 

Sometime in the early 90s, I had a Film and Society class – one of those “requirements.” We watched a short, 10 minute film and had to write a reflection paper on it.  Here it is, complete with serial commas and two spaces after the periods. 


A Brief Discussion on Slap 

This short film, Slap, is 10 minutes of an unidentifiable woman slapping the face of an easily recognizable man.  Initially, the man and the audience react with idle amusement, laughter, and ridicule.  The silly woman, who does she think she is slapping this man?  And who is this moronic man, taking this abuse and defending himself?  Who the hell does she think she is? Why does she continue to hit him?

The audience watches the reaction of this peculiar victim.  He starts with amusement. He takes it.

His obvious disdain transforms to irritation; he begins to sweat, and his face begins to tense in anticipation of each slap.  He is unable to determine the direction of the slap;  his eyes dart side to side, trying to catch the hand before it hits. 

He becomes enraged.  His face becomes hardened, intense.  His eyes remain open, closing only on contact, penetrating, hating his perpetrator. He is rigid, unyielding to the onslaught of the continuous abuse. 

As his face fades from the screen, the sound of the slap continues.  The audience is deathly silent, grateful to the end of the painful and awkward position for this poor victim. 

Who is the slapper? 

Quite possibly, she is the hand, the voice, the woman of all women who have no hand or no voice.  She is the woman who survives, not because of but in spite of male oppressors. 

She is the hand of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone and Susan B. Anthony.  She is the beginning and the continuation of the good fight.

She is the hand of every woman who lives every day in fear and in violence at the hand of an abusive man.  She is the hand of every woman who has been denied a job, a promotion, a position because of anatomy. 

Her slap is the response to the witless men who ask the inane question, “What do women really want?” 

Her hand, her slap and her anonymity give each oppressed female viewer the permission to stand in her place and repay the discrimination, the harassment and the violence.

This woman needs no script.  The voices of all oppressed, battered and victimized women can simply fill in the dialogue.  


I wondered how long I should keep this paper.  When working for a national company in the late 90s, I was at a regional meeting.  I overheard one of the company partners talking to another colleague and his comment sent chills down my spine.   He said, “Los Angeles is too big a market to entrust to a woman.  We need to keep looking.”  

This paper is still relevant.

Picture by Deirdre Honner

Staying Current

Posted on February 2nd, by Deirdre Honner in Networks, Mentors and Career. 17 comments

One of the questions I hear interviewers ask is, “How do you (candidate, applicant, potential employee) keep current in your field?”

Over the years, I have kept current in human resources.  I joined organizations, paid dues, attended conferences, read relevant magazines, followed the right bloggers, listened to lawyers – you name it, I did it. I did the right stuff and talked the right stuff and read the right things and by gosh, I was staying current. 

And I was bored out of my mind. 

During the last several years, I changed course. I keep current with laws and changes while at work (the necessary stuff) and what I changed was staying current outside of work. I widely expanded my reading list and the Kindle helped. I listen to great speakers: many on TED, several on DVDs, and some in person.

I changed my definition of staying current at work to staying current in life. 

Most recently, I heard one of the best speakers in a long time, a speaker who articulated it far better than I could in a talk that left me feeling far more current than any conference or magazine. 

Father Greg Boyle, a Jesuit priest who works in Los Angeles, spoke on his work with gang members. He spoke warmly about the ‘packaging’ his people come in. Despite the colorful and sometimes distracting packaging, he spoke about the worth and value of each person.

It was a compelling and beautiful talk, a gentle reminder to disregard everything that really isn’t important. To find the real value. To look deeply into people. To look for the best and not the worst. What stayed with me the longest was this: “No kinship. No peace.”

I love my work.  But there is so much more to life than work. I used to think that work gave my life meaning but now I know better. 

Life gives my work meaning.

Picture by Deirdre Honner

Employee Referrals That Matter

Posted on October 20th, by Deirdre Honner in Business and Workplace. 6 comments

Employee referrals can be one of the least expensive and most effective recruiting tool human resources professionals have.

We know this. The emphasis on networking, connecting and reaching inside people is the focus of so many blogs, articles and social networking sites.

If you have friends, colleagues or neighbors who are seeking you out to help get an insider track, here are a few tips to provide an effective referral to your HR staff and/or hiring managers.

  • Know something about the person.  I have received hundreds of referrals by welling meaning and intentioned employees who know absolutely nothing about the candidate.
  • Make an effort to understand a bit about the position for which you are referring the candidate.  I had a colleague refer a statistician for an administrative assistant position.  While not necessarily a disqualifier, the candidate was looking for a way in, not the job for which I was hiring. This is not helpful.
  • Avoid comments like “my friend needs a job”  or “he/she is really a terrific person”  While potentially true,  those statements are completely irrelevant to the referral or the position for which I am hiring.
  • Do due diligence.  Spend a few minutes with the candidate and collect some concrete facts.  Focus on skill set, a few of the strengths the person potentially brings to the job and why you think the candidate should be considered, outside of the ‘good person’ assessment.

When talking to friends who are networking, think of yourself as hiring the person yourself.  Think of yourself as a partner to the HR department or the hiring manager. What would you want to know about the person?

Don’t refer someone out of pity or obligation.  I have had colleagues refer people because they were asked to do so.  When I have probed further, I have found that they don’t know the person well, don’t think the person would be a good fit or they know something that would disqualify the candidate from consideration.  Be able to say no and  understand that referrals like this can affect your credibility.

If for some reason, you find it necessary to refer someone you don’t know well, share that.  Let us know that you have been asked to provide a referral but only know the person under specific circumstances.  Frame it for us – I know this person as a committee member on a community board and this is what we worked on together.

A few small steps in the screening process will help you, candidates and your friendly HR folks.

Photo credit iStockPhoto

Deirdre is our Women of HR Featured Contributor this week on LinkedIn. Click through  to see what she has to say.

The Secret World Of Rules

Posted on August 4th, by Deirdre Honner in Business and Workplace. 6 comments

Several years ago, I read the 2005  commencement speech David Foster Wallace gave at Kenyon College. It is a profound piece that challenges me to look beyond the immediate, the obvious, and the hidden-in-plain-sight.

I reread it frequently.

There is a long list of invisible, but expected, behaviors in society.  Simple things really, like walking on the right. Nowhere with foot traffic do I see signs saying, “keep to your right.”  We all know it.  We just do it.  (And this created a few problems for me when traveling in New Zealand.  I got used to apologizing frequently as I ran into people.)
We stand in line, pull over for ambulances, and stop for buses.  All these rules are invisible, but known, and they have  other names like cultural protocols, manners, and expected behaviors. If you landed here from Mars, you would have a tough go of it for a while.
I had two recent experiences that caused me to reflect on this topic.
I was shopping at a local grocery store and was checking out.  I like self-service check out.  I am efficient, don't have to engage in small talk, and I bring my own bags. When I finished scanning my items, I scanned my bottle return receipts.  To my dismay, the light above the register started blinking and a loud, androgynous voice boomed, “help is coming.”  Other shoppers looked at me and I wasn't feeling so efficient.  The area checker came over

and said to me, “You can't use bottle receipts here. You have to take them to customer service.”  In my questioning, I asked her “How would I know this?  Is there a sign?  Other stores allow me to scan my bottle receipts.”  Clearly annoyed, she took my receipts, huffed off, and returned with my cash.

Now I am annoyed because I feel stupid not knowing the invisible rule.
Same store, different day.  I go through a line with a checker because now I know that I can't scan my bottle return receipts in self-service check out.  I hand the cashier my bottle return receipts. She actually says to me, “Oh, these don't go here (in my hand, I am guessing she meant) they go up here.”  She puts them on the customer side counter. I ask, “How would I know this?” while wondering why it really matters where I put the stupid receipts?
She is stunned and doesn't know what to say. Another invisible rule.
I work diligently to eliminate invisible rules; they erode good feelings and camaraderie.  When colleagues visit or call, I explain as much as possible about how things work. “This is our process,” I frequently say. Also,  “It is not necessarily the right way, but here is how I get things done,” and “I welcome your input.”
Eliminating the invisible makes work and life all much clearer. What can you clear up today?
Photo credit iStock Photo