Several years ago I did a post on this site called Love, Marriage, and SEO. In it I talked about how through marriage I had lucked into a great new name because I was, and still continue to be, the only Shauna Moerke on the internet. That’s awesome SEO (Search Engine Optimization) right there. I was so confident that I would never change my name again. Ah, to be so young and so naive.
Flash forward a few years and with a divorce and a new marriage under my belt and I found myself with a conundrum. As I mentioned in that previous post, all my time in social media and even my professional HR career I was Shauna Moerke. Now I could keep Moerke as my last name. That was always an option and honestly, it was the easiest choice. And that may have been what I would chose to do if it had been my maiden name. Now, call me superstitious or sentimental, but I did not like entering into a new marriage and keeping my name from a previous marriage. So once again, I find myself running the name change gauntlet as I try to figure out what to do now.
Professionally, the effect can be rather minimal if you are prepared. Make sure you start reaching out to your professional contacts, starting with your references first, to let them know of your new name. This also has the added bonus of getting you to check in on how your network is doing, which is something we should all be doing on a regular basis but often forget to. And as you start changing your name in all the important areas (Driver’s license, passport, social security, voter registration, etc) take the time to update your resume and order personal cards (as opposed to business cards, though you will need those too) with your new name that you can start handing out. It is much easier for others to get in touch with you if they don’t have to figure out how your new name is spelled.
Social media, well, that is a harder problem. I have a lot invested in the name Moerke. Not only is my blog’s name officially “Shauna Moerke is…“, even if I still refer to it as HR Minion, but my whole social media identity is linked to it. So for my social media piece, I decided on a compromise. My blog’s name hasn’t changed. My name on this site and on twitter hasn’t changed. On Facebook and LinkedIn I have Moerke as my former name right next to my new last name and I haven’t changed the link addresses on either. If you found me before as Shauna Moerke, you can find me still. But now you can also find me as Shauna Griffis too.
Oh, did I happen to mention that my new last name is also pretty awesome? It turns out that I am the only Shauna Griffis on the internet, a fact that my new husband was very quick to point out to me long before we made anything official. Gotta love a man with a great name and a head for how this social media game is played.
About the author: Shauna is an HR professional with a diverse work history, a Master’s degree, and a PHR certification. She is also a huge geek, social media advocate, and infectious giggler. Besides being a co-founder of the Women of HR she also serves as the current Ringmistress of the Carnival of HR, is the former co-host of the HR Happy Hour blogtalk radio show, and blogs at her own site as the HR Minion.
You’re an HR professional and you’ve decided it’s time to change jobs. Maybe it’s something happening within your company causing you to switch, or maybe it’s something inside of you telling you it’s time. Either way, this is one time where things should be easy, right? After all, you’re a professional in Human Resources! Finally, a chance to use all of your knowledge and ‘insider information’ to position yourself competitively and go for what you want.
It’s not so easy.
Expectations are raised in an HR job search. Most of this comes from the pressure you put upon yourself. “I should know what I’m doing.” “My resume and cover letter better be 100% perfect and error-free.” “I interview people all day long, how hard can it be to turn the tables?”
Yet many of us in HR have put our own career development at the bottom of our massive to-do list. Our resume is not only imperfect, it may be completely out of date or merely an exhaustive list of our job duties, rather than a presentation of our accomplishments. We may use LinkedIn to find candidates…that doesn’t mean we’ve put any time or attention into our own profiles. And interviewing? We began to think of all the times we’ve nit-picked and criticized candidates for not being prepared enough, or spouting rehearsed answers that didn’t really answer our questions.
On the other side, expectations of professionalism from potential employers run high as well, and with good reason. If an employer asks for a cover letter and resume in the format they request, you’d better be giving them both – and don’t even think about using a canned cover letter.
Loyalty is another issue many struggle with. When you spend all day touting the benefits of working for your company, and comparing how good your company is to the competitors, it’s hard to imagine going to work for a competitor! Many employees feel loyal to their employer, but it seems especially hard for HR people to imagine leaving for a similar job in the same industry. And how many times have we discarded candidates for being “job-hoppers”? That’s the last thing we want for ourselves. So 3 years turns into 5, and then 7, and finally 10 and before you know it, you can’t imagine leaving, even if you’ve completely stopped growing or learning in your position.
Confidentiality is another challenge HR professionals face in a job search. Many of us have counseled employees against using our employers equipment and/or time to conduct a job search, but let’s face it: many activities related to job searching take place during the day when you are working at your current employer. Sure , you can fill in online applications or do email at home at night, but interviews often work best for employers when they can take place during the day, and suddenly you may find yourself needing to be out of the office on numerous occasions, without wanting to share the reason.
Many of these challenges are related to applying for a posted job, which we know is not the best way to land a new position. Time spent networking and building relationships is the most productive and often leads to your next position in HR. Still, many HR folks let some of these challenges stop them from even contemplating a change.
What unique challenges did you face when searching for your HR job?
About the Author: For 15+ years, Andrea Ballard, SPHR, has brought a unique, common sense perspective to the business of HR. A former HR Director and Training Manager, she advises companies on how to design/implement flexible work life programs to attract/retain top talent. A certified coach, she helps women create a balance between motherhood & career. She is the owner of Expecting Change, LLC, blogs at Working Mother and is on Twitter as @andreaballard.
The Wikipedia describes a Trailing Spouse as “a person who follows his or her life partner to another city because of a work assignment.”
It goes further to explain that the life of The Trailing Spouse is fraught with many challenges that may impact on their personal and professional lives. Challenges such as:
Barriers to mobility
Loss of identity
These are all very real and pertinent issues that Trailing Spouses face as their new reality and I can identify to some degree with some of them. However, I have often wondered at the adjective “Trailing”. I feel a certain degree of discomfort referring to an individual or a spouse as “Trailing.”
Synonyms for trailing include: rambling, lagging, tailing, dragging….all less than savory adjectives for the word spouse. In my mind’s eye, “trailing” paints a picture of forced followership, reluctant relocation.
It reminds me of little people on a leash, compelled to follow their care givers whether they would like to or not.
It signifies to me a lack of choice or say in the matter and I do not think it adequately describes or does justice to the spouses who have boldly taken up the challenge to leave the comfort and security of the familiar and move to a new location, experience new cultures, and thrive in their new environment, all the while supporting their spouses and oftentimes children in order to make for a smooth transition to their new way of life. That to me looks a lot more like Trail Blazing and not just “Trailing”.
Moving to a new location with no security of a ready source of income can be a stressful time, and a time of uncertainty… but it can also be an exciting time, an opportunity to use this block of time and do that which you might otherwise not have done. The possibilities are endless.
This is a call for spouses who have chosen to accompany their partners to pursue their careers abroad to have greater expectations for their expatriate experience. As you plan your upcoming move, there are 4 tips that might help make the transition a little bit easier. Please feel free to add more in the comments below.
Plan: It’s advisable to have a plan before you leave your home country of what personal goals that you would like to achieve during your time in your new location. You are not on exile so you are allowed to have fun with the whole expatriation process. It could be to learn a new language, look for a job within your field of expertise (or even in another field of expertise), further your education, write a book or start a blog, or even take a leave of absence to spend more time with your family. As I mentioned earlier,The possibilities are endless.
Position yourself: If you would like to work in your new location, start your job search as early as you can. Look for opportunities within your network, take a class, learn the local language, do some research, and get informed. Do whatever is necessary to get you one step closer to your goal.
Persist: maintain a positive outlook, don’t give up easily…even when things seem to be happening not as fast as you envisaged. Also stay open to change and be flexible to opportunities that at first glance may not seem to align with your core competencies.
Pay it forward: Help someone else succeed. Offer the support you wish you got. Share your experiences and your new knowledge with others who need your expertise.
The key is to exploit the situation that you find yourself in and use it to enrich your life’s story. Moving to a new country with all the excitement is a great time to reinvent yourself because no one has any preconceived notions about you. This means you have a chance to start afresh and try to be that which you always wished.
Who knows what you would have achieved at the end of your expatriation in terms of self development, new knowledge of different cultures, and new relationships built that you would otherwise not have been exposed to.
Besides, why be a trailing spouse when you could be a Blazing Spouse or better yet a Trail Blazer?
About the Author: Tamkara currently lives in The Hague and is currently taking time off from her day job in Procurement and Sourcing to pursue an MBA. She will be spending the next few months studying, blogging and learning Dutch. You can connect with her on twitter @tamkara or find out what she’s up to at www.naijaexpatinholland.com.
While the thought of trading in the rat race of an office building or major corporation, and working from home, may sound highly appealing, the reality is, this transition is often more challenging than most people believe. When you’ve gotten used to the all-work structure of an office, coming home and working in the midst of your kids and home life can be like a splash of cold water. How do you manage your family life, without sacrificing work ethic or the deadlines that don’t slow down?
I know from personal experience that working from home is no walk in the park. Whether it’s kids pulling on my arm, ready for a snack, or my husband calling from his office, asking me to pick up the dry-cleaning, remaining task oriented has been something I’ve had to learn as I go. Although I know there are times when I need to remain flexible and allow for interruptions, for the most part, my work must remain a priority.
If you’re transitioning from office to home and are worried your work might suffer, the key is balance. Without it, you’ll feel as if you’re juggling ten glass plates all on your own. The following tips have proven helpful in my own work journey and I’m able to keep my family life in order while maintaining my profession.
Dedicate a space to work.
There is a reason why office buildings and cubicles exist – they are dedicated spaces where people complete work-related tasks. If one of the reasons you’re considering working from home is to escape the cubicle, trust me – I’ve been there. Although I’m not suggesting replicating a cubicle in your home, I am saying that a dedicated work space in your home is absolutely essential to success.
If you have a room you can turn into your office, do so. If not, dedicate a corner of a quiet space to your office. The kitchen table or the living room couch is probably not the best space to spread your stuff out. Papers are easily lost or spilled on and the distractions are numerous. For me, going out and buying a room partitioner when I first started saved me from hours of insanity and distraction.
Have all the essentials in place.
The great part of working at an office is that everything you need is right there. A printer? No problem. Fax machine? Your corporation probably has several. When you transition home, however, you may need to go out and buy these essentials. Do this right away, so there’s no scrambling at the last minute when an important deadline comes around.
I like having everything in my workspace. That means the printer is right where I can reach it, and my fax machine is just steps away. Even though other members of my family make use of these items every so often, they still remain in my office, regardless of who needs to use them. Whatever your tools are – keep them where you work.
If your office is a mess of supplies and papers, then set aside some time to get it in pristine condition. Purchase supplies and containers to keep your things attractively organized. Knowing where everything is helps me keep my cool and manage my work more effectively.
Organization is essential.
If you’re a naturally organized person, this tip is like second-nature for you already. However, I know that I need every other tool out there to keep myself on track. When you’re managing work deadlines at the same time as soccer practice and doctor appointments, a planner will become your go-to.
Purchase a large calendar and write out all your tasks for the month. Try to do this at the beginning of every month, for as far out as you can plan. When dates are nailed down far in advance, you know what’s coming up and therefore, what you can say yes, and no, to. I’ve found that a daily planner is helpful, as well. Being able to create and check-off items from a daily to-do list makes me feel more accomplished and in control of my day.
Set your hours.
Working from 9-5 certainly has its drawbacks, but truthfully, the structure of a workday is often what keeps people successful. The same applies when working from home. Not having a set work time really throws a wrench in your success, something I learned the hard way.
I find it’s best to plan your work day around your family, especially if you have kids. When your kids are off to school for the day, settle down in your office and get to work. If you work steadily through the school day, that’s a good chunk of time spent on work-related tasks. As important as it is to start when you say you will, it’s equally important to finish on time, too. My kids find it frustrating when I say I’ll be finished by four, and I’m still pounding on the keyboard come 5 o’clock. Stick to your hours. You’ll have a happier family because of it.
Make it clear you’re working.
Just because you are home doesn’t mean that you are free. Although one of the hardest things to learn about working from home, it is also one of the most essential. When I began working from home, friends felt free to call and talk for hours, and I often let myself get caught in this trap. However, your friends, and your family, need to understand that work must get done even though it’s getting done from home. Let your loved ones know that you have a job that needs to get done, and you’d love to socialize, but after work. Difficult? Yes. But necessary? Absolutely.
At this point, you may be wondering if working from home is really worth it. Let me tell you from personal experience – yes. While it does require a high amount of discipline and time to learn how to manage the balancing act, in the end, you’ll find much more joy in your work and in your family. Begin setting boundaries early, and working from home will become a breeze.
About the Author: Naomi Shaw is a freelance writer in Southern California. As a mom who works at home, she knows how challenging it is to keep a balance and distinction between family and work. These tips have been some of the most helpful when transitioning to working at home, and she enjoys helping other women find success in their work ventures.
Recently, my son transitioned to a different middle school than the one he had been attending since kindergarten and originally intended to graduate. This transition got me thinking when it came time for me to write for Women in HR. One can truly correlate the selection of a school to attend to accepting and starting a new job. Overall, it’s a personal choice and the final decision not only has to be the student or jobseeker, but it has to fit with their overall plan in life.
Now you may think “isn’t middle school a bit too young to be thinking about how a school decision fits into your overall plan?” Not really, I personally think kids are “groomed”, hopefully by their own choice and not their parents living their own goals through them, very early in life for things like sports, music, dance and more. Where I live, it seems like the high school all-stars start their journey before they can even tie their shoes. I’ve seen young baseball, soccer and football camps for kids who barely enter elementary school. They wear the gear but they are so tiny it looks like they are going to fall over. So if the focus on team sports can start so early then why can’t kids start making choices from an academic standpoint that affect their career? I have always heard that you can trace your career choice back to what you did on the playground. Me? I used to sing on the porch in front of my audience from the neighborhood. While my dreams of a singing career did not come true, I do have an audience now and again as a teacher, trainer, and speaker in the HR community. So I guess at least from my experience what I hear is true, to an extent, of course.
Now let’s get back to the school choice and its relationship to jobs. Once my son decided to change schools, which he had been contemplating for almost a year, we decided to set up a “shadow” day at two of the schools he had in mind. In addition to hanging out with a fellow student all day to observe, he had to meet with the principal of each school, for which I joined him to listen and ask my own questions. As a parent, I was very impressed at my son’s questions and his maturity while in these meetings. He asked questions I had not even thought of, like: 1) what type of math and English program the school uses to teach the students; and 2) what specific extra-curricular activities did they have related to his personal interests.
One of the things his former school had that neither of the new choices had was Robotics, which was very important to him since he plans at this point to have a career in engineering, technology, or both. However, he justified his decision to continue to pursue his move because the school he did finally decide on had an advanced math course and was willing to start a Robotics club as soon as possible. While starting the club would not allow him to immediately join a Robotics team, allowing him to compete like he did the previous year, it was not a game changer. He told me that since he would now be able to take high school math in 8th grade that would give him a jump start on his high school math credits. That decision will allow him to take college level math while still in high school. Did I mention he is 12 years old and he is telling me all of this? The reason it is so important to him is because he has plans to go to a specific college one day (MIT) that will help him get into the career of his dreams.
Employees (typically disgruntled or disengaged employees) are constantly looking for a new job or opportunity, especially when the job they are in doesn’t satisfy their needs or holds them back from moving closer to the dream job they would like to have. Recently, on Drive Thru HR I heard Jennifer Miller refer to people finding a job that deserves them. How fitting of a philosophy that jobs don’t find people, people find jobs. I remember getting out of the financial services field to move into manufacturing so I could round out my resume to experience the old white collar and blue collar workforce. Someone had told me that my HR advice probably didn’t work in the blue collar world because I had only worked with people in offices. I was not about to have that perception limit my future opportunities so I took care of it by getting the job I needed to work in the blue collar workplace.
Planning at any age, in school or in the world of work, can definitely help to shape your career.
Donna Rogers, SPHR aka @DonnaRogersHR. Donna is a full time Instructor at University of Illinois at Springfield, owner of Rogers HR Consulting and the immediate past Director of the Illinois State Council of SHRM. She has over 20 years in the HR field and currently teaches Human Resources Management, Organizational Behavior, Organizational Development, and Strategic HR Management. She practices what she teaches for almost 100 clients in the central Illinois area.
During a recent career coaching session with a client, I realized that much of the advice that he had been given was, in my humble opinion, not so very good. In fact, the advice was desperately bad.
For instance, my client said that a friend told him that he should not wear a suit to an interview because it would make him look desperate. The word desperate came up a few more times. The same friend told my client that you should never admit that you have been laid off from your job, even if is true, because that would make you seem desperate. And last, my client asked if reaching out to prospective employers, without seeing a job posting, would make him look desperate.
My advice about the suit. If you own a good suit, wear it to an interview. Dress up. Polish your shoes. Trim your facial hair. Be clean and neat. You want to make a good impression. Dressing well helps make desperately good first impressions.
My advice about admitting that you were laid off from your job. Tell the truth. There is no shame in having been laid off. The vast majority of Americans know at least one person (a friend, relative, neighbor) whose job has been eliminated. Explain that your job was eliminated, stay positive about your former employer, and move on to explaining why you are interested in their job opening. Doing so will make you seem desperately honest and focused.
And last, my advice about reaching out to prospective employers. Do it! It shows initiative and drive not desperation, in my book.
I am curious. Do you agree or disagree with my advice? And what crazy career advice have you heard and disagreed with?
About the author: Judy Lindenberger is the President of The Lindenberger Group, an award-winning human resources consulting firm, located near Princeton, NJ. They are experts in career coaching, customized training workshops, online training programs, mentoring, 360-degree assessment and feedback, HR audits, employee handbooks, and more. Learn more about them at www.lindenbergergroup.com.
Photo credit: iStockphoto
It’s usually easy to spot: the nervous jitters as he talks about his most recent position, the disdain he is clearly trying to hide about his supervisor or colleagues, the glossing over of the actual job conclusion. By the time I ask, “ so what prompted you to leave” or “what brings you in today,” I can almost recite the words that always include “laid-off”, “let go”, “downsizing”, “bad manager”, etc. As a career coach, I encounter a myriad of clients who have a gap in their employment history. Typically these clients address this issue with me in one of two ways. They either shy away from the topic (think example above) to avoid mentioning it until half way through the appointment, after the resume review, or they bring it up immediately and we spend the better part of an hour talking about this event that has defined them for the past several months of the job search.
The whole “defining” aspect of a termination is the problem and the number one factor that gets in a job seeker’s way between knowing Ellen’s guest line-up on any given Tuesday and signing an offer letter. Whether you actually introduce it at the forefront of every conversation that has a slight hint of a networking component OR you skirt away from this part of your past like you have a cousin in the mafia and are in witness protection, the emotion is the same – shame. Shame seeps from every pore of your being if you let it. It portrays a desperate need for any job and scares the heck out of any recruiter, hiring manager, or potential colleague.
So what is an innocent, talented, recently laid off employee to do? Take a week off to sulk, lick your wounds, replay all of the unfair aspects surrounding the lay-off, and talk your nearest and dearest ears’ off about the numerous ways you saved the company X amount of dollars and are so much more talented than Ted in accounting, and then stop. Stop venting. Stop sulking. Stop watching fluff TV all day. Now follow these steps:
1.) Wake up on Monday of week 2 post lay-off and go to a coffee shop. Look around, watch the birds outside, read the business journals, and write down 10 jobs you want (in your field), and 10 companies you want to work for. The key here is want. This is your chance to choose where you want to and should be. Don’t take this task lightly.
2.) Then go on LinkedIn. How does your profile look? Is your most recent position up-to-date with the amazing achievements you accomplished? How is your picture? Meaning: Is it professional (not a shot of you with your significant other cropped out from a high school reunion) and has it been taken in the past 5 years?
3.) Now start reaching out. Ask first degree contacts out to coffee. Talk to them honestly and authentically about what happened, what you think you are good at, where you want to be, and ask for help. People want to help. Really they do. Sometimes they just need permission to actually offer it.
4.) Next do searches for contacts at companies you’re targeting. Use LinkedIn groups as a resource to a whole new community of contacts and search those groups by job function or company. Then invite these potential contacts to coffee and do the same. Be authentic, and give them the gist of the fact that your company had a downsizing and you are now focusing on these specific roles at companies like the one they work for.
5.) Lastly explore the job aggregators. What’s out there? What is trending? Who seems to be hiring? Apply appropriately and then circle back to step 4.
In a follow-up post I’ll advise on how to talk about a layoff to employers during an interview. The main thing to remember about starting a job search after a termination is that this is an event that happened but you don’t have to let it keep happening to you every time you talk to someone. Let the emotions that surrounded the event go and focus on all of the value you brought to your roles and the value you have to share with a future employer. Surround yourself with people who remind you of your amazing attributes, read books and articles, and broaden your industry and business knowledge. Oh yes, and by all means, turn off daytime television.
Photo credit iStockphoto
Maggie Tomas works at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota as Associate Director and Career Coach in the Graduate Business Career Services office. Her background includes teaching and career counseling at the college level, namely at the University of St. Thomas, University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB), and Brooks Institute, a well-known film, photography, and design school where she served as Director of Career and Student Services. She is a contributing writer to several blogs and publications including Opus Magnum, Women of HR, and Job Dig.
Moving on to new opportunities can be an exciting time, especially if you have a fabulous new job to go to. But when it comes to telling your current employer that you’re moving on, there are a few things that you should bear in mind. Here are a few things to bear in mind:
You’ll probably have to work a notice period
Check your employment contract to find out the details of your terms and conditions. In some cases, you’ll have to provide up to a month’s notice before you leave. It’s important that you consider this before making arrangements with a new employer. This period often applies to trainee jobs as well as higher-level positions.
You may still be entitled to some holidays
Your current company may be required to give you any holidays that you’ve accumulated during your time working for the business. Sometimes, they may offer you extra payment in lieu of this. Know what you’re entitled to and be prepared to negotiate the terms depending on what’s right for you. If you can make a case that demonstrates that you’ve considered what’s best for the business, you’re much more likely to be heard.
You should organise your finances
Even if you’re leaving your job to go to another, there can be a crossover period where you’ll have to wait longer than usual before you receive your first pay check. When you have bills to pay and rent to cover, this can be problematic. Sit down with a pen and paper and carefully map out what you’ll have to pay for and how switching jobs could temporarily impact upon your finances. There may be some solutions such as taking out a short loan, but this should be done with caution and only as the very last resort.
Once you’ve accepted a new job, your new employer may ask for a reference
Some employers will wait until you’ve accepted the job before they ask your current place of work for a reference. Of course, it could make things awkward if your boss receives the request before you’ve announced that you’re leaving! Try to time things sensitively to avoid any unnecessary problems.
Handing in your resignation is final
In most organisations, there’s no going back once you hand in your resignation! As soon as it’s accepted by your employer, there’s no requirement for them to reconsider if you suddenly change your mind. Make sure that you’re absolutely certain that you want to leave before you give your notice. A bad decision at the end of a long day could be something that you’ll live to regret! Always sleep on the idea and talk to your support network or loved ones before making any commitments.
Leaving your job can be a weight off your shoulders and the opportunity to move onto bigger and brighter things, but by considering these areas before you rush into anything, you’ll be in a much better position.
What are your experiences in resigning from a job?
Photo credit iStockphoto
This article was brought to you by Jane Smith on behalf of All The Top Bananas. ATTB allows you to search for and browse through UK jobs in one place, from engineer jobs to IT jobs. You can also upload your CV to increase your chances of being headhunted.
We are unwrapping some posts from the Women of HR archives for you this holiday season. Relax, enjoy and let us know if there is a favorite of yours you'd like to see unwrapped and run again.
Our fearless leader over here at Women of HR recently sent us a link to an awesome manifesto titled, Six Rules Women Must Break In Order to Succeed. The list includes provocative ideas such as taking center stage, being politically savvy, and playing to win.
I have a rule I'd like to add to the list and it's a big one:
In this instance, by care I mean taking responsibility for anything outside your own purview and trying to fix, make better, help, show concern, or apologize for problem or issue that you did not create.
The fact is, women already apologize far more often than men. And we apologize for different reasons, often to convey sympathy rather than responsibility. Here's a great example from dinner with my brother and sister last night. We were going to a football game and meeting the rest of our family. The waiter forgot to put in her order and then came back to discuss it as the rest of us were finishing the meal. She told him to forget it. He tried to argue with her about it, since he'd just put the order in.
My sister said, “I’m really sorry, but I had said I didn’t want that shrimp dish after all. We’re trying to get to a
football game. Since you forgot to order the dish, everyone else is finished. Please cancel it.”
He brought it out ten minutes later. She said again, to the waiter: “Thanks, but like I said, we don’t want this shrimp now. I’m sorry.” He left it on the table as he went to get the check. The shrimp dish was on the bill.
My brother said to the waiter: “Hey, man, you screwed up. I guess you’re eating shrimp for dinner. But we’re not paying for it. And we don’t want to drag this doggy bag full of shrimp all over town tonight.”
Notice the difference?
My brother is not known to be especially assertive, but my sister is known to be particularly so, for a woman. And she still apologized twice for a mistake she didn't make. My sister was trying to convey sympathy, but the waiter apparently heard responsibility – why would she apologize if she hadn't somehow helped create the problem?
Care less. Apologize less. Or at least count the number of times you say, “I'm sorry,” compared to your male peers. Let people take responsibilities for their own mistakes. It won't kill them. And continuing to care too much about the people around you might kill you. Or worse, send you driving home with a dish of shrimp scampi that has been sitting in your car for 3 hours on a hot Houston night.
About the author: Franny Oxford, SPHR is an HR leader for Texas entrepreneurs and privately held companies. Franny is committed to helping all members of the HR profession become better risk takers and stronger questioners of the status quo. You can connect with her on Twitter as @Frannyo.
Photo credit iStockphoto
Women of HR were asked, “If you were CEO for a day, what would (or did) you focus on to improve an organization's productivity, employee engagement or ability to recruit?” This is the fourth post in the series of responses.
Do you remember when you were a kid and played a game with friends, asking each other: what would you change if you suddenly, magically became the President? As I recall, our responses ran along the lines of: outlaw homework. Buy every homeless person a house. Give every kid a bike or a pony, whichever they prefer. Pass a law that dessert comes first. Ship all our extra food to poor people in Africa.
I fondly remember those sweet, innocent answers as I accept the challenge to write about being CEO for a day.
I work for a mid-sized nonprofit, and I’m fortunate because not only do I have a seat at that coveted table, but our Board chooses to make their HR Director the Acting Executive Director whenever the boss travels. This summer, when our Executive Director traveled to Asia, I had the opportunity to be CEO for a day, thirty times over.
My boss’s vacation fell during a very busy time, and to say the experience was interesting is like saying the Pacific Ocean is wide. I suppose we all fantasize about being the boss for a day. Oh, the sweeping reforms we would enact and the legacy we would leave! Zappos and Google would seethe with jealousy witnessing the amazing workplaces we’d create!
Yeah, right. Although I had a distinct vision for the direction in which I wanted to lead, the reality felt very different for several reasons.
- Practicalities. As one small example, our accounting department was working on getting signatory authority for me, but didn’t complete the process before my boss left. And so, although I had written authority to sign contracts, I could only sign for one of our many bank accounts. If you’re only CEO for one day, the reality is you’re probably not signing much of consequence.
- Resistance. I heard several times, “We can’t decide this because he’s not here.” I would push back, saying, “Oh, yes, we can,” and then I would hear it again. And again.
- Resources. While I was CEO for a day, thirty times over, I was still Director of HR. Not during a boring, uneventful time, but during a period of marked expansion, which meant both roles were extremely busy. Exactly how I kept my sanity during this month is still not clear to me.
- Reversal. As much as I knew that while I had authority to make decisions today, I was quite aware that my boss had as much or more authority to overturn them tomorrow. I backed away from one decision I was itching to make because the consequences of my boss reversing it would have been devastating to a key employee’s onboarding experience.
Also during my tenure, we got hit by the derecho which significantly impacted operations. A co-worke
r and I spent all weekend with our workers and customers, rallying the troops and ensuring people had what they needed; we continued to respond to the emergency late into the next week. And two of our executive team members each vacationed for a week or more, making it more challenging to move on key initiatives. Before I knew it, my thirty days were gone. I’d hired a record number of new employees during an insanely busy time, responded to a lot of operational issues including the storm, and helped move our expansion along, but I can’t say I accomplished near what I dreamed.
On the other hand, if I had, would the changes have lasted? Who’s to say?
Reflecting on all this, I turned to my teenaged son and I asked what he would do if he was the boss for a day. He thought about one of his three jobs and replied:
- Hold regular staff meetings to improve communication and teamwork.
- Hire an industrial psychologist to improve and streamline disorganized processes.
- Assign work in a more logical, fair and transparent manner.
Wow, at his age, I probably would have answered, “Put more Diet Coke and less Dr. Pepper in the vending machine.” Knowing next to nothing about his workplace, I can’t comment on the value of his responses, but considering he just graduated from high school, his answers surprised and impressed me.
Listening to him, I realized that it probably doesn’t matter what the HR pros would do if they were CEO for a day. Sure, we could come up with a list of dream workplace ideas, but so what? Maybe the person we really need to ask is my son. He’s young and he’s inexperienced, but he’s obviously figured out that some things could be better and he has some definite ideas for making that happen. What would happen if his boss asked him–and all his co-workers–the same question and really listened?
And so, my challenge to you tomorrow is to ask your staff what they would do if they were in charge for a day. Ask them: How would you change our team/department/branch/organization? What ridiculous rules, policies and procedures would you discard so that you can focus on doing great work? What would you add that's missing?
Ask theses questions, listen, take note and act; and although you still may not be a CEO for a day, maybe you’ll have just much influence, and effect just as much change, by putting your employees in the boss’s seat.
Photo credit: iStockphoto
About the author: Krista Francis, SPHR, is nonprofit HR Director and sometimes Acting Executive Director. She lives outside of Washington DC with her soccer-crazy hubby, two active teenagers, a neurotic cat and the best dog in the world, Rocky, aka Party like a Rockstar. In her loads of free time, she tries to keep her scooter running, tests margaritas for quality control purposes and blogs at aliveHR. You can connect with her on Twitter as @kristafrancis.