With the qualified talent pool shrinking across the globe, the pressure on businesses to retain talent grows. In hopes of retention, companies across most industries are accommodating for generation X and Y’s desires by building a flexible, fun, informal environment that includes summer Fridays, remote work days, casual attire, and more. Start-ups are going to great lengths to mimic the Google and Facebook environments that attract and retain talent across the globe. I benefit from, and am a proponent of these environments. Some companies, however, particularly start-ups, must be mindful of, and guard against allowing informality to result in a lack of accountability, misalignment, and ambiguity. Now more than ever, it is critical to keep talent aligned with a clear company mission and hold them accountable. The flexible, fun, informal environment can only keep talent interested for so long. There must be something deeper for talent to identify with.
Talent must first identify with a company’s mission and core values. It is critical that veterans of the organization all understand, communicate, and embody the same message. Remember, Millennials look for guidance from those above them and as we know, businesses are constantly evolving to remain competitive. It is imperative that managers and executives keep these messages consistent. We cannot expect talent to feel secure and have the desire to commit to an environment that has a mission that continually changes, or a list of core values that is adhered to only when convenient.
Secondly, there must be a “fit to role.” When talking about a fit to role, most people will identify with qualified talent fitting the role; however, the fit to role actually starts with the role being appropriate for the department, division and company. Does the role benefit the company, and can it be successful within the current confines of the environment? With the ever-changing business environment, talent acquisition should ensure that an assessment of true business needs occurs or has occurred with each and every job requisition. It would be extremely challenging, if not impossible, for someone to remain engaged in a role that doesn’t make sense for the organization and is not aligned with its mission.
After identifying the appropriate role for the company, the appropriate candidate should be determined for the role. Many companies focus on the technical skills of the candidate and hope for a plug and play that will ensure the business doesn’t miss a beat. However, hiring managers cannot omit the importance of assuring alignment and engagement with the role by determining what the potential hire enjoys, doesn’t enjoy, and what drives her to achieve. This can be accomplished through conducting a personal assessment (such as the Harrison Assessment), as well as through technical assessments that assess her technical skill sets for the role.
Hiring the candidate is just the beginning of ensuring engagement and alignment exists throughout the talent’s tenure. There must be a clear relationship among the talent’s job description, career path and development. As soon as talent does not have clarity and understanding around their job descriptions and career paths, one can expect highly desired talent will begin their search for the next step in their career elsewhere. Generation X and Y have had information at their fingertips that allows them to learn; however, simply learning is not enough. It must have a purpose. Aligning short-term, tangible goals to reach the mission at hand will help ensure long-term engagement. Managers should anticipate the need for feedback and the desire to know how this newly acquired knowledge helps talent get from here to there in a career path.
In this fast-paced, ever-changing world, it is more important than ever to keep your talent aligned with your business and working for a greater purpose. Increased retention rates will be accomplished by creating an aligned environment that is buttressed by accountability across the organization. In addition to the fun, flexible environment that is permeating business places across the globe, leadership must establish and maintain a clear path and hold the talent accountable for accomplishing the plan. After all, how can they be recognized for their accomplishments if their objectives aren’t being established and tracked?
Photo credit iStockphoto
About the author: Amanda Papini, Recruiting Director at Response Mine Interactive started her career in recruiting at Medical Staffing Network in 2005, and moved over to a corporate recruiting role at BKV and Response Mine Interactive in 2007, where she built an internal recruiting practice for both companies. Amanda has since staffed over 250 full-time employees within both companies; an average of 50 hires per year. After assisting with RMI and BKV’s growth over the last 5 years, Amanda decided to move over to focus solely on RMI’s talent acquisition and take on a role more dedicated to employee development.
Encounters with your boss aren’t really random, I guess, but I had an unexpected encounter with a boss when I was a young leader moving up in the organization.
I was one of a very few women in the middle management of the firm and was being promoted to the next level. After accepting the new job and agreeing to deliver the outcomes as described, I praised my boss for being one of two executives in the company who had a track record of developing and promoting women into management positions.
He looked at me like I was a little nuts and said, “Are you kidding? Any time I have a women who is even marginally qualified for a management job I’ll give it to her. She’ll work twice as hard and produce three times the results – for half the money!”
Heart stopping, right?
Now, he was a good guy. He had hired me and promoted me twice already. I knew he was pretty chauvinistic – what male boss wasn’t in the early 1990’s? But here’s the thing: he thought he was being complimentary. He thought that telling me that he noticed that I worked harder than anyone else and produced results better than everyone else was a good message. But you know, all I heard was the “half the money” part.
A few months later I got my bonus. It was fantastic. The biggest check I’d ever seen. But you know what I wondered? I wondered if this bonus was a “half the money” bonus. I didn’t know what anyone else got and I didn’t know the bonus formula. So even though I thought the check was huge, I didn’t know what it meant. And I always suspected that, although it was big, perhaps i
t was less than I would have received if I had been a man.
I came to peace with that pretty quickly. He really was a good boss. In the best way he knew, he was trying to acknowledge my performance and contributions. But I’ve always remembered that experience and have used it to be sure I’m clear in my communication with my team – communication about performance, money – and what it means, career opportunity and more. Making sure that highly valued – and other – employees know I value them for what they do, how they do it, the results they produce and how those dynamics impact their career progress is critical in building manager/employee relationships.
I think back to that time and am glad he promoted me – even if his motive was a little suspect. We all got what we wanted: the organization got a highly effective leader, he got a region that blew out its numbers, and I got higher into management with a larger compensation package. Win-win-win.
Funny how those random conversations can change your perspective forever. I chose to learn an important management communication lesson that I never forgot. I think it was Benjamin Franklin who said, “I can learn something from any man – even if it’s what not to do.”
About the author: China Gorman is CEO of the CMG Group, connecting HR to business and business to HR, and author of the Data Point Tuesday feature at www.chinagorman.com. Connect with her on Twitter as @ChinaGorman.
Photo credit: iStockphoto
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
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.
These days, the Peanuts character Lucy is a bully and they’re not going to allow it anymore.
At least, that’s the deal according to the administrators at my kids’ school system, who ditched the time-honored tradition of watching It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown in the elementary schools during their Halloween parties because “Lucy is a bully.” I confess to doing some heavy eye-rolling at this decision. After all, Lucy’s been bossing people around since 1950. It’s Lucy for crying out loud; that’s how she rolls.
But consider the larger context of this decision: it’s not only our schools where the definition of “bully” has changed. The term “workplace bullying” is becoming commonplace and this has implications for both managers and human resource professionals. Employees are paying attention to bosses who retaliate, which is considered a form of bullying. According to an EEOC press release, in 2010 for the first time ever, retaliation surpassed race as the most frequently filed discrimination charge.
The Workplace Bullying Institute website defines workplace bullying as “repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators that takes one or more of the following forms:
- Verbal abuse
- Offensive conduct/behaviors (including nonverbal) which are threatening, humiliating, or intimidating
- Work interference — sabotage — which prevents work from getting done”
If using the definition above, most managers would absolve themselves of being a bully. They understand that blatant verbal abuse and aggressive behavior of any type is not acceptable managerial behavior. But what about those behaviors that might have been deemed OK in the past, but are now seen as
inappropriate? What about the Lucys out there who are navigating a changed boss/employee landscape? They are the self-described “tough” bosses. Their reaction to claims of bullying might be: “Geez, lighten up, I was just joking!” or “Tell them to quit whining”.
As a human resources professional, how do you help managers sort out the difference between being simply “tough” and being a bully? This is how I break it down:
A tough boss has employees’ best interests in mind. The tough boss challenges employees to think beyond their current capabilities, to go beyond what they thought they could do. Tough bosses have difficult conversations. They don’t shy away from poor performance; they address it immediately. The tough boss might not be “warm and fuzzy” but they are compassionate. The one thing a tough boss will never do is belittle their employees in any way.
If a manager’s actions create a sense of feeling belittled by the employee, then the manager has crossed the line into bullying. It may not have been intentional, but there it is.
In human resources, one of the most difficult tasks you face is that of ensuring your employees’ safety— and not the kind that you report with OSHA. It’s the lack of psychological safety that takes a hard-to-measure toll on your workforce. You can help your management staff see their role in providing this type of “safety” by helping them understand the evolving use of the word “bully.” Helping them stay focused on being a tough boss rather than a bully helps create the productive, non-toxic work environment all human resources professionals should strive for.
About the author: For 20+ years, Jennifer V. Miller has been helping professionals “master the people equation” to maximize their personal influence. A former HR generalist and training manager, she now advises executives on how to create positive, productive workplace environments. She is the founder and Managing Partner of SkillSource and blogs at The People Equation. You can connect with Jennifer on Twitter as @JenniferVMiller.
Photo credit: peanuts.wikia.com
I have been reading a lot over the last few years about communication and have been fascinated by what the books share as differences between men and women in this area. I have begun to make adjustments and pay closer attention to my habits, like not raising my hand to speak, watching my posture and what I am doing with my hands and my stance.
Yesterday, I slammed the table and stunned the room. Today, I am trying to figure out whether that is me and whether it matters or not. It was a safe place and I was fascinated by the result.
The setting was a non- profit board meeting for which, as a member, I was asked to facilitate. We are an all volunteer team and working on this board has provided a safe place for me to hone my leadership skills. The board is diverse. Of the 4 men and 3 women, 3 were born outside the US. I was facilitating a topic and the conversations were intense and veering off track. This particular conversation needed to move forward. After allowing everyone in the room to have their say, people again started talking over each other and getting off track. I slammed the table with both hands and said, “Hey, we need to move on.” The room got silent and we were able to mov
e forward with the meeting.
I never did that before and was fascinated with the result and the feedback.
At the next break, the feedback was very positive from Western (US and UK) colleagues. They said it was effective, it brought everyone back and they thanked me. A Far East colleague had the polar opposite reaction and advised I don't do that outside of a safe environment and went on to tell me to “be myself.” A colleague from the Middle East chimed right in and said, I think it's cultural” and we went on to talk about how America is viewed outside the US. I wondered if it were a man hitting the table whether the feedback would have been the same.
It was so interesting.
What tweaks are you making in your communications at the table these days?
Photo credit: iStockphoto
About the author: Debbie Brown is a Senior Sales Executive in Analytics, Software and Services . The majority of her career has been spent managing people and teams in software and services provided to the HR industry. Debbie enjoys sharing leadership best practices and as an avid reader is always happy to share great book recommendations. You can connect with Debbie on Twitter as @DebbieJBrown.
A meeting with an executive can be different than a meeting with a manager. You’ve got to connect with the executive’s perspective including their challenges, their opportunities and their overall strategy for building results.
Ultimately, success in executive meetings is attitudinal. You have to believe that you have a right to be there and that you have something of value to offer them. Effective meetings are more flexible than presentations. You need to be as prepared for what you will hear and learn as for what you will say.
The starting place is to understand the perspective of the executive that you are meeting. Perspective tells you the executives’ priorities and what it takes to bring value to each of them.
For example, CEOs tend to be externally focused on their industry and the trends that are driving business strategies. They value ideas and examples outside their company and use external context and perspective to make decisions. The COO is driving lines of business and has specific metrics in mind for accelerating growth or managing costs. He will make decisions based on your ability to impact or influence those metrics. The CPO (Chief People Officer) is managing people needs against business goals and has to attract and retain the right talent with a competitive blend of benefits. All the C-suite executives are looking ahead and trying to leverage what’s to come rather than micro managing what happened yesterday.
As we work with people on executive-level conversations, there are two questions that we get asked most often.
First, people worry, “Will I have the answer for anything this executive might ask me?”
You should definitely be prepared but rarely is this conversation a deep dive into information. Top level conversations are about strategies and the big picture initiatives that will drive them. For example, if you are the human resources manager and you come to talk to me about a new step you want to implement in our hiring process, I’m not likely to want to know how you will roll-out the step. And, if you bring too much detail on implementations, you’ll quickly lose me. Instead, I’m more interested in thinking about the impact of the step across all our constituencies. Top executives don
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 sixth post in the series of responses.
I’ve been pondering on this subject for some time. I have thought of some of the usual answers that we HR professionals might have, “Heh heh, CEO for a day! Let me get out my list, and let’s start making some personnel changes!!!” “Policies, job descriptions, performance reviews – everyone. NOW!”
But are those ‘evil’ HR thoughts realistic?
I just graduated from an arduous, 25-month, graduate-level educational program that my company invested in my attending. As part of our third year on campus, we had to do a company simulation, first learning our way around the software and baseline company financials, then assuming leadership roles and making strategic decisions for almost two weeks. Each day’s decisions were likened to one quarter of business.
Though I wasn’t selected as the CEO of our team, I did assume the Chief Credit Officer role, and each of the 5 of us had an integral role to play on our team. Each of us would come face-to-face with strategic decisions over the next several days that would land us in financial difficulty and in harm’s way of surviving as a company, or would land us on the leader board with rising stock prices, EPS, and leading our simulated community of banks.
We began our daily (which was little under 3 hours each day – yes, we attended classes the rest of the day) review of the local & national (simulated) economy, our bank’s financials, and our competitor’s financials. As well, our CEO needed to guide us with an overarching strategy for the day (quarter) as we went about our work. We began working very independently of one another, making decisions to affect our balance sheet and income statement through our own areas. Day 1: we guessed. And we were mildly successful.
Day 2: Not so much. Our bank teetered and failed to meet important goals, resulting in a not-so-hot set of financials – including many areas in red. As each of us grew more comfortable with one another and with our roles on our team, the CEO’s need to effectively communicate, discuss, and determine the strategy with the team as a whole became critical to our success.
I won’t bore you with each day, except to say, as we “gelled” as a team, we became moderately successful. In the end, all teams were called to action in terms of providing a shareholders’ meeting, and sharing plans to merge, acquire, or remain independent. Each CEO had to negotiate with other teams, strategize, and then sell their management, and more importantly, the (simulat
ed) shareholders on a plan.
I learned a lot from this activity. Mostly, the CEO job is harder than I realized. It is not enviable. Rarely, does the CEO please everyone, and sometimes must make hard decisions and take risks based on a broad spectrum of knowledge. So, if I were CEO for a day, my immediate plan would be this:
- Communicate effectively with and get to know my top management team, quickly. Determine if I have the right key players in the right seats. And if I don’t, then I need to make the tough calls to move them out, down, or to seats that better fit them. The top team must also work well together and understand overall objectives and how their decisions affect one another.
- Know the business of my business, and in particular, the financials. Understand strategic decisions and how they can affect the balance sheet and income statement. (Important for HR success as well!)
- Excel as a communicator to all employees and shareholders. Make the time to get in front of employees, at all levels, and interact. And I mean really be there. Hear their thoughts and ideas. Implement ideas if we can, and explain if we cannot. Deliver specific praise when possible – ‘catching people doing things right.’
- Share the vision of our company first with employees and then with the community. Describe the strategy in understandable terms for employees what my expectations are for performance and for accountability within the organization. Utilize my experts in each area, rely on their decisions, and hold them accountable for their actions.
- Take a few risks. Admit my mistakes, and move forward.
Whew, and now that my day as CEO is over, it’s back to the HR job – communicating effectively, helping managers be successful through effective utilization of their human resources, understanding the business of our business, strategizing about best use of resources – wait a minute, this sounds a lot like the CEO….
About the author: Dorothy Douglass is an HR professional who has served in HR and management roles for 20 years+ who considers herself fairly tech-UNsavvy. She is the VP of HR for MutualBank , has been with them for 10 years and is in her third year at the Graduate School of Banking in Madison, Wisconsin. She is one of few HR professionals privileged to attend the full 3-year banking program rather than the 1-year HR program. Masochist? Maybe. But it's made her a better banker, for sure.
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 second post in the series of responses.
If I had the opportunity to be the CEO for a day, I'd tell the entire organization to forget everything they know, have experienced or have been told about Human Resources. We’re going to focus on one thing — making work better! Making the employment experience what it's supposed to be: mutually beneficial.
We spend more time at work than we do anywhere else. I have to believe that all organizations aspire to have people who want to come to work and to have their leadership embrace the effort it takes to make that happen. Yes, it's a huge undertaking that would be time consuming, frustrating and require baby steps that focus on a consistent message which is simply, to make work better. I believe it's possible and after all, this is my story!
So what does it mean to make work better?
It means we'd start by focusing on relationships — starting with one of the most important ones: managers and their teams. Managers who are not effective communicators or who may be uncomfortable confronting tough issues or being transparent will learn how to communicate effectively and productively. Since building good relationships obviously requires multiple people to work well together, employees will also learn how to be comfortable handling feedback and exchanging ideas with their managers and colleagues. All of this will be done face to face or via video chat. How many times have you heard someone say, “I didn't like the tone of that email.” How many times have you had to run interference between a manager and a team member because of a preventable miscommunication that spiraled out of control?
We're going to eliminate the annual performance review process completely!
Don't worry, we'll have ways to manage performance. We'll focus on goals and we'll start Feedback Sessions that will be more frequent, yet brief. Managers and teams will compare notes on the status of their goals, brainstorm about tools that address their individual growth areas, set new goals and provide a clear understanding of how the team's success fits into the progress of the company. Yes, we need to know what needs to be said for effective feedback but it's even more important to know “how” things need to be said.
We're going to step up to the pla
te and hit a line drive with the empathy bat!
te and hit a line drive with the empathy bat!
Employees and managers will do deep dives into understanding each others jobs. Employees will recognize what it takes for their managers to be successful and vice versa. Doesn't it make a difference to work on a project when you know why the project is important and what the direct relevance that your success has on the goals of the company? It makes the difference between wanting to come to work and not wanting to come to work.
We're going to gut the employee manual and focus on simplicity and common sense!
We'll keep the legal stuff in there but we're going to remove some of the dumbest employment policies I've ever seen — the ones that border on being inhuman — like telling people how many bereavement days they get based on how the company defines particular family members. I'll never forget — I once worked with a young man whose parents were killed when he was a baby and he was raised by his aunt. But because his aunt was not defined as an “immediate family member” in the handbook, this man had to take most of his vacation time so he could grieve and make the necessary burial arrangements. You get the point. I digress.
Last but definitely not least. Everyone will leave their egos at the door.
Yes, everyone. Teams can't be built and folks can't collaborate when someone is always vying for the spotlight. Those who can't handle that can make a graceful exit. I've always said that people don't leave bad companies, they leave bad managers. And you can take that to the bank. Do you think someone who is unhappy at work is going to be helpful and friendly with coworkers and customers? That would be a resounding “no.”
When we improve our internal relationships, teach folks how to foster those relationships, treat people like adults and work in ways that are progressive and unconventional (think anti-Corporate America) everything else will fall into place — like client satisfaction and profitability. Wow, what a concept.
Happy to hear your thoughts.
Photo credit: UnconventionalHR
About the author: Kimberly Roden is an HR pro turned consultant and the founder of Unconventional HR. She has 25 years of progressive experience as a strategic HR and business leader. Her hands-on and innovative approach allows her to create and deliver HR solutions to meet business challenges and needs by managing human capital, talent acquisition and technology.
I’d Rather Be in Charge, by Charlotte Beers, is a breakthrough book, a master class for women who are ready to learn from a legendary business leader how to shatter the glass ceiling, reach the corner office, and—above all—develop their highest self in the workplace and beyond.
Women of HR was offered the opportunity to review, I’d Rather Be in Charge. Through a series of questions and answers, Alyson Nyiri (AN) and Debbie Brown (DB) present their thoughtful review of this book.
Alyson and Debbie,
What is the overall gist of Charlotte's message or topic? How would you summarize her book in 3 or 4 sentences?
AN: Beers echoes Dr. Mark Savickas’ career construction theory when she encourages women to “Think of work as your chance to practice becoming your largest self.” Women are still led to believe from a young age that their work is secondary to their roles as mothers and lovers. Beers doesn’t enter that debate. She starts instead from the premise that women work and require ways to become better leaders in their work. And to do that, women need to see themselves within the world of work and manage how we are perceived by those around us. Beers says “We must be prepared to take controversial stands, initiate ideas and projects; that’s how influence is felt.”
DB: I think that Charlotte summarizes her own book very well - the book is about “to know” yourself and be known by others. She takes us through a process of how to dig into how we learned to be a certain way, what image we want to portray and how to move in the direction of that image. The book also does a great job of differentiating management from leadership and why and when you should step up (and what to look for when you do).
Charlotte calls this “the era of forging ahead for women.” What did she mean by that?
AN: Beers delivers workshops to women in the U.S. and Europe and calls them The X Factor, standing for the extra X chromosome women have. This extra X is women’s potential; the way we chose to work and lead. We are also more educated than previous generations and are acquiring more expertise.
DB: The number of women in the workforce, and the call to action for women to act on the defining moments to take charge and lead.
Charlotte recognizes that the old boys' network is alive and kicking and that women have many more barriers to get over than men do. What barrier resonated with you? What strategy have you, or will you, use?
AN: Beers clearly articulates how men behave in leadership and how women must learn to speak and behave in ways that men in command can understand (I nearly chucked the book across the room, my feminist sensibilities enraged, but decided to hold up!). Beers does not sell out women by asking them to become men. She carefully outlines strategies we need to move ahead in the world of work.
I’ve been living in the South now for a bit and it has taught this little Midwestern girl quite a few interesting things. Such as the bugs down here are HUGE and that Gators can climb fences. Scary. But besides that, I love learning more about the cultural differences. It’s endlessly fascinating to pick out all the subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, differences. We may all live in the same country, but it doesn’t always seem like it.
Now, one difference that amuses and intrigues me to no end is the way people down here can say things without actually saying them. I’m a very blunt person by nature so it took me a while to pick up on all the layers of subtext that Southerners use. Frankly, I’m sure I’m still missing a few things.
For example, the phrase “bless your heart” may sound sweet, but oh, the meanings behind it! Usually I’ve heard it used when someone thinks a person is doing something crazy or stupid, or they feel they mean well but keep messing up, and so on. Such as “Mary just got engaged for the 6th time, bless her heart.” I swear that phrase makes me want to giggle every time I hear it now.
I also love “They are proud of (fill in the blank).” Basically, the phrase is used when you are trying to convey that someone thinks too highly of something or places too high of a value on something. For example, “I went to the neighbor’s garage sale and they are very proud of their things.”
Surprisingly, I think phrases like these, for all their subtlety, actually cut through a lot of nonsense simply because you can convey a depth of meaning rather quickly and politely. And I think that is a skill all HR professionals could use.
In HR we need to be circumspect in what we say, how we say it, and often have to convey big concepts to a variety of audiences. A little subtlety and manners might go a long way in saying what we need to say, but can’t actually say. We already do this to some extent when we send out generic rejection letters and ask “would you rehire” employment verification questions, just to name two examples. And what about when you need to talk to an employee about bad body odor? Sometimes when you have a difficult message to convey, the best way to help everyone “save face” is by not being too forthright.
Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t be straight forward in our communication or that there aren’t times when you do have to come right out and be clear, such as during a layoff. Layoffs don’t need subtlety in your message; they need no nonsense clarity and compassion. And if you are in front of an unemployment judge you are better off sticking to the facts.
There are right ways and wrong ways of communicating all this critical information we have to share. The challenge as HR professionals is learning the best ways to do so and that takes time, experience, and the ability to learn from our mistakes. Because when communication goes wrong…well, bless your heart.
Photo credit: iStockphoto