So, I’m driving home from St. Louis listening to Drive Thru HR, which I usually do on road trips, to catch up on my daily HR news from some incredible HR professionals all over the world.
I hear Lisa Rosendahl, (@lisarosendahl) who I was fortunate to meet last year at HRevolution. On the show, Lisa and William Tincup are talking about credibility and all these memories started popping into my mind, ideas and examples so I thought this is a great topic for my next Women of HR blog post.
The story I thought about occurred in my first couple of years of my HR career.
I was in charge of starting a training department. My initial goals where to hire a training coordinator and a couple of trainers. We had a person from another department with computer experience coming in to provide computer training and she was doing very well performance and training wise. Just for the record, I inherited her and she was not my hire.
She was getting good reviews but there were a few things that started to tick me off, so to speak. Measurable things that reflected poorly on our brand new “start-up” department and the rest of us who worked in the department. The following describes how she presented herself and how I perceived her credibility, NOT good.
I have talked about this story several times but never really sat down and wrote about it.
She repeatedly dressed inappropriately as a trainer and as a representative of the organization in front of 20 to 30 of our 500 employees at any one time. Her “see through” pants were so sheer that you could see whatever kind of underwear she was wearing, thongs and all! She would also come in wearing shirts that showed off her belly button.
This was a 25 to 28 year old woman, so we are not talking about a teenager, but what really topped it off was the office Christmas party attire. And YES I do tell this is a story every time I discuss credibility, or lack thereof, in a business setting.
At our Christmas party that year, she came in late (of course) to make an entrance. I remember looking toward the door as she walked in and what I saw was to be talked about for some time after by everyone there in the office. She had long hair that nearly went down to her bottom and she had it stacked on top of her head in the shape of a Christmas tree with lights and decorations in it. Her earrings were also flashing decorative lights. She was wearing five inch heels, a dress that was extremely short and skin tight. Her dress had almost no back and was cut all the way down to her underwear and everyone stopped and stared.
She was suppose to be a professional in an organization and come Monday morning in the board room the discussion was not what’s going on in the spreadsheets today but, did you all see what so and so was wearing the other night at the Christmas party? From then on, I’m sure her credibility wasn’t that thick because of the clothes she chose to wear to work.
What’s the lesson here?
Credibility goes well beyond your paper credentials. Consider the entire picture and how people perceive you and what you choose to do (or wear).
Photo credit: Unknown
An internal audit is being conducted in our office and the HR office is asked to produce several documents.The audit is procedural based, still not in the least less daunting or unsettling than any other audit but if you fail any portion of it, it means many grueling hours of implementing new procedures and practices.
So, you get the document request and your first thoughts are, “Do we have the document? Can it be located easily? and most importantly, “Did we follow procedure and practice?” Non-compliance in any audit is alarming, but if you make exceptions it is even worse.
I began to wonder about the requests for exceptions I have been presented with in my career – the biggies, the ones that have far-reaching ramifications. Here are just a few I faced in my years in Human Resources – and whether or not they was allowed or caught – they would require an exorbitant amount of detail to justify:
- Allow an employee to late enroll into our Flexible Spending Account 4 months after the deadline. As you know, each year companies go through open enrollment and employees are asked to review, make appropriate changes and enroll in health and welfare benefit plans. Most plans are subject to IRS Section 125 and the clause of the IRS code only allows changes or exceptions to be made on any 1 of the 4 qualifying events. You compensation and benefit pros out there know the scrutiny these plans undergo and the misery of of administering them. This employee was a 12 year veteran of the company and knew he had to re-enroll every year – this year was the exception.
- Allow a candidate to drug screen test more than the allowed times to test, knowing pre-employment background checks allow 2 times. How about (this happens to be my favorite exception to date) stopping a random drug test because the selected employee complained it was a waste of time and the program was altered to not include this group of employees. Or this, allowing an employee to begin knowing they did not meet the criteria to pass. A candidate tested positive and asked to allow his employment go forward, knowing employment is contingent upon successful passing of a background check.
When was the last time you made or were asked to make an exception. Was it a personal or professional decision? Who asked you? What reasoning or justification did you use? Was it a well thought out exception or a snap decision.
Whatever the case, you lower your standards, you compromise your beliefs, and in some cases you jeopardize the very essence or truth of the original request, decision or promise.
According to The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms, ‘make an exception’ was first recorded in 1931. It is defined as allowing someone or something to be exempt from the general rule or practice. You make an exception for your kids on their birthday and let them stay up late, you make an exception perhaps because your company’s forecast is trending positively, you make an exception because of your mood.
There is no hard and fast rule on making exceptions especially when the consequence are minimal. But what do you do when the consequences are more significant? Here is some criteria I would consider when deciding whether or not to allow an exception.
- What is the exception? What is the issue, request, policy or general principle being asked to be altered or modified.
- What is the original process? Do I have a policy, procedure or other program in place to support, defend or other mechanism needed to preserve the original or natural state of the process.
- What resources or analysis is required. Consider this and act.
- Who or what will be affected? Are there legal, monetary, regulatory, personal or some other governing system that your exception will affect?
- What will be the outcome? What is the end desired result? Did you anticipate this ending?
- How will this affect decisions I make in the future? Is what prompted you to make an exception be similarly applied to other situations.
Predicting outcomes can be a complicated thorny matter and sometimes deemed convoluted if you are dealing with people (and tell me when an exception does not affect a person or group of people) and predicting human behavior is a dubious landscape.
It really boils down to making decisions. We make decisions every day, but just because you make decisions it does not necessarily mean that you are good at making them, that you should act upon the decisions you make or that you should even be the one making the decision.
Decisions are either instinctive or require a more in-depth analysis - make sure you know the difference. Ultimately, decisions are the choices you make.
Do you do what is right when no one is looking? Would you be comfortable with someone questioning the veracity of your decisions. Can you live with the exceptions you make in your personal and professional lives?
Photo credit: iStockphoto
“The balance what?” you ask.
I am referring to the burden and guilt trip we give ourselves each day over our attempt, and quite often failure, to balance all aspects (mom, caretaker, professional, student, friend etc.) of our lives.
I call it the Balance Burden and, truly, I spent my first year and a half of motherhood often riddled with guilt because I couldn’t seem to juggle it all. It wasn’t until the birth of my second daughter (18 months after my first) that I finally threw my hands up and admitted defeat.
With the slow realization and acceptance that balance was unattainable came a sudden relief, and the mommy baggage was quickly lifted off my five-foot two-inch frame.
In the days (specifically 20 months) since becoming a mom of two amazing, extremely energetic, and willful little girls, I have learned a few things about the best approaches for me to manage my multiple roles. I learned most of these lessons the hard way, as in coming home from work stressed about an undone project, only to be a bit cranky and short-tempered with my family followed by a sleepless night feeling downright crummy for not being a better worker, spouse, and namely mom.
Through trial and error I have discovered that these tips work for me and I hope they are of value to you:
- Create a priorities list and re-evaluate it monthly. Take stock of what you value and write it down. Make choices on how you spend your time based on that priorities list. This list can change as your work goals change, seasons pass and kids’ extracurricular activities and hobbies change.
- Take charge of your schedule. I have been notoriously terrible at saying no. I am slowly learning the art, beauty and necessity in saying no. Decline requests that don’t fit into your priorities list. Say no kindly but firmly and embrace the freedom of not adding something to your plate.
- Give your kids uninterrupted kid time. When I got home from work, I would be greeted with a cluster of hellos, cries and questions. I tried to tending to my girls’ needs, inquiring about my husband’s day, and making dinner – all at the same time. How did that work? Terribly. Now when I come home, I devote 30 minutes with my daughters. I then chat with my husband and think about dinner. This works much better.
- Give yourself “me” time. I am no pro at this and don’t practice it as much as I should but when I make time for myself, I am a better mom. I’m kinder and more patient and I feel like me. One piece of advice I received not too long ago was to put “me” time on the calendar. If my Outlook calendar says yoga, I am more likely to pull out my mat and work on my yoga warrior pose.
Above all, stop comparing yourself to others. Embrace and accept who we are as women, mothers, and professionals. Unfortunately, girls are taught at a young age to compare themselves to the females around them from the classmate with the better math test grade to the supermodel on the cover of the tween magazines. This self-comparison carries itself into motherhood and we are constantly contrasting our mothering skills with those of the stay-at-home mom down the street or the VP who seems to have it all.
Stop it. Embrace yourself in all your glories and flaws. Your kids, your spouse, your boss only want you and no one different. Say goodbye to the balance burden and hello to you.
Photo credit iStockphoto
This is the 11th post in our Women of HR series focusing on career. Read along, consider the advice and we invite you to comment with insights of your own.
“How can I find time to attend this networking event when I am already spread too thin between work, my 2 year old, and my graduate studies?” asked one thirty-something overwhelmed professional/student in my office a few months ago.
Great question. And one I didn’t have the perfect, fix- it solution for. If I did, I would perhaps be better at my daily juggling act as well.
A typical morning for me often involves acquiescing to my 3-year-old’s desire for a little Yo Gabba Gabba before preschool, chasing my 18-month-old who has found diaper cream and proceeded to spread it all over her cherubic cheeks, and hopefully catching a quick glance in the mirror to ensure my ensemble is professional enough to greet the recruiters looking to hire the MBA students I work with.
As a career coach working with graduate business students, I have found that more and more students are coming to me with similar questions about balancing motherhood, professional careers and aspirations, and graduate studies. No small feat.
I have taken to reading many expert opinions on the subject in hopes of gleaning tidbits of advice that will provide solace and practical solutions for the students I work with. There seems to be a general consensus among career experts and life coaches on this topic of work life balance. The advice given is, stop trying to balance it all because you can’t, seems contrary to what we, in corporate America, have been focusing on for the past few decades since women came into the workforce in numbers.
Think about it. Giving up the goal of a perfect balance of equal parts time, passion, and energy in all aspects of life actually takes a huge weight off of a working student mother’s shoulders.Rather than continually beating yourself up because you couldn’t give your children the same amount of time and energy as you did your work that day, instead focus on the time you do have with your kids.
Productively managing multiple roles in life can be accomplished through making choices that match your values. Working overtime is a necessity if your boss comes to you with a last minute deadline. When your child has a lunch concert you make a choice to put that obligation first. If your Organizational Behavior professor piles on the number of papers due in a week, you might have to block out weekend time to study at the library. All choices are valid and none of them makes you a bad mom, worker, or student. Instead, it is an incredible exercise in prioritizing.
Making choices that match your priorities takes away guilt, provides confidence in your lifestyle, and helps you focus on the positive. Give yourself the freedom to give yourself a break and stop aiming for balance.
Aim for choice and embrace the fact that we as women have one.
At least focus on that when you are lamenting the fact that you are headed home from work at 5:30pm and you still have a night of dinner making, bath time rituals, and paper writing ahead of you!
Photo credit iStockphoto
After some recent reflection, I am convinced that my childhood has had a huge impact on how I consider various circumstances thrown my way as an HR professional. I can’t help but wonder how many others feel the same way.
A few weeks ago, I was driving to pick up some books for the ILSHRM Leadership Conference at our treasurer’s office. I got the idea of taking pictures of some of the homes I grew up in because it was on my way. I thought I might use them to share with my kids one day.
While doing so, the idea of writing this blog post for Women of HR popped in my head because the memories from seeing the homes brought back visions of similar employee circumstances I have had to deal with in the workplace. Some of these circumstances impacted the employee and their co-workers’ performance while others would just come in and share to get whatever was bothering them off their chest and back to work they went.
My experience has helped me to be a better problem solver and listener with employees dealing with adversity of any kind.
Just the number of homes I took a picture of, eight not counting the three no longer standing or out of state, tells a story. So many employees deal with instability in their life for a number of reasons. For me, I lived in 11 different homes growing up compared to the stability of my 20-year-old (2 homes) and my 11-year-old (1 home).
How many of our employees bounce from home to home? What impact does that have on their job? Psychologists typically only look at your life between the ages of 0-17 as it relates to the impact the experiences between those years makes on the rest of your life. I have a lot of empathy for instability and so much more that employees go through. For example, as I think back to my childhood, I have a much better understanding for employees dealing with:
- alcohol and drug abuse
- emotional and physical abuse
All of these personal problems have a huge impact on employee performance, attendance, and quality.I think overall my background has helped me be a better more understanding human resources professional. It affects how I handle things and how I communicate with people.
It’s not just what we learn in books or on-the-job that makes us good solid human resources professionals; it’s also what we are made of. Our early beginnings, where we came from and how we grew up has a lot to do with how we work with and influence others on a day-to-day basis. It can have a significant influence on our performance and ability to connect with employees, managers, owners and other relationships related to our work.
In HR, no one situation is anything like the other and that is what makes this profession so exciting to work in. I say be proud of your humble beginnings because all in all it is who you are and who you are is an outstanding professional who can handle whatever situation that is thrown at you.
One of my favorite motivational posters states,
“If you are not riding the wave of change, you will find yourself beneath it.”
In the world we live in, change is inevitable and, as HR professionals, we are constantly dealing with it and the effects on our workforce. In my experience I find that people have the same reaction whether the change is positive or negative. More often than not conclusions are formed, rumors are spread and morale takes a hit.
The next time you find yourself communicating change in the workplace, take the following into consideration to ensure transitions go as smoothly as possible.
Communicate the information at the right time. While working at my first job in HR the company announced there would be layoffs and affected employees would be notified right away. Fast forward one month later and nobody had heard another word on the subject. While the company was sorting through everything that comes with a layoff, employees were updating and getting their resumes out and growing more frustrated by the day. Whether they had intended to or not, the company now had a disengaged workforce on their hands.
Wait until you have all pertinent information before making an announcement of that sort, or ensure you do follow up in a time frame consistent to what was conveyed. You may think you are doing the right thing by giving people notice far in advance, but you could just be adding to the anxiety.
Hold follow up meetings as an opportunity for employees to ask questions.No matter how well you communicate the change at hand there will most likely be questions. Employees may be intimidated to ask the question individually, so consider holding a meeting so that they may pose their questions in a group setting. Also, chances are if one person has the question then others do too, and this is an excellent way to keep the workforce from jumping to their own conclusions.
Check in to ensure the changes you made are on track. The news has been communicated, you’ve put any rumors to rest, so now what? Make it a point to check in 30 days, 6 months or one year down the road. Is the change you intended happening as it should? Have employees slipped back to the old way of doing things? Make sure the change is having the desired effect.
Remember, change is inevitable and it’s up to us as HR professionals and leaders to do what we can to make it go as smoothly as possible. What have you done to stay on top of the wave?
Photo credit iStockphoto
My company is growing very fast right now and we’re starting to rethink our organizational structure.
I have been with the company for over 2 years and have always reported to the President. But with all this restructuring going on, my boss started talking about maybe having HR report to the CFO. I agree on the fact that he has too many direct reports and that he needs to make changes … but not HR! Please not HR!
Before I continue, I need to clear a few things up:
Don’t judge me for what I’m about to say because I really am an open minded person. I embrace change. I have been in HR for over 15 years and reported to CFOs as much as to Presidents so I know what I’m talking about. I actually really liked the CFOs that I reported to; they were great people. When it comes to reporting however, it’s about the function and not the people.
I am a true believer that HR should always report to the President or the most senior level in the company and I will work hard to make sure that this is where I report. Here are my top 4 reasons why:
People v. Money
If your company says that its most important asset are its people, why would you have HR report to the CFO as the person who controls the money and who will be evaluated on the bottom line at the end of the year? How can this be well perceived by employees? For me, it’s telling them that what we say and what we do is very different. How can HR be well represented by the head of finance when finance and HR priorities are clearly very different?
Reporting to any executive other than the President can limit the HR department’s effectiveness. HR must have a direct line to the President. When you have a delicate situation like a political issue between 2 departments, a sexual harassment case or a termination of a C-level executive, HR must be free to report this directly to the President without having to go through a chain of command.
HR needs to report to the CEO because this is the person who shapes the company culture and HR is the best representative of the culture. If you don’t have a clear understanding of your company culture and both the President’s vision of how this plays out in the day to day and the expectations of all employees, how can you do a good job at promoting and developing programs and decisions that support it?
Reporting to the CFO, or any other position below the President, moves HR one step further away from where the strategic decisions are made. If HR is considered a strategic partner, shouldn’t they be seated at the same table with other strategic functions like finance, operations, research and development, and sales?
And if we are seated with the executives, why are we still calling ourselves HR Directors and not Chiefs of HR? OK, that’s another discussion.
So what do you think about this?
Photo credit iStockphoto
I have a crystal ball. It’s an amazing tool and makes my life so much simpler. I no longer ruminate over what to do or which course to take; no analysis paralysis for me. I just look into the ball and, voilà! … all is revealed.
Wait … I must be fantasizing again.
Unless you have a crystal ball, you’ve no doubt had times when the “right” decision is as hard to come by as a (fill in the blank). You think you know what to do, but, then again, how can you be sure? And, if it IS the “right” decision, will you think it’s a great decision days and months down the road? By the way, hurry up and decide already…time’s a wastin’!
So how do you make the “right” decision and how will you know it’s great?
A key element to making a great decision is the dialogue that occurs early in and throughout the process. Clarity and comprehension are the initial goals. What are the potential consequences, intended and otherwise; who will be involved and feel the effects, for better or worse; what’s the value of the desired outcome to all those involved? Although this “dialogue” could take place in your head (medication may be indicated if argument erupts), it’s best held with a few stakeholders on your leadership team … even one other is better than none. No over-analytical minds wanted here, though. Just focused, thoughtful even provocative discussion desired.
Having endured, I mean accomplished, an intellectually curious discussion, it’s time to take sides – literally. Debate is essentially a well-reasoned, respectful, even passionate argument. Again,this could be clinically significant if you restrict it to me, myself, and I, so involve others – debate the proposed decisions from each plausible perspective. And, above all else, listen with the same intensity others reserve for speaking. It will pay dividends even beyond the decision you choose.
Finally, decide. This does not mean acquiesce in defeat. It means commit - completely and clear-mindedly. Most importantly, the whole leadership team must commit in this manner. This is not a place for compliance, for to commit necessitates regard for the process you’ve completed and respect for the people with whom you’ve processed. What does this look like down the road? Unity of command – when in the moment you’re challenged by those you lead, you stand by the decision you made with your team and present it as your own, without caveat or condition.
How will you know your decision was the “right” decision and even a great decision ? Fair question – perhaps not the best question, however. The more compelling question is, “how will you lead in the wake of the decision you made?” Great leaders do far more than make great decisions. They deal with consequences ,they focus, they listen, they navigate the unpredictable course of life, and in so doing they inspire those they lead to make their own great decisions. No crystal ball required.