Tag: support

Bereavement Leave FAILS When It Comes to Flexibility

Posted on July 14th, by Donna Rogers, SPHR in Business and Workplace, On My Mind. 3 comments

When you’re managing employees and they have a death in the family of someone who has been sick for a while and they have made you aware of the situation, what do you do? Worse yet, what do you do when an employee calls you on their way out of town to tell you that their brother was killed the night before by a hit and run driver?  They continue to tell you the reason they are heading out of town immediately, before any funeral plans are announced, is that their brother’s wife is in critical condition in the hospital.  The oldest daughter of her sister-in-law who is dealing with the loss herself and worrying about the condition of her mother needs help. The employee has no idea when the funeral will be, let alone where her brother’s body is at the moment, and what will come of the criminal case surrounding the hit and run.  What do you do when you take a look at the bereavement leave policy and it says “up to 3 or 5 days,” depending on location of the funeral and how close the deceased is to the employee?


Well this very thing happened to me, but luckily I didn’t really have a boss to report to other than cancelling one of the classes I was scheduled to teach and holding it online instead of in person. Thankfully, I had an independent contractor I could lean on for my outstanding consulting projects.  I’m not saying things didn’t get lost in the shuffle because I did miss responding to emails and phone calls for a couple months due to trying to stay caught up with what is current when I finally got back.  Had I been working a job that restricted the amount of time I took off, I am sure in many cases my job would be in jeopardy or gone upon my return.  Since my brother was dead, I would not have had Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to fall back on either.  My sister-in-law doesn’t fall on the covered list of “immediate family members,” plus she had her kids to take care of her.  So the boss would have had their hands tied on what flexibility they could lend to this horrible situation. Even the military exigency leave would not have been applicable, even though my brother did retire with over 20 years of service to the US Air Force.


The long and short of it is that I was actually out of commission, so to speak, for about three weeks.  Out of commission for me is that I physically was not able to be present for a typical bricks and mortar 9-5 job, but I did work while I was away through mobile devices, and was able to keep up with the critical parts of my jobs as instructor and consultant.  The problem is most employees don’t have that flexibility nor do their managers understand the intricate details of what the employee is going through.  That is why I am writing this post because I too would never have understood an employee having to be away for that long without actually having gone through it myself.  Perhaps if managers read this they will have an open mind and open heart to what the employee is going through.  A paradigm shift, if you will.


You see the following had to be done, and was done, with the help of my niece and nephew primarily:

  • Visit sister-in-law to see how she was doing and what I could do to help (repeat daily with updates)
  • Find the body and get permission to have it sent post autopsy to the funeral home
  • Visit the crash site to see how this happened in person and collect personal belongings thrown all around the site due to the vehicle flipping
  • Since the driver had not come forward, have a sign made and erected along the edge of the highway near the crash site asking for information
  • Participate in TV interviews and share them on social media to help get the word out about the vehicle the authorities were looking for based on eye witness accounts of the incident
  • Visit his workplace to get details going regarding final check, insurance, retirement and pick up his personal belongings
  • Research how to obtain a copy of the autopsy needed for the insurance and get his wife’s signature and fax
  • Meet with the funeral home to set up the local funeral, service back home, and burial back home (with many calls and email follow-ups)
  • Pick up his uniform and take to the dry cleaner then to the funeral home
  • Stop by the highway patrol office to get copies of accident reports needed for the insurance so the funeral could be paid for
  • Meet with the district attorney to get permission to obtain his personal belongings from the vehicle at the impound lot
  • Meet with the state trooper at the impound lot to see the vehicle mangled and retrieve all personal belongings
  • Research possibilities for transportation of the body from one state to another to include a military escort from the service to the grave site
  • Keep out-of-town family members up-to-date on progress so they could eventually make flight plans
  • Coordinate pictures and videos to be taken in all three locations for his widow since she was still in the hospital and could not attend
  • Go through his personal belongings at his home and garage to bring meaningful memorabilia to the funeral home for the services
  • Collect pictures from family members representing all 46 of his years to develop a slideshow for the services
  • Pull music that was meaningful to him for the background of the slide show and edit and reedit (multiple times) to work correctly
  • Attend the funeral, transport the body, attend the local service and bury him
  • Return to go through his things with his widow upon her release from the hospital so his garage could be cleaned out and mail sentimental things to his mother, brother and nephew

Now that is certainly all I can remember now four months out so I am sure I have missed some things.  As a manager you must not just see this list as a tactical “to do” list, you have to consider the psychological impact each of these tasks and toll it has on the employee.  For weeks I was go, go, go but a couple days after the burial, it finally hit me.  He was dead! He was never coming back! His killer is still at large! I couldn’t even get out of bed for two days straight.  I had to see a doctor to help me emotionally because it was affecting me physically.  Now how much time do you think all this should take? Three to five days is a joke and is not a one size fit all policy that will work for every employee situation.

Thank you for reading and I hope I make a difference in how you see a similar situation in your employee’s future.


Photo Credit

About the Author: Donna Rogers, SPHR aka @HRWarrior. 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.

HR Decisions For Parents Returning To The Workforce

Posted on May 29th, by a Guest Contributor in Business and Workplace. No Comments

Do not look at the woman in front of you as having been out of the workforce. Instead, see her as formerly employed in one of the hardest occupations possible: parenting. She can handle stress and odd hours, all with very little sleep. She can multitask and think days, weeks and even years in advance. As an HR professional, there are things you can do to help her return to the workplace and capitalize on her unique set of needs.

Understand the Compromise

In a study published in the Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, researchers found that compromise was a major theme in the decision of a parent to return to work. A parent returning to work has made a decision to balance her life between two huge priorities. Understand that she may be torn between being at home and being at work. She wants to do both, and well, but bilocation is still a fantasy. By keeping the job focus on achievement over time, a smart HR director can ease the pain of returning to work and increase employee retention.

Value the Employee

The same article states that one of the major factors for a parent to return to work is for a sense of value. It is important for any employee to feel valued, but may be more so for the returning parent. Awards, appreciation flowers or a heartfelt thank you note can bring out the best in a parent-turned-employee.

Remember that a mother coming back into the labor force post labor is not some lost soul who needs a place to be. She is an accomplished human being who can bring value to your company.

Go To Bat

Workplace flexibility is central to a parent’s decision and ability to return to the workforce, according to the Journal of Industrial Relations. Unfortunately, studies show there is often a dissonance between the policies of a company and the management’s actual practice. Having a work-at-home policy means nothing if that policy is never approved by management. Economies of time are central for success for both a business and a parent. A business manager needs enough man hours to complete a task but valued parent-workers needs time to pick up children from school and handle kid-related emergencies.

Sometimes it will be the HR director’s job to mediate this balance of time and responsibility. This may require conversations with managers, but it could also mean offering the parent-worker alternative job responsibilities. Researchers are finding that the stresses of being both a parent and a successful employee are opening up people returning to the workforce to the idea of changing career paths. Making this a possibility can be good for all parties involved.


Photo Credit

About the Author:  Ruth Harris has been a HR consultant in the Bay area for ten years. When she’s not at the office, she enjoys spending time with her kids and exploring the city of San Francisco. 

Business Etiquette – Are We Focusing on the Wrong Things?

Posted on May 13th, by Jennifer Payne in Business and Workplace, On My Mind. No Comments


I had the opportunity recently to participate in an employer and student roundtable discussion at a local college.  The purpose of this project was to connect business leaders and HR professionals with college students to discuss the perceived and actual gaps in college level curriculum in preparing students for jobs and careers after graduation.  In other words, as business and HR leaders, what did we wish students knew, or what skills did we wish they had upon graduation that would make them more valuable contributors to our businesses much more quickly?

The concept of this roundtable was great, and the discussions enlightening for both sides for the most part.  But one part of the discussion bothered me, and still does several weeks later; that was the discussion about “business etiquette.”

You see, there was a belief in the room among many of the business professionals that students come into the workplace ill prepared for the realities of the workplace, that they don’t understand how to act in a professional setting.  I do think this can be true to an extent, and there’s nothing wrong with setting expectations about dress code, or providing guidelines or reminders that it may be inconsiderate to take a conference call on speakerphone when you’re working in a cubicle situation.  There are many appropriate and helpful things that we can do and steps that we can take as employers throughout the onboarding process to help them to acclimate.  However, rather than a discussion about learning to navigate corporate culture and/or politics, it became a discussion that I could only describe as a lack of adherence to “work rules.”

The example was raised of a new employee who was found wearing headphones at his desk (presumably listening to music as he worked), and the discussion became a little heated with strong convictions about how new employees need to learn that this is not acceptable.  But I question….why this rule in the first place?  Are the headphones truly inhibiting productivity?  Unless this employee was working in a call center, or the headphones were preventing him from hearing his phone ring, is there really any harm?  Is it possible that he does a lot of independent work (writing, coding, etc.) and music motivates him? Maybe his work requires a great deal of concentration and the headphones/music blocks out the distractions around him?

What was particularly bothersome to me is that the professionals who were in the room represented some very highly respected companies.  They were all obviously very successful, and offered a multitude of excellent advice in other aspects of the discussion.  Yet when it came to work rules, the opinions were clear.

Too often, we as HR professionals get so fixated on the rules or the policies that we lose sight of why those rules are even in place to begin with, and fail to question whether or not they should be.  There is absolutely a place for workplace guidelines, and some policies need to be in place to protect our employees (workplace violence, sexual harassment, etc.)  Burt why do we continue to be fixated by arbitrary work rules?  Because that’s how it’s always been?  Because “our” way of working is right and “theirs” is wrong?  Why aren’t we talking about teaching and coaching our new employees on the importance of building relationships and internal networking?  About how to assess a corporate culture and learn how to navigate politics….and not politics in a bad way, but politics in the sense of learning who knows what, and who your best sources are when you need information, help, etc?  Why are we so worried about who is following which arbitrary rule, instead of learning how to get the best and most productive output from our new employees?

My contribution to this discussion and advice to the students was the following:  not all cultures are the same.  Some will allow certain things, some won’t.  Some will be more rigid, some will be more flexible.  Not every culture is going to be like Zappos or Google, but don’t think every workplace with be rigid, either.  Figure out the level of rigidity you think you would be able to tolerate, and then learn how to research company cultures to find employers where you know you’ll be comfortable and be able to do your best work.


Photo Credit


About the Author: Jennifer Payne, SPHR has over 16 years of HR experience in employee relations, talent acquisition, and learning & development, and currently works in talent management in the retail grocery industry.  She is one of the co-founders of Women of HR, and is currently the Editor of the site. You can connect with her on Twitter as @JennyJensHR and on LinkedIn.

How Dorothy Got Her Groove Back

Posted on February 18th, by Dorothy Douglass in On My Mind. 2 comments

2013 was NOT a good year for me.  In my head, that is.  Mentally, I felt burned out, disconnected, wondering if I needed to make a  professional change, and at times,  I felt frustrated in my HR role.  Twelve years (now starting year 13) is a “record” for me in any position.

In prior careers, I got bored, frustrated, fed up, or felt thwarted with career growth, and moved on.  Sometimes graciously, sometimes, not so much.  Hopefully I’ve learned from each of those other roles, and grown wiser as well as older.  Now having been in HR for more than 17 years has given me so much ability to look back over my own career and learn life lessons. I spent a LOT of time ‘inside’ my own head in 2013, struggling with potentially life-changing and career-changing decisions last year.

I feel like I’m back in the groove in 2014, and I feel more connected to the organization and more engaged in my job.  I cannot put my finger on exactly why or when that happened, but here are a few thoughts, perhaps ‘tips’ for others,  on my challenges from last year.

  • Don’t let your (bad, poor) attitude bleed over to your direct reports.  This is possibly the hardest thing of all for me.  I am pretty transparent in what I share with my team, and in my body language.  I’m not sure I fooled them, but they were gracious enough, gave me space, time, and the ability to work through my own head.  Which leads me to,
  • Put a great work team in place.  Select the smartest, most talented people you can, teach them what you want and need them to know, then set them free to chart their professional course.  Sometimes that will mean you need to let go, delegate more, or trust in their decisions.  Do this.  As early as possible after you become a manager.  This is critical to success, and most of all, it is my work team that kept moving forward , kept getting things done and getting results in HR, that helped ‘mask’ my bad year.  In short, they made me look good.  Even when I mentally was not very good.
  • Have other activities to keep you going.  2013 was the year I took on physical challenges to get myself out of part of my funk.  I began to strength train 2-3 times per week.  I also found a ‘safety zone’ in my family at home, where I knew I would go at the end of every day.
  • Talk about your challenges with someone.  Whether professionally with a life coach, or with a good friend.  In my case, as in many HR professionals’ worlds, I cannot share specifics of work challenges, but I do have close friends with whom I could share my general malaise.  They listened.  Encouraged.  Let me know I was indeed human.  And though I’m not generally a hugger, they gave me hugs – mentally, physically.  Often, when I needed them most.
  • Take time off.  We have a generous paid time off policy where I work – another perk one has to think of, when considering change.  I used my time.  Sometimes one day at a time.  And I planned for two weeks off at year-end.  In a very warm climate.  With my family.  I had this to look forward to as I plugged through my 2013.
  • Before you leap, step back and look around.  I was likely pretty transparent to many around me.  I had many colleagues stop by to check on me last year.  Just to “see how I was doing.”  Obviously, I must have been transparent with how I was feeling.  Looking back and reflecting, I have it pretty good where I am.   I have great colleagues, the very best team I could ask for, a great job with great benefits and perks, and even a really good boss.
  • Share, in a professional way, your career desires or work frustrations, with your boss.   Sometimes, it’s just having a secure outlet to share work frustrations that helps.  Sometimes, getting another’s perspective from their seat allows for attitude adjustment to happen.  I had a good discussion with my boss during performance review time.  I let him know that I sometimes need him to spend just a little of his valuable time with me.  That time alone, is very engaging for me.  I appreciate the confidence he has placed in me, his trust of me, and the value he places on HR in the organization.

I’m engaged in my work right now, and aiming for a great 2014.  What turned it around?  I’m not sure.  Perhaps it was the two weeks off I took near year end, and the full week I spent lounging in Key West with my family.  Perhaps it was inward reflection on what a great place I indeed work – and all the perks and benefits I have here.  Perhaps it was my friends. Perhaps it was the great HR team who figuratively carried me through 2013, when I couldn’t walk myself.   Maybe it was all of those things.  I think I have my groove back.  Let’s go!!


Photo credit

 About the Author:  Dorothy Douglass is Vice President of Human Resources & Training at MutualBank, an Indiana-based financial institution.  She began her career with Mutual in 2001 as Human Resources Manager, and is a graduate of Ball State University.  She is proud to have been in Human Resources now for more than 17 years and is continuing to “lean in” and working to influence the “people management” side of her organization.  She is passionate about managing and developing people; and I have yet to be bored in 13+ years in her current job.   She considers herself fairly tech-UN-savvy, though has immersed herself in Facebook and LinkedIn.  She’s still working on the Twitter-sphere & has goals to blog more in 2014.

The Advice I Didn’t Take

Posted on September 19th, by Heather Rose in Business and Workplace. No Comments

One year into my HR career I hired my first direct report.  I formed the job description, posted it on a jobs site and reviewed resumes as they came in.  I felt like it was a stepping stone for me professionally, and I looked forward to having someone to develop and mentor.

After interviewing candidates I ended up hiring a referral from a co-worker that was an ideal Specialist to assist my HR Supervisor role.  I could delegate a project with general guidelines and know it would be a success.

Fast forward several months, and due to a restructuring I inherited another direct report that didn’t turn out to be as easy to deal with.  Daily life in the office became a challenge, and since I was still fairly new to having direct reports I went to my manager for advice.  For the most part I felt that we were on the same page, but when another member of the team brought to my attention possible wrongdoing by my direct report, I was surprised to learn my manager and I didn’t agree on next steps.  Having been provided supporting documentation to the suspected violation, I was ready to investigate the issue and further discuss with my direct report.  My manager, however, did not think it needed to be investigated at the time and suggested waiting to see what came of the situation.

After thinking it through and discussing with another trusted colleague I decided to go against my manager’s advice and address the issue at hand.  Feeling that my own credibility was on the line if didn’t look into the matter, I was proud that I stood my ground and did what was right to acknowledge the problem.

You may find yourself in a similar situation where you are at odds with professional advice you were given.  Take it into consideration, but also ensure that you fully research the topic at hand to ensure you have all necessary information.  Discuss with your network to hear several other viewpoints, and if appropriate, consult your company’s policies and procedures.  Trust in your analysis of the case, and go forward with confidence in your decision on how best to handle.


About the Author: Heather Rose, PHR is an HR Professional with over 6 years experience supporting top organizations’ HR functions. In addition to her career in HR, Heather enjoys writing about her life adventures, reading and traveling. You can connect with Heather on LinkedIn.


Photo credit iStockphoto

Feeling Under-Appreciated? Here’s How You Can Make It Better…

Posted on August 6th, by Rowena Morais in Personal & Professional Development. 2 comments

Who doesn’t feel under-appreciated at some point or other? You’ve done some good work, you’ve made a hard call on an important issue. But sometimes doing this, in itself, is not enough. You want recognition and appreciation of your contribution. And it is not coming your way. Waves of sadness, regret or perhaps anger or disappointment may engulf you.

Feeling under-appreciated happens and the best thing you can do is realize that while you can’t control how people react or respond to you or your efforts, you certainly can have a say in how you deal with that. So, here’s how you can help yourself feel better if you ever feel under-appreciated.

Recognize the situation

Spend a little time evaluating the situation. Recognize what you are feeling and consider why you feel this way. It takes effort to move beyond the rawness of the emotion into an analysis of why this is happening and what the primary cause of your emotion is. The aim here is to get past just being purely led by emotion – when you start thinking it through, it’s only natural that there is less focus on emotion.

Don’t take on more

If you are doing the work because you are craving recognition, come to terms that it is not happening. If you find a reason for carrying on for yourself, then do that. But if there is no reason to do it for yourself, then decide that you will take on no more. It could be for a time or permanently – the decision on the timeframe need not necessarily be made right now.

Promote your brand and your work

Successful people do not get anywhere simply doing good work and letting it shine through or waiting for it to be discovered. You have to adopt a brazen attitude, deftly balancing between arrogance and a quiet confidence as you articulate your brand proposition and speak for your work. Your life’s presentation must take on a balance of both good work and effective presentation.

Push back

Yes, that’s right. We don’t always have to say yes to every project, every email, every offer and in the time frame dictated to us. We simply cannot live our life at the demands and whims of those around us – we too need to know our own priorities and deadlines and work to make that central to what we do and who we are.

Find a way to renew and regenerate

Balance is key to achieving what we set out to do, and balance means different things to different people. What is important is that it works for you, regardless of whether it works for others. Stop, pause, reflect. Do what you need to, to renew yourself. In the process, it will be less relevant that you are not appreciated as you find solace and a centeredness in self-reliance.

Rowena Morais is the Editor of HR Matters  Magazine, a quarterly print publication aimed at Human Resource  professionals.  She is also the co-founder and Programme Director at Flipside, a business services company with offices in Malaysia and Singapore, providing professional  certification training. Here, she provides strategic direction as well as  oversight on client training and corporate functional  areas. Rowena blogs about developing habits, execution, growth and personal  development. She lives in Kuala Lumpur with her husband, two  young kids and now, a newborn. Connect with Rowena at editor@hr-matters.info.


Photo credit iStockphoto


The Power of 3: 3 Years of the Women of HR

Posted on June 4th, by Shauna Moerke in Business and Workplace. 3 comments

Can you believe that it has been 3 years since the Women of HR site started? Wohoo!! What a crazy fun ride it has been. Over the past 3 years we have seen a lot of change: new contributors, awesome content and series, and now, we even have a new Editor in Chief in Jenny Payne!

As this site continues to grow and develop, I think back on why we started it in the first place. We wanted to build a site that was a community. A site where women in HR or not could help build each other up and make valuable connections. We wanted it to be a forum where we could voice our concerns, disagree, and find solutions.

We hope that for you as members of this community, that it has been that and more. I want to thank YOU for your continued support, encouragement, and readership. This site wouldn’t exist except for you.

But besides gratitude, I want to also issue a call to action. Whether this is the first time visiting us or you have been a longtime member of our community, we want to hear from you. Tell us what you like, don’t like, and want to see more of. We want you to jump on in and participate, not just through readership and comments but by suggesting new ideas and even getting fingers to your keyboards and become a contributor. If this site is for you, then we need you to help us make it everything you need it to be.

Thank you so much to the amazing Lisa Rosendahl for running the site and making it everything it is today. Thank you to the wonderful Jenny Payne for stepping in to take the site to the next level. Thank you to Trish McFarlane, Sarah White, and Charee Klimek who are the best women and co-founders who helped start this crazy ride. Thank you to Lance Haun for doing so much work for us and who is so generous with his time and knowledge. Thank you to Lyn Hoyt for all her wonderful design work and help. And of course, thank you to all our amazing contributors, both past a present, who have given the Women of HR site a voice. Your amazing insights and content have literally made us the site we are today and for that we are all grateful for.

So cheers everybody, and let’s work hard together to make the next year of Women of HR another awe inspiring one!

Compassion and the HR Professional

Posted on May 7th, by Bonni Titgemeyer in Business and Workplace, Leadership, Networks, Mentors and Career. 7 comments

It happens to all of us in HR at some point in our lives.  We find ourselves caught in an awkward position at work and we ask ourselves, “What is the best response here?”

I am talking about situations where compassion is needed, but with extenuating circumstances.  You’ve encountered the scenario before.  An employee confides something deeply personal:

  • A health issue
  • A break-up
  • Bankruptcy
  • An unexpected pregnancy

She is coming to you not really as a friend, but as someone who she thinks can help her.  She wants:

  • Advice
  • A break
  • Support
  • Shelter

She doesn’t know or understand the awkward position this possibly puts you in.  The information she provides may or may not be true.  You know that:

  • Her supervisor is at his wits end because her performance is so poor
  • She was late again three times this week
  • The organization doesn’t have a warm and fuzzy culture with flexibility
  • There are impending layoffs and her employment is at risk

What are your responsibilities in this situation?  How involved should you be?  How do you protect company interests while being a human being?

Human resources practitioners are not registered psychologists or social workers.  We are not “Mother Theresa”.  For most of us, our employers do not want or expect us to be advocates for the downtrodden, but we are expected to be kind, helpful and looking for the win-win.  We do not have a magic wand.  Therefore suffice to say that there are no clear cut answers about the level of compassion we need to provide in these tough situations, only possible approaches.

Here are some things you can do:

  1. To the extent possible, help her find professional help.  Does your benefit plan offer an EAP?  Are there help lines or government services available?  Is counseling a covered benefit?  Keep abreast of the resources available to a person in need and share them freely.  Short lists are better than single resources.  Encourage her to make the call.  That way, you don’t have to give advice or get overly involved.
  2. Are there small things you can do?  Can she borrow your office for 20 minutes to get her composure or to make a private call?  Is there some small token you have that you can give to her to show her that you and the Company care?
  3. Be clear about what you can and can’t keep confidential and your channel of communication within the organization.  For most employees, the role of HR is unclear, which in many cases leads to the risk that an employee won’t come and see us out of fear or mistrust, even when it is prudent that they do so.
  4. Encourage her to be discrete about whom she confides in about the circumstances.  The workplace is full of people who are your frenemies.  Your Company has policies regarding fair treatment but you can’t control everything.   While it has become commonplace for stars to rise out of their personal meltdowns, it is more difficult for the rest of us to do so.   Also a privately-managed issue will likely result in less workplace disruption.
  5. Be clear about the conundrum created when personal information like this is shared with someone in HR.  Ask for clarity on the reasons she came to you and what she expects your involvement to be. Be clear about what you can and can’t do for her.
  6. With regards to how the personal situation impacts her job, encourage her to speak with her Supervisor and to be open to possible solutions.  Offer to open the discussion with the Supervisor if you feel there may be a risk that the Supervisor may not handle the situation in a manner appropriate to the circumstances.  If it is possible, try to create clarity about the continuing performance expectations and work through strategies to address them.  Try to keep to as much of a third-party approach as possible.
  7. Get legal advice as needed.  There are a myriad of potential challenges that could present themselves if down the line she is terminated. It could be construed that you used the knowledge gained in the circumstances inappropriately with undesirable consequences.

Above all, be genuine.  The success of the outcome is in direct relation to your ability to:

  • Be compassionate
  • Think on your feet
  • Keep your head
  • See it through

Good luck!

Photo credit iStockphoto

Resolve to Quit Sabotaging Your Success

Posted on January 1st, by Hanadi El Sayyed in Networks, Mentors and Career. 1 Comment

I was chatting with a colleague over coffee discussing how stressful 2012 was. We chatted about the targets we missed, the challenges we faced, and we went on and on with an amazing crystal clear memory of everything we knew we could have done better. We suddenly stopped and gazed astonishingly at each other. Just the day before, both of us were awarded by the CEO for our achievements in 2012. And here we were, less than 24 hours later, sounding like total quitters instead of behaving as winners.

When did we learn to become so harsh on ourselves and why do we do that to ourselves?

I went home thinking whether this has got to do with us women so passionately engulfed with proving ourselves and our capabilities in the workplace. In the midst of it all, have we become blind to our success stories that we fail to promote them, celebrate them and more alarmingly, reward ourselves for them?

The answer is an unfortunate, “yes” and this is a fact regardless of which part of the world we come from, our culture or our background. Women are raised to constantly watch what they say, cautioned against strong personalities, taught to remain low key, to name a few.

There is a plethora of business literature and research describing the challenges women put up with in the corporate world due to stereotypes and perceptions, male dominance, limited opportunities, lower wages compared to male colleagues and the reasons behind it all. As undoubtedly and genuinely that these challenges exist, it is not my intention here to go over these. My real aim is to initiate our thinking process by asking ourselves the following question,

“What has each one of us done to bring a change to our situation?”

Let’s face it, for a lot of us, we fear being judged so we react in manners that may further contribute to our withdrawal into our own caves rather than pushing us out into the front rows. Here are some of the behaviors we should consider reshaping, changing and even stopping those which are nothing but self-sabotage:

  • You quietly and eagerly wait to be assigned to a project. You know you can do it, so you hope that your boss recognizes that. Wrong. Go after the opportunity when you see it, do not wait for it to knock on your door. This will do miracles if you are a team leader. It reaffirms you as leader of the pack.
  • You dread to fail even before starting. You become risk averse and dare not to think out of the box

    . Think again. It’s perfectly ok if you fail. Failure is all about lessons learned and can only make you stronger. Your resilience level is an indication of your leadership skills. So even when you fail use it to your advantage.

  • You do not celebrate your success. You achieve a difficult target, and if you are lucky enough your boss recognizes that, otherwise, your achievements go unnoticed. Whilst it’s not realistic to ask for that pat on the back every time you lift a pen, please stop being modest and reserved when it comes to major accomplishments. Celebrate your success with your team, family, and even friends. Be self-appreciative before you ask others to appreciate you.
  • You are quiet in meetings. Do you offer your opinion only when asked to?  Or do you not know when – or how – to interject in a conversation? Time for a change here, too. Don’t be afraid to speak up. Yes it can feel very intimidating at first but by practicing the use of some idioms in the right context such as “I’m thinking out loud” or “I’m playing the devil’s advocate here”, or “it might be a silly question…” will help you overcome this fear and seamlessly insert you in the discussion. You owe it to yourself and your team to let your opinion be heard.

Don’t be afraid to disagree on a business related matter as long as you do it in a professional manner. If you want to point out a wrong thing being said, do that without being offensive or defensive. Discussions can sometimes be aggressive, so avoid emotional pitfalls. And whatever you do, hold those tears please. Be assertive and remain in self-control mode.

With many of us in the process of shaping our resolutions, let’s agree on making the new year our year of small but effective changes. True, it’s a long and winding road ahead of women in the business world however by being able to adapt some of our behaviors to become enablers can only be of help to us in our journey.

About the author: Hanadi El Sayyed is a Senior Human Resources Business Partner working for Majid Al Futtaim Properties, the market leader in development and management of shopping malls in the Middle East. Based in Dubai she  specialises in strategic workforce planning and development with an emphasis on corporate sustainability and sustainable development. You can reach her on Linkedin or on Twitter as@Hana_ElSayyed.


Women of HR’s Lilith Fair

Posted on December 30th, by Bonni Titgemeyer in Community and Connection. 2 comments

This holiday week we are featuring some of our top posts on Women of HR. Enjoy!

I am a huge fan of Sarah McLachlan. She’s a brilliant musician and entrepreneur.

That’s right, e-n-t-r-e-p-r-e-n-e-u-r.

You see, Sarah figured out that if we stopped making the music business competitive, and instead collaborative, there would be far more female musicians out there that would have their shot at real success. She pushed to create all-female led-band concerts.

And Lilith Fair was born.

The statistics on Lilith Fair’s success are astounding when you realize that nothing like it existed before. In the 1990s, the Lilith Fair concert series earned more than $16M in ticket sales. The concert was sold out in virtually every city where it was booked. It was girl-power extraordinaire.

In the years following the Lilith Fair tour, we saw many more female musicians in airplay. Their music was softer, harder, richer and gutsier than ever. Men showed up. The riffs are more complicated now. The lyrics cover more diverse subjects. The music has taken us beyond Carly Simon, Joni Mitchell and Helen Reddy.

In our profession, WOHR is our Lilith Fair. It is incredibly cool to have a space where women (and men) celebrate our profession in a collaborative fashion, without it being all gooey.

That isn’t to say that women have experienced challenges in our profession, in fact we dominate the profession, but it is to say that we are at the stage where we can now influence our profession by celebrating who we really are. It is no longer about towing the company line. It is no longer about crafting a dated message. It is about putting a human touch on human resources.

When I made my first post on WOHR a couple of months ago, I was overwhelmed by the positive feedback. I realized that I was not the only HR Pro who enjoyed muscle cars, college football, baking and puppies. The experienced fueled a growing list of things to blog about.

And, I can write about all sorts of subjects without feeling like I need to put on my business jacket with the extra-wide shoulder pads.

Even more significant, I found a whole lot of great HR Pros to follow and support.

Sarah McLachlan’s career skyrocketed during Lilith Fair and she has earned a place among music’s elite. The same is true for many of the other artists on the tour.

If we all continue to collaborate, won’t the same thing happen here too?

Photo Credit, People Magazine, July 19, 2010, via Lilith