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!
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
- An unexpected pregnancy
She is coming to you not really as a friend, but as someone who she thinks can help her. She wants:
- A break
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:
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
Photo credit iStockphoto
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.
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
Recently I attended the Ohio HR Conference, HR Rocks!! As part of the planning committee, it was a great experience for many reasons.
One reason it was so great was that we told attendees they could wear jeans. Amazing how something so simple could set the tone for the week. Our committee wore tie-dye all week with our jeans and invited people to relax in our lounge filled with lava lamps, candles and incense – at an HR Conference!
One experience last week has stuck with me the most . . .
During lunch on Thursday, our 770+ attendees and our 160+ resource partners all gathered to savor the incredible Fajita Bar. Plates were loaded beyond capacity and hands were full as people approached a separate beverage station to grab a glass of water, lemonade or ice tea. The Kalahari staff were so amazing the whole week – especially here. But, even as much as they tried, the line continued to grow and grow and grow.
Before the week started, I told my Committee that I wanted to set a new expectation for us and the Conference attendees. I wanted us to serve them in ways they hadn’t experienced at a conference before. To make sure I didn’t fall into the classic HR trap of – just tell people what you expect and they’ll do it – I made sure to model this behavior.
So, I jumped in the front of the beverage line and started greeting everyone as they came up and handed them a glass full of ice. Then, the phenomenal team of Joan, Sonja and Keysha poured everyone’s liquid of choice and made sure to get more glasses to keep up with the demand. After stepping in, you started to hear laughing, see big smiles and positive comments from everyone instead of typical frustration with having to wait on service.
People said, “Wow, service with a smile!” I couldn’t resist but responding with, “Better than service with a scowl, huh?” It was the most rewarding 1/2 hours of the entire conference. We were able to serve our guests so that they could enjoy their lunch. Also, the staff from Kalahari saw that their work added immense value by meeting a simple need for others.
It’s time for HR to shift to a new approach. Instead of trying to mandate policies, force conformity and compliance at all costs, or be the function that polices vs. leads – we need to MODEL THE BEHAVIOR WE EXPECT FROM OTHERS.
We can’t keep expecting change to magically happen because we’ve come up with the next great “best practice.” Model behavior. It’s that simple.
To prove that point, Sonja, Joan, Keysha and I became tight. The rest of the week, I sought them out and they did likewise. I heard they even talked about the tall guy in the tie-dye shirt who jumped into help without asking if it was okay. They were some of the final hugs at the end of the week and I’m sure they will continue to be amazing.
Where can you change and model what you’d like to see? Try something this week and you’ll be astonished at the results!
Although I once wrote a post denying the existence of the glass ceiling, it occurred to me recently that men do have one big career advantage: wives.
Oh, for one of those! Someone who shops, cleans, picks up the kids from school, checks their homework and has a nice dinner waiting for you when you come home from the office (even if it’s take out). Someone to cover your back at home so you can travel, attend late meetings, network after hours and generally be seen after 4 p.m..
Before you write me off as a sexist pig, I realize that the modern husband is a far cry from the typical diaper allergic husband of, say, the ’50s. And the modern wife isn’t necessarily a wife at all, and may not even be female. Nonetheless, there tends to be one person in any partnership who assumes the bulk of the household chores and childcare, even if both partners work. And for lack of a better word I’m going to call that person a ‘wife.’
I love spending time with my kids but I enjoy working, too. And I sometimes envy my husband when I have to shut down in the middle of an interesting thought to pick up the kids while he finishes his work in relative peace and quiet before coming home to a somewhat clean house, fed children and a home-cooked meal.
My husband, by the way, is very supportive and spends a lot of quality time with our kids. He is also a wonderful cook, will shop in a pinch and has been known to clean the kitchen. But typically I’m the one who leaves work early, provides primary childcare and logs back on after they go to bed to finish up my work.
That’s why when my husband recently asked me what I wanted for my birthday I said I wanted a wife for a day. That’s right, for one day I wanted to go to work in the morning, work until I was finished and come home to smiling children in pajamas. I wanted dinner on the table and a ‘get out of cleaning the kitchen’ card.
I thought about holding out for folded laundry but decided not to press my luck.
My husband listened to my birthday request in silence, thought about it for a moment then asked, ‘Just one day, right?’
So if you’re wondering how to show your appreciation for that special working mom in your life, why not consider trading places for a day. Man up and be a mom, so to speak. As an added bonus, it’s a great chance to get in touch with your inner wife.
P.S. I hope he doesn’t ask me to file our multi-country tax returns for his birthday.
Photo credit iStockphoto
As we remember the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, it brings an extra poignant punch to me. My mom died that week too. It wasn’t in New York, Pennsylvania or Washington, D.C. It was in a tiny rural Iowa hospital. I spent her last few days of fighting breast cancer, stranded in the heartland with no way to return myself and 10-month-old son to Texas where my husband was separated from his family, holding together the staff of our company and wondering what was going to happen next. My heart was broken 3 days later again when mom left us too.
The loss of my mother was the most painful thing I have been through in my life. Yet, it gave me a gift. It gave me empathy for those going through the loss of a loved one. Unfortunately, this understanding has been tapped many times as the demographics of our company has hit the stage where many are losing parents. I understand that grief doesn’t end when the legal paperwork of the estate gets wrapped up. It doesn’t ease up at the same time or in the same way for everyone. I know that you can bury the feelings and yet they can still be there.
I lived through the following year of 2001-2002 and all the uncertainty the world felt, with an additional anger of being robbed of the sweetest person I will ever meet. I watched the 1-year anniversary roll around with quite a bit of media fanfare and I realized that this would happen for my family forever. Everyone on my staff and my friends that knew us then, remember with me now. Yet others have the date of the loss of their loved ones slip by with few others knowing they need a pat on the back, maybe a little extra time on a deadline or a complete distraction for a few moments on a rough day.
I have no grief counseling training. I am only speaking from experience. I have watched the pain of way too many employees as they know the death of a parent is coming and the inevitable loss. I have been held tight in a hug of more than 1 employee who otherwise may have not touched a co-worker for more than a handshake. But when you are genuine in your kind words at a time when you can tell the pain is there, they grasp to the one who can show them life will go on with a new normalcy. I have found fewer words are often better and an open door is welcome. Keeping the grieving person engaged is usually needed and it usually helps.
It is still draining for me when any of my friends or employees go through the loss of a loved one. It grabs my heart and I feel further invested in them. For me, each time, I can frankly only soothe myself by saying, “at least I won’t have to lose my Mom ever again.” Sometimes that is how I get though it quickly. I can’t believe it has been 10 years since I heard my Mom’s voice but I know I love her as much today as I ever have, so I know it’s all OK.
The 9/11 anniversary is a reminder for each of us to think about what grief is and how we help others deal with it. I can assure you I am willing to help you through it if you want to chat.
Photo credit iStockphoto
A candle does not lose its flame when it lights another candle – Akinyi
If there is anything I have learned in life, it is that we are always fighting against each other to be number one.
Whether it is witholding information so we can seem smarter than our colleague or not truly listening in meetings because we need to be ready to refute what our teammate is saying because we have a better idea and need to look better than s/he, it’s all still the same. When we try to outsmart each other, not truly listen or, in essence, not be a true teammate - we are missing out.
If I interrupt someone in a meeting to give my idea (which maybe have been what my colleague was going to get to before I rudely interrupted), that person will feel small. If I do everything I can to withhold information (lack of knowledge transfer), my team loses out.
I absolutely struggled with this my first few years out of college. I was trying to prove myself; my team needed to know I had a brain and that I could use it appropriately. In doing this, I created a monster: me.
I always felt like someone was trying to make me feel small. I thought it was the culture so,in turn, I did it to people who were hired after me. And guess what that got me? You betcha – absolutely nothing.
What did it create? A walking-on-eggshells sort of relationship with my cohorts. I was always on edge, wanting to be the first to have the answer, to have the new and innovative idea and to be the best. I’m a middle child so, of course, I wanted to be the best. It’s who I am, it’s in my blood.
But what if my TEAM is the best?
When I look at work teams that are strong, I see cohesiveness and team members working and learning together as one. I learn a lot more from others than from trying to be the best me on my own. The more I allow myself to accept the flames of others, the brighter I’ll be. If I take my flame, turn to my colleague and light his/her candle, the brighter we will burn together.
Photo credit iStockPhoto
You think HR is tough? Try naming a blog.
Before I was a technical recruiter and during my stint as a corporate HR coordinator, I got into baking. Not just every now and then baking – oh no, I fell in love with baking. I became obsessed. I absorbed great baking blogs like Joy the Baker and Baking Obsession. After days of deliberating over a name, I started my own baking blog, Love and Cinnamon.
I have been writing guest blog entries on HR and Social Media for my company since August. I wanted more. I wanted to develop my writing skills and write about everything I love: yoga, cooking, baking, HR, recruiting, and social media. I wanted a new blog. How would I create a blog that combines all of these things?
What would I even call it?
First, I did what would any good social media devotee do. That’s right. I asked my Twitter feed. The responses I received were from folks who write about an incredible array of topics like student affairs, knitting and joy, and local sports. The general consensus was that a blog name should encompass what you’re passionate about and what you will be writing about.
Ok. Now, what kind of a blog name encompasses HR, yoga, and baking?
I took my quest to the next level and searched online for articles on naming your blog. The amount of resources out there on how to find a blog name is absolutely astounding. There are lists of blog titles for various industries, how to guides, and blog name generators. Wordoid was a lot of fun to play with. The best suggestion I found was to make a list of all the different things you’re interested in and then try to create a name out of that. This led to glorious work-of-art names like Cooking HR Yogini and Moksha HR.
Another web site, suggesting a list of descriptive words and adjectives, led me to an endless search for synonyms of words and concepts like volunteer, “five lakes state”, diva, passion, and energy. I read many articles suggesting PR professionals name their blogs with their own name. My name is Emily White. Not very original or unique or memorable! Umm…yeah…still no solid names came to mind, just a lot of fantastical names like Social Firebird and Social Light Em. Ha! No.
It was time to take this discussion to the professional HR world. I posed the question to the Women of HR on LinkedIn Group. Women of HR group members joined the discussion, added explanations of their own blog names and offered ideas on how to choose a name. Turns out that I was not the only blogger to have an issue finding a creative, yet meaningful, blog name!
Some bloggers started blogs and transformed them into new ones once they had created an identity. Others utilized their surroundings and profession to create a name. Many bloggers had gone to their family, friends, and colleagues and asked for suggestions. Creative word plays were suggested, like taking words that end in “er” and using “HR” instead. The Women of HR are an incredible hive of creative minds!
After much deliberation, hours of chewing on the mental blog name bone, and coming up with many crazy blog names, I decided to create two separate blogs. One for cooking and yoga, Love and Cinnamon, and another for HR, PR, and Social Media, HR Wildwood.
The power of a network.
Thank you to everyone for your support and assistance. If you are looking to name a blog, I am here to help!
Photo credit iStockphoto
Motherhood. This is the single most difficult and demanding job any woman could have.
Mothering twins should be twice as hard, right? Wrong.
Since women began flooding the workforce in the 1970’s, the challenges of being a working mother have multiplied. There are issues with day care selection, breastfeeding, whether to work full or part time, and making sure your children are developing properly, to name a few.
As a mother of infant boy/girl twins, I faced many sleepless nights worrying about these things until it hit me. By using some basic business management principles, it is possible to be a success at home and at work.
Borrowing from Henri Fayol, an important figure in the turn-of-the-century Classical School of management theory, there are five key components to a manager’s job. They are:
- Coordinating activities
- Controlling performance
By putting these management skills into place at home in a fun way, it makes being a working parent of multiples that much easier.
Finding out you are pregnant with twins is the shock of a lifetime. Once you get past that initial reaction though, there are many ways you can plan and prepare that will make your life easier once the twins are born. The first thing you need to do is realize that for all the best laid plans, no two children are the same. I have found that as sure as something works for one twin, something completely different will work with the other. That said, some planning is necessary.
- Join a support group. The National Organization of Mothers of Twins, Inc. (www.nomotc.org) is a great place to start. The website has great resources for parents of multiples and you can meet other mothers who will give you practical advice to get you through your pregnancy and tips on being successful once the twins arrive.
- Contact companies that make baby products. Many such as Gerber, Pampers, Huggies, Enfamil, and Johnson & Johnson have special offers for families of multiples. Sign up and you will receive coupons that will save you hundreds of dollars.
- Use online auction sites to purchase many items in bulk. You can find everything from formula to disposable diapers.
Schedule, schedule, schedule. The hardest part of being a new parent is having a baby that is not on a schedule. So, multiply that by additional babies and you can see where the problems begin. You don’t have to schedule out every minute of the day, however, scheduling the critical feeding times is a must when you have more than one baby to contend with. It will make life easier and you will find you have the ability to take the babies out into the world easier because you know when they will have their needs met.
My approach to mothering multiples as it applies to commanding was very soft. I’d say that “nudging” their behavior has been what has worked best over the course of the past seven years. When you have two children, any time one is in trouble, the other twin is watching and waiting to jump in to the defense of their brother or sister (unless they were fighting with each other). So, they learn how mom or dad behaves to the sibling and then they exploit it the next time they are doing something wrong.
The best commander knows when to use a gentle approach, when to bring out the big guns, and how to pick their battles so that they walk away from the small stuff.
Take time out to enjoy the twins together and individually. One of the most surprising things to me has been my twins’ desire to be together most of the time. I assumed that having boy/girl twins that they would not be attached as same sex twins. I was wrong! Still to this day I can’t take one to the mall or out to do something fun without them wanting to call each other and check in throughout the day. So now, my husband and I work with this and make sure to build in talk-time for the twins when we take them out separately.
Like any good manager knows, it is not possible to control performance. You can set up an environment in your home where you teach love, respect, trust, and other key values. You can demonstrate living those values for your kids. Those are the two components that should lead to having the children behave in a manner that will make you proud.
All these principles work whether you are raising twins or kids in general. The best thing I’ve learned by mothering is that it makes me a better manager at work too.
What do you think? Do you mother like you manage and manage like you mother?
Photo credit iStock Photo