It’s Not Them. It’s Us.

HR playlist

I’m sitting here at the 5+-month mark since my state first implemented #StayAtHome orders. Since then, as has occurred across the globe, we’ve moved into new phases (“woo hoo! restaurants and hair salons are open!”) and then dialed back when people, looking to get their party on, packed newly opened bars well above the allowed capacity (“boo! bars are now closed!”).  We now have a statewide mask mandate in place which, as should not surprise anyone, is being contested with legal injunctions because we now live in a world where things designed to promote good health and courtesy/concern for our fellow citizens has become ridiculously politicized.

HR practitioners, for the most part, view their pandemic practices and policies as non-political. What I’ve noticed however is a whiff (perhaps even a strong stench) of extreme pro-business ideology creeping into numerous HR/business deliberations and responses. Lots and lots of actions that, by their very essence, come across as extremely anti-employee.

This is not to make light of the real challenges that HR professionals have faced during 2020; they’ve had to move quickly into uncharted territory and amass a huge volume of new knowledge. That being said however, there are many who have quickly reverted back to their typical and traditional mindset – spinning a golden oldies playlist at an event when the partygoers have changed.

Amongst the songs being sung (over and over and over) by HR practitioners I regularly hear these Top 10 hits: 

  • Games People Play – “Our employees are claiming they have COVID19 symptoms/exposure just to get out of coming to work.”
  • Money Money Money – “No one wants to work for us because they’re making more money with expanded unemployment payments.”
  • Baby Come Back – “We’ve required all employees to return to the office; even those who were successfully working from home.”
  • Face Time is the Best Time – “No; we’re not going to consider remote work moving forward.” 
  • The Schoolhouse Blues – “Despite schools remaining closed for in-person classes we need everyone back to the office.”
  • We’re Getting Screwed – “Our employees are taking advantage of us/Covid19/ ** the situation **”

Yes; some people are crap. Yes; some people will do whatever they can to not-come-to-work. Yes; some people will spin fantastical stories or attempt to find work-arounds. 

But when we work in HR we need to approach every day and every situation with the mindset that people are inherently good and operating with the best intentions. We must avoid using sweeping generalizations that categorize our employees (OUR employees; the ones we decided were good enough to come work for us) as people whose only goal is to engage in battle with the company.

I get it; there are daily changes to safe-opening guidelines from the CDC and/or state and local entities. Our leaders and managers are demanding we fill open positions and we’re struggling with applicant flow. We’re still managing the complexities of the FFCRA in the US. 

Yet we need to navigate all these things with a modicum of grace and a measure of humanity.  We need to understand that:

  • People are fearful of this virus and do get tested if they’ve had exposure or symptoms; the only reward they get for this, in many situations, is a lower paycheck due to “unpaid” LOA.
  • If people are making more on unemployment, perhaps it’s time to take a long-hard look at the company’s compensation/wages and other terms and conditions of employment.
  • Why are people being forced to return-to-the office when they’ve successfully been working from home? Why are butts-in-chairs in one building so critical?  
  • Parents (or other family members) are struggling with a lot of uncertainty around sending their children to school OR they’re faced with the need to oversee remote learning. What about providing assistance rather than forcing them to make a difficult decision? 

So let’s change up the playlist and find some new music. (I hear those K-pop stans have some suggestions…..). 

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Group Narcissism and HR Self-Love

hypnotizing self-love

Have you ever strolled into the office of your CFO and seen an office tchotke on their bookshelf spouting the phrase “I <heart> Accounting?”  I haven’t.

How many Supply Chain Managers do you see posting on LinkedIn/Twitter/Facebook something along the line of “I LOVE my job!!!!” along with heart emojis? Probably very few.

Yet, I’m willing to wager, there’s an HR professional in your life who you have observed:

  • wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with “You can’t spell HERO without HR!” or
  • posting on the-social-media-network-of-their-choice “I love what I do!” or
  • having a pre-orgasmic meltdown at the mere anticipation of heading to the SHRM Annual Conference and listening to motivational speakers

Never have I seen a profession so in need of collective self-love and affirmation. If Tony Robbins, Marie Kondo, Stephen Covey and Oprah somehow magically had a baby, that enfant charlatan would be viewed as a GIFT by a wide audience of human resources practitioners.

It’s as if HR is a child raised in a home where parental approval was seemingly only awarded on the basis of obedient performance and achievement. Upon reaching maturity this upbringing has led to a craving for demonstrative affection, love and positive reinforcement (the kind that’s only given when something is done that pleases the parent) and therefore leads HR professionals to participate in an ongoing search for external validation for the duration of their careers.  

We see this obedience and desire-to-please in the manner in which many HR folks carry out their duties;

  • they (or their CEO) believe that HR staff must continuously have a smile (!!!) plastered on their face when walking through the office
  • they put more effort into planning parties (yes they do) and ordering the right swag for employees than they do routing out systemic organizational issues of racism or bias
  • they consider their “worth” to be determined by how well they cheerlead and rally the troops – “C’mon everyone! This ‘mandatory’ team bowling event is going to be SUPER fun!”
  • they believe that posting a quote from Brene Brown on LinkedIn and adding #LoveMyJob (along with 15 other hashtags) is meaningful employer branding  

This “rah rah HR is the greatest!” behaviorism surfaces regularly in world of HR blogging and on #HRTwitter. The platitudes and pablum are often on display within the #HRcommunity or, most glaringly, in any SHRM-affiliated hashtag convo. Everything is sunshine and rainbows and HR is the center of the universe. In numerous online conversational circles, HR folks are forever wearing a halo (the mashup of a supernova and a celestial angel) and the discussion of any shortcomings is never brought forth from the darkness. They’re indulging – in the wide-open they are! – in a mutually pleasuring group masturbation session.  

That’s some Manchurian Candidate HR sleeper-agent shit. Universities and SHRM certification courses and Fred Pryor Seminars (for the Receptionists and Office Managers who have suddenly found themselves in HR) are littering the globe with brainwashed HR practitioners who are unable to push back on the inane demands from their CEOs lest they risk losing their ‘parents’ approval (and thus the accompanying love and affection). Rather, as if acting under a hypnotic spell, this platoon of HR practitioners go forth into the world with a mission to maintain the status quo and color within the lines as they steadfastly refuse to enter into any conversations that may be critical of either their profession or their demeanor.

It’s akin, in some ways, to the reckoning we’re having in the US about our history and our country.

Protesting against injustice, questioning long-held traditions and pointing out flaws, shortcomings and failures doesn’t mean we don’t “love” something – it actually means the opposite.

We love it enough to want its survival.

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Racism: When HR is Part of the Problem

HR professionals are the architects of the employee experience. They’re the ones responsible for ensuring their workplaces are free from unlawful discrimination and racism. They’re charged with nurturing a culture that promotes diversity, inclusion and equity.  In challenging times, when people are confused and hurting and taking to the streets to protest for issues of basic human rights, employees rely on their HR team to communicate and reassure.

Numerous HR professionals are excellent at doing these things.

Others are doomed to fail miserably. 

Why? Because, unfortunately, there are far too many HR practitioners who themselves exhibit a profound lack of either understanding or care and who, to put it bluntly, are racists themselves.

Over the last several years alone I have heard the following

  • “I treat everyone the same; I don’t see color.” – OK; we can work with this one to some degree via education and conversation. Unfortunately, it was followed up (by the white, privileged HR Director) with “there is no such thing as white privilege.”
  • A local HR Director was interested in serving on a board of directors. When discussing roles and committees, including D&I, she explicitly stated, “I don’t believe in diversity; that’s all made up.”  
  • “This is a fun place. And none of ‘those people’ come here.” – spoken by an HR leader/SHRM leader to an out-of-town (white) guest who had traveled to speak at a state SHRM event.
  • “I’m not prejudiced; we had a Black housekeeper who practically raised me. She was like part of the family” – in the category of things that are Southern and problematic; see “The Help”
  • When discussing the hiring process at her company an HR practitioner said “Well, you know she’s Black so guess the only people she will ever hire?” 
  • “I don’t go to that store in that part of town; it’s too “dark” there if you know what I mean.” HR Director, 2020

Oh these HR folks aren’t using the n-word in public but they’re awfully good at using code words and euphemisms like “them” and “those people.” They realize they’re crossing a line though; you can tell that when they ‘whisper’ the offending word. 

And, of course, lots of racist white people figure they can read-the-room. They’re out having a few cocktails with HR peers or sitting at a table with other white people at a SHRM meeting and they assume everyone thinks the same as they do. There’s no holding back. They open the door on their ugly souls. 

So what to do? 

  • We must, if we work in HR, call out our HR colleagues when they say things that are hurtful, inappropriate and racist. 
  • We must continue to elevate the voices and contributions of our BIPOC colleagues EVERY DAY; not just on ‘certain days’ of the year. 

We can do better.

We have to do better. 

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A Few Considerations for Remote “Team Engagement”

remote work from home

Even as we grapple, globally, with the containment and fight of the pandemic, there are many lovely things happening as a result of the ‘Rona. One thing I’ve noticed is how my neighbors on Nextdoor are less passive-aggressive and actually being, well, neighborly! No doubt you’ve seen (or maybe even participated in) activities like:  

  • Group sing alongs in places ranging from balconies in Italy to neighborhoods in Philadelphia
  • Teddy Bear Hunts for the kids in the neighborhood
  • Kids writing letters/drawing pictures to send to residents in nursing homes

On the work front, of course, the deployment of numerous cubicle-dwellers to a new #WorkFromHome arrangement has resulted in:

  • Thousands upon thousands of blog posts and articles about how to “work from home”
  • Massive growth and usage for Zoom’s teleconferencing software and Microsoft’s cloud-computing solutions
  • Lots of snacking and day-drinking

There’s also been a lot of scrambling, by managers of these newly virtual workers, to find ways to maintain a sense of camaraderie and connection for their teams. Tips and hints are shared across social media channels as managers and HR leaders promote holding:

  • Group coffee chats and Happy Hours 
  • Scavenger Hunts (in the house)
  • Game night with trivia, bingo or “two truths and a lie
  • Group lunch gatherings 

The efforts to do these things are lovely and it’s wonderful that managers realize the importance of the human-to-human connection. However, a word of warning is in order.

Just as no one wants to have to be at the office (building) for extended hours, no one wants to have to be at the virtual office for hours on end. Even in the best of times it’s often a challenge for those who WFH to shut-it-down and draw a distinction between work time/home-time. And now, during this strange-new time when people have been sent to WFH, often with no preparation or planning, it’s more challenging than ever. I fear that for many the pressure to be “always available” is already strong, even while emanating from a place of good intentions, and will only increase as our #StayAtHome situation lingers. 

So here are a few tips for managers and HR leaders:

  • Rather than institute a group lunch (“let’s all bring our sandwich and get on a Zoom call together!”), allow your team members to take a REAL lunch break so they can get up from their work station. Encourage them to walk around the block, play with their dog, do a few stretching exercises, or take a power nap. 
  • Happy Hour is fun; for some. Just as when you gather for an in-person Happy Hour, not everyone may want to attend…and that’s….OK.  Make it acceptable for your team members to bow out, no explanations necessary.

Keeping your team connected is more important than ever…but a little team-distancing, just like social distancing, is OK.

*****

Note: the great folks at Workhuman have made their Life-Events and Conversations Products available to all organizations in response to COVID-19 crisis. Check it out here.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

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Carnival of HR – Happy 13th Anniversary Edition!

Thirteen years ago today (2/21/2007) the first Carnival of HR blog post was published. A blogging carnival (which in the pre-Instagram stories and TikTok days was quite the thing!) is a social media ‘gathering’ when a blog owner hosts and invites other bloggers to participate and contribute posts around a common theme – i.e., in this case, human resources. 

The Carnival of HR was started in those nascent days by Suzanne Lucas (@RealEvilHRLady), who then handed over the reins to Alison Green (@AskAManager) in 2008. Beginning in 2009, Shauna Griffis (@HR_Minion) took over coordinating the bi-weekly Carnival which she did until 2016 when she passed on the Ringleader duties to me. 

Sometimes, as I sit here in 2020, I wonder if blogging is gasping for the last bit of oxygen. Even as the voracious demand for ‘content’ continues, is old-school blogging still relevant? Are people reading online content or is it all about videos and Facebook Live and podcasts? Then I see Feedspot’s Top 100 HR Blogs, Websites and Influencers in 2020 (published 2 days ago) and realize there’s still a massive audience for well-written HR related content. (I’m also pleased to report that Carnival Ringleaders past-and-present – Suzanne, Allison and myself – are all on the list). 

In 2017, to commemorate the 10 year anniversary of the carnival, I wrote The Unofficial (and totally non-scientific) History of HR Blogging to document, as best we could, the evolution of HR blogging. When preparing for this 2020 anniversary I got to thinking about how the story telling and writing of people in our HR/Recruiting community broke ground, provided inspiration and busted through barriers.  

Therefore, before we launch into the submissions from our community bloggers, I’m indulging myself by sharing posts that, in my estimation, were important milestones:  

  • Everything from her first super-secret BlogSpot site/Punk Rock HR/The Cynical Girl (may they all RIP) – Laurie Ruettimann (since 2004).  Laurie paved the way for so many HR professionals by letting them know it’s OK to have a voice, speak their mind and move towards a future where not only can HR be better…but so can work. 
  • No Need to Show Up in the Office – Just Perform – Kris Dunn (12/10/2006). One of the OGs, this was Kris’ first post at the HR Capitalist before he even thought about launching Fistful of Talent; both remain 2 of the top blogs centered on talent management and HR.
  • My Learning from #truLondon – Bill Boorman (11/22/2009). Bill used to write a lot and I miss his musings on various sites. This post, in particular, highlights how gathering a community together can have a far-reaching impact. (He recently shared this post on the 10 year anniversary of #truLondon).  
  • Domestic Abuse. He Abused Me Emotionally & Physically – Jessica Miller-Merrell (4/11/2012) – I remember when Jessica shared this very personal story and how it opened conversations about some very important issues. It was quite a shock at the time for a “professional” blog to delve into such personal matters….but important.
  • The Rules About Hugging at Work – Tim Sackett (5/20/2013). Tim, of course, is the most prolific writer in the HR space and never disappoints. This blog post is HR Famous (see what I did there?) with millions (millions!) of views over the years.
  • #BlackBlogsMatter Challenge – Day 1 – Blogging While Black – Sarah Morgan (2/0/2017). When Sarah kicked off the #BlackBlogsMatter challenge 3 years ago she launched a safe space for meaningful dialogue with all who participated, with conversations that were simultaneously painful, empowering, raw and celebratory. We need this.

BONUS SHOUT OUT

NOW ONWARD! 

For the 2020 anniversary celebration I asked the Carnival of HR Community to submit a post from the past 13 years; not just from within the last few weeks.  So let’s travel through time – shall we? – and read a LOT of stuff that is STILL highly pertinent! 

2020

Why Language Representation Matters in Employee-Employer Relationships – Sabrina Baker |Acacia HR Solutions 

10 Tricky Questions About Ethics and Leadership Answered – Linda Fisher Thornton | Leading in Context 

Fire Away, Stuart: Online vs. Off the Hook (Workplace Consequences of Social Media Activity) – Stuart Rudner | Rudner Law (*** video!**) 

2019

One Sunny Morning – Mark Stelzner | Voice of HR 

Schitt$ Creek = Love and Acceptance – Anthony Paradiso

A Weird Thing That I Love – Wendy Dailey  

Makin’ It – John Baldino | Humareso 

The Most Inclusive HR Influencer List – Micole Garatti 

25 New Ideas to Celebrate Employee Appreciation Week – Achievers

Five Essential Facilitation Tips to Elevate Your Gatherings – Rachel Ben Hamou | PeopleStorming 

2018 

Did HR Blogging “Jump the Shark?” – Mark Fogel 

The Way We Win Matters – Mary Faulkner 

Treating the Multiple Personality Disorder of HR Professionals! – Kurian Prasad 

2017

All I Really Need to Know I Learned from my Visit to the Seniors’ Residence – Melanie Peacock 

You’re Never Too Big to Care About People – Mary Faulkner 

2016

Choosing the Team Size in Scrum – Mark Levison | Agile Pain Relief Consulting

Kids These Days – Lance Haun

2015

Pretty Little Liars: What Transparency Really Means To SHRM. – Robin Schooling |Recruiting Daily (*** personal note: this post, as one might guess, had my phone ringing with calls from SHRM HQ on Duke Street ***)

2014

4 Companies That Rock at Content Marketing and University Recruiting – Melissa Suzuno

Make it Like It Was – John Baldino | Humareso

2013

Unemployed – from Europe to the Arab world, a personal story – Sandrine Bardot 

2012 

Developing Globally Responsible Leaders – Linda Fisher Thornton | Leading in Context 

2011

Finding, and Keeping, Good IT People – John Hunter

2010

Being Honest – Christine Assaf 

Benchmarking in the Trenches – Robin Schooling (*** 10 years later  and I still stand by every sentiment in this post ***)

****

Are you an HR blogger? Interested in participating in the Carnival of HR? Hit me up at robin.schooling@gmail.com.

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