‘Tis the Season – Company Holiday Party Memories

I love a good company party. And, at the risk of having my “strategic HR” card permanently revoked, I admit I even enjoy planning them. Over the years I’ve organized everything from sit down service awards galas to parties with DJs, bands and (one time) an improv troupe. I’ve planned picnics for the kids at parks and zoos with the requisite “Executive Dunk Tank” and I’ve coordinated my fair share of potlucks, catered lunches and boozy happy hours.

But nothing beats the company holiday party for, hands-down, the optimal environment for things to go slightly off-the-rails. Maybe it’s the fact that baby Jesus is omnipresent. Perhaps it’s the inevitability of numerous socially awkward staffers making “Santa only comes once a year” jokes. I dunno what it is but there’s something in the air.

So, in honor of the season, here are a few of the more memorable happenings from my company holiday parties over the years. Ho ho ho!

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Boss: “What are we going to do if someone has too much to drink? We can’t afford to pay for taxis for people.”

Me: “We can have one of the nuns drive them home. Probably Sister Agnes though: Sister Mary Coletta likes her wine.”

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By 11 pm the booze had been liberally flowing for several hours and people were sufficiently lubricated. Social norms of the office had been discarded and left on the burning trash heap of company protocol.

Jenny, a buxom young lass with a strapless cocktail dress, convinced the usually reserved male CEO to join a frolicking group on the dance floor.

She shimmied and slithered to the club remix of some Top of the Charts song as she repeatedly tossed her arms akimbo and positioned her posterior inches from the CEO for some good old fashioned twerking. With a flourishing twirl she turned to face him, arms over her head….and her dress down around her waist.

Dancing until the song ended some 60 seconds later (“this is my song !!!”) Jenny finally pulled up her dress, tucked in her ample assets, and headed for the bar.

The CEO remained in place on the dance floor in a state of abject confusion for a few moments. As he later confided to me … “I didn’t know where it was safe to look anymore.” 

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… Overheard at the Employee Xmas Pot Luck …

Joe: “Who made this potato salad?”

Jane: “Karen from Accounting.”

Joe: “Oh hell no. I’m gonna pass. You’ve seen how disgusting and dirty her desk is; can you imagine her kitchen? We’ll all die of botulism.”

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Setting: upscale venue, seated multi-course dinner, open bar, live band with dancing, suits and cocktail dresses. 6 PM cocktail hour/7 PM dinner/8 PM dancing and frivolity.

Time: approximately 10 PM

Employee: “Miss Robin – I think you need to know that Sally and Betty’s husbands are in the men’s room doing lines of coke” 

(Miss Robin, in full on HR lady mode after 4 hours of cocktailing, takes a quick and purposeful march into the men’s room interrupting not only the snorting party but also random-employee-Joe who is mid-stream at the urinal).

Me: “Guys; I’m glad you’re having fun and I could care less how you celebrate the holiday season but please knock that shit off and clean up this countertop before the big boss comes in here to take a pee.”

The Husbands: “Oops. Sorry. (finish it off). Merry Christmas.”

#LetItSnow

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Employee (knocking on my office door with a folded slip of paper in her hand): 

“Um….. do you think you can go talk to my manager and tell him we need to redraw names for our department’s Secret Santa? I pulled Sharon’s name (shows me slip of paper) and there’s no way I’m buying her a gift. I hate that bitch.”

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Employee: “Hey Robin; this is my daughter Trixie who I brought as my guest since my husband had to work”

Robin: “Nice to meet you Trixie; glad you could join us. Having a good time?” 

Trixie: “Yeah this is nice. But I’m in a little pain since I just had my clitoris pierced today.”

Robin: (guzzles martini)

****** 

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Comfort Food and the American Worker

I don’t like to cook. Nor, for that matter, am I all that enamored of baking. It’s quite sad actually because my grandmother was fantastic in the kitchen; she could effortlessly whip up a kugel or get the weekly Sunday roast on the table with ease. My grandpa owned a butcher shop as did his parents before him. (That picture at the top of the post is from a receipt book from my great grandmother’s store on 10th & Hadley in Milwaukee, Wi – circa 1920 or so).  Somehow though the cooking gene didn’t get downloaded into my DNA.

My mother is a passable cook (hi Mom!) and my daughter is a whiz in the kitchen who loves to spend hours experimenting with new things and replicating old family favorites. Thankfully my husband loves to cook and bake; blessings upon my mother-in-law for teaching him. When he’s in the kitchen, which is quite often, he makes things like bobotjie, melktart and koeksisters. Thanksgiving dinner now means instead of my lackluster attempt at making a pumpkin pie, Mr. S. prepares a Malva Pudding.

When I’m the one in charge of dinner…I call Waitr.

Yet, I realized last night as I found myself IN THE KITCHEN AND AT THE STOVE (!!!), I’ve been cooking an awful lot lately. To the point where I paused for a bit, put down my wine glass, and thought it through. I ran through the several meals, per week, I have cooked over the last month. Granted, nothing spectacular, elegant, adventurous or exotic. Nope; I’ve been cooking “comfort foods.”

Tuna casserole (check). Au Gratin potatoes (check). Bacon and eggs (check). Spaghetti (check). Casseroles, in the US Midwest tradition, made with Campbell’s condensed soups (check). Ice cream for dinner. (check).

Comfort foods. All of them.

In 1966, the Palm Beach Post used the phrase “comfort foods” in a story and it’s often credited as one of the first uses of the phrase: “Adults, when under severe emotional stress, turn to what could be called ‘comfort food’—food associated with the security of childhood, like mother’s poached egg or famous chicken soup.”

Am I under severe emotional stress? Maybe. I dunno. I have my days. And things have ratcheted up at the office lately so, to some degree, there’s added stress. But nothing that a big old heaping bowl of cheese and carbs can’t satisfy if you know what I mean!

And then, the more I got to thinking about it, the human need for “comfort food” is why so many of the Wellness Programs launched by well-intentioned HR gals/guys are doomed to failure. Not that long ago I had a chat with a fellow HR lady about “Wellness Programs” and we meandered down the same well-worn path; healthy eating, weight loss, blah blah blah.

“I should just replace the junk food in the vending machine so our employees can’t buy crap!” 

“Everyone in Louisiana eats too much fried food; maybe we shouldn’t allow them to bring it on-site!” 

“That macaroni and cheese is just clogging up everyone’s arteries!’

Hey Pam in HR … listen up! There’s a reason, based on decades of research tradition, why donuts are the thing that everyone brings to the office in the morning to share with their coworkers. Walk into an office and saunter up to the coffee pot and you’ll find Kringle, King Cake and Kolaches……….not Kale.

Heading to the office to slog away at some bullshit thankless job for 40+ hours a week is hard enough; don’t take away our cupcakes and give us quinoa cookies.

We want comfort. Or at least a damn big slab of bread pudding.

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The Fax Machine is Alive and Well. Thank You Very Much.

Every now and again, in any one of the myriad recruiting and/or HR technology Facebook groups to which I belong, someone will post “OMG; I was just asked for my fax number! We haven’t used a fax machine in the office for 15 years!” Numerous people chime in with increasing incredulity: “WTF? That’s crazy! Who faxes things anymore? Luddites!.” Scorn and disdain are heaped upon anyone who still has and dares to use a fax machine.

Let me break this down; not every organization is fully tech-enabled. Not every organization is one that has launched within the last 5 years ready-to-roll with new equipment and of-the-moment functionalities. There are quite a few ginormous entities, especially of the governmental variety, that have not been able to transition due to the financial costs of such an undertaking; the NHS, according to a report from June, still has 11,620 fax machines in operation.

There are also numerous people – job seekers, consumers, citizens relying on the services of those vast governmental entities – who need to send documents without the benefit of a home PC and/or scanner. Yes, there IS a continuing digital divide. (As a point of note, I’ll be doing a Tech Talk on this topic at September’s HR Technology Conference).

In my human resources department, while we scan and email with massive, sometimes overwhelming, frequency, we still send/receive 15-20 faxes each week:

Verifications of employment

  • Banks, credit unions and mortgage companies continue to send the VOE (good old Form 1005!) via fax; the loan processor has filled it out by hand and our Payroll team fills it out by hand and faxes it back.
  • Rental companies and landlords send VOEs, usually just verifying that Sally Sue does, in fact, continue to draw a regular paycheck before they hand over the keys to the apartment or house.
  • Want to buy a car? Yup; faxed verification.

Pre-placement Drug Testing

  • The occupational medical clinic we use for pre-employment, post-accident and workers’ comp testing and care requires pre-authorization. Post-accident and W/C cases are managed in-person but new hires are given directions via phone of where to report for pre-placement cup-filling peeing. Naturally, as you might guess, an HR team member must send that authorization form over via fax.

Employee Benefits

  • Employees participating in the Flexible Spending Account (FSA) plan need to substantiate certain expenses with a receipt. As noted above not everyone has a PC, let alone a scanner, at home so the next fastest option (beating snail mail by a country mile) is to send via fax. We have such a steady stream of employees coming to HR, receipts in hand, that we have pre-filled FAX COVER SHEETS so they can use the stone-age facsimile machine.
  • Heading out on leave covered by the FMLA or the Louisiana Fair Employment Practices Act? Returning to work with a properly filled out “release to RTW with no restrictions” form from your health care provider? Need to get the forms and information into the hands of the 3rd party administrator that handles all leave administration for our company? Don’t have a scanner at home? Bring it the HR Department and use the fax machine.

Our recruiting team does not accept resumes via fax; not that we don’t get asked this question with some regularity. We do not publicize our fax number; I have never had it included on my business card and when asked to supply it on a form under “contact information” I leave that field blank. Somehow though that damn number gets out into the world. My current working theory is that our internal phone list (with fax numbers!) has been printed and distributed all over town.

So please, my dear fellow recruiters and HR technology champions, cease with the ridicule and derision. I would love nothing more than to once and for all relegate the fax machine to the trash bin of office equipment memories where it can reside in peace with mucilage, floppy disks and the mimeograph machine.

In the meantime you can fax those papers over to 225-709-8702.

 

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image: Wikimedia Commons: University of Wisconsin Archives

“English professor Helen C. White works at a mimeograph machine. In addition to teaching English, White served as president of the American Association of University Women.”

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March Madness Circa 2018 – #HRCarnival

Brackets? Meh. A few years ago I participated in a March Madness pool with not much interest in basketball and nary a clue about college hoops. It was a travesty of epic proportion and, as I recall, I ended up in last place.

Based upon the enthusiasm of others though, I must be missing something. John Hudson likes this time of year; he wrote about “March Madness in the Workplace” just a few weeks ago. Tim Sackett recently offered up “3 Ways Employers Should Be Encouraging March Madness!”

Bet then, much to the consternation of HR killjoys professionals everywhere, Fortune Magazine let us know that “The Average Worker Will Spend Six Hours Watching March Madness at Work.”

Huh.

So let me offer up a much more productive way to waste spend time at work (while secretly streaming the games) — reading of some HR blogs!

Ladies and gentlemen, I present the sweet, elite submissions from the far corners of the HR blogging world for March….

 

Fast Break

Laurie Ruettimann – Online Learning Series: How to Be Better in Human Resources

Mary Faulkner – When tech and HR combine: What I saw at #UltiConnect

Tamara Rasberry – Looking for a Job – The Full-Time Job from Hell

Judith Lindenberger – 5 Workplace Habits of Successful HR Professionals

 

One on One

Sharlyn Lauby – How to Find Budget Dollars for Employee Recognition

Julie Winkle Giulioni – Attenuating Attrition: How Leaders Can Create a Sticky Situation

Prassad Kurian – The OD Quest: Part 6 – In the wonderland of HR Business Partners!

Yvonne LaRose – Because of Their Endurance, We Can

Helo Tamme – Elderly people, your key to happier employees

 

Rebound

Jennifer Juo –  Is Workplace Distraction Hurting Your Bottom Line?

Jesse Lynn Stoner – Manage Polarities . . . or Step off the Seesaw

Cecilia Clark – 2 Questions to Ask to Increase Motivation

Mark Fogel – It’s Nice to Be a Best Place to Work, But Most Recruiters Toil for the Other 90%

Keith Enochs – Context is King

 

Zone Defense

Wally Bock –  Personal Development: Secrets of Getting Better at Almost Anything

Mark Stelzner – 6 Consumer Trends HR Can’t Ignore

Mark Miller – Tell the Story

Sabrina Baker – Dealing with the Reactionary Leader

Anne Tomkinson – When You’re the Disengaged Employee

 

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Want to get in on the monthly Carnival of HR blogging action? Send me an email at carnivalofhr@gmail.com and make sure to like our Facebook page and follow @CarnivalofHR on Twitter. 

 

HR Meme action courtesy of Nexxt 

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Saluting @LisaRosendahl – #TimSackettDay

Today, just like every other day, hundreds of thousands of HR leaders will head off to work. A veritable battalion of professionals, they work in every industry and at every size organization imaginable. Unsung heroes, most of them; leading the good fight and doing their best to make the profession, their teams and their organizations better.

Lisa Rosendahl, Acting Associate Director at the US Department of Veterans Affairs, does those things every day.

And today, on #TimSackettDay, we’re celebrating Lisa.

This is a day when we celebrate the inspirational folks in HR and recruiting; we started with Tim Sackett and have since sent a collective shout out to Paul Hebert, Kelly Dingee, Victorio Millian and Animal. Oh…and it’s a surprise too (I wish I would have thought to ship some cake up to Lisa in Minnesota. Damn).

So let me tell you how Lisa inspires me…and countless others.

  • She’s a mom to a wonderful daughter
  • She’s a fearless HR leader with a focus on exceptional leadership, the building of high-performance teams, and strengthening the contributions of her team
  • She’s an inspirational writer
  • She’s a military veteran who served our country as an Officer in the US Army
  • She’s one of the co-founders of the site WomenofHR

I first met Lisa in 2010 and we’ve had the opportunity to get together at various events for lunch and laughs and coffee and dinner over the years. Not enough though. And here on #TimSackettDay I vow to rectify that for 2017.

So congratulations Lisa – you are an inspiration and I, for one, salute you!

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