‘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.”

******

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.” 

******

… 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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What’s New? Cool Kick-Ass HR Stuff!

Over the last 10 years I’ve used my blog to philosophically wax and wane about all things HR. I like to think I’ve had some profound things to say when I’ve taken on a particular topic but, of course, also realize there have been many times when I was musing merely for my own enjoyment. I’ve talked, over the years, about Kim Kardashian’s pregnancy (the first one), menstruation, clueless HR and organizational practices and, in one of my most popular recent posts, the disconnect between “conference HR” and “real world HR.”

(Q: how many pundits does it take to discuss culture, engagement or “why recruiting is like marketing”? A: probably none).

Nevertheless, I persisted.

And now, because I can, I’m using my little corner of the internet to talk about something exciting and, quite frankly, a bit promotional.

The company I joined last year (as Head of People) is heading towards a new and exciting future as we recently transitioned to a new moniker (Peridus Group) and unveiled our sexy new web site!

We remain, at our core, a boutique consulting firm fixing problems and doing cool shit. We consult on HR Technology + Systems work (especially Workday integrations, implementations and managed services), Talent + Recruiting (contract recruiting and RPO), and NOW (here’s the new stuff!) we’ve added an HR + People Strategy practice headed by yours truly.

The HR + People Strategy group aligns with our firm’s raison d’etre: providing talent strategy and solutions for independent thinkers.  On the HR + People Strategy side that translates to mean “this ain’t your mama’s HR” since:

  • We believe the future of HR includes tossing aside non-functioning legacy practices in order to create people strategies that are vibrant, pro-active and nimble. 
  • We share research and insight that can inform decisions and drive innovation in all areas of an organization’s people operations and the experience of its employees. 
  • We don’t take what many think of as the typical (and stereotyped) human resources approach. While we’re mindful of underlying compliance and legislative issues (hey; we’re the SMEs after all) we like to focus on the “possibilities” … not the policies. We push our clients to contemplate “what CAN we do rather than what CAN’T we do.” 
  • And I, as the architect of this group, am most assuredly not your mama’s HR ……..

So yeah; pretty exciting. In addition to providing general consulting, project work and training/workshop facilitations, we also offer an HR managed service option which is ideal when the company doesn’t have a dedicated and experienced human resources leader or the Leadership team/HR Leader could benefit from additional support on planning, strategy and implementation of forward-thinking people strategies that can boost the attraction, recruitment, retention and development of talent.

Wanna chat about what I’m doing now? Hit me up at robin@peridusgroup.com.

Let’s work together!

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How a TYPO Reinforced Company Culture

Working in human resources means that one spends an inordinate amount of time writing and sending out “official” missives and documents to employees. Very important things like policies, handbooks, sternly worded admonishments, and memos about cleaning out the refrigerator.  And while an e-mail informing employees they are not to feed donuts to the alligator (yes; I’ve sent that one) can be cranked out in a minute, some of our HR tomes take considerably longer to complete.

Recently, our HR team has been working on a revision of the Employee Handbook; some additions, a few deletions, and a bit of clarification. You know the drill.

We finished writing and let it marinate for a few days. We did a spell check, several read-throughs and a bit of formatting in order to finally release this magnum opus to the in-boxes of our expectant and eager workforce.  Then, task completed, we settled in to await the satisfying “pings” signifying that acknowledging e-signatures were flooding in from our enthusiastic team members.

Hold the accolades though because (ruh-roh!) we got notification there was a typo. A decent typo too; not something that HR people spell wrong every day like FSLA (fat fingered typing), HIPPA (laziness) or Workman’s Comp (stuck in the 1970’s).

It wasn’t the f-word or anything (which would have really been epic!!) and the employee was not upset or offended by any stretch of one’s imagination. But, had this scenario played out at some of my previous organizations, it would have led to oodles of hyper-ventilating HR ladies running around clutching their pearls while TPTB screamed through the phone lines.

However, as none of our HR team members are particularly fond of pearls and we possess an actual sense of humor we had a better idea. Let’s run a contest!!

So below is what we immediately (well, after 30 minutes of non-stop laughter) sent to all employees: 

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Attention all employees!  

As you know, one of our company values is Embrace That Which is Unusual (meaning we like stuff that’s quirky, offbeat and, well, funny). Another value is Ubiquitous Uniqueness (in other words, the company is made up of HUMAN BEINGS).  

Because we’re human beings (and spell check doesn’t catch EVERYTHING) there’s a little typo in the just released Employee Handbook. And, because we found it hilarious (!), we’ve decided to run a contest:

THE GREAT WORD SEARCH CONTEST RULES

STEP 1: Search the document for the word that, according to the Urban Dictionary, is described thusly:

Synonyms:

1. Most swear words and obscenities.

2. Thrush, herpes, the clap, syphilis, and venereal diseases in general.

3. Anything worthy of the following descriptions: shit, minging, crap, etc.

Usages: 

1. OH xxxxxxx!

2. Oh dear, I think I caught the xxxxxx off old Bertha.

3. This is a pile of rotten xxxxxxx!

STEP 2: Send an email to HRLady1or HRLady2 (by Wednesday 9/25 at 8 AM CST) telling us:

  • The offending word
  • Page number

All entrants will go into a drawing and the winner will receive an Amazon gift card!

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To quote a member of our sales team: “[this is] the first time ever I’m excited to read an employee handbook. You have accomplished the impossible.”

#WinningHR

p.s. we sound fun don’t we? You want to hang out with us, don’t you? If you’re heading to the #HRTechConf in a few weeks, come meet us in person and enjoy a little “Afternoon Delight”

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The Worst Places to Work Award

Chances are pretty good that the city in which you live has some sort of “Best Places to Work” Award.  Mine does.

Perhaps your company ponied up the $$ and applied for one of these awards; if you work in HR chances are you managed the entry including gathering reams of data and forcing (disguised as encouragement) your employees to complete surveys.  

Maybe you work for a company that has received this designation. In that case the following happened:

  • Your PR team wrote press releases. Lots of press releases.
  • Your senior executives bought a table (or two) at the awards luncheon. 
  • Your CEO was interviewed by a local business publication and spouted clichés such as “our employees are our most important asset,”and “we’re a very transparent organization with a high-level of trust.”
  • You held a company all-hands meeting, party or pub crawl (if you’re ‘fun’)  to “celebrate.”
  • Your Marketing and HR teams plastered the logo on every available page of the company website and incorporated “BPTW!” verbiage in every single piece of candidate collateral and messaging. (“This will ensure we win the war on talent!”exclaimed more than one hapless and/or clueless recruiter, hiring manager or senior leader.) 

As did the other 50 recipients in your city who also won the award.  

And pretty much everyone involved, let’s be frank, realizes this is a ginormous crock of crap. Winning an award as a “Great Place to Work” or “Top City Employer” or whatever other moniker is being used by the money-making entity that bestows these awards has zero validity as PROOF of a great employment experience. 

What I would like to do is invert the whole thing and present “Worst Places to Work” awards. Imagine this: instead of the same-old-companies-you-can-name in your city there was a fresh new list – every year – telling you the places NO ONE would conceivably want to work? Companies with harsh working conditions, below-market pay, oppressive rules, shitty work/life balance, and HR policies seemingly held over from 1955 would be called out. In addition to gathering current (and former!) employee feedback, the survey organizers could comb through court filings and EEOC or state civil rights complaints for data points.  

Naturally, companies won’t shell out bucks to pay for something that puts them on the naughty list; we’ll have to find a means to get this monetized but I think it’s a winning proposition. 

Publish THIS list in the local newspaper and, if nothing else, we might finally get some companies and leaders to change their ways.

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Employee Relations: Why Such a Bad Rap?

Once upon a time, on the heels of the Industrial Revolution, we heralded the birth of the Personnel HR profession.  Industrial Relations begat Labor Relations with its accompanying cliché: a smoke-filled room laden with labor bosses and cigar-chomping industrialists hammering out a collective bargaining agreement.

As our profession matured we began to use the phrase Employee Relations in order to provide differentiation from the Labor Relations connotation (unionized workforce) and provide us with a term to use when referring to the management of the employment relationship in a non-unionized workforce.

Yet, even as Employee Relations matured into young adulthood and then into a comfortable middle-age, a number of organizations continued to “relate” to their employees as if they were still huddled around that bargaining table with overflowing ashtrays at the ready. The mindset that people are resources widgets – product in/product out – and can be expected to work according to bullet points, mandates and according to a rigid set of parameters just never left the room.

And therein lies the tension; it’s this area of human resources that puts the thought, in the minds of many, that HR is nothing more than the enforcer of draconian policies and creator of byzantine processes.

It’s quite sad actually; ER is one of the foundational – and necessary – building blocks of what we do.  From within this area flow organizational expectations, support for employee rights (and responsibilities), and safeguarding the workplace for those who may be vulnerable if working for unscrupulous or downright evil people.

On the surface, however, Employee Relations is nowhere near as sexy and glamorous as some other functional HR disciplines; Recruiters get all the flash and sizzle, Compensation pros get to deal with incentive program design, and even the Risk Management/Safety folks get to oversee cool stuff like immunization programs.

Take a glance at most any Employee Relations Specialist job description and you’ll find words and phrases like “enforce,” “work-related problems,” “investigate,” “inspect,” “administer and interpret” and “grievance.”   Ugh.  Certainly no one wants to go into HR and be faced with those sorts of responsibilities; do they? After all, there’s not one single mention of “candidate experience” or “employer branding” anywhere………

But it’s important.  Just not snazzy sounding.

Employee Relations merely needs to be – and can be – glammed up a bit. Much as Madonna continues (still!) to reinvent herself after decades in the industry, so too can this important cornerstone of the HR profession.

Does it need a name change?  Not really; it didn’t really ‘take’ when Madonna tried to get everyone to call her Madge.   Rather – we need to adopt a new mind-set, adjust our attitude and get a new PR strategy.   The role of the ER professional should be one that’s proactive not reactive.  It’s a job that requires one to realize that what one can do does not necessarily mean it’s what one should do.  And it’s critical that the focus be on providing information – not punishment.

So I want every HR practitioner to let the vast amounts of knowledge around related laws, regulations and directives filter through two parts of their own cognitive realization before the words – when rendering a decision – come dripping out of their mouth;

PART 1: keep in mind the unique values, mission and culture of their particular organization

PART 2: keep in mind their own status as a human being

Plus it’s 2018.  Y’all haven’t been allowed to smoke cigars in the Board Room for decades.

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this post is a blast from the past: it originally ran over at the HR Schoolhouse

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