How Not to Hate Change (Part 1)

question-mark-460869__340Change makes me nervous. There, I said it.

It unsettles me for the same reason it unsettles you—because as much as today might suck, tomorrow could suck worse. (Want proof? Watch CNN’s political coverage.)

Of course, you’re not supposed to actually admit your insecurity. In job interviews, during work meetings, and when speaking with colleagues, you’re expected to talk about how change brings fresh possibilities and new opportunities. You’re supposed to spout some bullshit about how you thrive in uncertainty and ambiguity. Bring it, yo! You’re an effing change agent! And don’t change agents love change?

No! Change agents like when they initiate change. But they’re just as likely as anyone to get the jitters, maybe even more so, when someone else grabs the wheel to careen down a new road. Still, when an organization tinkers with people’s routines, you know the response it wants: Yes we can!

Yes we can! But do we want to?

Take what’s happening at IBM right now. The company’s Chief Marketing Officer Michelle Peluso recently announced that U.S. marketing staff may no longer work remotely or out of smaller district offices. (Supposedly, the new policy will extend to many more workers.) Employees have 30 days to decide whether to report/relocate to one of six “strategic” locations: Austin, San Francisco, New York, Cambridge (Mass), Atlanta, and Raleigh. What’s more, they will not get to choose the city. Continue reading

Mourning in America

light-1551387_960_720-2Someone in your family just died. That’s really too bad, and work must be the last thing on your mind. You’ll obviously need time to grieve, attend a funeral, blah, blah, blah, but you’ll be OK enough to head back to the office really soon, right? Like, perhaps in three days? Sound cool to you?

Of course, you may take longer than that, but things may get…um…you know…kind of complicated to figure out. But really, you should take whatever time you need. Still, three days should be sufficient, right?

That’s essentially the response that many workers get from their employers after a loved one dies. While few managers or HR professionals would ever say the above, they don’t have to. They have policies to do it for them. Nationwide, the average length of paid leave for bereavement of immediate family members is three days. One day for your cousin Shelby.

Ain’t no way I’d be able to work, let alone function semi-normally, that soon. And I doubt you would. Neither would anyone who works in HR—you know, the same people who craft or uphold these egregious edicts.

So why not change the rules?  Continue reading

I Am a Refugee

statue-of-liberty-1142486__340I came to America in 1979. That I am an immigrant is common knowledge among friends, acquaintances, and anyone who’s sat on my schmata-covered couch (it’s not plastic, OK?). But many people do not realize that I am also a refugee.

My family fled the Soviet Union about 37 years ago so that we could buy quality toilet paper at Walgreens. That, and something about an oppressive regime. I’m too young to remember growing up under authoritarianism (though I’m getting a bit of a real-life lesson now), but my mom tells me that life pretty much sucked.

I think nothing of my neighbor overhearing Britney Spears blaring from my apartment, but when my mom was young, her family used to listen to BBC Radio at home at barely audible levels. They did this in spite and because of the fear that neighbors might discover and report the illegal act, ensuring shipment to a camp (not the summer kind), or worse.

Like most Russians, my mom wasn’t allowed to say anything she wanted, live anywhere she wanted, or work anywhere she wanted. But hey, at least she could vote. The choice was always Candidate A or Not Candidate A. Not Candidate A consistently lost by a landslide.

There were also economic problems. You know, Jews. Many Russians understood the obvious: Money-hungry, cheap Jews were manipulating the ruble. Actually, you could trace pretty much everything wrong with the country back to the Jews. Forced to queue for toilet paper, bread, or whatever surprise staple awaited you (if there was a line, you got on it)? Blame a Jew. Lost a job? Blame a Jew. Stuck in traffic? Blame a Jew. Bad hair day? That’s on you, but take it out on Ilya Cohenbergman anyway because you know he’s doing something to ruin your life. Continue reading

Ashamed to Be Nice

smiley-1271125_960_720There’s a really popular article on LinkedIn called “A Human Resources Career Is Not for ‘Nice’ People.” So far, it’s garnered more than 20,000 likes, almost 2,000 comments, and nearly 10,000 shares.

It’s not hard to see why: When you read something implying that friendliness and human resources are incompatible, you think Wow! or What? or Huh? or But I’m in HR and I’m nice!

Is Nice Enough?

The problem, as the article insists, is that too many HR people think that their jobs are all about helping people. They consequently assume that “being a nice person is qualification enough for the function.”

Who are these people? Who are these professionals that believe that grinning from ear to ear at work is all you need to do your work? Many of the HR peeps who I know have “MBA,” “SPHR,” or a host of other acronyms trailing their names. What idiots! They spent all that time and money and energy growing their knowledge when they could’ve gotten by with a mere smile.

The post goes on to detail how hard HR can be. It cites examples of professionals who must lay off people, have difficult compensation conversations, and do other not-fun things. All of which point to the notion that “nice is not enough.”

Well of course it isn’t!

The article eventually explains that we should replace “niceness” with “empathy.” Fair enough, but can’t we embody both? Shouldn’t we?  Continue reading

Happy Tim Sackett Day, Lisa Rosendahl!

ez4khtmbYay! It’s Tim Sackett Day! I already knew of blogger extraordinaire Tim Sackett but only recently found out that he has an entire national holiday named after him. Tim Sackett Day is when HR bloggers honor one of their own. It started some years back when Tim wasn’t getting enough press, so the HR blogging community decided to give him a collective shout-out. Since then, celebrating a fellow HR blogger has been annual tradition. Cool, right?

This year, we’re applauding Lisa Rosendahl. I don’t know Lisa personally, but I wish I did. Lisa is a leader, a veteran, a mom, and a source of inspiration for other bloggers. I’m also told she’s far too humble to bang the drum about herself, so I’ll happily do it for her.

Here’s what you need to do. Start by reading about how Lisa fell out of a plane, and then check out the rest of her blog. If you like what you read—and you will—let her know. After all, recognition is at the heart of Tim Sackett Day, so be sure to thank Lisa for all her contributions!

Happy Tim Sackett Day, Lisa!

Will This Blog Post Get Me Fired?

I majored in fashion design in college. When you watch the video above, that will be hard to believe. I wanted to wear something that conjured Americana, something that screamed, “USA! USA! USA!” Unfortunately, no number of stars and stripes could save my ensemble. And speaking of, this clip proves that, no, vertical stripes are not always slimming. So much for my fashion education.

Shame on Me

Notice how I haven’t yet mentioned the content of the video. Shame on me for obsessing about my appearance when what matters more are my ideas and opinions. I need to get better at not judging myself so harshly. There are enough other people that already do that for me, or to me.

I guess that comes with public speaking, though. Numerous peers of mine have mentioned some of the feedback they’ve received after their presentations. If it’s not about their shoes, then it’s their shirts, or their hair, or their makeup. Sure enough, I’ve had well-intentioned people point out my wrinkles and fat.

Now, I’m pretty self-deprecating and have no trouble poking fun at myself. (I’m also fairly self-aware and have already identified ways to present better next time. And incidentally, you should check out Jennifer McClure’s “5 Mistakes Successful Speakers Never Make.”) But at some point, the focus really does need to shift to Herbert Robinson.  Continue reading

The Diversity Paradox No One Talks About

artistic-2063__340I recently read an article in which AT&T Chief Diversity Officer Cynthia Marshall said, “It makes good business sense to have an employee base that looks like our customer base.” I suspect most of her peers agree. Her statement is exactly what you’d expect a diversity and inclusion leader to say. It’s about as controversial as what I ate for breakfast. Probably because it intuitively makes sense.

It made sense to Pepsi. Years ago, the company realized that women and minorities drink soda, so it launched a major campaign requiring that half of all new hires be women and minorities. Business improved.

Causation? Correlation? Does it matter? No corporation will claim that its diversity efforts aren’t valuable. Neither will any argue that hiring for diversity actually hurts business—nor am I insinuating that it does.

But here’s the problem: If what Marshall and other leaders say is true—that your workers should reflect your customers in order for your business to thrive—then they create a twisted paradox that scrapes at the core of diversity and inclusion. What if most of your customers are women? Or black?  Continue reading

The Madonna of HR

blond-ambition-wembley-3I’ve always thought of myself as contrarian. Generally, I think this is a good trait—but the contrarian in me has me wondering otherwise.

Actually, Leah Clark has me wondering. Leah is an executive coach at Blessing White, a leadership and employee-engagement consultancy. A while back, she and I had an interesting conversation during which Leah asked: Would you rather be labeled contrarian or critical?

I’ve been thinking about her question ever since. After all, if I’m going to slap a sticker on myself, I better make sure it’s the right one.

The Madonna of HR

A common definition is that a contrarian is someone who habitually opposes accepted policies, opinions, or practices. That’s me—but that’s only because there are so many policies, opinions, and practices that are messed up.

Another definition explains that a contrarian accepts nothing that anyone says—that is, a person who takes the opposite opinion for the sake of it. Is that me? I like to think that when I take an alternate position, it’s because I believe what I believe.

I’m also self-aware enough to know when I’m lying to myself. The truth is that I sometimes argue different viewpoints because I enjoy screwing with the status quo. That’s why they call me the Madonna of HR, and by “they,” I obviously mean no one.

If contrarianism can sometimes seem self-indulgent, it is. But is it a bad attribute?  Continue reading

Oh No! Not Another Performance Management Blog Post!

One year ago today, corporations across the country—the world!—decided to scrap their performance-management models. They stopped their Sisyphean attempts to fix systems that were never really broken—because they never worked to begin with. They realized that achieving outcomes and assessing people based on achieving outcomes are not the same. They understood the following:

Focusing on results may be the worst way to get results.

What happened on January 11, 2016, to spark this revolution? That evening, I gave a DisruptHR presentation to a room of HR and business leaders called Oh No! Not Another Performance Management Presentation!

 

Here’s some of what I said:

  • SMART goals are pretty stupid.
  • You can set objectives, but gauge the worthiness of the goals themselves, not people based on meeting them.
  • Stop focusing on output and start emphasizing input.
  • Measuring by results can ruin your coaching and development efforts.
  • Given luck’s influence on outcomes, current frameworks may be sabotaging workers.

I said a lot more. Of course, my talk didn’t incite the insurgence I imagined above…yet! Nonetheless, I’m hopeful that as the neverending exploration to improve performance management continues, more companies will not simply stick extra Band-Aids on their processes but truly transform performance management into behavior management.

Check out my talk and let me know what you think!

Descriptions Are Not Prescriptions

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“I’m a millennial. We catch on quickly.”

I’m not a millennial, but when I overheard a coworker say the above one day, I also caught on quickly. I sensed immediately that my colleague was serious about her declaration. Her tone came with no humor, no self-deprecation, no doubt about the virtues of youth.

I rolled my eyes. Not because my colleague isn’t terrific and a quick learner. She is. Nor because her remark tapped into a stereotype about her cohort. Rather, it was because she felt it was relevant to bring up the stereotype in the first place.

Now, before you roll your own eyes anticipating a blog post bashing, praising, or analyzing millennials, hold on. I have no interest in rehashing something you’ve probably read 45 times in Fast Company (or on Fast Company if you’re a millennial).

I’m more concerned with a broader question: When do generational clichés in the workplace make sense?  Continue reading