Do you like your coworkers?

When I ran a staffing office the hardest job to fill was one for my team in the office. There was extra stress for me to make the right decision because we spent so much time together. Our environment was high stress and if I brought the wrong person into the mix it was going to make it that much harder.

coworkers

I know that we all at some point or another work with someone we don’t like. I learned very early in my career to find a way to work with people I didn’t like, but when it’s a high stress environment and I can avoid bringing someone in that’s going to rub the rest of the team the wrong way I’m going to do my best to avoid it.

It’s much easier to avoid people you don’t necessarily enjoy working with when its a larger organization, but when its a small team you inevitably have to interact.

I recommend offices with a small team find little ways to have fun together during the work week. It’s also important to be as transparent as possible because trust is a huge element to the success of a small team. The funny thing is, the more you bond the more you learn to trust each other.

A few minor ways I would tackle this in our 6 person office:

  • I would often order lunch in for my team and we would lock the doors and ignore the phones for an hour. It wasn’t the corporate offices favorite idea, but I needed to be able to protect a lunch break for my team and the best way to do that was to close the office for the hour and all of us take a lunch break at once. We found that sometimes in staggered lunch schedules it could get tense when someone was waiting on someone else before they could leave.
  • Sometimes we would take a break to play horse in the office with a small back of the door basketball hoop. No pressure, just to walk away from a project for a few minutes and reset.
  • I would turn training into small 15 minute training games that were interactive. For example, to train the team to think faster on their feet we would tell stories where someone would start and then hand off to the next person. I would put a bunch of items in a bag and the team would each get to pull one out and take 3 minutes to sell it to the rest of the group. They were cheesy, but they also served a purpose and allowed us all time to laugh together and share suggestions for improvement.

If you can’t find SOME WAY for your small team to have a little bit of fun together at work, your small team is in trouble. Take 15 minutes this week to put your team in one room and have a laugh. Then do it again next week.

Advertisements

You might be surprised

At a previous job, a high school internship program was something no one wanted to oversee. One of the issues we had with it was that it came from the top down and we were like “um, we have enough stuff to do, but thanks anyway.”

Another reason we were not interested is because we didn’t have time to waste with high school students when we needed to spend time targeting college students.

The ridiculous part there is, we were being stubborn and failing to consider how engaging with interested high school students might later make engaging with college students easier, but I’ll come back to that.

I remember when the initiative hit my desk and I was like NO WAY! My boss pulled rank though and said his NO WAY over ruled my NO WAY so I was stuck with it.

i-was-voluntold-as-tribute

That meant I had to dig around for any and all documentation we may require for employing high school students; labor laws that mandated what they could and could not do and when they could and could not work; and how to navigate events with minors. Specifically, our annual lake house event. Do the kids get to sign the waiver? Do their parents have to sign it? Does it matter? Etc. All tasks I was not excited about even though I knew that it would be easy enough to find the answers.

Thankfully the first group of high school interns for the program was a small group. The technical mentor was a very knowledgeable employee who really took the time to invest in their learning that summer so that helped a lot too.

My biggest hurdles including incorporating them appropriately into an already established college intern program while making sure they were welcomed, learned valuable things, and had a good experience.

By the end of the summer the high school interns became my favorite interns. They were more dependable, inquisitive, invested, and polite than some of the college interns. (Sorry to my former college interns that are reading this, don’t worry though yall will always be my sweet baby interns LOL #IheartMATLAB…). Anyway, all the interns were great, but the high school interns really showed out.

After that first summer I couldn’t wait for the next round of high school interns. It was also cool that other companies started calling us and asking us how we did it. Since my boss adamantly refused to run the program, I was the go-to for these kinds of questions and I have to admit-that was fun!

Now I get the opportunity to go sit with other companies and help them develop an effective high school internship program. I also help local schools when I can on getting their messaging out to other companies who could benefit from a defined strategic high school internship program. (side note, I do that as much as possible because I remember how much I didn’t want to implement the program so I know I can’t be the only one having that reaction, so I want to help people see the possible end result when I can).

Something I thought would be glorified babysitting turned out to be one of my favorite things to participate in. I also very much enjoy running into former high school interns who can articulate how that experience from our program has helped them on their career path. Once those former high school interns got to college, they willingly became a resource to help with on site recruiting efforts. They basically became built-in brand ambassadors. To be fair, our college interns did too, but there was something to be said about having a brand ambassador on board from the first time they stepped foot on campus.

Moral of the story? Step out of your comfort zone at some point in 2019 and volunteer for something you wouldn’t normally do. If you hate it you never have to do it again, but you might be surprised.

Flipping off customers

I got behind the wheel with road rage from day 1. Like an embarrassing amount of road rage.

From the time I was 16 until I was in my 20s I did not dial it down one single bit. No matter how much my parents or any other responsible adult in my life told me my road rage was out of control. (I know, I was just soooo coool).

Two things finally made me lay off the horn and stop screaming at people. 1) That crazy “Normal” episode of Criminal Minds. 2) Pulling into a potential customer site behind someone I had just yelled at for cutting me off.

The first reason is reason enough, if you haven’t seen the episode no need to go and watch it. If you know, you know.

The second reason was an eye opener because I could quickly quantify what that road rage just cost me if that was the person I was in a rush to meet with.

get off the road

Seriously, what if that person who cut me off was the decision maker for the meeting I was headed into. I wouldn’t have known the difference.

That experience made me realize that once you’re in certain roles, you are always wearing that hat any time you’re out in the community. Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean you can’t be yourself. It probably just means that you should be respectful from the jump and make sure you don’t misrepresent yourself to a stranger… that could become a customer.

Or an employee.

Or a boss.

Or a co-worker.

Road rage isn’t healthy anyway so it was a good habit to break.

When I was trailer trash

I’m deviating from the plan for the blog today to share a story with you all that I can’t get out of my head for some reason. Maybe that reason is because I need to write it down? Ehh, who knows.

When I was growing up we lived in Kansas. My mom had joined the Army and she was stationed at Fort Riley. When we first relocated there wasn’t any housing on base available so we lived in Junction City. We lived in a trailer court, which wasn’t a big deal to me because we had lived in one before my mom joined the Army. We had also lived in a house at one point too. I guess I didn’t really understand the difference.

When I was in elementary school all of the kids in the two side by side trailer courts would play together. In the winter we would build forts and have snow ball fights and in the summer we would play with water guns and roller blade. Typical kid stuff I think.

At some point we eventually moved on base. I don’t really remember when that happened but maybe it was between moving from elementary to middle school. Anyway, on like the first day of middle school I saw this kid that used to live in the trailer right behind us. I hadn’t seen him in a while. I walked up to him to say hi and the first thing out of his mouth was “are you still trailer trash?”

UMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM

ummm

This was a big deal y’all, because I HAD NO IDEA I WAS TRAILER TRASH. Do you hear me? I didn’t know. I was about to say hi to my FRIEND and he put me in my place real fast.

Two things happened that day, I realized I had to get real selective on who I called my friend and I realized that other people may think something of me that I had never thought of myself.

I am still shocked when I think about that day. I know I went through a hundred questions in my mind. Some of the recurring ones were “does that mean he thinks my parents are trailer trash?” and “but he lived in a trailer too, so was he trailer trash?” WHAT. IS. LIFE.!?

Here’s what I can appreciate, he finally said it to my face. It was super rude, but I prefer to know what you think of me to my face. I can also appreciate that it was an opportunity for me to think about how I may have labeled someone incorrectly.

This interaction didn’t change my life, but it’s always served as a reminder to me that you never know someones full story. As quick as I can be to judge (and it is very quick) that time I was trailer trash almost always humbles me so I can admit I don’t know the person’s whole story.

Is anyone really on time?

I am fortunate enough to have a job where my boss doesn’t watch what time I roll into the office every day. She is very much of the mindset that you get your job done and that’s what is most important. I think she also knows that when I come in late I typically stay late, or make up for it over the weekends, but the point is I don’t clock in and out.

I am not a morning person. Yes, I will get up at 4:20 am and go to boot camp, no I am not nice to people at 4:20 in the morning.

I’m not pleasant in the mornings. I’m focused (usually on my coffee) and I need to be left alone. If I see something that needs to get done, I’ll have to do it before I leave the house or I’ll be thinking about it all day while I’m at work. What can I say, I guess something is wrong with me like that.

When I’m driving to work and I’m going to be more than 30 minutes “late” I always think about my first day on my first job where I wasn’t there at 12:01 (my shift started at 12) and the person training me called my house to see if I was coming in. I walked in the door a minute later and she never said anything to me about calling my house.

When I got home my dad asked me why I was late to work. I was convinced I wasn’t late to work and he took the opportunity to make sure my 16-year-old brain understood that 1 minute late, is late.

Here’s what I’ve learned: he wasn’t wrong. Late is late, and even though I have flexibility in my job now I’m still embarrassed when I’m more than a few minutes late. I also know that one day I may have to have a job where I have a boss that cares what time I get there, or I may even have to actually clock in and clock out.

I get it. I manage teams of employees who have to get to work at a certain time, some of them have to actually clock in. My husband has a strict schedule at his job and he needs to be there at a certain time (or so he says). What we do and who we support typically dictates how important a set schedule is.

why you so obsessed

Even in flexible environments strolling in whenever ‘you get there’ can become a problem. Be sure and know your audience. It doesn’t hurt to be aware of big projects going on that require more of you and your co-workers time and trying to get in earlier during those tasks. And, for what it’s worth, if you’re the newest member to the team, or you are working on getting a promotion, or you have a new boss – get to work on time.

Also, take the time to let people know where you are or what your usual hours are. Whether it’s a group calendar, verbal conversation, or a sticky note on your door. The easier you are to find, the less frustrated people will be with you.

 

HR doesn’t make the rules

This one deserves more attention than I’m giving the short 33 career lessons, but this one is important so don’t let the brief summary fool you.

HR friends, you don’t make the rules. You may get to make some decisions, but you don’t make the rules.

If HR is sitting in their office making rules from afar that impact managers and employees we are doing business wrong. Our primary business service to the organization is to help facilitate solutions. Yes, we have to take into consideration all the data that helps us do a reasonable risk analysis, present solutions, and partner with folks for the right answer-but we don’t make the rules.

rules

We may offer guidance on what the safest solution is, but we don’t make the rules. We may even recite case-law and updated state and federal  laws, but we do not make the rules…

If you get defensive when a manager has an idea or suggestion and have to flex on them so they know you are in control, you are in the wrong field my friend. You’ll be miserable at work and you’ll hold your organization back.

If you hold up a process so you can remind people HR is an important function for getting work done, they are going to think less and less of HR and start working around you.

Don’t flex on folks and embarrass HR in 2019. Be useful, collaborate, build solutions and take your organization to the next level. Otherwise, you may be building the case for your company to not value HR at all.

 

What’s really going on here?

blogposts

I’ve had this blog for many years now, but every year I write less and less on it. I still write for other people (some under my name and some ghost writing), but I’ve neglected little ol’ hrpockets.

I’ve been thinking about ways to reunite with my blog and get back to putting out regular content. So many times I think of this great idea for a post, start my notes, say I’m going to finish it (lets not talk about how many draft posts I have) and push it further and further down my to-do list.

The truth is I enjoy putting out the occasional blog. I find it helpful to connect with readers and engage via email or social media to learn other folks perspectives, I just haven’t made myself sacrifice other things to focus on writing here.

I remember Sarah Morgan talking about how she was advised to find a 30 day writing challenge to reconnect with her writing and I finally decided maybe I could do that to re-engage here. FYI, Sarah created the #BlackBlogsMatter movement from her writing challenge and its about to start for 2019 so please bookmark her page and follow the hashtag and twitter account, she (and many others) are going to be bringing the content!

My writing challenge is just for me, it’s sort of a new years resolution, I guess? A stab at building a habit of showing some attention to where my writing started. 33 days of career lessons in honor of turning 33 (today).

Today makes lesson 10. We will all find out together if I make it through all 33. No writing ahead, no set time to post by, no word count, or ultimate goal other than the 33 lessons I made a list of back in December.

Lesson 10 is do what you want to do. Sure you have to get some experience, but don’t do something you don’t want to do for too long-you may get stuck there.

You have to figure out for yourself what you want and you have to learn to articulate that to your managers and mentors. If you can’t articulate it, you’re losing out on resources you need. Being able to articulate your goals and what you really enjoy working on will help you facilitate conversations where you get the most useful feedback from others and have the opportunity to ask valuable questions. Rarely do things just fall in your lap and work out exactly the way you had hoped, you have to use your voice.

This also means you are allowed to leave good opportunities without guilt. You can have a great job and enjoy your co-workers, but need to leave for your own career path and professional development. That is OKAY! You shouldn’t feel bad for leaving a good company if the new opportunity is right.

The easiest way to navigate how to get to where you want to be is honesty and transparency. If you’re working for someone who doesn’t value your honesty and transparency, you’re probably not where you ultimately want to be anyway.

In 2019 I hope you find yourself doing what you want to do.