Before we experienced sexual harassment at work, we experienced it somewhere else.
The most important career lesson I ever learned was to understand the business.
There seems to be a lot of back and forth about HR being business professionals/or not being business professionals. In my opinion the easiest way to win this discussion is to make sure you understand the business you support-not just the people portion, but the whole picture.
How does your company make money? What are the products/services your company provides? How do they provide it? Like really, how? What other areas do your HR policies or actions impact and how.
From where I sit, you can make better decisions about the HR support you provide when you understand the business. Looking beyond your schedule and how quickly (or slowly) you choose to respond or how much information you decide you want to share can move your department forward.
People (managers especially) choose to not value HR when you choose to ignore the bigger business picture and only do things the way you want to do things. When HR isn’t valued it’s hard to see them as business professionals.
In 2019 don’t just try to teach the business HR, let HR learn the business.
It’s important that us HR professionals maintain our knowledge when we are fulfilling our volunteer roles.
In my 10 years of volunteering with groups related to my professional day job I have seen a lot of issues that could have been avoided if we applied our strategic HR thinking to our volunteer problems.
It baffles me that we get in a group with a bunch of HR professionals and then forget that we have critical skills to defuse communication problems and apply strategic business thinking to road blocks.
The most baffling is when we slip up and say things out of line that would get our organizations in trouble if someone at work tried to do the same. For instance, thinking that someone has to be a certain age to do a job:
Be your most productive self by learning that there is more than one way to do things.
I order what I know I like from restaurants, I usually take the same route to places I frequent, I have specific routines, and I don’t want you kids on my lawn. I like things done a certain way, mostly my way.
Sometimes my way holds the team back though. My way isn’t the only way. My way works for me, but may not work for everyone else.
To keep from letting my way get in THE way, I focus on the outcome. The end goal can get me to overlook someone else’s way that maybe isn’t as fast as my way would be, or as efficient, or as thorough…
You’ll be a better team player and co-worker if you let yourself learn more than one way to do things.
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.
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.
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.
One of the hardest lessons of my life, let alone my career, has been that I can’t do everything.
I’m that employee who is always willing to do whatever needs to be done. You tell me where you need me and I’m there. Recruit for these other positions? Sure! Order lunch for a meeting? I can give it a go! Clean the toilets? No problem!
Sometimes I should say no when I say yes.
Recently I had scheduled at least a day to handle a task for work and a teammate kept telling me she could do it. I was like no way, I’ll figure it out. She said it was no big deal. I said my poor planning shouldn’t cause more work for her. She said, really its no big deal. I handed over the project and what was going to take me at least a day took her a couple of hours.
I was floored. I’m also excited to get some pointers from her because if I was going to make that task last a minimum of a whole day I was looking at it all wrong.
I could have given her this part of the project a couple of weeks ago, but I kept telling myself I would get to it. I sure wish I would’ve given it to her then instead of trying to fit it into my schedule.
The thing is, I was holding up progress. I was hanging onto something to keep from creating more work for someone else, but someone else was better suited for this task (obviously). I should have used my resources better.
As you navigate 2019 just know that not every ‘Yes’ is necessary. Sometimes you aren’t the best person for the task. Sometimes you need to let someone else take the opportunity to be great. Sometimes the task won’t be worth your time. Make wise decisions this year. Own your time and be a great teammate.
Since it’s my husbands birthday today I’ll tell y’all one of his favorite work stories of mine.
When I was a young-know-it-all-staffing-manager I acted like it. If I knew I was right about something, I didn’t back down. If I knew someone on my team (errr corporate didn’t really feel like they were on my team though) was not going to be as nice as they could be to one of my customers I refused to let them talk to my customers. I prefer to handle it myself than have to clean up a mess after someone who knows nothing about, or even laid eyes on, my customer has been rude.
I had gotten in a situation where I did not want the person over AR talking to my customers anymore. I wanted her to tell me what she needed and I would go and chase it down. Any of my customers who talked to her complained about how rude and disrespectful she was, even if it turned out to be an error on our part and not the customers. I even remember the owner of the company saying she was “his bulldog.” I always shudder when I think about that because he said it like it was a good thing, some sort of twisted compliment.
On one of the visits from the owner he asked me why I didn’t like the person over AR. I didn’t answer him right away because I wasn’t prepared to give a business reason over a purely emotional opinion. I tried really hard to think about all the business reasons I could provide to why I didn’t want to talk to her, or let her talk to my customers but it really boiled down to the fact that she was a jerk. So I sent an email answer to the question (I had to send the email to the VP because the owner didn’t have an email address). In the email I answered his question and I flat-out typed that it’s because she’s an asshole. Plain as day, I used those words in black and white.
Now, I got a phone call and was asked why I would do that and specifically why I would do that in an email. Well, because I believed I was right. I knew for a fact that it was a correct label for her and that was that.
Here’s the kicker. The owner would use GD and other swear words on a regular basis when we would have meetings. Just pepper them allllll through the conversation. I had no reason to believe that I would get in trouble for using that word. I also thought it was perfectly fine to put it in an email because I stood by what I said.
What I can tell you I eventually realized is, you can’t always emulate the behavior you see. The owner and I were not judged by the same standards so we could not behave in the same way.
I think that’s pretty much true of the hierarchy right? You’re held to different standards depending on where you are in that. It could be as simple as how well you abide by the dress code to how you can get away with talking in meetings. I’m not saying its right, what I’m saying is be aware of it. When you can, you should step back from a situation and try to map out the possible consequences to your behavior and determine what you’re comfortable with. In that example, I would probably send the email again. I still believe it was an environment where the impression was it would be accepted and it’s not like I got in real trouble over it. BUT 33-year-old me is pretty much ashamed of that behavior because I know there are better alternatives to how I handled it.
Worst case, when in doubt call your mentor. Or just remember Justin Minyard’s advice that he gives me any time he thinks I’m leaving for work frustrated “Just don’t call anyone an asshole in an email today.”
Another thing that unexpectedly took up a lot of brain space for me in 2018 goes all the way back to a conversation that started in 2015.
For several years now I’ve been part of the SHRM Blog team that gets a pass to conference each year in exchange for writing about the event. All other notions about SHRM aside, it’s usually a pretty great team of people and I’ve found some incredible mentors and friends through this avenue. Back in 2015 the annual conference was in Vegas and the fundraiser (back when we also had an annual fundraising event for NKH) that was organized for the group to participate in was a poetry slam.
Even though this was my third time being at annual conference, I still didn’t know a lot of the group and I kind of stuck to myself at these events and a handful of familiar faces. One of the people who participated in the slam shared her horrible experiences from multiple conferences through her poetry. I sat so still when she was talking. It was the first time I heard someone who was in the same field as me talk about the way she was treated by males in the industry, and sometimes other females. How she was talked to, how she was propositioned, how certain things were expected of her… I very distinctly remember someone I knew at my table leaning over and saying “she and I are clearly not going to the same conferences.”
But here’s the deal, we are going to the same conferences. It’s happening at conferences that YOU and I are attending. Conferences full of HR professionals! And lawyers! And other business leaders!
After the slam was over I kept telling myself to go over there and talk to her. I was so shocked about what she shared and I truly felt for her, I could relate. I couldn’t think of any words to say so I said what really turned out to be the worst thing I could think of “Why do you keep coming back to these?”
I’m not going to share specifics of what she shared that night in front of the whole crowd because I have literally never talked to her again and did not get her permission to share the details. I’m not going to share specifically what she said in response to my question because that’s for her to share, but I can say she handled it with more grace than I probably would have. I mean, I basically asked her why she continued to come to a conference related to her field that also was a source of potential clients which ultimately turns into revenue. Her livelihood. I asked her why she came back to something that represented a connection to her livelihood.
I have replayed the poetry she shared that night and my idiotic question in my mind so many times since 2015, but most of those times were during the year of 2018.
I was part of the problem that night in Las Vegas. I asked a question that implied it was her fault that these things kept happening because she kept coming back. I asked a question that implied if she would stop coming, these things would stop happening EVEN THOUGH I know these things can happen to anyone, anywhere.
The Vegas conference was a weird conference for me. I felt that a lot of the content was “just playing it safe,” and not challenging us to be bold in our profession. We HR professionals need to hear the hard truth, and this hard truth is that we cannot sit in our offices, behind our desks, and help create a narrative that the victim is to blame. We cannot ask questions that imply a worker put themselves in a position to be harassed just by showing up.
Think about the last time you heard about someone being harassed or being a victim outside of work? How did you react? Did you ask a really dumb question like me? Did you assume the victim should’ve done something different? Were you impartial? Did you look for the facts? Were you sure you knew the victim was lying because you know something about their character already? The truth is, who we are at home is who we are at work-you can’t fake it forever.
That incident in Las Vegas in 2015 is burned in my memory forever. The good thing about that is, I learned something about myself that night and I’ve equipped myself with the resources to handle that differently in the future.
Friend, what are you going to do differently in 2019?
In 2018 I committed to one thing for my career that took far more energy than I had planned. I decided that I needed to stop accepting lower fees for my side work than my male counterparts. I don’t mean accept less than males who do speaking and writing, I mean stop accepting less than males who do speaking and writing in the same arena I do who have comparable experience, knowledge, exposure, etc as me.
Y’all… this was hard. Sometimes it meant saying no to opportunities I really wanted to take and sometimes it meant pressing on with difficult negotiation conversations. Sometimes the first offer was sufficient, plenty of people let me set my own rate, and sometimes I still failed at negotiating the right price and accepted way lower payment than I should have.
I know I’m not the only one up against this. I’ve worked on this for my day job and overlooked the much needed negotiations for my “side gigs.” 2018 was the first time I had enough confidence to start the conversation to earn better pay for my side gigs so I started it.
What is glaringly obvious to me now is so many organizations still do not have a solid compensation strategy. I don’t know how far away we are from more folks getting this right, but I sure hope we can collectively step our game up this year.
I mean this as HR professionals with a voice in our organizations. I also mean this as HR professionals planning conferences for our profession. I know its tough. I’m helping plan a conference with a limited budget, so limited that one of the speakers we really wanted quoted me a price larger than the entire speaker budget that’s set aside to pay multiple speakers. Multiple speakers people!! We can’t do much this go around, but we can do something and I intend for that something to be as fair as possible.
Together, lets agree to start somewhere. Find a way to get the revenue or the sponsorship’s. Talk about a number your team is comfortable with, and don’t pay someone twice as much as you pay someone else for no good reason. Reach out to other people who have planned conferences and ask advice. Use your resources.
I’ll get better at negotiating my rate properly. You’ll get better at a solid compensation strategy. We will all get better at something this year.
Friends, secure your bag in 2019. If I can help, let me know.