26 December 2007

Movie: Enchanted

I saw Walt Disney's Enchanted the other day and couldn't switch off my built-in HR filter.

First of all, Enchanted is a very beautiful movie with some funny moments. The only complaint I have is that there's hardly any cynical jokes (that's usually my problem with beautiful movies). And any singing in Disney movies still drives me crazy.

New situations and how to react
Here's what happens at the very beginning of the movie: the Princess Giselle is thrown out of her perfect fantasy world and appears in New York. The Prince follows her to bring her back.

Both their situations and the way they react are different.

The Princess: passive and dependent on others
The princess doesn't realize what is happening to her and reacts in a passive way. Instead of trying to take control of her fate she just waits for the prince to rescue her, letting circumstances and other people make decisions for her.

The Prince: dumb, arrogant and focused
The heroic prince starts the search for Giselle the second he arrives in New York. Since he's arrogant and stupid, he doesn't take even a few minutes to assess the situation and adapt to his new surroundings, but at least he's focused and determined to reach his goal.

What we can learn from this
Even if you find yourself in a new and unexpected situation, a general attitude of readiness can help a lot. Try to take control instead of being the ball in a game of pinball.

A goal will give you a direction and help you focus. If you can't make things happen on your own (e.g. the princess needs the prince to save her), at least try to find a way to help (e.g. make sure the prince will find her when he shows up).

Additional observations
Here are other things I noticed while happily munching some popcorn:
  • saying nothing but "no" isn't a good long-term strategy
  • being angry from time to time can be very liberating
  • calling everybody a "peasant" might be resented by some people

And finally a warning: I'll probably watch Alien vs Predator 2 in a few days...

24 December 2007

Quote: Travel Abroad (Dave Barry)

Posting a quote is still a quick and painless way to increase your post count, especially if you have neither the time nor the desire to come up with something clever ;-)
Americans who travel abroad for the first time are often shocked to discover that, despite all the progress that has been made in the last 30 years, many foreign people still speak in foreign languages.
Source: Dave Barry quoted by Tim Ferriss.

Frohe Weihnachten allerseits!

23 December 2007

Quote: Saying "No" (Your HR Guy)

Posting a quote is a quick and painless way to increase your post count. Besides, I love quotes. So here we go:
I am in the business of telling people «no» all day. What makes them think I am actually going to not say «no» to a person that gives me a good reason to do so?
Source: Your HR Guy

21 December 2007

J-2: Scare Your Friends While Making Your Enemies Happy

This is a guest post by my friend Johnny. He knows stuff about me. So I let him use my blog...

By Jaded Johnny (J-2)

Scaring your friends is fun. And it's also a great way to find out who really cares about you.

If you're a man with long hair, some or all of your co-workers will ask you stupid questions like "When will you finally cut your ugly hair?" Here's what you should reply:
I'll cut my hair the day I'll start looking for a new job.
Don't say this too often. And select the right people to say it to.

Ideally, they shouldn't know you too well, so they won't be 100% sure whether you're kidding or not. They must also have a good memory, so they will remember what you said when the time is right. And finally, they should like to talk to people from other departments. This way, the day they remember what you said, the news will spread like wildfire all over the company.

Of course, this takes a lot of careful preparation and you can't rush it. But when you're sure that the time is right: Go and cut your hair!

If you don't have long hair, growing a beard will be faster (and probably just as ugly).

Women can play this game too. It's less dramatic with the hair, but it can work if you never put on make-up or wear a miniskirt.

And it's also great for teamwork. Find a partner in crime and have this person ask the question in a public situation. Possibilities are a meeting with people from other departments or at the cafeteria when everybody is pretending not to listen to your private conversation.

Be creative. Do evil. Have fun!

20 December 2007

Link: Krusty for CEO

Wally Bock at Three Star Leadership mentions in "Your Concerns Are Their Concerns" how less and less people will really tell you what they think the more you move up the hierarchy.

I just had to quote this paragraph, both because I believe that's it's true and because I love the way Wally formulates it:
The higher you move up the hierarchy the more people tell you what you want to hear, filter the information that you get, and avoid telling you unpleasant truths. The natural human reaction to this is to believe that everyone agrees with you and that you're doing a great job, even when they hate you, think you're a jerk and think the place would be better off with Krusty the Clown at the helm.

Challenge: Asshole Rating Self-Exam (ARSE)

In my last post about Robert Sutton's book "The No Asshole Rule" I challenged all HR Professionals to do the ARSE and report their personal score in the comments.

Congratulations to all the courageous ones who disclosed their scores! Here's an update
  • 7 people participated with an average score of 5.43
  • no Certified Assholes participated
  • Laurie came up with the (not yet) scientific term AQ (Asshole Quotient)
I've published some statistics here.

Both in the book and in the online ARSE, the test consists of a total of 24 questions to the following topics:
  • What are your gut reactions to people (8 questions)
  • How do you treat other people? (10 questions)
  • How do people react to you? (6 questions)
All "true" statements are counted which leads to the following possible results:
  • 0-5 true: you're not a certificed asshole (if you answered honestly)
  • 5-15: borderline certificied asshole
  • 15 or more: full-blown certified asshole
To make my little statistics project possible I tweaked the categories to 0-5, 6-15 and 16-24.

The challenge is still open! Don't be afraid and don't be shy!

18 December 2007

Book: The No Asshole Rule

I finally finished reading the famous book by Robert I. Sutton (PhD), professor at Stanford University. Bob's book is called "The No Asshole Rule".

Professor Sutton won't bore you with politically correct, scientific lingo. In fact, the first sentence of the book is:
When I encounter a mean-spirited person, the first thing I think is: "Wow, what an asshole!"
This book manages to combine scientific research with real world stories in a way that everybody can understand and relate to.

You will get information about studies regarding bullying, emotional abuse and harassment at the workplace. But in the end, Sutton will still call the "├╝ber-jerks" (see chapter 3) by their real name: assholes.

The book contains descriptions and definitions of abusive bosses and co-workers, examples and tips for surviving and leaving an asshole-infested work environment and, probably most important of all, recommendations that will help you realize that you're an asshole or help you avoid becoming one.

Chapter 6 is almost shocking as it describes the advantages of behaving like an asshole. But this only shows that Sutton analyzes a topic from every possible angle as the true scientist he is.

Here are some of the references that the trivia fans and celebrity addicts will enjoy: The Godfather, Virgin's Richard Branson, Disney's Michael Eisner, Google's Sergey Brin and many more.
(Prize question: which ones are the assholes? Oh, I forgot to mention Steve Jobs!)

And still, in the end there's no doubt that this book is not trivialized pop-science, but rather solid research explained in a way that even I can understand.

Bob Sutton's blog: Work Matters

The Self-Test from chapter 4 is also available online:
ARSE (Asshole Rating Self-Exam)
It's not really about "Am I an asshole or not?" but rather "where do I, or may I, behave like an asshole?".

2 weeks ago I was a 4 ("You don't sound like a certified asshole"). Today I'm a 5 ("You sound like a borderline certified asshole"). I'm not as nice as I used to be...

Do the test and post your score in the comments!

The Morning After (The Office Party)

Office parties have been a hot topic these last days. Here's my morning-after-advice.

You made a fool of yourself at the office party and feel embarrassed, maybe even guilty. Now what to do?

First of all, don't come to me.
If nobody complained to HR (me), then I don't want to hear about it.

If you feel that you should apologize to somebody, then do it.
But don't do it in public. Otherwise you might further embarrass yourself if there was nothing to apologize about in the first place. And if you actually did behave in an inappropriate way, the other person certainly doesn't want to be reminded of it in front of everybody else.

If you think that other people talk behind your back, take it like a man (or woman).
Perfect people only do perfect things. The rest of us learn from our mistakes and live with the consequences.

Like I said, don't come to me.
If you crossed an important line then I don't have time to talk to you since I'm preparing your termination. In this case you'll hear from me as soon as I'm done.

And if it was only something really funny or stupid, then I probably already heard about it, closed my office door and laughed my ass off.

17 December 2007

Tag: Christmas Meme (And: Who Wants To Be My Friend?)

I've been tagged by HR Wench so now I need to answer some questions about Christmas.

The Rules
  • Link to the person that tagged you, and post the rules on your blog
  • Share Christmas facts about yourself
  • Tag 7 random people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs
  • Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
The Meme

1. Wrapping or gift bags?
I usually do the packing at my parents' house 30 minutes before the gift distribution so I have to use what's left (my parents don't buy bags).

2. Real or artificial tree?
No tree at all. Artificial looks stupid and real makes too much of a mess. My parents happily stopped buying a tree as soon as my brother and I refused to do the decorating.

3. When do you put up the tree?
The what?

4. When do you take the tree down?
About 15 years ago for the last time.

5. Do you like eggnog?
I never had any, but Stephen Colbert enjoyed it on his show in huge quantities last year. So It must be good.

6. Favorite gift received as a child?
Money to buy my first bass guitar (although it wasn't at Christmas and I was a teenager).

7. Do you have a nativity scene?
Nope, but I have a Matrix scene all year long with Morpheus, Trinity, Neo and Tank. And also a Star Wars scene with figures from Kinder Schokolade eggs.

8. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
A pair of socks and some milk chocolate (the most boring kind).

9. Mail or email Christmas cards?
I hate writing cards so I don't do it.

10. Favorite Christmas movie?
The Long Kiss Goodnight with Samuel L. Jackson and Geena Davis. Closely followed by Die Hard 1.

11. When do you start shopping for Christmas?
I try to "gift pool" so somebody else does the shopping. When it doesn't work it's usually 2 hours before the shops close.

12. Favorite things to eat at Christmas?
Whatever my brother cooks. Every year he treats us with fantastic dishes we never ate before.

13. Clear lights or colored on the tree?
Stop it already with the stupid tree questions.

14. Favorite Christmas song?
Idlechatter's punk-rock version of "Frosty The Snowman". And the Roten Rosen album "Warten Auf's Christkind".

I'm Tagging

I should tag 7 random people, but I hate harassing innocent bystanders. And since I work in HR, I have very few friends by definition. So I'll only tag 3 people:

Deb at 8 Hours & A Lunch and my HR blogging heroines Evil HR Lady and Ask A Manager.

Do You Want To Be My Friend?

I have currently 4 slots left for people who want to be my friends. Just post a link to your meme in the comments and I'll retroactively tag you ;-)

Guest Post: Rachel On Communication For Managers

This is a guest post by Rachel from The Employment File.

Rachel posted her Deathbed Managerial Advice in response to my "5 Things to say to Managers" challenge. Then I challenged her on her #5 "COMMUNICATE".

I must have said something like "this is great advice, but how do you motivate managers to really communicate when most of them will say that their voice mail is always available and that they have an open door policy (they usually say this when they work in an open space)."

Without missing a beat, she sent back the article below and allowed me to publish it. Since I like to have the last word, I wrote back some feedback, but she qualified my suggestions as "selling and schmoozing" to managers.
...and she challenged me to write a follow up post on "selling an idea to managers".

HR Advice to Managers: Communication

Having your door open or your lines clear is not communicating. There's nothing wrong with being available for these types of communication, but they should not be your primary communication vehicle. Communication is a two way road. While on the one side of the road you have employees "driving" towards you, that lane should be relatively free. On the other side of the road, you're approaching the employee, that lane should be bumper to bumper traffic.

So, let's say that you're on the road and you're ready to initiate communication. If it doesn't happen in voice mail and email where does it happen? Hopefully it's face to face. However, we're aware that it's not always easy to get face time with an employee. You should have set times to communicate with the employee on a weekly basis and work "on the fly" on a day to day basis. It means stopping for a second and checking in. What do you check in about? Well, think of how angry you would be (or your spouse would be) if you came home from work every night, asked how their day was, and then moved on to read the paper. While this is communication, it is communication at a very basic level. This is not the level of communication you want to give your employees or your spouse. Instead of, "how are you" try something like "I know today must have been hard for you working alone. I want you to know I appreciated it." Or instead of "This is the new policy, make sure you follow it" try "Here's the new policy, take a day to read it and come up with questions and then we'll have a staff meeting where I can address your concerns." See the difference?

One of the best ways to communicate with an employee is to provide them with feedback. Everyone loves to be praised! Make sure you reinforce their behavior when they do something right. This does not mean going on about how your administrative assistant can measure coffee, it means telling that assistant that you appreciate her getting your coffee with a smile when you know she'd rather be working on a more challenging project. Now, the opposite of praise is criticism. Don't worry! People don't hate criticism as much as they say. Most people want to better themselves and the best way to do that is to receive criticism. Now how you communicate that criticism matters. Don't tell Jim that watching him do a presentation is like watching paint dry. Tell him that he should look into it, and then....give advice on how to do that. Make sure criticism is always followed by advice on how to improve. It's just good communication.

As for HR, since full communication can be difficult to maintain, we like to give you reminders to keep you on the right path.

08 December 2007

Employees 2.0 And HR In General

This is a guest post from a friend of mine. He prefers to remain anonymous, but he swears that everything is true.

Thank you for writing all this stuff about HR "persons" being also employees, this really opened my eyes. It would never have occurred to me that people in HR are also employees (let aside humans).

Recently, I've heard the term "Employee 2.0". It's about the future employees who are now attending schools or universities and who use "new" technologies. The rationale goes like this: a company has to keep up with these "new" technologies and integrate them in the work flows as not to alienate the future workforce. The idea is that these employees will be more productive if they encounter familiar tools like Blogs, Podcasts, Wikis and YouTube clones.

Personally, I believe it's only an excuse for the IT guys to introduce new toys and seem innovative instead of solving the real problems. In my company, they even introduced something similar to YouTube and started a pilot with portable players for Podcasts. They're just crazy bastards!

Last week I met a friend who works at a company of the [bleep] group in [double bleep]. I was quite surprised at how much he praised their HR. It seems that they are not understaffed (maybe they don't have enough beds so some HR people actually have to do some work) and they do more than just hire and fire resources, sorry, employees. It seems they really help you plan your career at their company. This seems odd since I had never heard that this was a task for HR ?!?

Additionally, the yearly employee survey is at over 85% satisfaction and they want to introduce measures to increase it even more. In our company, HR gets a big bonus and starts partying if we are over the destructive mark (which actually hasn't happened in the last few years).

06 December 2007

Turnover And Retention: Be Careful What You Google For

When researching information online, you can sometimes come up with true gems. But you'd better choose your search words wisely...

This was definitely not the kind of retention information I was looking for:
Determination of rumen fill, retention time and ruminal turnover rates of ingesta at different stages
(link leads to a pdf file).

Link: Career Advice For HR Professionals

The wise but evil HR Lady replied to a reader question from an HR professional who doesn't know how to continue his career.

The article is awesome as always and the comments are also full of great recommendations to think about:
  • there's no clear career path for HR, but the possibilities are almost endless
  • what do you really want and what are your strengths?
  • management / leadership with a more strategic role or continue to get your hands dirty?
  • ...and much more!

Funny fact: specialist / generalist is mentioned a few times. I don't know about other countries, but in Switzerland an "HR Specialist" is usually the most "generalist" you can get.

04 December 2007

Turnover: A Quick And Dirty Online Search

A quick and dirty online search confirms that there's a lot of interest for turnover and that it's very difficult to calculate its costs.

Absolute costs of turnover
Many opinions about the costs of turnover range from 25% to 250% of a position's annual salary costs.

How to measure the costs of turnover
Elements that can be included in the calculation are:
  • job ads
  • recruiting agencies
  • temporary staff
  • salary of interviewers
  • lost productivity
  • training of new hire
  • severance costs
  • ...and many more
The Internet is also full of online tools for calculating the costs of turnover. Most of these tools are developed by consultants who will sell you their services once you realize how much money you loose due to turnover.

As everything out there in the Cloud, some tools may be very good while others are probably a joke. But they can give interesting input for developing one's own list of costs elements or calculation tools.

How much turnover is too much?
Specific figures are tricky since in one situation 10% can be a lot while in another it can be absolutely acceptable. A good idea could be to find info about the industry average or the turnover rates of direct competitors. But in general, an increasing turnover rate is mostly bad.

Why isn't turnover always bad?
A bad performer may be replaced with a better one (although it's usually the good ones who leave). Or an exit could give the opportunity to promote a rising star.

And I even heard that there are still a few companies where employees stay for 20 or more years. In this case low turnover can become very costly due to continuous salary raises over a long period of time. And since new employees often bring new ideas, innovation could also suffer.

Turnover or retention rate?
Some articles recommend to measure the retention rate instead of turnover. This way you can analyze who is leaving when and after how much time instead of just measuring how many percent of your staff are leaving.

What I learned from my short virtual trip
  • turnover exists (I read about it on the Internet!)
  • it costs a lot, but nobody really knows how much
  • consultants love turnover
  • zero turnover shouldn't be the goal
  • "retention rate" sounds like something worth looking into

02 December 2007

Quotes: Too Much TV

I've been watching some tv and stumbled across the following quotes:

First of all, a quote from The Patriot. I saw it on a German channel and when researching it online, I didn't find the final script (only drafts), but what I heard in the movie goes something like this:
A shepherd needs to be there for his herd. And sometimes, he also needs to keep the wolves away from the sheeps.
(The Reverend, when joining the militia)
What it tells me: I spontaneously thought of assholes. I'm currently reading Robert Sutton's book "The No Asshole Rule". Managers need to protect their employees from abusive jerks.

Don't take it personally, just take it seriously.
(Gordon Ramsay on Kitchen Nightmares, season 1 episode 9)
What it tells me: not often enough, but still occasionally, some people may tell us what they really think. Take it seriously, it's a great chance to learn something. Don't be annoyed, don't pout. Consider it. If they're wrong, forget about it and move on. But if they're right, do everything you can to learn from it and become a better person and a better professional.

There's 3 choices in this life: Be good, get good or give up.
(Dr. House to a dying punk-rocker on House, season 4, episode 9)
What it tells me: Some are born good at what they're doing. I don't know many of them. Others give everything they got to become great. But sometimes the best thing you can do is quit. And then you can focus all your energy on things that can really make you successful and happy.

This reminds me of Seth Godin's "The Dip: a little book that teaches you when to quit (and when to stick)".

That's all, folks.

01 December 2007

Poll: Why did you start working in HR?

I love polls. "Do you like a, b, or c better?". Somebody wants to hear my opinion? No problem, here you go... But why did you start working in HR?

If you're anything like me, you won't be able to resist clicking on the little button.

The only downside: you have to go to the blog page (you can't vote from an RSS reader).

Admittedly, I've predefined the possible answers, but if you take this survey with a grain of salt, you will certainly have fun.

And if I get more than 10 answers, I will create a pie chart and post it on the Companion Page.