14 December 2008

Quote: Competence (L.J. Peter)

Dr. Laurence J. Peter, creator of the Peter Principle, said:
Competence, like truth, beauty and contact lenses, is in the eye of the beholder.
(Peter L.J. & Hull R., The Peter Principle - Why things always go wrong, 1969)
This quote isn't helpful if you're looking for a definition of "competence". If you've been looking for your contact lenses, however, maybe they were in your eyes the whole time and you've just experienced a classic "duh" moment.

You may have some specific criteria for evaluating your own competence. This is good and necessary on a personal level and should validate your self-esteem. But if you want to boost your career, all that matters is whether your manager thinks you're competent or not.

So the next question is: what does your manager expect from you?
I can spontaneously think of two completely different criteria for competence. Your manager's main goal is that you:

  • provide great customer service
  • execute processes as efficiently as possible
Of course you're an engaged professional and want to offer your customers both. But unfortunately trying to get the best of both worlds often results in mediocre performance and disappointed managers.

Let me illustrate the two examples:
An employee pops into your office an has a question. You know that it will take you 15 minutes to make your customer happy.
Great customer service
You drop what you were doing and take care of the unplanned request. The employee will be very happy but you might have to go home later than planned or won't be able to deliver some things on time.

Efficient processes
Dropping what you were doing is not efficient, so you ask your customer to send you an email and promise to take care of the request within 72 hours. The employee seems a bit disappointed when he leaves your office and you lock the door behind him to avoid further distractions.

Depending on what is expected of you, both reactions can be appropriate. The art is to find out what your manager expects of you.

Since many managers have trouble formulating their expectations, here's a hint:
  • If your company has 1 HR person per 50 employees, you should be able to provide customized services and satisfy spontaneous requests at once.
  • If there's only 1 HR person per 300 employees, you're probably better off defining some Service Level Agreements (e.g. all requests must be sent to hr@YourCompany.com and will be processed within 72 hours).
...and did you find your contact lenses?

26 November 2008

We're All Gonna Die

No, I'm not depressed and I'm not borderline suicidal either.
Yes, I'm a big fan of Heroes. Although lots of people say that it's lost its edge, I still luh-huve it. Very much, very deeply and very fondly.

At the beginning of ep 3x10 (for the die-hard fans: at 9 min 4 secs) Brea Grant playing the character Daphne Millbrook says
We're all gonna die...
Yes, we're all gonna die. Someday. Eventually.

I can only speak for myself, but tomorrow will be the first day of the rest of my life.

So what is today? The day before the first day of the rest of my life? How long will my life be? Who knows, who cares? I once heard that TODAY matters. What about tomorrow? Too complicated? Too ethereal? And what does it have to do with HR? And what does "ethereal" mean?

[switch to HR topic]
Too touchy-feely pink-and-fluffy?

[now we're back to HR]
Yeah, HR is all about emotions and being nice to each other.

Oh wait, aren't HR peeps known to be tough as nails, emotionless and slaves to the corporate line? Yes, no, maybe, a little, a lot, very much, not at all?

In case you've been wondering: no, this post has no purpose.

I've been enjoying some time off the Interwebs. One year ago I would have felt miserable being away from the Net for more than 5 hours. At the moment I haven't been posting for quite a while, I check my emails once a week (usually) and have been ignoring Twitter completely (hey, is it true that Twitter rejected a multi-billion offer from Facebook?).

Tim Ferriss would probably call this a "mini-retirement" from the Web.

I'm too young to be a retiree, but it's never too early to retire.

Okay, I'm not sure if the last statement sounded cool, insightful, lame or whatever. Maybe some Net-addict will add it to some online quotes database?

Buddy, are you still checking my blog from time to time hoping that I will post something? If so, puh-leaze leave a comment ;-)

And now for the punchline:
I enjoyed my time being (more or less) offline. I miss being (actively) online. I love writing. Lately, I didn't have anything to write about. But the Bamby movie told me one thing: If you have nothing nice to say, shut the fuck up. Or in my case: if you have nothing interesting to write about, just read books, try out Ramsay's Broccoli soup (it's delicious!), watch Heroes and have a good time.

And that's the Word for today.

01 October 2008

Contest: Ugliest Tie

It's not an HR Challenge. It's just a fun little contest... for the ugliest tie.

Send me a picture of your
ugliest tie. There's a few rules, and a very tough jury, but you might win a book!

Ze Rules
Send me a picture of your ugliest tie.
Condition: you must have been wearing this tie at least once in a professional setting. Srsly!

I need to see it!
Post it anywhere you like on the Interwebs. But make sure I know about it. I'll then add it to my Picasa account for everybody to see.

The jury
Ties are mostly part of a man's, man's world. This is why I asked 5 wonderful ladies to perform some jury duty:
The book
The winner will get a book. If you win, I'll ask you to send me a link to your Amazon wishlist and you'll get a book sent to you by snail mail.

Here's my ugliest tie. I've got way uglier ties, but this is the blarghiest one I've ever been wearing at work.

Now it's up to you. Do your worst!

20 September 2008

Things We Would Love To Say

There are things most HR professionals would love to say from time to time. I know I do. But insulting people is (un)fortunately not in our job description ;-)

Dr. House doesn't care. He's rude, insensitive and he speaks his mind. I'm only halfway through episode 1 of the 5th season, but he already inspired me. Someday, maybe, I'll tell a line manager:
You're being an idiot!

17 September 2008

Are You Like The Pizza Guy?

The pizza delivery guy really impressed me. I met him the other day in the elevator and immediately commented on his huge delivery bag.

"It's for family pizzas," he explained. I grunted something to indicate that I understood.

"They're really convenient." And without missing a beat, he added "The prize is very good, and they even come with a free drink."

That's when we reached the ground floor. If he had handed me a 4-color leaflet with a list of available toppings and a big fat phone number printed on top, I would have asked for his CV and given it to the sales director first thing the next morning. Okay, we don't have a sales director, but you get my drift.

Afterwards I wondered how our employees respond when asked where they work. Do they just mention the name of their employer or do they add two or three positive things about our company or products?

13 September 2008

Tagging Season Has Started

It's tagging season again. This time I've got tagged twice. The HR Blog Diva who tagged me last December for the Christmas Meme got tagged three times. This is what happens when you become an online celebrity ;-)

The interesting thing is that both Maren Hogan and HR Maven informed me via Twitter direct
message. And Maren answered the challenge via vlog (or whatever young people call these things nowadays). The times they are definitely a-changin'.

So I'm supposed to tell you six random things about myself. Luckily I'm good at saying random things...
  1. I burned my arm when I was 1 year old and I still think that the scar looks kinda cool
  2. I bought my first bass guitar when I was 16 and joined my first rock band 1 year later
  3. The ironing board is still standing in my living room
  4. I've had my driving license since 1991 but bought my first car this April
  5. I'm trying to come up with number 5. Hey, that was random!
  6. The Chief Personnel Officer at a former company gave me a Fender Stratocaster and I call her White Beauty
Bonus: I call my Black Golf "La Nera"

Now I'm supposed to tag 6 innocent bloggers...
  1. Rachel Robbins
  2. HC3
  3. Claude Rinfret
  4. Mr. Scrubby
  5. Cali Ressler (5 random things)
  6. Jody Thompson (5 random things)
Okay, I cheated a little bit with Cali & Jody because they already posted random things in August.

But you know what? Sue me! And by the way, I live in Switzerland. Good luck! A judge would probably pat you on the head, give you a lollipop and say that he finds you amusing.

And here is the Tag Policy (approved by the Executive Management):
  1. Link to the person who tagged you.
  2. Post the rules on the blog.
  3. Write six random things about yourself.
  4. Tag six people at the end of your post.
  5. Let each person know they have been tagged.
  6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.
JT O'Donnell said in the comments that 5 (or 6) things were doable. So I'm also tagging her now ;-)

The Interwebs - And Why Sometimes I'm Too Enthusiastic

It's almost scary how much I love the Interwebs. And sometimes I can even go a bit overboard with my enthusiasm.

Jenn Barnes published a post on HRM Today called 10 Reasons Why HR Professionals Should Blog (hint to recruiters: she's currently looking for a job!).

So I started happily commenting on 5 of the 10 points and hit the "add comment" button. Afterwards I realized that my comment was almost as long as the original post and felt that this was a really rude thing to do. Luckily the HRM Today engine (hosted on Ning) lets you delete comments.

On the other hand I really liked what I had written, so here it is, so to speak within my own four virtual walls.

Comments on the 10 Reasons Why HR Professionals Should Blog

1.It's fun
Yeah, you betcha. I'm definitely having a blast with this whole online stuff including my blog!

2. It's a great conversation starter
Nope, my techie friends are usually not interested in HR and many of my HR buddies think the Interwebs are for crazies and don't have time to read these blog thingies. Seriously, most times I mention my blog during a conversation the topic changes within 20 seconds or less.
And then people wonder why I spend so much time with my HR blogger friends on Twitter and HRM Today ;-)

6. You participate in talking about the profession instead of hearing about the profession from others (especially those pesky "experts").
It's true, exchanging ideas with and learning from like-minded people from all over the world is amazing.
And the funny thing is that some of them are actually "experts", but in this situation they're just another blogger who talks to you instead of at you.

8. Sometimes you have fans - and they are adorable and sometimes even "star struck" when they meet you in person. Really!
Star struck? Not yet. But I'm realizing that some truly awesome people are reading my blog. Some leave comments, others tell me through email or Twitter. Some are complete strangers who impress me with their insights or just because they're friendly and supportive. Others are bloggers I truly admire and I would never have expected them to notice what I write.

10. You learn more about yourself, the profession and technology than you ever thought possible.
This is so true! When blogging I reveal my point of view on certain things and everybody in the world with an Internet connection can potentially read it. This forces me to think very hard about certain things. It's amazing how much I learned and the matrix (as in Gibson, not the movie) is a major reason why my passion for HR is still growing and growing.

11 September 2008

ROWE-y: No More Bragging About Long Hours

This is my public commitment:
From now on I will stop bragging or complaining about the hours I spend at work.
It's no secret that I'm a big fan of ROWE (Results-Only Work Environment). And although I won't actively promote it at work, I will start making adjustments to my attitudes and work habits.

Therefore "ROWE-y". Not quite ROWE, but getting closer. Baby step after baby step.

The 7th ROWE Guidepost is:
Nobody talks about how many hours they work.
If I work too many hours, it's my problem.
True, if I'm on sick leave because of burn-out, then it becomes my manager's problem too. But at the end of the day, it's still my responsibility.

Whenever somebody tells me how tough their job is and how many hours they put in I feel the urge to prove that I'm a hard worker too.
At the same time saying that I worked over 50 hours last week is lame. 60 or 70 hours would sound much tougher.

But I'm sick of this. It's a senseless pissing contest which you can only loose because you'll end up either frustrated or in a coma.

If I can't brag about long hours, I will have to validate my value to the company in a different way.
The alternative is to figure out what I'm actually doing all day, deciding what is really useful and necessary and then, of course, remember all these great things that I'm doing for my employer. Because seriously, of the several dozen things I did today, I could hardly remember 10 right now.

Whether I work many or few hours, I'll start concentrating on my achievements. This is me getting ROWE-y!

09 September 2008

Less Cheese, More Meat!

Are there still people who pretend that the Interwebs aren't any good for generating and sharing ideas?

Mark's article at HC3 Take Control Of Your Job And Your Success reminded me of an idea I had for a t-shirt. I also mentioned his article as an inspiration for my post Give Them What They Want. Mark then shared in the comments one of the reasons why he's in charge of HR for a multinational corporation:
I jumped to doing all the things in HR most just dream about when I figured out "its not all about me"...I am with you on this one, less cheese, more meat!!! [..]
By the way, "It's not about you" is the 3rd career lesson in Dan Pink's book Johnny Bunko.

And as today's grand finale, here's a terrible picture of my great idea:


08 September 2008

HR Carnival: I'm Finally In!

The newest Carnival of HR is up at Guerilla HR and this time I finally contributed something. Patrick Williams even gave Employees Are A Necessary Evil the award for most shocking post title ;-)

Short commercial break:
Jon Ingham from the Strategic HCM blog and another Carnival of HR participant, will hold a webinar on 11 September 2008 about The Evolution Continues: Trends in Digital HR (free registration here).

Jon is based in the UK, wrote a book and you can follow him on Twitter.

And finally, a little walk down memory lane:

The next Carnival of HR will be released 17 September 2008 at Sharp Brains. The full schedule can be found at the Evil HR Lady's.

05 September 2008

Give Them What They Want!

I'm in a great mood today (see previous post), but I really need to get this off my chest:

HR people need to stop whining all the time.

Instead, we need to start listening to our customers and provide them with what they really need.

Free bonus tip:
They might want something different from what we think they need.

Shocking hypothesis:
They might even be right!

Rick at Flip Chart Fairy Tales discussed a McKinsey article mentioning that
  • HR professionals see themselves in a far better light than Line Managers see them
  • HR thinks they should be the judge of how effective they are
  • And we're still looking for reasons why we should have a seat at the table
Mark at Human Capital 3 wrote a very inspiring post explaining why he can't stand mediocrity and encouraging HR professionals to strive for more.

Yes, I want my seat at the table someday. But I'm not ready yet and still have a long way of hard lessons and painful mistakes in front of me.

I also want to start seeing my HR job more like a business. How can I expect line managers to play along with all the cool HR stuff like employee development programs if they still struggle with basic processes? Why should they see me as a valuable strategic partner if I don't deliver them solid support with basic things?
Wait, we're in HR. We read all the good books and know what the company needs. We're just misunderstood and under appreciated. Nobody understands us. The other kids are so mean.
Or could it be that I have to prove myself first? Do I understand my line managers' business and know what they're struggling with day after day? Did I seriously think about how I could make their lives easier?

Would the line managers agree to pay me if I was an outside consultant?

My recent post Employees Are A Necessary Evil is probably a sign that I'm losing patience lately. And I know that I have a tendency to make snarly comments, but I really like this quote from the TV show Burn Notice. It's about spies, but I decided to apply it to us HR folks.
You know HR professionals... bunch of bitchy little girls.

04 September 2008

The Interwebs Are A Village (Shameless Self-Promotion)

Now this is just too cool: While reviewing Dan Pink's book Johnny Bunko I mentioned the red stapler. Believe it or not, it seems that I was the first one to pick up on this Office Space reference and Dan mentioned it on his blog!

He also called me "a blogging HR Guru".
This man's got a great sense of humor ;-)

Be sure to check out Dan's blog!
And for the Obama fans, here's a post showing how the principles from the book apply to Obama.

Other things that are just too awesome not to mention here:
Now I really need to post a review of Why Work Sucks. And maybe, who knows, the two nice ladies might even mention it ;-)

This is my little trophy gallery so far.

31 August 2008

Johnny Bunko Trailer

I recently reviewed Daniel Pink's Johnny Bunko. Here's some fun bonus stuff.

HR Minion reminded me that she had been faster (and Dan Pink even left a comment). Same as with our Wanted movie reviews: hers was published 3 weeks before mine.

However, and I think this is important, I managed to mention the red stapler in both reviews ;-)

Below the infotaining Johnny Bunko trailer.

And this part still cracks me up every time I watch it:
In the 70's and 80's people asked: What color is your parachute?
In the 90's people asked: Who moved my cheese?
Now a new generation is asking a new question about their work and their lives:


Something I Wanted To Say...

I suck at marketing. Or call it self-promotion if you like.

And my memory is terrible. There's something I wanted to announce for the last couple of weeks, but I just can't put my finger on it...


For immediate release
The "The Happy Employee" blog has found a new home at

About the THE blog
"The Happy Employee" is a blog about Human Resources and combines wisdom with weirdness. It's not yet a mainstream success but does enjoy the much appreciated patronage of a small but extremely loyal, intelligent, beautiful and competent circle of regular readers.


Oh yes, now that I think of it, did I tell you that I bought myself a domain name for my birthday?

27 August 2008

Alltop Thinks I'm Kind Of A Big Deal

I'm featured on Alltop HR!
And I'm allowed to display their badge on my blog!
This is awesome!

In case you didn't hear about Alltop
It's basically a homepage with lots of links to blogs. Like a blog directory.

Guy Kawasaki
But since Guy Kawasaki is involved, everything about Alltop is pretty exciting. Guy is a venture capitalist, author, used to work for Apple and so on. He's also the one who put Bob Sutton's ARSE (Asshole Rating Self-Exam) online which I used for my ARSE Challenge.

Neenz is Alltop's gatekeeper. Convince her that you should be listed and she will add you. She's also got a great sense of humor. For example, she said that they would be honored if I added their badge to my blog. I mean, the reason I wanted to be featured in the first place was to display the "confirmation that I kick ass" badge ;-)

Okay, but what is Alltop again?
Alltop is described as a digital magazine rack of the Internet. Choose from around 180 categories and you will be presented with the top blogs on this topic. You can then hover over the title of a post to read the first sentences and click to visit the blog.

Oh yes, did I mention that Neenz is an incredibly nice gal?
(hint: check the Alltop badges)

25 August 2008

Employees Are A Necessary Evil

Employees are human, but at the end of the day they're just a resource.

Don't get me wrong, I love working in HR and since I don't want to start my own company, I'm happy being an employee. Of course, I don't mind the monthly paycheck either. But sometimes a cold shower of tough reality can't hurt.

Maybe the company you're working for tells you that employees are its most important resource.
That's wrong! Some companies can exist without staff, but no company can survive without money.

Believe me, if your employer could make money without you, you wouldn't be on his payroll. In fact, if I started my own business, I would do everything to avoid having employees.

Like I said, I'm happy to be an employee. I'm also grateful for working with some very capable and dedicated people who have all my respect.

But if you're in charge of a business, especially if its your own company and your livelyhood is on the line, you will approach staffing decisions very carefully.

Now the good news is that if you have a job, you're necessary. But it doesn't mean that your employer is happy about it.

And remember: Necessary is not the same as irreplaceable.

21 August 2008

New Job: Arrive On Time (Not Too Early, Not Too Late At All)

I talked about this before, but punctuality is extremely important. For some it's natural while others will always struggle with it. And of course, the perception of punctuality varies depending on the company, country or culture.

But especially if you're unsure about the company or are just starting your first job in a new country, I would recommend the accountant's approach: be precise. If you're supposed to be there at 9:00 am, don't be there later than 9:00 am (not 9:01 am). On the other hand, you shouldn't show up before 8:55 am, otherwise you will look like you're overeager, desperate or simply can't manage your time.

And keep in mind that the people expecting you might be nervous as well. Maybe your new boss is desperately looking for the perfect thing to say when he greets you. Or the person who will train you is trying to get as much done as possible before you arrive. Don't show up at 8:25 unless you want to annoy them. Hint: not the best strategy for your first day.

On your way to work, come up with a good password. This way, when you get your new laptop and the IT guy tells you to choose a new password NOW, you won't freeze, feel embarrassed and finally use your birthday.

And it will keep your thoughts busy so you might forget to be nervous for a few minutes. Because, lets face it, there are so many things that could go wrong on your first day ;-)

Previous posts in the New Job Series
Part 1: Before The First Day
Part 2: Maybe Your Manager Is Nervous Too?

18 August 2008

Book: Johnny Bunko (The Last Career Guide You'll Ever Need)

Daniel Pink could have written a classic business book about choosing a career, but he took a risk, tried something new and wrote a manga!

The ad for The Adventures Of Johnny Bunko (The Last Career Guide You'll Ever Need) says that it's "Americas first business book as manga". It contains very nice and expressive art in the style of Japanese comics as well as fun dialogues. But it's also full of valuable advice presented in a very engaging way.

In Daniel Pink's own words:
Today the question at the center of work is: WTF?!
The book explores this question resulting in the "six lessons of a satisfying, successful career". You probably heard them before in one form or another. But believe me, never like this. Or has any career counselor ever said to you that
when it comes to work, you're as clueless as a cucumber.
I really liked how Pink introduces Johnny Bunko as a hardworking but disillusioned and somewhat clueless knowledge worker and then walks him (and the reader) through the six lessons.

I also enjoyed seeing the name of Martin Seligman (Learned Helplessness) and the face of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (Flow) in a manga.

But the absolutely coolest was of course the red stapler! Okay, it's in black & white, but it was so obvious, it had to be a red stapler.

The only bad thing about the book is that it's too short. But I always say that after reading a great manga.

17 August 2008

Tech Tip: Simple Org Charts In Google Docs

Google Docs & Spreadsheets lets you create simple org charts in a matter of minutes.

I wouldn't use this in a presentation for the board of directors, but it can be useful if you need to visualize something on the spot.

I did this simple and mostly fictional org chart in less than 3 minutes. Hopefully my friends at HR Bloggers won't mind...

How to do it
  1. create a new Google Spreadsheet
  2. add 2 columns: first for employees, second for managers
  3. select the data you want to use
  4. click "insert", "gadget"
  5. click "diagrams", "organization chart", then "add to spreadsheet"
  6. insert a title and click "apply and close"
...et voilĂ !

16 August 2008

HR Challenge: Compliments To Annoying People [update]

The newest HR Challenge is still up at JT's. What are you waiting for? Go post your reply so you can stop worrying about the scary gun from the future.

Brazen Careerist mentioned our challenge (see the "In The News" section).

Replies so far (see JT's comment section for the replies):
And a former coworker left a comment, but refused to make me a compliment. Thanks ;-)

But wait, it seems that one very important contribution is still missing... yours!

15 August 2008

New Job: Maybe Your Manager Is Nervous Too?

So you arrived a bit early for your first day at the new job and are walking around the block like I recommended. What is going on in your head?

Maybe accepting this job was a huge mistake? Or you just realized that you were creating a "what could go wrong" list in your head (you just finished reason number 37). What if you just went home and hid under the bed? Would anyone notice?

Relax, if this happens it only shows that you're still human. Which is a good thing, really!

Did you actually consider that your new boss might be nervous as well?
Maybe he's pacing in his office right now having thoughts like:
  • Did I hire the right person? If not, will I find out before the end of the probation period?
  • Did I do a good job at explaining the position during the interview or will he leave before lunch?
  • Should I have talked more about the downsides? After all, it can get pretty chaotic around here.
  • Why didn't I ask IT to confirm that the email address is set up and the laptop is ready?
  • And, believe it or not, many managers worry about: Will he like me and think that I'm a good boss?
Oh, and what if they just forgot that today is your first day at the new job?
Nah, these things only happen in movies...

14 August 2008

New HR Challenge Is Up At JT's

The newest HR Challenge is a team effort between JT O'Donnell and yours truly.

Like I already said on Twitter:
It sounds sweet, it's totes tough!
Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, and I know you're way too cool not to accept it, is to read this and then to post your reply.

And in case you're still hesitating, there's a gun from the future pointed at your head!


13 August 2008

Quote: Connolly, Write For Yourself (And Have A Self)

Better to write for yourself and have no public,
than to write for the public and have no self.
-Cyril Connolly

I truly love this quote, even though it's probably the most hypocritical thing a blogger could say. But lets analyze it from a career point of view.

Write for yourself and have no public

This is the starving artist syndrome. Some may actually enjoy it for a while. But someday they realize that they don't know how to get out of this situation or they fall into the other extreme.

Write for the public and have no self
This is the artist or employee wanting to be successful at any cost and defining success as fame and fortune. Have you ever seen a former rockstar on a talk show desperately trying to get back some of that long lost glimmer?

Write for the public and have a self
I believe it is possible to write for the public or to deliver your weekly TPS reports with the appropriate cover sheet and still have a self. But only if you have something else that motivates you. It can be going home to your family or writing a blog at night.

But if your job makes it impossible to spend time with your family or to write, you're losing your self and you know that you're living a lie. Your means has become the end and your passion is dying.

Write for yourself and have a public

In a perfect world, your job is something that you would do anyway and it doesn't even feel like a job. It might take you a lifetime to find out what you really want or to gather the courage to go for it.

Just keep in mind that those who are living their dreams usually worked as long and hard as the ones aiming for fame and money. But they were reaching for something they truly wanted and continue to be disciplined and dedicated to this day.

11 August 2008

5 Reasons To Be Nice To The CEO's PA

My post 5 Advantages Of Being Nice To IT (And How To Do It) resulted in many more comments than usual (i.e. > 0). It must be true that using numbers in the title is a good idea ;-)

So here's why you should be nice to the CEO's Personal Assistant / Executive Assistant / Office Manager (I combined the positions because I'm lazy. Outraged comments from offended Executive Assistants are welcome).

How to be nice to the PA / EA / OM
  1. Always take the time to say hello in a friendly way
  2. Never ever give her flowers on Secretary Day. You can call her Assistant and maybe Coordinator, but not Secretary!
  3. When she's on the phone, step away but make sure she sees you. This shows that you know what she does is important and that you will wait as long as it takes
  4. When she's busy ask her if she's busy and then mention that you understand she has a tough job. Complain that nobody ever notices all the things she does.
  5. Don't overdo it. She's most certainly susceptible to flattery, but you can bet your lunch money that she is no idiot!

Advantages of being nice
  1. Even though lots of people think of her as arrogant and unfriendly, you will realize that she's quite nice once you make the effort to get to know her
  2. She has a cool sense of humor flavored with just the right amount of cynicism (this is necessary to survive this kind of job, just like in HR)
  3. The day you urgently need to talk to the CEO it will be much easier to get an appointment
  4. You will get plenty of information about what's going on in the company
  5. And finally, and I swear it happened to me, instead of waiting a couple of minutes until she gives you half her attention, can't seem to find the key, walks slowly to the cabinet and gives you one single pen, it will take her less than three seconds to hand you the key and say "Help yourself" with a smile
This is very important, so I'll say it again: Don't overdo the flattery!
Just like Will Smith in the movie I, Robot, she's allergic to bullshit.

10 August 2008

HR Hater Not Too Hateful After All

Sasha at cccritique critiqued posts by Wenchie and Laurie while displaying a generally anti-HR attitude. Well, so what's new?

My HR colleagues didn't start an embarrassing flame war and Sasha joined in the discussion. The fact that both parties were open to dialogue made it not as entertaining as it could have been, but all the more interesting.

And he promised to post job ads he wants to use, so I'm looking forward to The Critique being critiqued by HR people. Lets see how the feedback pros give constructive criticism.

Oh yeah, and Sasha got lots of comments. Lots and lots. I'm jealous.

And now comments, please ;-)

06 August 2008

04 August 2008

5 Advantages Of Being Nice To IT (And How To Do It)

Be always nice to the IT guys. You can be rude to the Sales and Marketing people. In fact, they might even like you for it. But don't ever risk getting on the bad side of the Geeks.

How to be nice to the IT guys

  1. Before asking for help, take a moment to admire the disassembled monstrosity lying around somewhere. Ask what it is and show interest.
  2. From time to time, start a conversation with "I don't really know anything about IT..." and then say something most users wouldn't know. For example "Should I activate the BIOS password? You know, in case my laptop gets stolen?" Or "I noticed that you don't broadcast the SSID on our WIFI network. Do you recommend that I do this at home?"
  3. Once you've established an informal relationship, you may call them jokingly geeks (but never ever use the work "nerd"!).
  4. When they tell you that they will try to take care of your problem if and when they have a minute, say that you know they're incredibly busy and appreciate their help (instead of bitching and making threats like everybody else).
  5. And most important: If required, always open a ticket instead of (or before) barging into their office.
Advantages of being nice to the geeks
(no guarantees here, but it worked a couple of times for me)
  1. Your problems will be solved in less than 30 minutes while others wait 2 weeks with the same problem.
  2. They will let you beta-test cool new software.
  3. You will get additional RAM or a second screen.
  4. You will get admin rights to your machine. Or was it just the trainee who messed up this one time ;-)
  5. When you ask for a new keyboard they won't tell you to open a ticket but will walk over to the shelf and hand you their best piece.
If your ticket gets ignored send reminders until the problem is solved. They don't mind being reminded as long as you're polite and don't contact them several times a day. This doesn't help if you have an ultra urgent problem, but it will pay off in the long run.

And if your IT guy asks you: I never said any of this!

03 August 2008

Wanted, The Movie

I finally saw Wanted tonight and this post is not HR related, except maybe for the stapler.

I really enjoyed the movie and smiled like an idiot most of the time. But although it's about finding what you're really good at and not caring about what others think, I forced myself to display a neutral face when leaving the movie theater. After all, sleeping in my own bed is much more fun than spending the night in a mental institution.

Plenty of spoilers ahead as well as some "bad" language. So consider yourself warned.

The bad thing about the movie is that I already read the graphic novel (GN) twice. So some disappointment was unavoidable, just like when reading a book and then watching the movie (after all, comics are books too).

The main story is the same. It's about a loser wasting his life in a cubicle, being verbally abused by his boss and too dazed and confused to stand up for anything. One day he's being recruited by a criminal network (the Fraternity) who tell him that his father was one of them and that his own assassin training is about to start.

Compared to the GN, the movie's story is completely different and much simpler. It's also quite tame. While the GN is absolutely fucked up, the movie is simply crazy. But they managed to keep the coolness factor high. Having Mark Millar and JG Jones, respectively writer and artist of the original GN, participate in the creation of the movie was definitely the right decision.

Now for a few random observations:
  • based on the GN, Halle Berry would have been perfect for the role of the Fox. But Angelina Jolie brought just the necessary mix of arrogance and coolness.
  • Terence Stamp plays a mostly good guy who's involved with a criminal organization. Just like his role as Stick in the (absolutely terrible) Elektra movie.
  • and finally for the stapler: there's absolutely no doubt in my mind that Wesley's boss is the female management version of Milton. But I think Milton's red stapler was bigger.
HR Minion asked "Wanted: It's not about recruiting? Or is it?".
I'd say the Fraternity tried to make it look like it was about recruiting and training as part of a succession plan, but it was really about (permanently) terminating an unwanted employee.

30 July 2008

Link: PowerPoint Ain't Killing People...

I remembered this awesome presentation about presentations while twittering.

61 slides, can be viewed in less than 5 minutes and you need to be a whole truckload of fries short of a happy meal not to get the message.
Lots of people are killing each other with bad presentations. NOW.

[via Lifehacker]

26 July 2008

TechTip: Who Is Getting Your Credit Card Information?

When sending credit card or other sensitive information through your browser, phishing is a serious problem. Maybe your browser is showing "https://www.mybank.com" in the address bar, but somebody else is getting the information.

This can be avoided very easily by just remembering to click somewhere. No degree in IT or installation of additional programs needed.

First, make sure that https is used (see the URL in the address bar), then check who owns the SSL certificate. Lets take for example https://mail.google.com.


Click the grey lock on the right of the web address and it should say:
"mail.google.com verified by Thawte Consulting".
Internet Explorer
Click the yellow lock on the right of the web address and select "view certificate". It should say:
"issued to: mail.google.com, issued by: Thawte SGC CA".
If it says "issued to criminals who want to steal your money", then something's wrong.

(Inspired by Bruce Schneier recommending to check SSL certificates in his article Man-In-The-Middle Attacks (15 July 2008). He uses the recent hostage liberation in Columbia to explain how a MITM attack works.)

24 July 2008

Link: Why Maternity Leave Can Be Bad For Your Career

Here's an excellent post called Maternity Leave Bad For Career.

Sonia mentions a new maternity law in the UK, explains why it doesn't help and thinks about better ways to handle maternity / paternity leaves.

Thanks Fleur for the link, you're still the best ;-)

New Job: Before The First Day

Lets imagine the following situation: you will start a new job next week and begin to realize what a big step this is for you. Maybe you feel like panicking: don't!

Here are a few tips that will help make your first day a success (and will keep you busy so you don't have time to worry).

1. Clothes
Maybe the dress code at your old company was more casual and you have only one business dress (which you were already wearing to both interviews). If your "nice" clothes were sitting in a closet for a couple of years:
  • check them for holes. Maybe you had hungry little guests.
  • do the chair test with your trousers. Maybe you put on a little weight? Put them on and sit down. If it doesn't hurt and the fabric doesn't tear, you passed.
  • are you sure you remember how to knot a tie? Want to find out Monday morning when you're nervous and already running late?
Don't wait until Sunday evening to realize that you should buy new clothes when all stores are closed.

2. Location
Of course you remember where the company is located. But when you went there for the interviews it was probably during the day, so no rush hour.
  • print a map with directions, it can't hurt.
3. Phone numbers
I work in HR, so I'm always in worst scenario mode. What if you have the hail storm of the century or a truck transporting weapons-grade plutonium has an accident and the road is closed for 5 hours? You shouldn't be late on your first day (or ever), but if push comes to shove, be ready to call ahead.
  • store the phone numbers of your boss and of the switchboard on your mobile phone
4. Ponctuality
Relax, there shouldn't be any hail and the dangerous trucks usually travel during the night. So you won't be late, period! The farther away you live from your place of work, the more you should arrive ahead of time (the farther away, the more possibilities to be held up).
  • be there early and walk a few times around the block. This will also calm your nerves. Or make you even more nervous, who knows?

And now you're finally ready to start your first day at the brand new job!

23 July 2008

ROWE: Some Like It, Others Not So Much

My friendly little duel with Our HR Guy Lance prompted some reactions.

Laurie, ever the ray of sunshine, is simply bored with ROWE and doesn't like the acronym. But she enjoys our back and forth.

Comments to Lance's post had links to some interesting articles:
  • Scott Semple at Semplicity thinks that the book sucks. He's actually completely trashing both the book and Cali & Jody, but what he says is definitely worth thinking about.
  • Mark Stelzner at Inflexion Point posted one article about ROWE in April 2007 and one about Alternative Work Schedules mentioning ROWE last May.
ROWE is new, controversial and crazy. So it's only natural that people react strongly to it. ROWE will be dead the day we stop talking about it, so keep on talking!

22 July 2008

YourHRGuy.com: Why HR Won't Support ROWE

Lance Haun at YourHRGuy.com wrote in reply to my recent post where I complained that HR Bloggers were ignoring the new ROWE book.

He explains why ROWE probably won't be supported by HR Professionals and explains at the same time why ROWE makes sense.

I'm wondering...
...if my dream comes true and ROWE becomes a huge success, will it happen thanks to open-minded and forward-thinking (non-HR) managers?
...and will HR be left behind because we missed the train... again?

Now go read Lance's post if you know what's good for you ;-)

ISAT: Free Online Test

J.T. O'Donnell from Career Insights offers her online ISAT (Interaction Style Assessment Test) for free.

I love tests that take less than 10 minutes to complete and with explanations that can be understood without using a dictionary.

Don't forget to mention your interaction style in the comments!

Me, I'm a Contemplator. Although I don't like that one of the typical areas for a Contemplator is Accounting, I can't really argue with the results ;-)

20 July 2008

I'm On Twitter

I've read many books and even more articles about personal productivity. And yet I joined Twitter.

Am I looking for more excuses to procrastinate? Did I lose my mind? Did I join out of professional interest to evaluate whether Twitter could be used to further HR's goals within a company?

None of the above (maybe number 2, a little bit...). I was simply invited and thought "what the heck, it might be fun".

Maybe I'll stop soon, maybe not. We'll see. In the meantime, you can follow my short ramblings (I think they're called "tweets") when not reading my long ones on this blog.

New ROWE Book: Ignored By HR Bloggers?

I've been gone for 2.5 months and I'm still catching up with hundreds of posts. So I searched for "ROWE" in my RSS reader.

Huge surprise: either I'm subscribing to the wrong feeds, Google Reader's search function is crap, or most HR Bloggers didn't hear about the new ROWE book or decided that it wasn't worth writing about.

I'm talking about "Why Work Sucks and How To Fix It" by Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson. The book about ROWE (Results-Only Work Environment).

Possibly HR's best and currently only chance to dramatically improve many workplaces using a revolutionary method that has so far generated proven results for several years at headquarters of a Fortune 100 company (including measurable increased productivity, less turnover and higher job satisfaction).

Of course, it's not that easy, nobody knows if it will really work in other companies (although a second (smaller) company has also implemented a ROWE) and it's incredibly difficult to convince management to go for it. But if this doesn't work, then what will? Maybe you're busy sitting on the expensive carpet in the hallway outside of the executive meeting room and still wait to be invited to sit at the table? If not this, then you must be waiting for the second coming!

Hah, that was fun. Now that I've finally managed to piss off the few remaining readers of this blog, lets finish "en beauté" with some boring statistics:

I'm currently subscribed to 111 feeds of which 47 are HR related (excluding comments and my own blog). Here are the results of above mentioned search:

Posts published in 2006 about or mentioning ROWE: KnowHR, YourHRGuy
Posts published in 2007 about or mentioning ROWE: KnowHR, YourHRGuy

Posts published in 2008:
  • Tim Ferriss, not an HR blogger, published an excerpt of the book and an interview with Cali & Jody (part 1 and 2)
  • Execupundit linked to and commented Ferriss' post. You can always count on Michael, and the new picture with the sunglasses is absolutely cool!
After the book was published:
What next? Read Caly & Jody's book page and start writing about ROWE. Whether you become an instant believer or not, I guarantee that it will generate interesting discussions.

I've been reading and thinking about ROWE for a couple of months now and no later than today I thought I had (again/finally) found a weakness in the ROWE system. Two minutes later I realized that I was wrong and it really makes sense!

19 July 2008

Blogger HR Wench Liveblogging from BlogHer08

HR Wench is using Twitter to liveblog from the blogger convention BlogHer08.

And who said HR professionals were too old-fashioned to use current technologies in an innovative way?

Wenchie, we're all so proud of you ;-)

18 July 2008

I'm not dead yet... no way!

Knock, knock...
Anybody still reading?
Executive summary:
I've been away, duh...
I'm back, sort of.
Lets see what happens.

I've added the exec summary since this post has become quite long and I prefer short articles. So if you want to keep on reading, you've been warned.

After more than 2 months of being AWOL, my brain is again buzzing with ideas and the only way to get rid of them is by writing them down.

I started a new job, went from a 30 minutes to a 2 hours daily commute and was absent from the web for almost 2 months. I also realized that getting to know a new company, a new job and new colleagues takes a lot of effort, time and energy. And I thought job hunting was tough...

2 weeks ago I started reading blogs again and tonight I managed to get the unread count in my blog reader to below 1'000 by tirelessly reading and ruthlessly marking as "read".

For the last 2-3 weeks I've been thinking about releasing an apology. After all, posting regularly is a bit like making a commitment to your readers. But on the other hand blogging is just a hobby of mine and I have a tendency to apologize too easily anyway. So as part of my ongoing personal development efforts I've decided not to apologize to my 8 or so faithful readers ;-)

But to prove the rule I'll make this exception:
Wenchie and Laurie, please accept my apologies for disappearing so suddenly and, worst of all, not replying to your emails.
When I had my first fit of AWOLism half a year ago these two ladies already tried to contact me asking if I was okay. This meant a lot to me back then and, oops, they did it again this time. After all, who would have thought that these crazy HR furies would worry about an underground blogger from the old continent ;-)

And also a big thank you to Buddy and Lil' World for mentioning that they missed my posts.

Now I've been thinking about approaching blogging more like a TV series, meaning that I might release a few episodes and then take a break again. So this post could be considered as the trailer. There may or may not be a pre-air episode soon and then 12 or 24 episodes until the fall break. Cool idea, eh?

Finally, here's what's been on my mind lately (besides the new job, listening 20'000 times to Linkin Park, Lenny Kravitz and Johnny Cash while commuting and planning my huge comeback):
  • Song: Beatsteaks - Hail To The Freaks
  • Song: Serj Tankian - Sky Is Over
  • TV series: Middleman
  • TV series: Dragon's Den
  • TV series: Ultimate Force
  • Mom and Dad
  • why is Colbert on vacation... again? And doesn't he care at all about my feelings of missing him?
  • Project: mobbing
  • Project: burn-out
  • which motor oil to use?
  • ROWE: I won an advanced copy of the book and kinda promised to write a review. Not done yet and not forgotten at all...
  • books: William Gibson's Sprawl Trilogy
  • book: David Allen's Getting Things Done (tip: re-read when starting a new job)
  • blogs: I'm not blond, don't (always) drink too much and am a little bit taller than Wenchie, yay!
  • blogs: lets save Laurie's prose for next weekend
  • blogs: Ferriss is still awesome
  • anime: the new Appleseed is soo cooool
  • why haven't my comics subscriptions arrived yet?
And don't forget:

06 May 2008

Challenge: A World Without HR [Update 5]

Here's another contribution to the A World Without HR Contest:

  • HR Minion (including dress code policy and nepotism)

Previous entries:

Thanks to everybody who participated!
You're so diverse, I'm proud of you ;-)


03 May 2008

What Would You Buy?

I love money, but I'm in HR. And since I'm not willing to give up either my love or my calling, I need to find alternative ways to generate additional income ;-)

When thinking about starting a business, the first question is probably:
What could I sell to as many people as possible?
But I just read Seth Godin's post Self Promotion, so if and when I start selling something, I want to be able to say:
Here's something you'll enjoy, so I made it available to you.
Now my question to my valued readers:
What would you enjoy?
I've been thinking about coffee mugs, t-shirts and mouse pads with silly and/or witty phrases that have something to do with HR.
  • Would you buy this kind of stuff?
  • If yes, do you prefer text only or text combined with some nice/cute/funny/surprising picture?
  • Do you have any great ideas?
  • Do you want to license them? (see this post on Tim Ferriss' blog)
Don't hesitate to leave a comment or send me an email.

Come on, don't be shy, we're a small circle of friends here (around 40 Feedburner subscribers plus almost 300 unique visitors per week on the blog page).

Dressing Up For Business Made Simple

"Clothes make the man." And now I've even experienced it firsthand.

New dress code for The Happy Employee
I've been wearing a suit (including tie) for the last three weeks. And here are examples of how people reacted:
  • A friend of mine almost choked from laughing too hard when he saw me (too bad the Stupid Kid didn't laugh harder...).
  • On two separate occasions people apologized several times for something I thought wasn't even worth mentioning (this never happened before).
  • And my favorite: The guy at the gas station always called me "buddy", now he calls me "Sir".
Business clothes have the advantage that, at least for men, the choices are quite restricted. Therefore you don't have to think too hard about what to wear. On the other hand good quality clothes can be quite expensive.

What you need to keep the thinking and spending to a minimum
  • 2 pair of black shoes
  • 2 black suits
  • 5 white shirts
  • 10 ties
This way you will always have spare clothes. Even if you don't manage to wash them every week, you could still wear each shirt twice (unless it's very hot, you're sweating a lot, etc.).

Only one decision to make in the morning
It's simple: "which tie should I wear today?" After all, any tie will match the rest of your black and white clothes anyway.

Tie Storage System
If this is still too much effort, store your ties in a row. Then select each morning the first one on the right and put it back on the far left in the evening. For more variation without too much additional effort, you can randomize the order of the first five ties from the right each Sunday evening.

Even Blacker
And yes, you could also decide to use black ties only, but your boss and co-workers might see this as laziness and you would certainly become the target of many Blues Brothers and Men In Black jokes.

For more sophisticated information on dress codes check out Dresscode Guide.

02 May 2008

Random Thoughts: Work Smarter, Not Harder

I'm a bit embarrassed to say, but I always thought the expression "work smarter, not harder" was invented by Scott Adams since I first read it in a Dilbert comic.

Now I learned in Drucker's "The Essential Drucker" that it was first coined by Frederick Taylor, the father of Scientific Management.

Oh well, at least I learned something ;-)

01 May 2008

SHRM In The World

This is my rant about SHRM (Society For Human Resource Management).

Laurie Ruettimann wrote about "Where In The World Is SHRM"? The answer is very simple: it's in the US, baby!

I'm following dozens of HR blogs and sites dedicated to HR and I have to admit that they're mostly originating from the US. So from time to time I read about SHRM.

Whenever I visit their homepage I realize that you get zilch unless you're a member. So here's my beef with SHRM:

1) Be a paying member
Surf the Internet, read blogs, google for cool keywords, but whenever you land on the SHRM page, all the interesting articles are only for members.

2) SHRM is international
Laurie quoted in her post from the SHRM homepage: "individual members in over 125 countries". My guess is that it's people who joined SHRM in the US and then moved to another country. Lucky for SHRM that they both continued to pay their membership fees and sent in their address changes.

3) SHRM is international (again)
After reading Laurie's post I checked out their homepage (again) for 10 minutes trying to find out how I could become a member of this international organization (on a good day, I usually give a site 90 seconds to convince me they're worth my time...).
There are chapters in plenty of US states, but how can I subscribe as a non-US resident? This is supposed to be an international HR organization (again: "individual members in over 125 countries")!

I'm hard-core HR, I have an international attitude, but where can I register?

Conclusion: SHRM is an organization for yankees. Period.