28 April 2008

Quotes: Happiness Or Excitement?

A quote from Starship Troopers by Heinlein:
Happiness consists in getting enough sleep. [..] All the wealthy, unhappy people you've ever met take sleeping pills.
(Johnnie Rico)
Sometimes we look too hard for happiness!

Tim Ferriss goes one step further in The 4-Hour Workweek:
Happiness can be bought with a bottle of wine and has become ambiguous through overuse. [..] The opposite of love is indifference, and the opposite of happiness is - here's the clincher - boredom. Excitement is the more practical synonym for happiness, and it is precisely what you should strive to chase.

And to finish with a quote from a Def Leppard song:
Are you excitable?

25 April 2008

Casual Day 10: Final Communication To The Staff

This is the final message I sent abusing the "send to all" mailing list of my now former employer to introduce my very own brand of the "Casual Day Program".

For the previous Casual Day posts please click here and start reading in reverse order. The idea for this prank was stolen / borrowed from a post on the
Career Encouragement Blog.

Week 4, Friday
Following my last email and the threats I received from Senior Management, please accept my apologies for the somewhat harsh tone of the previous announcement ("Why can't you people understand that NO MEANS NO!").

Management also asked me to mention that if you really, really want to restart the Casual Day Program, you can send a formal Project Request to [name] (Chief Projects Officer). The official request form can probably be found somewhere on the Intranet.

And for those who still have doubts... yes, it was all a joke!

meh ;-)

Final Comments
  • This was published on the last day with my now former employer. The farewell apero was awesome. Thanks guys! And don't worry, I'll put the vouchers to good use. I already bought a 8 GB USB stick.
  • The after party dinnner was great as well and I'll never forget the after-after-party. Thanks to the Stupid Kid, I'll take good care of La Nera!
  • For Laurie: when I say former, I don't mean pformer but sformer ;-)

24 April 2008

Casual Day 9: Almost Over

I'm publishing all 10 messages introducing the "Casual Day Program" I started just before leaving my now former employer.

For the previous Casual Day posts please click here and start reading from the bottom.

Week 4, Thursday
Please note: As we already told you, HR is no longer managing the Casual Day.

Even if you send us 5 emails per day (you know who you are!), we won't restart the Casual Day Program.

Why can't you people understand that NO MEANS NO!

True Story
On Thursday of week 3 an employee called me on his day off and said:
Hi, right now I'm dressed like a hobo. But since tomorrow is a public holiday, the Casual Day is today, right?
I really miss my former Head of A&C ;-) .

Link: Packing Heat

How to deal with annoying employees (or job applicants) politely but firmly? A nice after hours party? Why HR professionals shouldn't pack heat?

I just read this excellent post called Iron at Waiter Rant.
The owner sits next to me, places the holstered gun near my right elbow, and extends his glass.

“What caliber is that thing?” I ask, pouring out three fingers of grain alcohol.

“It’s a forty-five.”

“Well,” I say. “That’s one way to keep the staff in line.”

“Work wonders with the vendors too.”

23 April 2008

Casual Day: Bonus

Here's a little Casual Day Special. The HR Specialist (who hated me for at least 3 minutes after Casual Day 7) received the following email from a former employee:
As a [name of company] ex-employee I regret to see that a “casual day” scheme has been setup just after I left the company. It was my wish indeed during my entire time with the company, that such system was implemented though unfortunately my requests were blatantly ignored; in all truth, I find it quite aggravating the fact that HR waited until my resignation to take action on this respect. As a result of this entire ordeal I feel it is within reason that I be compensated for the obvious psychological and physical stress I have just been put through.

Should you have any questions or require any further information, please do not hesitate to let me know.

I have no idea which idiot forwarded the Casual Day announcements to this former employee ;-)

Casual Day 7 & 8: I Know, I Missed One Day

Okay, I should have published Casual Day 7 yesterday. So consider today a Special Bonus Day with days 7 and 8!

And this is the last week! The final message will be published on Friday!

For the previous Casual Day posts please click here and start reading from the bottom.

Week 4, Tuesday
Our Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) has now been expanded to provide support for psychological counseling for employees who may be having difficulty adjusting to Casual Day.
Please contact [name of HR Specialist] at [email address] for further information.

  • My dear colleague (the HR Specialist) hated me for at least 3 minutes!

Week 4, Wednesday
Due to the unexpected complexity of the Casual Day Program, the HR Department is no longer able to effectively support or manage Casual Day.

Casual Day will be discontinued, effective immediately.

  • Nothing to do with the Casual Day Series, but I'm posting this using free Wi-Fi at a restaurant. I only had to pay for the excellent Saltimbocca Alla Romana (and some beer...).

22 April 2008

Link: There's No Bubble

Funny video claiming that there's no bubble in technology!

It even comes with its own song and since one line says "won't you blog about this song?", well, here it is.


20 April 2008

Random Thoughts: Terrible Words

Wenchie published a list of words she can't stand anymore and promises to scream if she reads them one more time.

Since she's one of my valued readers, this one's dedicated to her:
If you want to friend a mentor, you should leverage your personal brand in social media.

19 April 2008

Bonus: To Pay Or Not To Pay

Setting up a bonus system is difficult enough. But if you don't think it through, you will be completely screwed once you have to start paying hard cash to employees.

Ann Bares at Compensation Force discusses how a company put a bonus system in place and tried to find a way out when they realized how much it would actually cost them.

HR Wench turned this into a HR pop quiz.

Here are my replies to Wenchie's 3 questions.

I'm pretty tough on the HR Manager in question. I don't know her personally and base my comments solely on what I read in Ann's post. Maybe she is incompetent, inexperienced, or maybe she's an excellent HR Professional and we just don't know enough about her situation.

1. What mistakes did the HR Manager make prior to calling Ann?
The bonus system was set up by Senior Management while HR was "involved". The HR Manager's job is to give advice to management and to warn them of possible problems.

The HR Manager should have prepared a cost projection. Ideally she would also have talked to Finance about bonus accruals (see also my "napkin advice" below) and given feedback on the planned targets.

A former boss once told me "bring me solutions, not problems." What he meant was that he wanted me to think before bothering him and he expected me to make at least one suggestion that we could discuss. The HR Manager called Ann and basically said: "Help! Solve my problem!"

2. What, if anything, is wrong with the bonus plan?
The way the targets are set up, employees get the maximum possible bonus for an average company performance. If you link the bonus to the success of the company, well duh, you should only pay great bonuses if the company is doing great.

Here a purely fictional example:
  • company target is to earn 100 cookies
  • 100% bonus for 100 cookies, 50% bonus for 80 cookies and 0% bonus for 50 cookies or less
  • replace "cookies" with your local currency
In an ideal world the company should be happy to pay 100% bonus for 100 cookies earned. Otherwise the bonus targets are wrong or the company should just stay away from any bonus system and stick to base salaries.

By the way, I heard that revenue is not a good indicator of a company's success, but this is just a simple example. And since I'm in HR, I don't really know the difference between revenue, benefit, cash flow, EBITDA, etc. All I know is that it's complicated ;-)

3. What would you do if you found yourself in this situation?
My job would be to remind management that they made a commitment to their employees and that keeping promises is usually considered a good thing.

Then I would have to bite my tongue really hard. Otherwise I might tell them that they're just a bunch of dumbasses who should have used their brains before launching the new and shiny bonus system.

Finally, if they still planned on not paying bonuses, I would mention the consequences listed by Ann ("kiss morale, trust and credibility - along with your most talented employees - goodbye"). As a last resort, I would mention legal implications.

Oh yes, and it might be a good time to update my CV!

Napkin calculation:
The most advanced compensation calculations probably require a degree in Quantum Physics. But for a very general idea of the costs of a bonus system, take a napkin and make the following calculation:
  • assumption: 100 employees, average base salary 50k, average maximum bonus 10% of base salary
  • payment for 100% bonus achievement: (100% achievement) * (100 emps) * (50k salary) * (10% bonus) = 500k
  • add social security costs (useful for bonus accruals): (500k bonus) + (20% soc sec costs) = 600k
For a more precise projection, make this calculation per employee. And if the targets are good (i.e. difficult to reach), then change the expected achievement to something more realistic.

Feel free to tell me in the comments where you agree or disagree with me.

17 April 2008

Casual Day 6: The Manual

I'm publishing all 10 messages introducing the "Casual Day Program" I started just before leaving my now former employer.

For the previous Casual Day posts please click here and start reading from the bottom.

Week 3, Thursday
The Casual Day Steering Committee has now completed a 30-page manual entitled "Relaxing Dress Without Relaxing Company Standards." A copy may be distributed to every employee.

Please review the chapter "You Are What You Wear" and consult the "home casual" versus "business casual" checklist before leaving for work each Friday.

Should you have any doubts regarding the appropriateness of an item of clothing, please contact [name of VP HR] before 7:00 am CET on Friday.

  • Nobody called my old boss on Friday morning. Lucky me, otherwise I wouldn't be able to post this due to death caused by strangulation.

16 April 2008

Challenge: A World Without HR [update 4]

The long awaited contribution from Laurie is here. I've said it before, but it looks like this woman's core competency is to be both crazy and brilliant at the same time:

  • Laurie from Team Building Is For Suckers

Bonus: Contribution to the first challenge
  • Rick from Flip Chart Fairy Tales (and, of course, he had to break the rules...)

Previous entries:

Who's next?

More information in the original challenge post.

15 April 2008

Casual Day 5: Casual Day Steering Committee

I'm publishing all 10 messages introducing the "Casual Day Program" I started just before leaving my now former employer.

For the previous Casual Day posts please click here and start reading from the bottom.

Week 3, Tuesday

As an outgrowth of Friday's seminar, a 5-member Casual Day Steering Committee has been appointed to prepare guidelines for proper casual-day dress.

I received the following feedback from colleagues
  • sent by email: "Drunk?"

14 April 2008

Random Thoughts: Where's My Jet Pack?

There are currently many discussions about Gen Y vs Gen X. As a Gen Xer, I would like to point out that we are a generation deeply traumatized by broken promises. As Stephen Colbert recently said (Colbert Report of 1 April 2008):
When I was a kid, they promised me a jet pack. Where's my jet pack?
Yes, where is it? It's really tough when you realize that you've been lied to all your life. This is why I ask all Gen Yer's to please show some compassion and be nice to us Gen Xer's.

11 April 2008

Challenge: A World Without HR [update 3]

Here are two more entries to the "A World Without HR" challenge:

Previous entries:

Who else wants to participate? It's still not too late.

And to make it a bit more challenging, try writing from the point of view of senior management. What do you think they would miss?

More information in the original challenge post.

Casual Day 4: Casual Day Workshop

I'm publishing all 10 messages introducing the "Casual Day Program" I started just before leaving my now former employer.

For the previous Casual Day posts please click here and start reading from the bottom.

Week 2, Friday
A workshop on how to dress for Casual Day will be held today at 6:00 pm in the break room. A fashion show might follow. Attendance is mandatory.

As a preparation, please look up the following entries on Wikipedia:
  • smart casual
  • business casual

I received the following feedback from colleagues
  • In the morning an employee came to me, pointed at his (casual) clothes and asked if it was casual enough (another person did the same one hour later).
  • A techie told me he was impressed that HR now mentioned Wikipedia in their announcements.
  • At 5:55 pm somebody shouted from the hallway "Hey HR! What are you doing in your office? We have a meeting in 5 minutes!"

10 April 2008

Email Guerrilla Techniques 4

How's the cute girl from marketing doing? Still haven't had time to drink a coffee with her? In this case it's definitely time for another installment of... Guerrilla Techniques!

Did you test the previous GT's? Haven't gotten yourself fired yet? Then keep on reading.

Email Guerrilla Technique #4
Do you ever get emails with random requests sounding like a 10-year-old was sharing his thoughts about life, the universe and everything in a chat room? Or emails that don't make any sense and obviously took the requester a maximum of 10 seconds to write?

Yes? In this case, here's what you should do:
  • Delete the email!
  • Important: don't forget to also delete the message from the "Deleted Items" folder.
  • If it was important, you will get a reminder.
  • Should you ever get a reminder, apply Email Guerrilla Technique #2.
"This is just plain rude," you might say. True, but keep the following in mind:
  1. The sender of the email showed you zero respect (how's that for rude?)
  2. This technique should only be used in extreme situations when you see no other solution
And now take a break and have a coffee with the cute girl from marketing! I mean, please, how much longer do you want to keep her waiting? Just remember: It's all about priorities!

09 April 2008

Challenge: A World Without HR [update 2]

Here are links to the newest entries to my challenge "A World Without HR":

Previous entries:

It's not too late if you want to participate. And seriously, why wouldn't anybody want to participate ;-)

More information in the original
challenge post.

Links: Twitter Special

Old stuff (more than one week old), but I still like it...

I couldn't agree more with Maren Hogan's comment. It ain't making much sense, it's just totes fun. And she also mentions in her post how much she loves Twitter.
Adobe Air is available for Linux? Do I think that is cool?? Yes. Do I understand WHY that is cool? Not really.
(Fun Tech Edition, Big O Recruiting)

Feature Creep
Tips to make sure that all the tools and systems we use continue to be useful instead of just stealing our time, including Twitter.
Cell phones, email, IM, iPhones, Crackberry’s, Twitter, Facebook, Myspace… suddenly we’ve got a bunch of digital accounts that are stealing our focus.
(Life Coding: 9 Ways To Fight Feature Creep In Our Lives, Zen Habits)

Twitter Cartoon
Just brilliant!
(Twitter Abstinence Syndrome, Geek And Poke)

08 April 2008

Better Know A Strange Labor Law: France

This is the third installment of our new series "Better Know A Strange Labor Law".
You can find the previous installments here.

(Please also read the disclaimer at the bottom of this post)

Another disclaimer
This post is not really about a specific labor law, but rather about a habit that has legal implications. And it's pretty strange.

: The Country
France, also called the Hexagon, is situated in western Europe and is one of the founding members of the European Union. They have the bomb, the president is now married to an Italian supermodel and they call a byte "un octet". Their English is usually not too good but their bread is incredibly yummy. Never compare Rugby to American Football!

France: The Strange Habit
The French love a good strike, especially before or after long weekends.

When on strike against a specific company, the unions like to lay siege to the headquarters, keeping the members of senior management inside the building until an agreement has been reached. Their hostages get water and food, but they have to sleep in their offices and can't take showers or change clothes. This can last several days.

Taking HR Hostage
But here's another strategy: instead of occupying the top floor, the unions take the HR department hostage. And since they're already there, they make copies of the personnel files to pass the time. After all, this could be useful for future contract or salary negotiations.

Keep Quiet
According to French law this is of course highly illegal, but it's up to the individual to sue their captors. And since most companies want to avoid additional trouble, they tell their employees to just shut up.

I'm no lawyer. This doesn't constitute in any way, shape, form or size legal advice. People tell me stuff. If they seem nice, I assume that they know what they're talking about. If you really need serious advice, contact a lawyer.

07 April 2008

Casual Day 3: After The First Casual Day

I'm publishing all 10 messages introducing the "Casual Day Program" I started just before leaving my now former employer.

For the previous Casual Day posts please click here and start reading from the bottom.

Week 2, Monday
Lets not beat around the bush. Last Friday's Casual Day was a fiasco (apparently "CDF - Casual Day Fiasco" has already become an official company acronym... that's how bad it was!).

We are currently creating a reeducation program and will send you an invitation shortly.
Reactions from colleagues
  • I was a bit surprised when I realized that many colleagues couldn't decide whether the Casual Day messages were a joke or not
  • Since there was no dress code and everybody was always dressed very casually anyway, somebody complained that my emails were a rude and sneaky way to tell people to dress up from Monday to Thursday.

Link: Dilbert And Email Guerrilla Techniques

In today's Dilbert strip Wally uses Email Guerrilla Technique #2.

Recommended links:

And since Dilbert strips are only online for 1 month, here's the text for posterity:
Pointy-Haired Boss: Wally, do you have the capital cost estimates I asked for last week?
Wally: No. I always ask you to clarify what you need. You say you'll get back to me but you never do.
PHB: Maybe I could clarify it now.
Wally: That would ruin my system.

05 April 2008

Links: Everything Sucks

Links to articles that didn't suck, and one personal thing that's great.

Why HR Sucks
I've read this post at least 5 times already and I'm still thinking about it. It was also recommended by Wally Bock in his Midweek Look At The Business Blogs.
HR works for the execs and BOD. If they say don't spend your time on this, spend your time on that and we can't convince them otherwise why is it "HR's fault" for sucking?
(Great, Another 33 Page Report On How We Suck, HR Wench)

Why Presentations Suck
Rowan Manahan from Fortify Your Oasis started a new series about presentations. Here's the first sentence of the article and it's just the beginning:
I have been observing, delivering and training people in presentation techniques for over 20 years now and my considered, professional, opinion on the subject is this:
Presentation Masterclass - Part 1: Introduction, Rowan Manahan on lifehack.org)

Why Work Sucks
I already mentioned that I won one of ten advanced copies of the book "Why Work Sucks" and it was in the mail yesterday. I know, I should stop bragging, but it's just too cool. I'm only halfway through the book but believe me, it's great and challenging stuff!

I'm not supposed to quote from the "advance uncorrected proofs", but somewhere Cali & Jody promise that under a certain condition...
[..] we'll eat our book.

04 April 2008

Challenge: A World Without HR [update]

Here's are the first replies to my newest challenge "A World Without HR":
The challenge is still open and everybody is welcome to participate. More information in the original challenge post.

Email Guerrilla Techniques 3

So many emails, so little time and you're still thinking about throwing that chair out of the window. Again, desperate times call for... Guerrilla Techniques!

As always, use at your own risk since your boss may not appreciate.

But first a few links to articles that helped me go from an average of 2'000+ messages in my inbox to less than 50:
However, my Guerrilla Techniques are more fun...

Email Guerrilla Technique #3
If you receive very long emails, you can of course try to understand what you might have to do while
  • supporting the killing of innocent trees
  • showing off your excellent skills in analysis and synthesis
  • and drawing a cute little graphic because otherwise there's just no way you will ever make sense of this monster of an email!
Or you could use a variant of Guerrilla Technique #2 ("I have no clue what you want."). In this case, just write back:
I'm currently working on several urgent projects. Please summarize in 2-3 bullet points and state in 1 sentence what you need from me.
If this happens a lot, you can also use Lifehacker's Texter to insert a standard text in less than 3 seconds (see also this previous post for more information about Texter).

And then have a coffee with the cute girl from marketing while you wait for a reply.


03 April 2008

Casual Day 2: Week 1, Thursday

I'm publishing all 10 messages introducing the "Casual Day Program" I started just before leaving my former employer.

You can read the first message here.

Week 1, Thursday
Due to the huge number of questions we received, we felt that some additional information might be helpful:
  • Please do NOT wear your pajamas to work
  • All kinds of funny costumes (including, but not limited to Hulk, Bugs Bunny and Ronald McDonald's costumes) are NOT considered "casual dresses"
  • HR will NOT write a policy that makes it mandatory for female colleagues to wear miniskirts and black boots on Fridays (and please stop asking this question. It was funny the first 15 times somebody asked.)
Some of you also took the opportunity to express their concerns about the - in their opinion - excessive casualty from Monday to Thursday. We will continue to focus on the Casual Day for the time being, but might extend the project to the Un-Casual Days.

In the meantime, feel free to ask your colleagues the following question:
"If the CEO of [most important client] was visiting our offices, would you want him to see you dressed like this?"

Hope this helps.

Challenge: A World Without HR

Here's a new challenge: What would happen in a world without HR?

Imagine it's the HR rapture
Within an instant all HR professionals disappear while everybody else stays.

It's easy to imagine with cab drivers. The immediate consequence would be lots of accidents. In the long-term there would be transportation problems at the local level.

Without any HR professionals around the economy wouldn't fall apart, but in the first weeks I assume there would be problems with salary payments and nobody would know where to find the templates to issue employment contracts to new hires. Of course, it wouldn't take long for finance to step in with payroll and legal would take care of contracts.

And here's the challenge
The worldwide fraternity of senior executives meets 6 months after the HR rapture to discuss why they miss HR. What would they say?

02 April 2008

Links: Fun With April Fool's Day

Yesterday was April Fool's Day 2008 and here are links to my favorite pranks:

Human Capital Devalued Against The Euro
A background in economics helps understand this article, but I believe that everybody investing in or working with Human Capital should read it anyway.

What Is It Really Like To Be In HR?
For all those who sometimes forget what a privilege it is to work in HR. Stop whining and be grateful already ;-)
(Evil HR Lady)

The Grand Illusion: The Real Tim Ferriss Speaks
Tim Ferriss writes about lifestyle design and is known for his unorthodox experiments. I read his book twice and follow his blog closely.
...and I completely fell for his prank!
(Tim Ferriss)

Google is also known for their great sense of humor, but I must say that the "Pigeon Rank" and "Gmail Paper" from previous years are still my favorites:

Work Sucks, Isn't It Awesome?

Cali & Jody, the Queens of ROWE, promised an advanced copy of their book "Work Sucks" to the first 10 people to send an email. I was faster than the 11th person and can't wait for the book to arrive!

ROWE, Results-Only Work Environment, is the program Cali & Jody developed at Best Buy. It's controversial and highly interesting.

All free advanced copies are gone, but there's information about the book on their site including a 38 page pdf sample (introduction, chapter 1 and two testimonials from Best Buy employees).

01 April 2008

Casual Day 1: Introduction Of The CD Program

I left my now former employer a couple of days ago. As a farewell gift, I introduced the "Casual Day Program" consisting of 10 emails sent to the corporate mailing list.

I stole / borrowed the idea from the Career Encouragement Blog (through The HR Bible - 100 Articles Every HR Pro Should Read) and adapted or completely replaced some of the messages.

I will publish the whole series in "deferred real time" over the next 4 weeks.

Week 1, Tuesday
Effective this week, the company is adopting Fridays as Casual Day.

Employees are free to dress in the casual attire of their choice.

I received the following questions & comments
  • what's the dress code for non-casual days?
  • I'll do my best to dress more casual than usual ;-)
  • You mean that they are elegant the rest of the week...??? ;-)