In HR (and life) the story that wins becomes the truth!

In HR we hear a lot of stories.

We love to tell ourselves we are hearing the truth from one side and a lie from another side, but the reality is both sides are stories with a little truth and a little lie built-in. We then ‘measure’ who we feel is telling more truth than lie, and that side becomes the full truth.

Throughout history, this plays out. The winners of war decide what the truth is, not the losers. One side is good and righteous, one side is bad and evil. Before the war, both sides were just trying to make it through the day and make their society better. Truth.

We fire someone because they harassed another person. That person is a bad person. The person who got harassed is a victim and is a good person. The problem is, that’s not really reality, is it? Many times the person we fire is actually a pretty good person and the victim is a piece of garbage. But, the winner gets to decide the role they want.

We fire an employee because we are told by their manager that they are not performing well. We trust our manager. We have to it’s what our structure is built on. If we didn’t then what are we really doing? The employee claims they weren’t trained properly, they weren’t given good direction, they were put in a position to fail. You’re fired, you’re a bad employee. You lose, you don’t get to decide the truth.

It’s one major reason why I tend not to really care that a person was fired from a job. The reason probably matters. I don’t want to hire someone who embezzled from their former employer or some other major offense, but if it’s performance, let’s talk. I’m willing to talk because I know there are always two sides to the story. It just happens that this candidate lost their last story, but they might win the next.

It’s important as HR pros and leaders we understand this concept, not just for hiring, but also that we understand most times we don’t deal in complete black and white wins and losses. In HR we deal in the middle, in the gray. Once we make a determination, we are making a determination of ‘win’. We are validating one story over another. We like to tell ourselves and our leadership that this one story is the truth, but it’s really just another version of a story.

So be careful this week as you decide which stories will win and which ones will lose. Truth can be a pretty powerful thing even when it’s just a story.

Professionalism vs. Civility at Work!

In Human Resources and Talent Acquisition we have gotten very use to hiring managers making a statement like, “I really need someone with a high level of professionalism in this role”. Having experience as both an HR leader and a Talent Acquisition leader for twenty-five years, I thought I knew exactly what that meant.

My view of the term “Professionalism” meant the hiring manager was looking for someone who had a high skill level in communicating appropriately for each situation. That they had an appearance that seems to fit the culture of the organization and those we served. That in times of stress or crisis, they were able to keep their composure and work through situations to come up with an outcome that would be satisfactory to both sides.

What I never realized was that the term “Professionalism” is or is thought to be rooted in racism and white supremacy. But, as the social justice and BLM movements have brought many things to light over the past couple of years, I’ve been reading and hearing from people of color that the use of “Professionalism” as a descriptor was akin to saying “what we really want is a white person”.

I have to be honest, and I know folks will say this is because I was blinded by my privilege, but I never once in my career thought when a hiring manager said they wanted someone who was “professional” they were secretly telling me they wanted a white person. I probably think this way because I’ve had men, women, white, black, Hispanic, Asian, etc. tell me this as a descriptor/skill they desired as a hiring manager. But, this is also the difficulty of unconscious bias.

Is there a difference between “Professionalism” and “Civility”?

I can definitely see how the wrong individuals could easily use the term “professionalism” to mean white and not black. I’m not naive to the world. It does bring up the dilemma though on how do we actually measure or speak to how individuals should act in certain business settings. Of course, each company’s culture is different, so this is a constant moving target by company, by leader, by position, etc.

I think most HR leaders and Executives, regardless of gender, ethnicity, and nationality would believe there are appropriate and inappropriate behaviors and ways to conduct ourselves in a business setting. Probably 90% of which we could come to some sort of agreement on, and the other 10% would be personal preferences.

This then begs the question is “professionalism” really a racist ideal, or is it just an additional method some individuals/organizations/institutions could use to continue systematic racism where they see fit? If that is the case, then how can we communicate the 90% we agree on in a fair and equitable way where all employees feel like they belong?

This brought me to the concept of Civility.

Civility is defined as formal politeness and courtesy in behavior or speech. Sounds a bit like how we would define “Professionalism” so it makes me wary we are just using a different word. I did find a Civility expert, Sejal Thakkar, who trains organizations and employees on how to be more civil with each other. She had a post on Linkedin and shared a bunch of really great resources explaining that no matter your role at work, from the lowest-paid worker to the CEO, all should be acting with civility, at all times. (Click here for Sejal’s LinkedIn post with resources) (Also, go connect with Sejal, I really like what she’s doing around Civility in the workplace!)

My question to Sejal was simply, in these current times I get messages from leaders who feel like they are being held hostage by some of their employees. These employees feel empowered to say anything without any recourse. They can talk divisively at work about politics, their beliefs and ethics, while attacking other’s beliefs and ethics that are different than theirs, and leaders feel like they have to allow this to happen. How can leaders deal with this issue of feeling like they are being held hostage by some strongly opinionated employees who are causing dissension at work about non-work things?

Sejal’s response was what I expected. All employees, both leaders, and non-leaders should be acting civil towards each other at all times, with no exceptions. She was short and sweet in her response. There is no room for incivility in the workplace. Period.

It’s fine to disagree about big things in the world, and still act civil towards each other, especially in the workplace. An employee might have voted for Biden and hated Trump, and can’t fathom that another employee actually voted for Trump, but that doesn’t give license to either employee to act uncivil towards each other. You can have employee support BLM and have employees support Law Enforcement, all the while being civil towards each other. If both, or either does act uncivil, it should be dealt with in your normal course of discipline as if they acted inappropriately about anything else within your workplace.

What does Civility look like at work?

(I’m going cut and paste from one of the resources Sejal shared (Ten Ways to Create a More Civil Workplace) as this person can say it way better than I could ever write):

  1. Acknowledge Others. No one should feel invisible. Make eye contact. Greet people with “good morning”, “good afternoon”, etc. Use people’s names. Make people feel welcome in your presence.
  2. Think the Best. Most people are not trying to intentionally ruin things or do harm, try to assume positive intent. Until proven wrong, give the benefit of the doubt that people are trying to do the best they can with the resources and tools available to them.
  3. Listen. Stop focusing on yourself and your needs; instead, focus on other people. Don’t assume you need to solve anything, just hear and try to understand clearly what they are saying. Respect what others think and honor their right to see things differently than you do. It doesn’t mean you have to agree, just hear them.
  4. Speak Kindly. Be respectful in word and tone, particularly when delivering critical feedback. In addition, never gossip or speak unkindly of people when they are not present.
  5. Accept and Give Praise. It is said that one of the greatest things you can give someone else is a sense of their own worth. Praising the accomplishments of others and showing appreciation cost you nothing but deliver tremendous value. And when you are praised, a kind thank you is all that’s necessary. Gracious humility is a virtue.
  6. Be Agreeable. Be open to and look for opportunities where you can accommodate others, compromise, or simply allow someone else’s ideas to be implemented. Your way isn’t the only way.
  7. Respect Other People’s Time. Be punctual, end things on time, wait your turn to speak, show up to everything you’ve promised, and every time you fail to do so, apologize.
  8. Apologize Earnestly. Be clear about the error you’ve made and do not make excuses. Let others know that what you did was wrong and that you understand and regret the negative impact you’ve made.
  9. Accept and Give Constructive Criticism. Be clear about your intentions. If your intention is to help, then be helpful, however, if your intent is revenge or to manipulate things to your benefit, re-evaluate and walk away. When receiving criticism, assume the positive intentions of others. Be grateful, not defensive.
  10. Don’t Shift Responsibility and Blame. If you are part of the problem, own it, apologize if necessary, and help in finding a solution. Trying to place blame rather than working to find a solution makes you an obstacle. Don’t be that person.

I love these! Can you imagine, right now today, if we all worked in an environment where this was taking place! The world would seem lighter, for sure!

This is extra difficult right now in our work world because so many of our employees, who are working remotely, haven’t even met each other. It’s way easier to disregard another person when you don’t truly know them or their intentions.

Like I said above, I am not naive to the world. I understand people are hurting and fed up with the world they are living in, so we’ll see unrest and people being uncivil towards each other. I hope and like to believe, that we can create workplaces where people will feel like they belong and are safe to have civil discord. Because once it becomes uncivil it’s time for some folks to leave or are workplaces breakdown and that isn’t fair to the other employees who rely on the success of the business to pay their bills and feed their families.

We live in a world, currently, where most people seemingly do not first assume positive intent, and I can understand why. But for our workplaces to grow and thrive, we must fight to get to a place (understand I did not say “back to a place”) where we can all be civil towards each other working on common goals and successes.

This One Group of Employees Needs Performance Reviews Cancelled!

This week on the HR Famous pod we talked about Google suspending performance reviews until 2021. When I first heard about it, my initial reaction was, “okay, here we go, the softening of America continues!” Come on, buck up kids!

It didn’t take me long to come to my senses when I thought about my own team. I have a super-strong group of employees, many of them mothers. On a weekly basis, I get to hear their stories of remote work with kids.

The reality we are facing right now, whether you think it’s right or not, is that most of your female employees with children are taking on the brunt of assisting the kids in their schooling at home. I’m a modern man. I don’t think women should have to take on this burden, but men mostly suck at organization, and from what I can tell, kids need vast amounts of organization when learning at home.

What does any of this have anything to do with Performance Reviews!? 


Because it’s unfair to judge your employees who are parents and besides doing their job, they are also forced to be a part-time educator because remote schooling is failing across the board. AND, the majority of these parent employees are women, who also just happen to face great equity issues already in your organization.

“Okay, Tim, we’ll suspend performance reviews for our employees who are parents, but we are going to continue with everyone else! Why would we stop all performance reviews?” See below…

Here is what will happen if you don’t cancel performance reviews in 2020, and maybe for a while after:

  • Your non-parent employees will get performance reviews and raises and promotions, life is great for them. Your parent employees, mostly women taking the brunt of the workload, won’t get a review and fall behind or will get a review and be judged unfairly based on what our crazy world has thrown at them.
  • Your pay equity issues and lack of gender diversity at leadership levels will continue and increase.
  • You’ll begin to see divisions amongst your employees, that will hurt your culture and productivity.
  • Eventually, you’ll create unwanted turnover or high performing talent.

I’m not saying we should stop feedback. Continue to do feedback all the time. Draft comms out to your employee base that speaks to the inequity our peers are facing and why you will suspend reviews until the pandemic is over and things get back to normal.

Some will read this and go, “yeah, I get it, but we are just going to have continued open dialogue with each team member and if someone says they don’t want a review right now, we’ll table them.” That’s a mistake because the women I know who are doing both roles right now will never tell you they don’t want a review. They are too proud for that, but it’s what’s best for them.

So, I’m a dude talking for women – because that’s what dudes do – we love to do some mansplaining! We also love to protect women. It’s a crazy genetic thing our mom gave us. Let me know what you think in the comments. Have you had this conversation in your organization? What are you going to do?

Creating friendships at work during a pandemic is really hard!

We’ve been told for years now, based on the Gallup research, that having a best friend at work is one of those anchors that will lengthen a person’s tenure with an organization. New research is proving this might not be as easy it sounds! Business Insider:

A Study by Plos One asked students to rate their friendships and also rate whether or not the ‘friend’ would reciprocate by telling researchers they also believed they were friends. Here the results:

In 94% of these perceived friendships, students expected them to be reciprocal. So if John rated Jack as his friend, he expected Jack to rate him as a friend also. But this was so in only 53% of cases; less than half of the students had their friendship beliefs about others reciprocated.

Ouch! Almost half of your friends, do think of you as a friend!

The researchers point to the social network-style of so many friendships today of why people have this wrong perception. People are now building so many friendships with individuals they rarely see or interact with but feel like they have a strong friendship with.

So, what should you be doing as an HR Pro to take advantage of the Friend Anchor?

1. Help provide real-life interactions with your employees to build ‘real’ friendships, not just social network friendships.

2. Give employees the opportunity to work with employees of their choosing on projects. Give an employee a project and let them pick their team to work on it.

3. Don’t ignore those employees who don’t interact with anyone. This is usually the first red flag you’ll get that a person is unhappy at work and more likely to turnover.

I know you didn’t get into HR to play a friendship matchmaker! But, if you value retention and want to lower turnover, being a great matchmaker might be the best tool you have in the HR toolbox!

To increase the difficulty of the position of being a matchmaker, what will you do for a remote workforce to increase friendships? The truth of the matter is it easier to create friendships in person, face to face, then it is when everyone is remote. The process of workplace friendship building has to be purposeful, and again this will mostly fall on HR pros to lead.

Also, remember, you can pick your friends and you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick your friend’s nose. Unless they’re a really, really, really good friend, but even then, that’s creepy, don’t do that.

What can we really hope for out of a work experience?

I heard this quote recently, it was used by an old football coach to his players:

“It’s hard, but it’s fair.”

He wasn’t the first to use this and probably won’t be the last – but the line stuck with me because of how I don’t think many people in today’s age really think this way.  Many want to talk about what’s fair, few want to discuss the ‘hard’ part.  The football coach’s son described the meaning of what he feels the phrase means:

“It’s about sacrifice,” Toler Jr. said of the quote. “It means that if you work hard that when it’s all said and done at the end of the day, it will be fair based on your body of work. It’s about putting in the time, making sure that you’re ready for the opportunity.”

I think we all think our parents are hard on us growing up.  I recall stories I tell to my own sons of my Dad waking me up on a Saturday morning at 7 am, after I was out too late the night before, and ‘making’ me help him with something, like chopping wood or cleaning the garage out.  He didn’t really need my help, he was trying to teach me a lesson about choices.  If I chose to stay out late at night, it was going to suck getting up early to go to school.

He shared with me stories of his father doing the same thing, one night my Dad had gotten home late, so late, he didn’t even go to bed, just started a pot of coffee and waited for my grandfather to get up, figuring that was easier than getting a couple of hours of sleep and then hearing it from my grandfather the rest of the day.

As an HR Pro, we see this every day in our workforce.  There are some who work their tails off, not outwardly expecting anything additional, they’re just hard workers.  Others will put in the minimum, then expect a cookie. It’s a tough life lesson for those folks.  Most usually end up leaving your organization, believing they were treated unfairly, so they’ll go bounce around a few more times.

Eventually, they’ll learn to put in the work, put in the time, and more times than not, things work out pretty well.  Sometimes it won’t, so you go back to work even harder.  It’s been very rare in my 20 year HR career that I’ve truly seen a really hard worker get screwed over. Very rare! Now I know a ton of people who think they work hard, but they don’t, and they’ll say they get screwed. But the reality is they don’t work hard, they do the same as everyone else.

Do some idiots who don’t deserve a promotion or raise sometimes get it? Yep, they sure do, but that doesn’t happen as much as you think. The hard workers tend to get the better end of the deal almost always.

I hope I can teach my sons this lesson:  Life is going to be hard, but if you keep at it and put in the work, it’s going to be fair.  I think that is all we can really hope for.

When Employees Pass Around the Office Salary Spreadsheet! #HRFAMOUS

Pay transparency! It’s a buzzword that means many things to many people. Can you be pro-pay transparency and skeptical of reporting that involves a salary worksheet, no details, and a subsequent article implying that pay issues at a company are widespread?

Why yes! yes, you can.

In the latest episode of HR Famous, Kris Dunn and Jessica Lee discuss a recent Bloomberg article that attempted a takedown vs Blizzard Entertainment related to pay issues – including some employees passing around a cloud spreadsheet listing salaries they make at Blizzard. Along the way they discuss what quality reporting looks like around this type of issue, messaging as part of damage control when a company finds itself under scrutiny, and they also look for clues related to the depth of pay issues at Blizzard on the company’s Glassdoor page.

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Listen (click this link if you don’t see the player below) and be sure to subscribe, rate, and review (Apple Podcasts) and follow (Spotify)!

SHOW HIGHLIGHTS

1:30 – Tim is gone (again) this week on another vacay! KD and Jlee talk about what they think Tim is doing on his Lake Michigan getaway. Ginger people don’t tan!

12:00 – Next topic of the day – Blizzard Entertainment, famous for making many popular video games like Call of Duty, has a situation where employees circulated a salary document internally that showed major pay disparitiesThe salary document was first reported by Bloomberg – but the gang has questions.

15:00 – Jlee praises the person who circulated the Google sheets form for being efficient. If anyone has the link to the spreadsheet, HR Famous would love to see it! KD wonders aloud how many columns are on the spreadsheet?  Are they names? The gang doubts it.

18:00 – An Activision spokesperson says that they compensate their employees fairly and gave their top performers a higher salary increase than in prior years. KD compares this issue to an episode of The Office where they have to decide who to give raises to and how.

21:00 – KD comments on the quote from the Activision spokesperson that says “a 20% increase in salaries compared to other years” was questionable language. KD and Jlee give high marks to this language that is a little clever to the untrained eye.

25:00 – KD points out that Blizzard has thousands of employees and not everyone could be consulted for this article. He’s kind of over articles that splash, but make no mention of how many employees a reporter talked to.

26:00 – What do you think Blizzard’s Glassdoor rating is? KD is a little surprised by Blizzard’s rating and thinks that their rating isn’t indicative of some of the problems this article addresses.

29:00 – KD finds the reported Blizzard salaries on Glassdoor by job and finds that many aren’t too far off the industry average/ KD guesses the problems are in customer service and QA based on low hourly rates.

32:00 – Jlee feels for Blizzard and their HR department in these tough times for their company. KD wants reporters to tell a full story and do their job right. He encourages them to take their clickbait titles for traffic, then tells the whole story.

Female Mechanic, Amateur Porn, and Lawful Termination #TheProjectTakeover

I’m on vacation this week so my friends are taking over the Project! Enjoy their content, connect with them, and share the content with new people! Some amazing voices coming to you this week! 

Enjoy this post by Greg Modd!

Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook are entertaining but there is an adult side to social media platforms. One is called OnlyFans that HR professionals need to be aware of that is in the market. Kirsten Vaughn, 24, created an account to pad her bank account while working as a mechanic at Don Ayres Honda dealership in Fort Wayne, Indiana. She had the potential to be the first woman master technician at the dealership. However, Kirsten’s colleagues discovered her OnlyFans account and she claims that was when the sexual harassment began. A month after she created the account, she was terminated from her mechanic position for violating company policy.

Management met with Vaughn prior to her termination and in a recorded conversation the dealership’s HR leader Jason Johnston said “If there were coworkers over there who had access to your page, that might encourage them to approach you with unwanted sexual conduct or comments,” wow… suppose this could be interpreted as a blame the victim defense.

How should HR professionals handle these situations? The Association of Workplace Investigators have guiding principles to assist investigators to enhance the quality of workplace investigations:

  1. The decision to Conduct an Investigation
  2. Choice of Investigator
  3. Scope of Investigation
  4. Investigation Planning
  5. Communicating with Employer Representatives and Witnesses
  6. Confidentiality and Privacy
  7. Evidence Gathering and Retention
  8. Witness Interviews
  9. Documenting the Investigation
  10. Investigation Findings
  11. Reports

Wow, that’s a long and complicated list of guiding principles. What do they mean “decision to conduct an investigation” can an HR department ignore sexual harassment complaints? No, as employers are legally mandated to investigate harassment, retaliation, discrimination, and certain other types of complaints. Common mistakes made by HR departments in employee relations investigations are failing to plan, ignoring complaints, delaying an investigation, and losing objectivity. Bias is real folks…

Employee relations are complex and workplace investigations are an important piece to the puzzle. Business is about relationships. More importantly positive relationships. For HR professionals to be successful in the workplace they must be trusted advisors to both the business managers and employees. This is a challenging position to be in for most HR pros and one that sometimes can appear to be in conflict.

The bottom line, the sights and sounds human resources professionals are exposed to can be some of the strangest human interactions. Some HR pros aren’t equipped to manage the employee relations complications that come, and it can be an expensive lesson for the employer. My dear friend calls it a lesson in litigation. We can do better and be better if we simply leverage our network’s knowledge to help in these challenging situations. You don’t have to do this alone as we are truly better together.

Bio – Greg Modd is the Principal Consultant at PPC, DisruptHR speaker, and a United StatesAir Force veteran who served two tours in Iraq and one tour in Afghanistan. PPC aims to mitigate risk for small business owners through outsourced workplace investigations.

 

 

The Best of 2019: The 3 Rules About Kissing Your Boss!

I’m on a holiday break. Boys are home, we’re going on a trip. So, I’ve put together a Best of 2019 post list for you to enjoy. I’ll be back after the holidays with new stuff and some cool announcements for 2020! (This post was actually written in 2017, but for some reason got new life this year and was of the most read) 

May 20, 2013, I published a silly little post on my blog called “The Rules About Hugging at Work”. The post might have taken me twenty minutes to write. It was just an idea I got, like thousands of others, I thought it was funny, so I wrote about it. To date, it’s been read over 1 Million times. Huff Post picked it up, it went viral on LinkedIn (I got over 1300 comments), I’ve been interviewed and called, “The World’s Foremost Expert on Workplace Hugging”.

Twenty minutes of writing, a throwaway idea.

Months later I posted the exact same post on LinkedIn’s publishing platform. This was before everyone could publish (remember that), you had to be invited. I got a call from the LinkedIn chief editor offering me access. I didn’t know if it was really anything so I just threw up old posts I had already written but added a few new pieces.

On the Hugging post, I added at the bottom my next post would be: The 3 Rules About Kissing Your Boss! as a joke. I never wrote it. Until five years later I got a message last week from someone who found the hugging post for the first time asking how they could find the kissing post! I didn’t even know what they were talking about!

So, here’s the kissing post! 

It would be easy to dismiss the notion of kissing your boss as something that would never happen. When I say ‘never’ I mean never. I mean honestly do any of us ever feel it would be appropriate to kiss your boss!?

This one is hard for me. I come from a family of huggers and kissers! My father is 73 and he still kisses me on the lips when I greet him or say goodbye. Some folks would find that super weird. Different cultures do different things.

My son was overseas this summer visiting friends in Belgium and it was quite common for new people he met to give him that traditional kiss on the cheek, but he said those same people would not give you a hug or a handshake. This kiss on the cheek greeting is very common in many parts of the world.

In America, you would probably get punched in the face if you tried kissing someone on the cheek you were meeting for the first time! I mean, look, if I don’t know you, I certainly don’t want your germs all over my face! Most Europeans I meet for business purposes in the states who come here often have gotten used to handshakes, rarely do I see one of them do the cheek kiss greeting.

All of this is way different, though, then kissing your boss! Kissing your boss would have to be a special circumstance or special occasion. I’m guessing if you’re kissing your boss one of a few things probably hasn’t happened in that relationship. You’ve probably become very good friends, some once in a lifetime event is happening, or you’ve become romantically involved, in which case, not really your boss any longer!

So, if we can see a time in which you might kiss your boss, the great HR pro in me says we better put some pen to policy and make some rules! Here are my three rules for kissing your boss:

1. No kissing on the lips. Kissing on the lips is a slippery slope you can’t put back in the bag! Wants that happens you might as well just get undressed, stuff just got real! We’re going to assume this kiss is not romantic in nature, completely as professional as kissing your boss can be professional!

2. Do not leave moisture on your boss’s cheek. Okay, somehow we got down this rabbit hole to a point where I’m kissing my boss on his or her cheek, let’s not make this super awkward by leaving a nice big wet spot on the side of their face. If you’re so excited to be kissing your boss’s cheek that you leave it wet, you should be checked into a mental ward.

3. Do not have bad breath. First impressions are critical and even though your boss knows you, your boss doesn’t know the kissing you. Do not go in for that first boss kiss with bad breath! I love Ice Breakers Mints and I have some close by almost always. Why? I can’t stand bad breath. Coffee breath is the worst and I know a lot of you are major coffee drinkers! Guess what? Diet Mt Dew breath smells like a flower garden! Think about that next time you go for a fill-up at the coffee station at work!

See? That’s how you do it. That’s how the World’s Foremost Expert in Workplace Hugging becomes the World’s Foremost Expert on Boss Kissing. You can’t be a one-trick pony in this world folks, we all need to keep striving on reinventing ourselves. Watch out fall conference circuit! If you see Sackett coming I might have just raised the game!

So, hit me in the comments. What are your rules for kissing your boss!?

The #1 Employee Recognition Tool of All-Time!

At the Michigan Recruiter’s Conference last week I got into a side conversation with a TA leader who had her team at the event. She was talking about motivating and recognizing her team, and that it seemed to be more difficult with younger generations versus the Gen Xers she has managed in the past. I told her I wasn’t sure it was generational, but I had a couple of examples of recognition I thought might work for her.

The first example happened when I was working in my first HR manager position.  One of the executives I supported had a good, young, enthusiastic worker, a top-notch kid who had a great work ethic.  I sat down with this executive and the employee to do their annual performance review. Everything went perfect, as it usually does with that type of employee.  It was what happened afterward that blew me away.  The executive asked me to get him the address of this employee’s parents.  We knew he thought highly of his folks, and he mentioned them when we gave the employee praise for his performance.

I went back and found the address, the executive drafted a short letter, handwritten to these employee’s parents.  He didn’t tell the employee he was doing this, he just did it.  The executive basically told the parents you should be extremely proud of your child, our organization is lucky to have them, and our organization wants to thank you for raising such a fine person.  End of letter. Send.

About a week later, I got a call from the front desk. It was the employee’s father, asking the front desk to talk to the executive and telling them they were the father of this employee.  The front desk person called me (HR), believing something bad must have happened, so I took the call.  I spoke with a man in his mid-50’s who had a hard time holding back tears of pride, thanking me (and our executive) for sharing such a wonderful story and how proud they were of their son.

Later, the employee also came into my office to thank me for doing this, believing I must have put the executive up to it (it’s an HR touchy-feely thing).  The employee said that they could never imagine a better place to work.  A 3-minute handwritten letter = powerful recognition and engagement.

The other example I have is of an experience that happened to me a few years ago. I was working as a director in a large health system, and my mom was in town and came to my office to meet me for lunch.  Being a hospital, she came into the building and walked into the HR office.

I introduced her to some of my team and we were walking out when the head of HR came walking in.  I introduced him, and he shook her hand and said: “I want to thank you for sharing Tim with us, he’s an extraordinary individual, and I’m sure you are responsible for that.”  Bam!  My mom talked about that moment all the time!  I felt pride and respect, and most of all, loyalty to my supervisor for such a gesture.

Employee recognition doesn’t have to be hard, or take a long time, or be a part of a process.  It has to be genuine, in the moment and meaningful.  Too many times we forget this on the organizational front.

The Employee Walk of Shame

I’ve lost jobs and I’ve called old employers to see if they would want to hire me back. I’ve usually gotten a response that sounded something like, “Oh, boy would we want you back but we just don’t have anything. Good Luck!”  Many of us in the talent game talk about our employee Alumni and how we should engage our Alumni but very few of us really take true advantage of leveraging this network.

I was reminded of this recently when a friend of mine took a new job.  You know the deal, shorter drive, more money, growing company and oh, boy, just where do I sign!?  The fact was, it was all they said, shorter drive, more money and they were growing, but they forgot to tell him was our operations are broken beyond repair, you will work 7 days a week and probably 12-14 hours per day because of the mess we have, but keep your head up it’s the only way you won’t drown here!

So, now what does he do?

He already had the going away party, bar night out with the work friends with the promises to do lunches and not get disconnected, packed up and unpack the office into the new office.  Let’s face it, big boy, you’re stuck!  Not so fast.  He did the single hardest thing an employee can do he called his old boss after 7 days and said one thing, “I made a mistake, can I come back?”

Luckily for him, his past boss was a forward-thinking leader and so this past Monday he did the 2nd hardest thing an employee can do he made the “Employee Walk of Shame“.

You can imagine the looks from people who didn’t know him well, “Hey, wait a minute, didn’t you leave?” Having to tell the same story over and over, feeling like he failed, like he wasn’t good enough to make it in the new position.

HR plays a huge part in this story because it was HR who can make this walk of shame a little less rough.  Let’s face it, it is different.  You just don’t leave and come back as nothing happened. Something did happen, there was a reason he left and that reason isn’t going away.  A transition back needs to be put into place even though he was gone seven days.  It’s not about just plugging back in, it is about re-engaging again and finding out what we all can do better so it doesn’t happen again.

It’s also about making sure you let those employees who you truly want back, that they are welcome to come back (assuming you have the job) and not just saying that to everyone.  There are employees who leave that you say a small prayer to G*d and you are thankful they left!  There are others where you wish there was a prayer you could say so they wouldn’t leave.

Make it easy for your employees to do the Walk of Shame, it helps the organization, but realize they are hurting, they are embarrassed, but they are also grateful!