Older Workers are Becoming Invisible

quote-Jeanette-Winterson-whats-invisible-to-us-is-also-crucial-90396My twelve year old son loves to play the game Would You Rather with me.  Have you played?  You basically ask the person to choose between two things and sometimes, they give a reason.  For example, he recently asked me, “Mom, would you rather be invisible, or have the ability to teleport?”  As you can see, this is a question that may cause a gut reaction, but when you start thinking about it, you begin to come up with many reasons why one choice may be better than the other.  For the record, I chose the ability to be invisible.  The truth is, I may have that ability sooner than I think.

A few days ago, I read a friend’s comment on Facebook.  He was at a client location that was filled with beautiful, young people and as they all walked by, he felt old.  For the record, this friend is in his forties, like me.  Another friend commented that once you reach a certain age, you basically become invisible.  I admit, I never really thought about that before.  While I’m not quite ready to buy into the idea that a person in their forties is “old”, I have thought about older workers, namely from my parents’ generation, that are starting to feel left out or ignored in the workplace.

Have you ever felt this way?  Are you old enough that this is happening, or starting to happen?

Maybe the problem is we’re all so focused on the younger generation and making them happy that we are forgetting that much of our organizational knowledge is walking around unnoticed.  In fact, if left unnoticed, are the organizations missing out on ways to actually improve our bottom line?  It seems like this “invisible generation”, formerly know as the Silent and Boomer generations, are actually starting to get a little notice again.

Take for example the movie The InternThe plot has a “senior”, played by Robert DeNiro, who becomes the intern for a young, vibrant CEO, played by Anne Hathaway.  For several months, she not only ignores him, she doesn’t even give him a second thought.  She can’t see the value that is sitting right before her eyes.  I don’t want to spoil the movie, but the point is that older workers are often passed by when we’re in need of support, good ideas, or differing opinions on how to handle something.  It’s such a shame.

All this talk of older workers becoming invisible leaves me with more questions than answers, for now.

Do you have someone older in your life that could provide a different, fresh perspective in your work?

If you are the older person, do you reach out to colleagues who are just starting out or who are earlier in their career to offer advice and counsel that is judgement-free?

If you’ve been lucky enough to have an older mentor in your life, what is the best piece of advice he or she has given?

If you work in an organization or on a team that has little diversity in age, what are you going to do to reach out to a colleague of another age?

How can the idea of capturing the value of more “senior” advice be applied in the workforce today?

In order for organizations to be successful in the future, they are going to need to be able to capture all the knowledge of their older workers.  By taking active steps to ensure that these employees do not feel invisible, you’ll not only be capturing that information, you’ll be ensuring that those employees feel valued and engaged for the remainder of their employment.

 

 

Stop Aligning Yourself With the Wrong People

bad-friends*From the dusty archives…

Growing up, my parents steered me away from friends who had undesirable behavior.  Now that I’m a mom, I find myself doing the same thing with my children. Why?  Today’s lesson is a simple one…  you are the company you keep.

  • If you surround yourself with people of good reputation, you will be viewed positively.
  • If you associate with accomplished professionals, you will pick up on what makes them successful.
  • If you affiliate with people who have good values, you will be perceived in the same light.

It frustrates me to see people who surround themselves with people of questionable character.  If you align yourself with people who are arrogant, rude, negative, unmotivated, or who lack a moral compass, you will be perceived similarly.  That is a FACT. 

So, take a good look in the mirror today.  Then, take a look at your contacts online and in your day-to-day life.  If there are people of questionable character, now is your chance to unfollow, unfriend, or dis-associate from them.   You don’t have to associate with negativity.  After all, you ARE the company you keep.  What do you think?

Gen X Used to Feel Entitled Too- Did You?

generation-xSo, you think the Millennials invented the idea of feeling entitled?  Well, it’s not true.  No, other generations of young people have felt entitled.  I felt that way too.  Yes, Gen X has our share of dreamers and employees that were so eager to take on new challenges.  The difference I’m seeing is that when I was early in my career, I had older and wiser bosses who knew just when and how to put me in my place.  There wasn’t concern about hurting feelings with direct feedback.  They just did it.  They lived it.  I never once felt coddled.

I remember being twenty-seven years old and feeling like I knew it all.  I thought I knew better than my boss and I really believed I could “see the big picture”.  I just knew he was holding me back.  After all, I had a M.A. in HR Management and a few years of experience.  Why couldn’t he SEE how ready I was for a promotion?

Well, for starters, I didn’t put in enough time.  In my exempt role, I thought work could be left at the door when I headed for home.  Second, I didn’t do anything proactive to continue my learning in the human resources field.  No webinars.  No articles.  Nothing.  Third, I focused on administrative tasks.  I wasn’t stretching myself to think of the impact of my tasks.  Fourth, I had no idea what my boss really did.  To me, it looked like he was on the phone and in meetings.  How hard was that?

I remember the day I told my dad this boss was holding me back.  He gave me some great advice that I still embrace today:

  • Shadow your boss.  Find out what he really does and how he reached that position.  Watch for skills he uses to connect with people in the company and if he is successful, model those.
  • Come to work early and work late.  Learning how to do more than administrative tasks takes time and practice.  Back then, this meant many hours in the office.  Today, using technology, it’s easy to work early in the morning or late at night from the comfort of your home.
  • Keep educating yourself.  Always.  It’s not your company’s responsibility to do it all for you.
  • Volunteer to take on more challenging work without expecting money or title. Those will come in time.

Somehow, I made it to a more mature state of mind.  I like to think I grew up.  Not sure that it had anything at all to do with my generation, it was just more of a life lesson.

How did you progress through your career?  Did you experience any similar feelings?  What generation are you part of?

I’d love to hear all these answers (and more), so please jump over to my short, pulse survey on Generations and Leadership.  It takes 1- 3 minutes to complete and I really appreciate the feedback!

 

Are You the Grit of the Company?

gritI was listening to NPR this morning, as I do every morning after dropping my kids at school.  Normally, they are doing the market report when I’m in the car, but today, my timing was off and the show hosts were discussing how difficult it can be to predict the future of organizations with a former Intel futurist.  As he described the role and how he handled it, at one point he referred to himself as the “grit” inside the organization that often had to tell other leaders what no one else would say.

I started thinking about how I behave inside organizations and ultimately, how you behave too.  There are many times I’ve found myself being the grit in organizations.  Grit, or being abrasive, is thought of as a negative.  I don’t think it has to be a negative label though, it’s quite the opposite.  Being seen as the grit should mean you’re a go-to person who will be honest and tell leadership where the gaps in thinking may be.  In fact, it goes beyond that to being able to tell leaders which paths they should not be taking.

The key to being the “grit” in a positive way is finesse.  One thing I’ve learned over the last twenty of my career is that being disruptive may be fun, but it does not make for the ability to bring change on a consistent basis.  Since many people still enjoy working for one employer for a long period of time, understanding how to be influential without being completely abrasive is an art.  Those are the leaders that actually drive change in organizations.  I found a fascinating article on Forbes that details the 5 Characteristics of Grit.  I encourage you to check it out to see which characteristics you have.  Things like resilience,  endurance, excellence, conscientiousness, and courage are all important in determining the level of grit you have.

So now that we’ve determined that grit can be a positive in the workplace, how can you tell if you’re style of grit is disruptive vs. influential?  

DISRUPTIVE OR INFLUENTIAL?

  • Do the C-Suite execs avoid you because you are constantly telling them to do things differently?  Disruptive
  • Are you the first person the executives call when they have an issue?  Influential
  • Have you tried, unsuccessfully, to “sell” the same idea to every executive and can’t get anyone on board? Disruptive
  • Do you curse or swear a lot at work for no real reason? Disruptive
  • Do people eventually come around to your ideas, even if they need a little time to digest the idea before embracing it?  Influential
  • Are you honest?  Influential
  • Brutally honest at all costs?  Disruptive

Like most people, I want to change the world.  I’m sure you do too.  And while there are a few “disruptors” who make a name for themselves and get positive change in spite of their approach, most people prefer to be influenced.  I learned early on that being influential is not about your job title.  It’s all in your style and the way you bring other people over to your way of thinking.  It’s also about being open to new ideas….even if it means discarding your own ideas.

So, which are you? I’d love to hear from you…

3 Things to Avoid on Employee Appreciation Day

*Sharing from the dusty archives…

I have to admit,  I am not a fan of fake holidays.  I always figured if anyone in my life needed to use a made-up reason to say they love me (Valentines Day) or appreciate me (Mother’s Day), then they really don’t know me at all.  I would much rather have someone tell me they love or appreciate me on a random Tuesday then sending me a dozen roses that cost $150 on one of those days.  As an aside, this cynicism likely comes from working at a florist in my teenage years and seeing men forget their loved one until the last minute, then rush in to buy said $150 roses just to stay out of trouble.

candy_jar_tootsieWell, we are on the eve of yet another made up holiday…..Employee Appreciation Day.  It’s coming to an office near you on March 4th.  Don’t get me wrong, I am a BIG supporter of telling your team and all your employees how much you appreciate them.  I am a fan of hand written notes, emails, phone calls, taking them out to lunch and more.  What I am not a fan of is the leader who never tells their employee how much they appreciate them, then only does on March 4th as a way to think it’s “all good” for the year.

There are already articles and letters floating around from various organizations telling leaders how they can recognize their employees easily and with almost no thought at all.  It is unreal.  I’m here to say right now that if you are a leader, it is supposed to be hard, not easy.  It is supposed to take time, you are supposed to give feedback and you should put thought into it.  Here are 3 things you SHOULD do on March 4th, Employee Appreciation Day to turn the tides on the “easy” approaches that are not meaningful:

  1. Form Letters-  First, do NOT send the form letters full of jargon and business-speak.  At least, do not send them in the spirit intended.  Instead, print out the letter with all the (insert employee name here, insert project here, etc.) left in.  Then, hand write a note at the bottom sincerely telling the employee how much you appreciate them and that you’d never send them a form letter like the one the note is written on.  It will be quirky and unique.  Another option is to call the team together and start reading the form letter mentioned above to them.  As they look at you completely perplexed, stop reading and tell them they mean more to you than a form letter could ever say.  Go around the room, in front of their peers, thanking them and giving examples of what each person does to bring value to the team.
  2. Donuts-  I know, you’re probably thinking that Krispy Kreme or Duncan Donuts is RIGHT on your way to work and you can grab a couple dozen from the drive-thru.  Don’t do it!  Instead, do some reconnaissance today and find out what kind of candy, gum, or healthy snack each team member loves.  Go to the store and buy each employee’s favorite thing.  It will take more effort, that much is true.  The cost will not be more though and I guarantee that a sincere thank you as you hand the person their favorite snack will be well worth the effort.  I once had a boss bring me a huge canister of Tootsie Rolls “just because” I was working hard.  Since that’s one of my favorite candies, it was a wonderful surprise and I knew she valued me.
  3. Gift Cards- We’ve all heard the expression that money can’t buy you love.  The same holds true with  a thank you.  Sure, a $5 gift card for coffee is nice, but it’s the easy way out.  Instead, do a more personal act of service.  Something like asking each staff member if they would like something to drink, then going to your company kitchen or the local store, or even coffee shop, and picking it up or making it for them.  It becomes an act of service and for a boss to do something nice that makes them go out of their way is much more meaningful to the employee.

So, there you have it.  Three ways you can make a more meaningful impact in the way you thank your staff.  Oh, and by the way….thank YOU for wanting to do more to recognize them.  It takes a great leader to want to go the extra mile!

HR Can’t Be Strategic If They’re Busy Being Your Mother

noseI’ve been honored to work in the HR industry for twenty years.  Honestly, with all the perceived negatives, there are so many more great moments that make working with people worthwhile.  But, as I sit here as an analyst, conducting research surveys and interviewing HR leaders, I find it sad that we are not really moving the needle as much as we should.  Why?  Because organizations ask HR to be more strategic while making them take care of the unusual, mundane and sometimes gross aspects of people management.

Unusual?  Gross? Mundane?

Yes, HR leaders and their teams are still doing the “dirty work” that managers don’t want to handle.  Do you have an employee with body odor and don’t want to handle it?  Just go to HR and they will address it for you.  What about the employee that dresses inappropriately, showing just a little too much of their stuff?  Yes, just take that one to HR too.  Here’s one for you….employees rubbing boogers on the men’s room mirror?  Yes, even that can come to HR to address.  I know these may sound like things a parent would address with a child, but I assure you these are all very real in our workplaces.

I don’t know how the HR department became the keeper of all these great incidents, but I am ready to hear that the managers in the organization are stepping up to handle them.  Then, and only then, will your HR teams have time to actually work on strategic things to help drive revenue or support the business goals of the company.

What about you?  If you work in HR, are you still spending time on these issues, “mothering” employees and leaders, or am I just happening to get a lot of stories from the trenches that are not true?  I’d love to hear your comments….

Do You Owe Someone An Apology?

*Sharing a blast from the past…

i-am-sorryI was traveling down the worm hole that is the internet, when I landed on a 2010 story in Psychology Today called The Science of Effective Apologies.  It caught my attention  for a couple reasons.  First, I hate to apologize.  I will do it and I think you should too, but I can’t think of a time when it really made me feel better.  Second, I’m intrigued by the science behind why people do, or don’t, apologize and the impact on the recipient.  All this reminded me that there are many situations in the workplace where you or a colleague may feel disrespected, under-valued or even outright wronged.  Have you received an apology?  Did it help?  If you were the person who hurt a colleague, did you apologize?

According to the author, Gary Winch, PhD., beyond the three components most of us expect in an apology (expression of regret, actually saying the words “I’m sorry”, and requesting the person’s forgiveness), “Studies have found that in addition to the three basic ingredients, three additional apology components play an important role in determining whether an apology will be effective: 

  1. Expressions of empathy
  2. Offers of compensation
  3. Acknowledgments that certain rules or social norms were violated

These components were found to be most effective when they were matched to the characteristics of the person to whom the apology was being offered.”

I don’t know about you, but all that sounds like a lot of thought and work need to go into a sincere and effective apology.  Don’t get me wrong, I do believe you should do it.  I wonder though, is it the thought that apologies can be complex that keeps people away from giving them?  As a believer that it’s all about making the recipient feel better, I still wonder if some colleagues do not do this because they perceive it as them giving away their power.

We all have known colleagues or leaders who refuse to apologize, right?  According to a 2013 study in the European Journal of of Social Psychology“Results showed that the act of refusing to apologize resulted in greater self-esteem than not refusing to apologize. Moreover, apology refusal also resulted in increased feelings of power/control and value integrity, both of which mediated the effect of refusal on self-esteem. “

So, are leaders less likely to apologize?  

Whether they are or not isn’t as important as the fact that if you are in a leadership role, it is healthier for your team to apologize when you are wrong.  It’s a balance, of course, of knowing when it will be needed and meaningful.  None the less, it’s something to consider if you’re a leader who wants to humanize yourself with your team in order to build and reinforce trust.

What do you think?  Do you apologize?  Has someone at work apologized to you?  Share in the comments…

Ideas of How to #WorkHuman Today

It’s been a good week here in the mid-west.  I had a great time leading a webinar earlier in the week with Globoforce.  The topic was how to make our workplaces more human.  Tall order, right?  Well, I hope I provided many examples that HR leaders (and other leaders) can use to make small strides in this area.  In case you missed it, you can listen HERElogo_light_backgrounds2

One of the main points I made in the webinar is that people need a workplace where there is LOVE.  Not the romantic kind of love that is the nightmare of every HR pro around, the kind of love that means that you genuinely care and are concerned for your colleagues.  We all have so many things going on in our busy lives that sometimes, when things are less than perfect outside of work, we can’t help but let it impact us during work.  AND THAT’S NORMAL.  For years, we’ve all been brainwashed that we need to leave all our troubles at the door when we come to work.  We have to be strong, stay focused and produce, produce, produce.  Well, no more!

One reason workplaces quickly become less human and don’t have that love and compassion is that we don’t know many of our colleagues.  I was watching CBS Sunday Morning, my favorite news show, and they did a story about Freshbooks and how they are innovating in the way they encourage connection among colleagues.  Freshbooks is a Toronto-based company that has instituted voluntary “employee dating” at work.  This isn’t romantic dating, it’s setting people up on blind dates with colleagues for purposes of getting to know their co-workers better.  You can catch the whole video HERE.  Basically, employees volunteer to be matched with someone they don’t know.  The woman who makes the matches tries to select people who would never normally cross paths or work on projects together.  The two parties then have a “work date”.

While awkward at first, 100% of the employees who participated say they would do it again and it was worth it.  They are able to learn more about what other parts of the organization are up to AND they get the benefit of making a new work connection.  Think about what would happen if you tried this in your company.  Would it lead to greater connection, more collaboration, more innovative ideas?  I’d venture to say that it would.  That’s what I call #WorkHuman in action.

So, my challenge for you as we go into this next week at work is to view your workplace through a different lens.  Is it human?  Do you feel real connection there?  If you can’t answer yes to those, then find ONE thing you can do differently to start changing the tone.  It may just be taking a stranger to lunch.  I’d love to hear how it goes in the comments…