Grieving at Work- Strategies for Coping

grief2I worked in the HR trenches for most of my career and at every job, the trusty EAP brochure was not far from reach.  The only trouble is, employees just don’t tend to use the EAP (Employee Assistance Program) benefits and resources as often as we would hope.  Honestly, more employees would rather have a chat with someone in HR or a colleague and tell us their most personal troubles than to search online or through a brochure for something to help whatever ails them.  I know EAP has so many great benefits from financial advice, life changes advice (marriage, birth of a baby, divorce) and even bereavement advice, I feel like there has to be more that HR can offer.

I recently lost my grandmother to Alzheimers.  I was very close to her and visited her often, especially during the last ten years of her life.  The company I was with at the time only offered one day of bereavement for the death of a grandparent.  No consideration was given to the closeness of the relationship.  No call was received to give condolences.  So, in my extreme grief, I decided to reach out to my friends on Facebook for some suggestions of how to cope with the tremendous loss since I had never lost someone so close to me.

My friends and chosen colleagues in the HR world first embraced me in the most loving support I could hope for.  Then, they shared their personal tips on how to deal with grief.  Since death is a part of life, I want to share the tips here today in hopes they will help you, someone you love, a friend, or even a co-worker in need.  Here we go:

  • Hugs- Take hugs from everyone you can.  The act of being embraced actually makes you feel better and helps calm your body’s reaction to the grief.
  • A good joke-  It may seem like the wrong time to joke, but laughing launches chemicals in the brain to help you feel better.
  • Getting outside- A nice long walk, a game in the park, or a run may be just what you need to get your adrenaline going.
  • Prayer- While I know not everyone believes the same truth, if you pray, it can really help you.  Some of my most comforting moments were sitting in church.  My grandma died just before Easter, so a challenging time to hear that message, but ultimately very helpful.
  • Good friends- As much as you may want to be alone, the company of a good friend can lift your heart.  It also helps them feel like they are helping you.
  • Remembering good times with the loved one-  This is one I found difficult at first.  I didn’t want to think about her at all because it hurt too much.  Over the months, this one has gotten easier and now, I find that remembering fun times with Grammy really do help.
  • “Embrace the Moment”- My good friend Prudence Kumming told me to do this.
  • Street Wisdom– My sweet friend David D’Souza gave me the advice to read this blog.  So glad he did because I would have never found it without his suggestion.  It’s the story of how you can use the environment where you live to help you work through issues, concerns and thoughts.  So creative.
  • Let people help- One of the hardest things to do, if you’re like me, is let anyone help you.  Of all times, when you’re grieving is when it’s comforting to have someone take care of you.  Embrace it.
  • Care for yourself and be gentle with yourself-  This one comes from a brilliant woman, Heather Bussing.  So often we don’t take care of ourselves in these situations, we are too busy worrying about everyone else.  I was guilty of this.  Once I sat down and focused on this, I started feeling more like myself.
  • Books- My wise friend Margo Rose made several solid book recommendation for dealing with grief.  Healing After Loss was one and books by Kahili Gibran are supposed to do the trick.
  • Grief counseling-  If grief is too much to bear, see a grief counselor.  This is where the EAP can come in handy in terms of recommending local experts to help you.
  • Music- One of the things I found helpful was to listen to songs I know my Grammy loved.  Celebrating them through music is a very uplifting experience.
  • Sticking to a routine- I remember during my first real job, an employee lost a loved one.  I thought they would take the week off as bereavement and they came to work.  To my surprise, he told me that it was easier to continue the daily routine so he didn’t feel so bad.
  • “Living the Full Catastrophe”- My dear friend Geoff Webb made this suggestion.  Allowing yourself to feel and experience ALL parts of the process is the only way to really get through it.
  • Celebrate the person you lost- I’m seeing this more and more.  Sharing pictures and stories of the person who passed is a way to celebrate their life, not grieve the loss.
  • Sleep/ eat/ exercise-  It should go without saying, but making sure you do all the life basics is key to grieving.
  • Time Alone- My amazing friend Eric Winegardner suggested taking 2 days, or so, away.  Go somewhere by yourself and just be.
  • Understanding how Shiva is observed-  My wise and feeling friend Naomi Bloom shared the Jewish practice of Shiva.  Even though I am not of that faith, I admit that learning about it and taking some cues from the steps were very helpful in my dealing with my grief.

As you can see, there are many ways to deal with grief.  So, next time someone comes in your office and is struggling, feel free to give them the EAP brochure, but make additional suggestions.  They’ll welcome the input and information they may have never considered.

Be good to yourselves and feel free to share your tips on dealing with grief in the comments.  We’d all love to learn from it.

The Future of Performance Reviews

May2014_ValueOfPeerAssessment_TNA question that I’ve wrestled with as a HR practitioner over the years, and one I am often asked about now, is what is the value of performance reviews.  It’s been something that employees and managers dread in most organizations I’ve worked with.  For many, the review never even happens and the employee is blindsided if things go south.  For other employees, they get the review once a year and it’s a time of having the boss go over every single thing you did wrong, even though the boss never mentioned those things to you throughout the year.  Either way, there is certainly room for improvement in the way employees receive feedback.  Organizations today are debating whether to keep the process as it is, make an overhaul, or throw out the whole concept.

Steve Boese and I invited guest, Eric Mosley, CEO of Globoforce, to the HR Happy Hour to discuss this topic because the negativity often associated with performance reviews continues to grow world-wide. According to Eric, most employees hate having their performance reviewed and most managers hate giving them.  Eric says it’s a business process that seems cast in stone, but that can change.  You can check out the podcast here:

In addition to the podcast, I want to provide a list of some of the pros and cons of performance reviews. While not an all-inclusive list, these are just a few thoughts to get you thinking about the aspects that work if you use performance reviews, and what may not, so you can begin to make changes to your organization’s process and approach.  Many vendors are beginning to incorporate some of the best aspects into their technology, so be sure to check out the Talent Management vendors for the latest in this area.

PROS

  • Employees still desire feedback and the review process, if more frequent and positive, can inspire employees to reach greater heights in the organization.
  • Feedback can help people improve their skills.  Many employees like guidance from a mentor who can provide a framework for them to develop.
  • Companies who can actually tie performance to pay are more trusted.  Employees trust leaders when the leaders are transparent about company performance, leader performance and employee performance.
  • Companies who have multiple raters give a more holistic view of the employee’s performance (Crowdsourced Review as mentioned by Eric Mosley).

CONS

  • If only one rater is used, there is a lack of objectivity in the overall review.  The person performing the rating can be tired, have only partial information or knowledge, can have bad motives, etc.  Many factors lead to lack of objectivity.
  • The myth of pay for performance is pervasive.  Even companies with the best intent tend to miss the mark of actually tying pay increases and/or promotion to actual performance measures.  HR technology is helping in this area.
  • Managers are not always the best judge of what is needed for career development.  If a manager is struggling in their own career, which many are, they are not equipped to give career advice and guidance to their staff.
  • Managers have their own agendas.  Organizations have their own internal politics and a manager’s agenda or standing within the organization can have drastic impact on your review (both positively and negatively).
  • Managers are unprepared.  Whether they claim not to have time to prepare and conduct the review or if he just doesn’t have a solid understanding of how to give feedback, the manager’s ability greatly impacts your review.
  • Employees know it can be a black mark on their career.  Many managers do not know the things you achieve daily or weekly.  If they miss giving feedback on some of your more important work, it can make it appear that you are not doing a good job when you really are.
  • For many organizations, the same form they have always used has been made available online.  The form and what is measured has not been changed from an experiential standpoint.
  • Managers use books and sample text instead of writing their own reviews and comments.
  • Annual is not often enough.  Too much time passes and the rater tends to focus on either the most negative aspects or only the most recent.
  • Time spent on reviews is not showing a high ROI or actual improvement on performance.
  • Reviews are often used to specifically counsel people out and provide the documentation to back up the decision.

The pros and cons of performance has been debated over the years.  Just last year on the March 19 episode of The Diane Rehm Show  on NPR, a discussion was led by Frank Sesno on the topic.  The panel discussed the pros and cons to performance reviews in today’s workplace and the impact they have. One of the experts, Brian Kropp (managing director of the HR practice at CEB), said this, “Most of the time, it’s backward looking and negative.  And, one of the things about the backward looking and negative part of it is that you’re usually getting performance feedback about things that you did three months ago, six months ago, nine months ago, 12 months ago.  The applicability of that backward looking information to your performance today is actually pretty low.”

As you’ll see from my list, I was able to come up with more Cons than Pros.  That’s ok because it gives us a place to start improving.

Solutions for the Future

If you’re in the position to review your organization’s approach and make changes, what are some steps to take right away?  There are a few:

  • Feedback needs to be reciprocal.  Make sure that multiple raters are used for the employee.  Additionally, give the employees the ability to rate the performance of the managers.
  • Make it constructive and forward-looking.  Provide training so that all managers and staff understand the goal is to be constructive, not to tear each other down.
  • Make it often.  Don’t just review someone once a year or never.  Give feedback all the time so that the employee knows when they do something well and when something needs a bit of improvement.

What have you seen work in your organization?  Be sure to share in the comments.

Make Your Dreams Come True: Just DO IT!

shia-lebeouf-ted-talk-spoofI saw the hysterical faux TED talk by Shia Labeouf and cracked up.  It is a minute long rant where he passionately and aggressively compels you, the viewer, to JUST DO IT.  If you haven’t watched it, go DO IT now.  It’s a fun minute of your life.

Look, I don’t know what motivated him to create this piece of brilliance, but I’m glad he did.  While funny at first, the message to me came through a little delayed.  It’s not to just do it, at least not exclusively.  It’s to make your dreams come true.  Don’t rely on your family, your friends or your employer to make them come true.  It’s not on their shoulders to take on that responsibility. One of the best lines is, ” You’re should get to the point where anyone else would quit but you’re not going to stop there.” That’s what most of us do.  We know what we want, but we stop short and let our own thoughts, hang-ups and insecurities get in our way. What if you didn’t do that anymore?  What if I didn’t?

Today it’s all on YOU to do it.  To “Just Do It”.

Even crazy sometimes makes perfect sense.

Thanks Shia!

Cringeworthy Feedback: How to Take it and How to Dish it Out

Whiplash-37013_5Feedback can hurt.

I’ve seen it hundreds, maybe thousands of times in my career.  I’ve received the painful “gift” of feedback from well-intentioned but unduly harsh bosses.  I’ve watched as bright, creative souls were pounded day after day, year after year by tyrant supervisors.  It is appalling.  And if you’re in HR, it’s likely that you’ve given these types of leaders training at some point on how to give more constructive feedback.

You see, for some reason it seems that people either avoid giving feedback and tell other people when someone is doing poorly (in their opinion) or they fly off the handle and use hurtful, unconstructive words that are not meant to motivate, but to belittle and destroy.

Or are they?

I just watched the movie Whiplash and first, let me tell you, no~ EMPLORE you, to watch the movie if you haven’t.  As someone who tries to watch as many Oscar-nominated films before the Academy Awards, this particular film did not make it to a theater near me in time.  If it had, I would have been furious watching Birdman win for Best Picture knowing that the GEM that is Whiplash was overlooked.

Watch the movie.

Ok, back to the story.  As I watched the movie about an over zealous conductor and his harsh training and feedback for one of his studio drummers, I realized that sometimes, there is a reason feedback needs to hurt.  I started wondering if we’re getting too soft in this era of giving every child a trophy for participation and every employee the “warm fuzzy” feeling just because we think if we don’t, they will bash us on Glassdoor or on social media.  It’s like being led by fear.

The truth is that sometimes, people need harsh feedback.  Sometimes, for feedback to take hold and inspire the person to change, we need to make an impression.  It is a fine line to walk between being helpful and being too brutal.  So, what do you do if your boss is a tyrant when it comes to feedback?

  • Take a deep breath and determine the motive.  Some people are just mean for the sake of being mean.   If that’s the case, RUN.  If not, move on to the next step.
  • Is this out of character?  If your boss is usually constructive and sporadically gives harsh feedback that you can somehow determine is well intentioned, it could be for your own good.  Grit your teeth and bear it.  Try to look past the delivery and cling to the underlying message to understand what you can do to improve.
  • What’s the boss’ motive?  Is their boss riding their ass?  Are they taking the blame for something you did?  Try to figure out why the feedback is harsh.  You may need to take a break for the boss to calm down, then ask for a meeting another time to discuss specific ways you could have performed better.

 

Now, what if YOU are known as the tyrant?  

Well, first you need to decide if you just like being that way or if there is a real reason.  If you enjoy verbally torturing people, get used to the fact that you’ll likely always have high turnover because many people will not put up with your crap.  If you are only harsh situationally, you’re probably ok.  Make sure you’re not violating any workplace policies or breaking any laws (of course). As long as you’re not, then try to use harsher feedback only when absolutely necessary to make your point and to get the recipient to make a change.

Have you worked for a boss that gave feedback that was harsh?  Are you that boss?  Tell me about your experience in the comments. 

Corrective Actions and Compassionate Communication

Photo via www.cirris.com/humor

Photo via www.cirris.com/humor

I recently talked with my mom about getting some very rude service from a cashier at a local grocery store.  Apparently, as she began putting her items on the belt, the cashier told her, “Get back! Get back!”.  My mom is very hard of hearing, so this confused her.  By this time, the cashier was saying it in a very loud voice and other customers were looking.

My mom asked what she had done wrong and the cashier began to berrate her saying that the customer who had been before her was running to another part of the store to pick another item.  Keep in mind that when my mom got in line, there were no other customers in sight, no other items on the belt, and she had no idea that another customer would be coming back to get in front of her.

My mom picked up all her items and put them back in the cart, wheeled to another cashier, and finished her transaction.  I told her that if it had been me, I would have left it all there and walked out….no way on earth I’d spend a dime in a store that treated me that way.  There are many other ways that cashier could have communicated with compassion.  Interactions like this don’t happen to us every day, but when they do, what’s the best way to react?

As I thought about it, I decided that I’d like the ability to write someone up for poor behavior when this happens.  According to common law in many states, citizen’s arrest is still legal if undue force is not used.    In fact, if you see a felony being committed, you can make a citizen’s arrest and deliver the offender to the nearest law enforcement official.  While I’m not a lawyer and certainly am not authorizing arresting just anyone on the street, I love the concept that we, as citizens, can hold people accountable.  Why not in a store or workplace?  I want to be able to make a “citizen’s corrective action”.

I want the ability to write people up in their workplace when their work performance is out of line. I would write down specifics of the behavior, give the employee a copy, and turn a copy in to their manager.  Then, the manager could make a determination if the employee acted appropriately or not and take action if necessary.

What do you think?  Would you do this?  Why or why not?

Workplace Observations for 2015: The Year of Employee Aptitude

queens-winning-horseOn this final day of 2014, I’m making some observations about the workplace for the coming year.  Why observations and not predictions?  Recently, I talked with Steve Boese about predictions and trends on an episode of HR Happy Hour.  I am very particular when it comes to using those terms.  Without actual data, I don’t give much credence to predictions.

Since I’m thinking about just one year ahead, I prefer to make some observations based purely on what I have seen and heard in 2014.     

I think 2015 will be the year of focus on employee aptitude.

Why aptitude?  Well, by definition, aptitude is about capability, talent and readiness and speed in learning.  I think all that boils down to employees taking control of their own careers and not expecting organizations to do all the work when it comes to keeping them engaged or trained.  How might this play out?  In several ways:

  • Upskilling for retention.  Instead of approaching it as training the company provides (or forces), employees today are taking responsibility to improve their skills in non-traditional ways.  One example is online training through sources such as Kahn Academy, MIT, YouTube, etc.  With greater availability of free or inexpensive courses and information, employees can stack the deck in their favor when it comes to promotions.  The faster companies recognize and reward these types of efforts, the better retention rates will be.  
  • Wearable health and wellness-  The last year or two, wearable technology has seen an uptick.  Why?  There are several likely drivers.  First, with an aging population, you will see more people start to monitor their health in order to live longer with better ability.  The other factor could be the focus on national healthcare and people fearing that employer-provided healthcare could be coming to and end in the near future.  Either way, there is a greater focus on personal health and wellness and it’s easy to get sucked in.  Personally, I joined the FitBit ranks.  Being able to track my health habits on my phone or computer has been an eye-opener.  I think we’ll see this become even more common in 2015.
  • Empowerment-  If you’re looking for your leadership team to have the ability to focus more on strategy in the future, you’ll need to provide a culture of empowerment for the managers and staff.  Employees like having more control over their work and if empowered to make more meaningful decisions, they will become better collaborators and more willing to stay with the company.
  • Availability of usable data-  Organizations have an abundance of data, but it is not typically usable because they have no means to gather it together in an effective and efficient manner.  With HR tech capabilities today, it makes it more easily accessible and able to be combined.  What this can mean for employees is they will be able to see where they stand in relation to other employees, they can make better business decisions and they will have the ability to make those decisions faster than ever before.

Those are my observations.  What do you think?  Do you have other observations of what 2015 will bring?  Be sure to share them in the comments.

 

HR Happy Hour #194: Small Improvements

Recorded Wednesday October 29, 2014

Hosts: Trish McFarlaneSteve Boese

Guest: Linda Jonas

This week on the HR Happy Hour Show, Steve and I were joined by Linda Jonas, International traveler, and Director of Marketing for Small Improvements, an HR technology provider of tools that provide a simpler, easy to use, and more engaging approach to performance management, workplace feedback, 360-degree reviews, and more.

We talked about Linda’s annual 6-week world tour where she meets with customers and partners, her Small Improvements colleagues, and attends events like the HR Technology Conference and the upcoming HRevolution (of which Small Improvements is a sponsor).

Additionally, Linda shared some insights into emerging and ongoing trends in employee performance management, and the need for both software providers and organizations to keep these processes clear, easy to adopt, and valuable for employees, managers and organizations overall. Everyone seems to hate on Performance Management and one of the reasons is that the process has often been overengineered and over-complicated. Check out Small Improvements to get some insights into how you can change that in your organization, while improving (pardon the pun) both the process and the desired outcomes.

You can listen to the show on the show page here, or using the widget player below. And you can find and subscribe to the HR Happy Hour Show on iTunes or on your favorite podcast playing app. Just search for ‘HR Happy Hour’.

Check Out Business Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Steve Boese Trish McFarlaneon BlogTalkRadio

 

This was a really fun show – thanks to Linda and to everyone at Small Improvements!

Disrupt HR? Disrupt YOU!

disruptI recently had the opportunity to participate in an event called DisruptHR Cleveland.  This was one of the most amazing experiences I have had in many years.  If was an event pulled together by Frank and Tammy Zupan, Lauren Rudman and Michelle Salis in an effort to bring HR professionals together in Cleveland to think about HR differently.  The format was Ignite-style which means you bring together numerous presenters and give each one 5 minutes to present on his/her topic.  The 5 minutes is made up of 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds.

As someone who speaks publicly, a LOT, my biggest fear was that I would not be able to shut up after 5 minutes.  Luckily for the crowd, I stayed on task and on point.  I invite you to watch my presentation here.  My topic was “Disrupt YOU” and in it I talk about why and how HR pros can disrupt your own career.

DisruptHR Cleveland

Feel free to share and if you’re interested in hosting a DisruptHR event in your city, you can get more information here.