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!

How To Surpass What Your Job Title Says About You

TEDx-1-e1430710475881I had a conversation with one of my friends from India and we were sharing stories about how throughout our careers we have both been known as people who can do more than what our specific job title would indicate.  We weren’t talking about being able to take on more responsibility in order to receive a promotion, we were talking about learning and using skills from another industry to help further our careers.

Breaking out of YOUR mold

I spent many years learning human resources and honing my skills related to compensation, benefits and employee relations.  It wasn’t until I reached my mid-thirties that I realized that I was compelled to learn more about technology, finance, marketing and communications, and ultimately social.  Spending my free time educating myself was some of the best time I’ve ever spent in terms of the return on my investment.  The best compliments I get now are when someone tells me I’m a good writer, a marketer, or an expert for them in social media.

What are you known for?

When I think of the most successful people I know, these are the people who continuously increase their knowledge.  Here 6 steps you can take to update what you are known for and be more than the definition of your job title:

  • Identify industries you want to learn more about-  Before you invest your time, make sure you have carved out a path that is not only going to be interesting for yourself, but one that will actually provide you improved business opportunities in the end.
  • Read as much as you can online about the topic-  The internet brings the best education to us at our fingertips.  It’s easy to find written works from experts in your chosen field as well as video to teach you what they know.
  • Interview “experts” already in that field and ask for recommendations to get up to speed in that industry- This is the time you really need to break out of your comfort zone.  You will be reaching out to people you may not know and asking for them to help you learn.  Keep in mind that many people like to
  • Listen to podcasts on the subject while driving or working out
  • Register for a course online or at a local university
  • Ask to job shadow someone already working in the industry

With a bit of time, a plan, and a desire to learn and expand, you will be able to position yourself to no longer be defined by your job title.  What have you done to change this in your career?  Share with me in the comments.

*from the dusty archives…

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…

 

Hate Your Boss? How to Bridge the Personality Gap

Free-Rating-Buttons-PSDDo you like your boss?

Maybe that’s not a fair question.  The real question is… “Do you like your boss enough to stay with the organization?”  In my career in HR, I’ve fielded complaints ranging from dislike of micro-managers to working for someone who is so distant that a relationship never forms.  I’ve found that as I’ve worked with executives over the last 18 years, one thing stands out…. if there is not a match in style between the leader and the subordinate, ultimately that working relationship will suffer.  Over time, either the employee will become dissatisfied and leave the company, the leader will not be satisfied with the employee and performance will suffer, or both people stay in the relationship and the department never reaches it’s full productivity potential.

Awhile back, I was reading an article in Scientific American Mind on Attachment Theory.  The article was about the role that Attachment Theory plays in romantic relationships.  It struck me that although they were focusing on romantic relationships, the theory plays out in our work relationships as well.  Attachment Theory was first discovered by Mary Ainsworth, an American psychologist.  Her work with a British researcher, John Bowlby, resulted in the idea that people who have a strong attachment to others, specifically their caregivers, are more likely to survive.  The three types of attachment are:

  • Secure– This person has a solid base and is able to explore their environment.  They’re more likely to learn and thrive and are comfortable with intimacy.
  • Anxious–  This person is overly worried about where the other person (ie. parent, romantic partner or boss) is and what they are doing.  By being preoccupied with that, they are not easily able to focus their attention on the situation at hand.
  • Avoidant– This person believes that if they allow a close, trusting relationship to form, they will lose their independence.  They try to minimize closeness in their relationships and keep other people at arms length.

The impact of this in the workplace can be huge.

If there is a mis-match of the boss’ attachment style and yours and you do not recognize it, your relationship may never see success. One or both of you will be disappointed in the other person.  This disappointment will cause friction over time if not addressed and eventually, something has to give. Recognizing your own attachment style can help you in your relationships because then you can make adjustments to aid in bridging the gap. According to the article authors, Amir Levine and Rachel S.F.Heller, “attachment principles teach us that most men and women are only as needy as their unmet needs.  When their emotional needs are met, they usually turn their attention outward.  This result is sometimes referred to in the literature as the ‘dependency paradox’: the more effectively dependent people are on one another, the more indpendent and creative they become.”

As we help leaders, or as we review our own leadership style, the message is clear.  We need to help stack the deck by working toward having a more secure and trusting relationship with our boss.  This is where HR can really help an employee focus efforts on strategies to reach that goal instead of focusing on all the problems in the working relationship.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on these attachment styles and how you’ve seen relationships play out in the workplace.  What has worked and what hasn’t?

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.