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Criminal Minds

30 Jul

I continue to search for inspiration in today's marketplace like rural America's finest search for ways to buy pseudoephedrine, the key ingredient to meth, in bulk.  I realize your standard meth lab owner always look 20 years older then they are but they seem to be some of the most enterprising folks society offers.  Trade offs.

July and August have proven to be two of the worst months for crime in the Indianapolis area and probably in your city as well.  Studies have shown a correlation between rising temperatures and crime.  I realize you probably speed and occasionally do a little jaywalking but it has probably been forever since you thought about knocking off your corner convenience store.  As far inspiration though, these people have to be real thinkers with natural born entrepreneurial skills.  Clearly we need to reform these folk and throw them into the cubicle next to you because they know life and death situations and that is what many of you are dealing with today.   

In the midst of their personal uncertainties, the criminal work/life balance is skewed in favor of the life, albeit a low one.  High stress level in the 3 minutes it takes for your average bank heist but offset that with a day off after you ditch the getaway car – they can do some drugs, listen for sirens, watch a little Springer.  You need more flexibility, don't you?

We wait until the end of first quarter of the following year as compensation comes up with the magic formula to determine our bonus.  Their bonus program is clear.  Like you, they may not know what they are going to make but, in all candor, it is theirs for the taking.  They control what they make by controlling what they take.  Envy that comp plan, will ya now?

Bottom line is these folks scheme and plot, think on the fly, have a system, get it done.  Don't get caught.  Repeat.  C'mon now, you and I both know it takes a different skill set to hit a McDonald's than it does to pull off a carjacking.  Both require serious planning to complete though.

You need to bring that type of thinking power to work.  Never have I seen a time where the market seemed to be suffering an idea drought like now.  How about a correlation between rising temps and ideas?  Your ideas are the pseudoephedrine for your meth lab..I mean..company.  Wherever you find it – find the inspiration to get you thinking.  Share your thinking.  Think.  Do.

Now to me, besides the criminal element – my community on twitter, which does include some surly folk, has been a major source of positive vibe in 2009 - quite simply it is nice when peers you respect seem to be flailing as well.  Yet, it is also great to be able to share wins, have perspective adjustment at your fingertips, hone your discernment skills as you separate the recruiters from the search consultants and develop a general sense of inner peace when you realize – I may not be the best but I am a long way from THAT guy.  Don't be afraid to throw your ideas out there and see what YOU can get away with. (just like I just did ending this blog entry with a preposition.  daring.) 

It’s Not Business, It’s Personal

18 Sep

Wait a minute, I thought that was It’s Not Personal.  I really do think that some of you people have had it confused for a number of years.  I have felt that way most of my career and I think I hushed myself simply because I didn’t want to appear some type of hypersensitive guy in touch with his feminine side that just needs thicker skin.

Damnit, I can well up a little when I watch Extreme Home Makeover and I can see the workplace and decisions that are made from a personal standpoint.  It is business that tough decisions have to be made but it is personal when warning signs are not communicated to your workforce.

The crisis we see in the mortgage industry right now wasn’t caused by "the company."  It was caused by individuals.  Loose underwriting standards designed by individuals, appraisals fudged by individuals, bad loans made to individuals that could not afford them and there you go.  Crisis that should not have happened.

An airline in Indianapolis recently closed up for good.  They had had their share of troubles but how about their employees that showed up one Monday and the doors were locked.  Someone knew those locks would be changed.  I talked to some of those people – I don’t recall anyone saying, "You know Andy, it’s just business.  No big deal."

I can go on and give you numerous stories – different circumstances, similar outcomes.  I will share one – my own.  A few years ago, before I entered into the recruiting field, I worked for a large company that decided to get out of the line of business I was representing.  We had known something was up but not sure what.  You know the story though – I get a phone call from my boss, HR is on the line and my job is done.  Turn your car in, your laptop in, thanks for your service.  A business decision that made sense was not communicated and my career was affected.  Personal. 

Here’s the deal, the incredibly interesting thing about all this to me is – if you want a good employee, you want one that cares, that takes ownership and is accountable, that dare we say takes their job personally – that treats the company like they own it.  OK.  How do you get that?  Sincere Transparency.  Hell, I will take plain old reluctant transparency.  In fact, the accountability that the management team wants managers to possess would become an inherent quality if the transparency was there. 

My point – obviously alarms were going off at some level of these organizations, the P and L was ugly, whatever – at that point – it’s business.  Communicate it to your people NOW – it’s still business.  You choose to say nothing but months later when it hits the fan and my key doesn’t work – that’s personal. 

Employees don’t need spin – they need the truth.  Why?  Because they might be able to turn it around.  Are you serious?  Yes, of course.  The same workforce that celebrates ribbon cuttings and record years can understand heads needing to be cut when the facts are clearly communicated.  Numbers don’t lie but those darn people sure can.  Look, if you want your people to care, tell them how it is.  They don’t care – fire them.  Fire their ass. 

This whole company leading a double life thing needs to end.  Now we get the government bailout, and how does the government get paid back?  Our taxes (of course) and transparency of a different kind – forced transparency.  Give me some more Sarbanes Oxley like regulation.  Outstanding.  The only people excited about all this are auditors – do we want auditors excited? 

Time for An Uncomfortable Conversation

23 Jul

Perhaps you can identify with Danica Patrick in the video above.  This overplayed segment is part funny, part serious, and part encouragement for you.  You could learn something here.  During practice at last Sunday’s race in Ohio, Danica Patrick, arguably the league’s most popular driver, was cutoff numerous times trying to pass Milka Duno, a little known driver. 

A closer look at the video in its entirety(the attached is just the dialogue with bleeps) actually shows Danica throwing up her hands in frustration during the practice session.  Just two women co-workers at work – one frustrated with the other, one confronting the other, one getting a towel in the face – twice.

Question her timing, sure – Danica probably should have waited to confront her, question her but what I love is she did it.  Complete with F-bombs, a "what the hell?", said towel in the face, other co-workers looking on – the bigger picture is beautiful.

I have challenged many of you to do this and while I think Danica’s act is growing tired – this is the third such incident – the point is Danica is happy to go Danica when she sees something she doesn’t like.

Some things to consider when confronting your co-worker, boss, subordinate – (the who, what, when, where, why and how are good here and some closed-end questions below)

Does it really matter?  What is the company policy?  I mean – seriously.  Is this for the greater good or are you just annoyed today?  Is this just about you or the company as a whole?

Would you be better served to just get out of your environment?  Because things really are not going to change.

Is this affecting your health?  family and personal life?   Are they saying things about your demeanor? 

Do you think you have a good shot at influencing change?  Can you build a case or is this just petty crap?

Who should you go to first?  If you don’t feel you have all credibility you need with this situation maybe you need others on board with you.  Are they willing to help?  Do they have your back here?

What should you say and how?

Do you really have the facts straight?  Judgments without facts are gray area and folks that matter may not share your interpretation.

I think perhaps the biggest key to these uncomfortable conversations is your perception of it – if you go looking for a fight – you can probably get one.  If you go in calm and cool, facts straight – you will be fine.  In other words, I think people can be corrected with respect.  You are responsible for their interpretation.

I know you people have issues and I am glad I can be your sounding board, I really am, but if you don’t want to leave your employer maybe it is time you go Danica – or something like that. 

A Dying Camaraderie

4 Jun

The workplace is probably not better for it.  Employee satisfaction has suffered because of it.  More stress has entered the workplace because of it.  The Employee Relations folks have failed to find an acceptable substitute for it.  No one ever talks about it – it just happens.  What is this I speak of, you ask?  Simply, the continued ostracization of the smokers – I mean really – where have the smokers gone and are we really better for it?  I say No. 

Let’s dispense with your quick assumptions – I am NOT a smoker and never have been with the exception of a periodic smoke when I drank.  I will say that if I had a smoke when I drink now – I would be a smoker by default for my wife forces me to consume large amounts of wine – we have an unlimited budget in this area.  Tangent.

I can recall the good old days of the early 90s when there was a smoking section in my company cafeteria.  You know when the effective barrier was a freaking aisle with slightly more width and some ceiling fans running at a more rapid pace to improve air quality.  While maintenance looked at fan speed as a better air circulator for the greater good, the smoker viewed this as training for the approaching winter months when they would be huddled together outside in a "designated smoking area"  – cold, shivering yet puffing away at pleasure in a stick. 

They knew what was coming – no longer being able to smoke inside but at a new outside designated smoking area.  Let’s take a closer look at these areas if we can.  Many companies decided to go with an area out back, down a ways maybe, perhaps the shipping and receiving deck now dubbed smoking and receiving by the smokers.  The "down a ways" approach was the veiled way of the company suggesting – maybe you need to quit smoking and mix in an exercise regimen.  They were not deterred – it was their smoke.

Back to the designated smoking areas – I am struck by the fact that the area always takes on a single syllable design – the smoke shack, the smoke room, the smoke deck, the smoke hut – no one ever names it the cancer canopy, cougher corner, COPD alley – no one ever tries to get money from tobacco companies to sponsor it.  Why not get some funding here?

Enter the wellness program.  Better insurance rates, gym memberships at a discount, free calorie counters – while the Employee Benefits professional champions this because he is a professional trainer on the side, has a meal replacement shake for lunch EVERYDAY and knows his body fat percentage like others know their address – the smoker screams, in a raspy voice, Why? They don’t want to count their steps, they don’t want to workout on a regular basis – they just want to know how many steps to the smoke shack for that is where their wellness resides.  Simply examined, they are deferring the heavy breathing from the cardio equipment we use now to the end of their life.

I think we have really lost something in this ostracization of the smoker though.  Smoking is diversity.  Smoking brings people together that would not normally be together.  It transcends gender, race, exempt and non-exempt, mail room and boardroom, marketing and operations.  I think we have segregated the smoker because as non-smokers we are completely envious of the bond this fraternity holds and we have nothing that compares to it.  Absolutely nothing.  We have tried with our golf leagues, fantasy sports leagues, departmental luncheons, corporate challenge events, whatever but in our heart of hearts they all fall short and we know it.  These things are limited and seasonal.

I think all of us have caught ourselves, from time to time, sneaking a peek at the smokers area and all the allure it holds – wishing we smoked.  We see the kind of strange mail room/copy room guy named Lawrence with like the Dudley Doright voice – never call him Larry – having a conversation with an Executive VP – the head legal counsel chatting with the ap clerk who has the fascination with Mickey Mouse and we want some of that.  Smoking is the great equalizer.

We bring a cake on a co-workers birthday and call it thoughtful, they bring cartons for the same and call it personal sacrifice.  We have surface conversations with co-workers – "How you doing, Bill?" and could care less what the answer is – they know each others kids by name and the namebrand they’re packing.  It really is as if we are just pissed that we can’t practice our respective vice at work.  They can smoke, why can’t I have a gambling area out back too?

We need to control this jealousy and embrace the smoker code.  At its foundation, the smoker code offers bridge building diversity and strong personal relationships at work.  They see each other in a relaxed atmosphere and can be themselves – stress free, secure, transparent with a smoky film.  No wonder the smoker loves their job – we can’t continue to take this away.  Maybe we all need an occasional puff or at a minimum just to go sit out there and hold a lit cigarette and inhale the positve vibe.  Just throw some Febreeze in your damn gymbag.  Improved morale has a cost.

Look, it is not the smoker that has trouble with the non-smoker it is the non-smoker who really has the dilemna.  Let’s give them their designated smoking area, continue searching in vain for its equal and press on doing the work that the company hired us to perform.  Even better, seek to understand what can we learn from these people – let’s take the best of what they practice with a smoke in their hand and apply to our non-smoker ways. 

Why Profanity Is So Effective – Part 2

6 Dec

In a follow-up to my previous blog rant on profanity in the workplace – here you go. Let’s see it in action – perhaps this is your workplace.

Diversity In Practice – A Simple-Minded Solution

15 Nov

A supplement in a recent Indianapolis Business Journal was entitled Diversity In Practice – Building A Culture of Inclusion.  I have always enjoyed this topic as I believe most time devoted to these efforts are ALL about the external practice, the company policy, hollow in nature and to truly impact the workplace the FOCUS needs to be more about the internal, hidden prejudices of man and what is in – the heart.

In other words, diversity initiatives are just another corporate program if the hearts of the employees aren’t in it.  Diversity in a workplace is about intentionality externally but their has to be an internal component – HAS TO BE.  It is about the love of your fellow man – all of them.  How can we expect people to implement these programs externally if their hearts are filled with contempt?

I am not really sure how I arrived at this topic but let me continue with this sermon.  Can I get a witness, please.  I guess my thoughts focus on love – or at a minimum – like – in the workplace.  How do you get that?  Well, that’s our policy here.  Sure.  I think you get that by REALLY examining your own heart and by intentionally getting to know those around you – someone that is different from you – and by the way – isn’t everyone different from you?  Meditation on the hidden and – uncomfortable, perhaps at first, in what is seen. 

I think what I am arriving at here is that the company’s diversity policy really does not matter.  It is your personal diversity policy that matters.  Everyone has a personal diversity policy – perhaps you need to take a look at yours in your own personal retreat or roundtable.

One more validation.  In this supplement, one of the ads has the text – “Our differences help us find a common language” – well no they don’t.  Our caring to understand what the differences are, getting to know one another, taking the time with one another help us find what should really be a part of the workplace.  Caring for co-workers?  Love of fellow man?  Huh?  Did I just write this stuff?  I think I did. 

This diversity thing really is not hard unless your heart is.  Change your heart, change your workplace.

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