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Breaking up is hard to do

Break ups are tough – both in your personal and professional life. Sometimes, despite the best efforts of both parties, things just don’t work out. Often enough, one side wants it to work out more so then the other side does. Typically, the other person knows this and when they have made the decision to move on (instead of trying to work things out) they often use the line, “it’s not you, it’s me.” Important to note here, it doesn’t matter if I am referring to personal or work relationships here!

Breaking UpHere is the thing, as employers, we sometimes have to face the fact that sometimes things just aren’t meant to be between employer and employee. You can try and make things work, you can do your best as a leader and/or HR Pro, but it simply doesn’t work. The reason being, the other party has their mind made up in terms of what they want (to do) and there is no changing their way of thinking.

Case in point, my good friend Brian who works as a Sales Manager recently experienced a break up with one his employees. “Roger” came to Brian’s company a few years ago with a solid base of experience and a good track record, albeit, he had a bit of tendency to change jobs every 2-4 years. Brian took a chance on hiring him and for the first two+ years things really paid off. Roger took to Brian’s approach and flourished under his leadership and quickly became one of Brian’s rising stars in his department.

Brian, whom I consider to be a great manager, did all the right things when it came to Roger. He coached him on a regular basis and invested a lot of his time advising and mentoring Roger and supporting his development. When Roger expressed an interest in doing and being more, Brian invested in leadership training and broader technical sales training for Roger. Brian kept the lines of communication open with Roger and always made sure he and Roger were aligned in terms of Roger’s career goals, etc. Year over year, Brian invested in enhancing Roger’s knowledge, skills and abilities and Roger continued to receive pay increases above the norm due to his job performance.

At the same time, Brian’s department continued to grow and he added more and more staff. Some of the new staff were junior and some came with more experience then Roger. However, Brian continued to make it clear to Roger that he was his #2 and he continued to pay for Roger’s training and development and kept coaching and mentoring him. A few months back, things began to change. After each training course he went on, Roger started to ask for more money. As Brian continued to develop him, Roger wanted more money because he thought he was continuing to become “more valuable.” Brian did all the right things; he spoke to Roger about how he would continue to reward him based on his performance. He explained how Roger was paid and what percentile he was in, etc. and made it clear the training and development was in investment in Roger, not a pay for skill model. In short, Brian was as transparent with Roger as he could be. He continued to paint the picture as to what Roger’s (bright) future was and would look like at the company. Three months later, Roger quit.

So what happened? Brian was devastated when Roger put in his resignation. Brian started to question himself and his management approach. What did he do wrong? What should he have done differently? I had to reassure Brian that there was nothing he could have done differently nor should he have. Roger told him it was time for him to move on to a different challenge, but the reality was that Roger was (mostly) leaving for more money (salary). You see, in his career, Roger was never told “no.” He was used to getting what he wanted, when he wanted it. In his previous jobs, he either got more money or he moved on for more money. He used paid training as a way to build up his personal portfolio to leverage it for more money with his current or other employers.

Some secondary reasons also emerged. Turns out, Roger was a bit insecure. Despite Brian’s constant communication and reassurances, Roger panicked when growth occurred and other talent was hired. For some innate reason, he didn’t feel like the “top dog” anymore and he felt threatened/insecure in his role. It is possible he tried for a money play because he thought he might not be as “valuable” to Brian with more staff on board.

Brian found out about these things because he has a great HR team at his company who did a thorough job with stay interviews and their final exit interview with Roger. During his exit interview, Roger indicated that he was moving on for money (contrary to what he told Brian). Brian was confused as to whether Roger was really moving on for a better opportunity or if he was just using this as a way to get more money from Brian (something Brian stuck to his guns on).

As well, the industry Brian works in is pretty small, so he found out about some of Roger’s insecurities (through others) after Roger had left. All of which, left Brian feeling a bit down. Worst of all, for both Brian and Roger, Brian came to find out that Roger left for $6K more in salary and is by no means happier in his new role/company, but he is, however, “making more money.”

I had to “counsel” Brian not to take this personally. Sometimes things just don’t work out – they just aren’t meant to be. You can do all the right things as a manager; however, if your employee is hung up on wanting/thinking they need to make $1k, 2k, 5k more, you won’t get them past that, no matter what else is happening. That is, if direct cash compensation is the #1 driver of job satisfaction, there will always be an insatiable appetite to have/make more. Additionally, employees that can only focus on making the next dollar more will never get past being told “no.” They will always make their next move for more money and more money alone. That in turn will make them happy for the short term, but in another 2-3 years, they will need to move on again.

The best move for Brian is to live and learn. He made the right call – he wasn’t going to be held hostage by giving more money just to retain Roger. Roger was competitively paid and well supported by Brian. As tough as it was for Brian, this breakup was almost inevitable. Brian had to let Roger make his decision and move on. If he didn’t, and gave Roger more money, they would be revisiting that conversation every 6-12 months as the “Roger’s” of the world are always focused on how/why they should/need to be paid more (than everyone else) and they are simply incapable of seeing the bigger picture. At some point in time, the “Roger’s” hopefully reach a level of career maturity whereby they can look at a total employment compensation/experience package and make better (employment) relationship decisions. Until then, the “Roger’s” will continue to cycle through different jobs to make a few bucks more. As I told Brian, sometimes it’s not you…it’s them! Break ups are tough and you need to move on. No amount of relationship evaluation was going to make the Roger situation work out any differently. I advised Brian to broaden his evaluation of the talent on his team. He needed to invest more of his time and energy into development a few key employee simultaneously. Continue to keep the lines of communication open, but know what you are getting into. The break up with Roger could have been predicted based on his past work history. It wasn’t a reason to not hire Roger, but Brian shouldn’t have been surprised when the break up happened. Much like in our personal lives, there are people that struggle to commit, the same applies in the workplace and that is when the break ups occur. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Photo courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Controlling Social Media a.k.a Pushing a Stone Uphill

As the multitude of the many social media platforms takes a permanent hold in our culture, they have moved from being mere hobbies or distractions to essential tools we all use in our everyday lives. Just think of the impact that Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram et al have had on our lives. While it is true, many of these platforms have started out and gained fame through their personal application, many social media platforms have become such a part of our daily lives that the line between personal and business often becomes blurred. Checking Facebook or Twitter at work has replaced the “personal call” to home – you know, in the days before the internet and social media! The response to the growth and utilization of social media in the workplace, by businesses, has been a little backwards thinking so say the least.

For many organizations, all these platforms are still relatively new. For companies that haven’t evolved and embraced these applications, they are seen as time wasters and distractions. So much so, that they need to be controlled. Hence, the advent of the very “Avant guard” social media policy. Now, I have seen the whole gamut of these policies. Everything from a very general description of acceptable use and proper organizational representation (which makes sense) to a clear outline of what you can and can’t do and when/where you can and can’t do it (which doesn’t make sense.) My favourite social media policies are the ones that basically attempt to control any and all usage of these platforms. They basically identify them as some sort of plague that is to be avoided at all costs due to the detriment it would cause to the organization. Typically, companies that have these “thou shalt not” social media policies also back them up with rigorous web surfing reports that identify abusers, slackers and miscreants that need to be dealt with under some draconian discipline policy.

Pushing Rock UphillMy point is this, trying to control, limit or even eliminate social media use in your workplace is a futile exercise. At the end of the day, why would you want to? Employees use social media for so many positive aspects in the workplace – and it isn’t just with your technologies. Smart phones and Wi-Fi enabled tablets make it easier than ever for employees to stay connected. The overall use of social media is a way for them to professionally network, learn from industry peers, gain knowledge that will benefit the organization, research, connect, enhance their professional development, market and brand the company and feel connected with their profession.

I have seen and heard of many cases of LinkedIn and Twitter being used to informally mentor. That is, the “old days” of information sharing (senior folks deciding if/when they would trundle over to the young folks and share some nuggets of information) are going away. Information is out there and people want to be at the leading edge of their industry and profession. Much like open source coding brought a new wave of development ideas to the I.T. industry, industry knowledge is “out there” and people want to share and grow – there are no more organizational or geographic boundaries when it comes to the sharing of information. Those that are “social” on social media – by sharing, helping and providing, find that this act is reciprocated tenfold when they have an ‘ask.’ The gains that professionals are realizing from time spent using social media are really only just the tip of the iceberg as social media usage becomes simply part of the way companies will do business going forward.

Ultimately, for an organization, this limitless ability for your employees to grow, learn and obtain information is FREE. Yes, free – for those that don’t implement a police state as it pertains to the internet and social media. I have heard all the counter arguments to this too – if unchecked or unmonitored people will slack off, they won’t do their work, they will waste time. I would suggest that if this is the concern or even the reality, you don’t have a social media problem; you have a management/leadership problem. Remember, if you are setting proper goals and objectives with your employees and effectively communicating and coaching, than social media is simply used as tools to do the job – not as a distraction. If results aren’t being achieved, you have a productivity issue, not a social media issue – keep that in mind as you begin to craft your first “Social Media Policy” – and I wish you good luck in pushing that stone uphill. As always, I welcome your thoughts and feedback.

Image courtesy of Vlado/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Performance (Review) Anxiety

In a blog post from Oct of this year, I blogged about how to prepare for the performance review process from the managerial side of things. For this post, I thought it would be helpful to provide some insight from the employee side of things as you prepare to have your performance review with your manager. Many organizations give their employees the opportunity to do a “self-appraisal” that they can then provide to their manager prior to their performance review being conducted. This is a great opportunity for you to provide some perspective to your manager on all the great and wonderful things that you have done throughout the year. ….and believe me, there are going to be some things that your manager has forgotten about. The “recency effect” comes in to play all too often during this process. That is, whatever you did (or didn’t do) in the last 3-4 months is often what your manager will remember and is what finds its way onto your performance review and ultimately your final rating. For those organizations that have a merit or performance based compensation system, your performance review rating will also have a financial impact on your salary/wage so it is in your best interest to prepare for this meeting in earnest.

Now I know there are many folks out there who view completing the self-appraisal as a make work project. They don’t believe that it affects anything or that the manager even looks at it. If you feel this is the case, than you might have greater issues with your job/manager/company than just a performance assessment and I probably can’t convince you that the self-appraisal will add any value. For those of you still reading, here is a list of suggestions to follow that will allow you to realize a productive performance review meeting with your manager and set you up for success moving forward:

1. Prepare – make sure you complete your self –appraisal. You will be surprised at just how much a well prepared and well documented self-appraisal can impact your performance meeting. For managers that did a lousy job documenting/recognizing your accomplishments, this is your opportunity to be the best player agent you can be. Sing out about your accomplishments, the great projects you worked on and the fantastic results you realized. Document how your support of the corporate values increased sales, customer satisfaction, etc. Show how your brilliance in negotiation realized the company a 15% savings on its office supplies…..you get the picture. You HAVE to document and now is not the time to be modest. I am not saying to lie – that is going to have its own consequences, but don’t be afraid to toot your own horn (as long as it is backed up with facts/results.)

2. Take ownership – of your career path and your development plan. If you want to be in charge of the toaster making department, say so. Identify what you are willing to do to get there. If you know you need some training in finance or another area, identify and ask for it on your performance review as part of your development plan. If you require more coaching and support from you manager in order to get there, than ask for it. If you need him/her to introduce you to another manager in the company to help with your development – than ask for it. If you need a mentor – ask for it…you get the picture. Remember, your manager’s main interest is in making sure you are trained and competent in your current job, not another job, so you will need to take the reins on this one.

3. Know what time(s) work best – this is a bit of a judgment call, but you need to know your manager a bit. Are they a morning person? If so, try to schedule your review for early in the morning – say 9am, once they have had a chance to check their email and have a coffee. Don’t get that performance meeting right after lunch or last in the day – the attention span just won’t be there. Remember, you owe it to yourself to have a productive meeting; subtle things like picking the right time of day can really help you. Also, work with your manager to make sure it is in a quiet area (preferably an office with a closed door) so neither of you will be interrupted.

4. Remove job obstacles – one of the indicators of a productive performance meeting is when you and your manager can talk about obstacles to your success. If there is a process or constraint that is prohibiting you from moving from “Meets Expectations” to” Exceeds Expectations,” identify what it is and ask your manager’s help in removing it. (This doesn’t work if the obstacle IS your manager…..sorry.)

5. Set yourself up for next year – going into the meeting you should also identify your goals and action plans for the next performance cycle. Get in the driver’s seat; don’t wait for your manager to tell you what you should be focusing on. Take the initiative (they will appreciate it) and identify how you plan to add greater value in your role and excel/exceed. This shows your manager that you have made the connection between what you do and how it impacts the bottom line of the business.

These are but a handful of helpful hints (H3) that will help you out during your preparation and planning and ultimately your actual performance meeting during the performance review cycle. Take ownership of your review and don’t assume anything (i.e. that your manager will ‘remember’, everything etc.) Check some of your natural modesty at the door when preparing for the meeting. I wish you the best of luck and as always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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