The ripple effect

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This post is about taking sick days when you aren’t really sick (some people like to call them mental health days – I don’t), but before I get to what I really want to say, I feel as though I need to provide a caveat to my views.

I think it’s a good thing that people are becoming more aware of the impact that mental health has on individuals and society. And I think it’s a good thing that those people who are fortunate enough to not suffer from a mental health issue are supportive of those who do and make it a priority to educate others.

I wanted to state the above because it’s important that you understand that I am very aware of the sensitivity that surrounds mental health issues. I feel that educating people is an excellent way to share information and hopefully eliminate the stupid stigmas that people can apply to those people suffering.

Today, I am not writing about those people who have episodic or chronic mental health issues.

I’m talking about people who woke up on the wrong side of the bed or haven’t been sleeping well or couldn’t find one. single. thing to wear in their closet this morning (yes, one time I did not go to work because of this very reason; however, I believe the exact cause may or may not have been PMS). I’m referring to people who are pissed off at the world today, hate their boss, hate their job, hate everything.

Do us all a favour and take a day off. Call it what you want, but for the love of all things holy, stay home.

Why?

Because that shit is contagious. Not only does it spread like crazy in the workplace – it follows employees home and infects their personal lives.

You think a flu will affect your office’s productivity level. Try the a-hole in marketing who decided it was his mission to crap on anyone and everyone who comes close to his workspace. Oh it’s not them he’s angry with…but they are going to know how he feels.

Co-workers are people who you are paid to work with, who you hopefully get along with most days, and may or may not see beyond your work hours. As we often point out, we see our co-workers more than we do our families. When your co-worker is having an “off day”, we notice it. Sometimes before they are even willing to admit it.

We see when their moods shift, the quality of their work slides, their patience becomes shorter, they aren’t as reliable as before, they are less predictable than before. And we try to be patient, try to listen, try to do the right things.

But sometimes it’s hard to do this because we have a job to do too and while we want to be there for them, we don’t necessarily want to be someone’s punching bag when they are having a bad day. And it can be exhausting to try to analyze every situation for all potential reactions, to tip-toe into every meeting.

I’m wanted to blog about this to point out that the ripple effects of your “bad day” are far-reaching. Because we are not robots that shut off at night, those ripples that have touched us – well, they continue beyond us and into our lives.

I used to think it was hokey when people say “we are all connected”. But I realize now, it’s not hokey…it’s true. That bad day that started when you burnt your toast and your car wouldn’t start on the other side of the city…well, it came into work and followed me home.

I don’t like the term “mental health” day – I prefer to call it the “Get-Your-Sh#t-Together-And-Come-Back-Ready-to-Roll” day.

Next time you feel like putting the world through a shredder, take one.

Waiting for the snow to melt

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I am not a fad kind of person (says the blogger who will then tweet this).

Let me clarify this, I’m not a fad person when it comes to foods / diet/ clothing / fitness. I am always interested, I take a look, sometimes I dabble, but rarely have I every dove in 100% and said, yes…I am fully embracing this Spring’s resurgence of the 90s look.

And yes once, post-one-of-my-pregnancies, I tried the Atkins Diet. It lasted about 6 hours. I’m just not made to be so extreme.

Maybe that’s why I’m an HR Generalist.

So, I find it interesting that I’m really, I mean really, into paleo eating. Of course, I’m not a 100% “cave-woman”…a gal has to have her luxuries, but for the most part it’s been a great experience. Perhaps it’s because my decision to start and stay with it was because of how I was physically feeling rather than based on a number (weight or dress size). I actually didn’t care whether I lost any weight.

This interest has revitalized my love of cooking and trying new dishes. And there are so many great blogs out there – I completely understand and appreciate food porn, like here. There is something so gratifying and exciting about planning a new dish.

So why am I writing about this?

Because it’s not really about HR and this is supposed to be an HR blog, right?

Well, sort of. As I mentioned in my last post, I’m no “HR Expert”, I just play the role of one 5 days/week. The rest of the time, I’m me. Someone who is slowly waking from my “winter hibernation” to rediscover my non-HR interests (cooking, art, digging ditches).

Sadly, I’ve been neglecting them.

And really, Spring seems like the perfect time to uncover the potential growth hiding under the snow.

Buyer Beware

A lot of blogs out there aim to provide you with good advice. There is no shortage of tips on how to choose your career, your mate, or your clothing. I am not even going to attempt to go down that road.

I am not an expert in anything and I am completely comfortable in admitting this. In fact, let me say it again, this time in italics:

I am not an expert.

And still, people continue to read my blog, thus answering the age-old question: if a blogger is not an expert, does their blog actually matter.

I know that I am good at quite a few things:
– Cooking
– Reading (books and people)
– My job
– Writing captivating blog posts

I am even really good at a few others:
– Sarcasm
– Diplomacy (I know. Sarcastic and diplomatic…it’s an art)
– Recognizing and practicing common sense

But at no point have I considered myself a subject matter expert in any of these areas. Oh sure, I love to give advice, but it’s usually with the caveat that it’s based on my opinions and experience.

Otherwise I could spout stuff like this:

Employee engagement is a conspiracy created and perpetuated by consultants who stand to benefit from organizations who buy the deluxe package (audit, survey, analysis, plan-of-action, lunch-and-learn launch sessions, recommended management training, recommended ongoing coaching, follow-up survey…and lather, wash and repeat).

These consultants are in collusion with the universities and colleges which offer HR programs – these consultants partially fund the programs with the understanding that the professors will preach the word of the almighty Employee Engagement…the holy grail of HR.

Did you know that Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) also reap the benefits of ongoing Employee Engagement initiatives…I mean, when you are disengaged, who are you going to call.(Two points if you automatically said “GhostBusters” )

And you KNOW what?

Someone out there is going to believe that load of crap.

And this is where I think people are missing a huge point. We are assuming that just because someone has done a job for ten years or speaks/ write intelligently, that they are experts.

When Google and wikipedia are taken as gospel, WebMD replaces true medical advice, and the hundreds and hundreds of HR/Social Media/Business bloggers are unquestioningly seen as experts…well then, I’m a little worried.

Going Old School

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These are my shoes. I got them when I was sixteen, which makes them 25 freakin’ years old. All things considered they are in good shape. They even have the original pen marks in the rubber (most likely from grade 10 math class).

I love these shoes. I can’t bear to part with them, but I will be honest – I don’t wear them anymore. Why? Because I am not sixteen anymore. And while the shoes are still very functional – it’s just not working for me.

Kind of like the résumé / CV

Oh I know the death of the résumé has been predicted many times before, and it’s not likely going to vanish completely. I get this.

It’s like paper books. I’m a book-lover, but I’m starting to embrace the flexibility and convenience of my e-reader too.

It’s time to move on – surely a system that was in place back when we used a typewriter to put it together and actually physically mailed them in is due for re-vamping.

I mean, consider the sheer amount of debate and opinions that are out there about how long it should be, what should be included, which format to be used, photo or not, funky fonts or not. Even how long does an HR person/recruiter actually look at it.

Candidates are frustrated because they get conflicting information, HR folk/recruiters are cranky because they have a crap-load of online or paper résumés to go through (assuming you are like me and not fortunate enough to have an ATS, student, or monkeyt to do this for you).

I’m slowly becoming Team LinkedIn. It’s your CV, only better (for me).
You don’t have a LinkedIn profile? Get one. Now.
You have a profile but haven’t updated since two jobs ago? Update it. Now.

My goal in the upcoming year is to improve our system so that we can adapt to this evolution.

Old school is good when you are referring to my awesome shoes. Not so much when you are talking about a recruiting system.

Letting them grow

If you have been lucky enough to have worked for a good manager, then you know how the experience of working for them lasts well beyond the actual job. Their influence, advice, and criticism can become one of the many inner voices that guide you through the rest of your career.

Because hopefully at some point you will be moving on from them.

One characteristic of a good manager is being able to let go. They need to realize when their employee is ready to move on, sometimes even when the employee may not be certain themselves.

I have a teenage daughter and while there are minor (and I do mean minor) moments when I want to throw her out the window (thankfully we live in a bungalow), overall it’s been a very positive experience.

Well, at least for me.

My husband is having a bit harder time adjusting to her being closer to 20 than 10.

While he is committed to staying close to her and being the primary male role model in her life, he’s starting to get a bit antsy that there may be competition. We have had many a late night discussion that has me channeling my inner teenager to try and explain why he needs to let her grow…not go. That he has to accept that while she will always need him in some way, it just won’t be the same way. She will always be his daughter, but not his little girl.

(And then he reminds me he was once a 16-year boy and gives me a few arguments to back up his stance. Point for him.)

I believe he is tempted to block any attempts she has to branch out and keep her tucked in safely at home. He easily comes up with arguments against taking unnecessary chances and risks…like any kind of social interaction with boys.

I have seen many managers that operate this way too. Coveting their strongest employees, as if they belong to them. Keeping them out of reach from other opportunities, not encouraging them to branch out, and worse, actually blocking them from moving. Maybe the intent is coming from the right place (?!)…but the result is not going to benefit anyone.

The employee is not going to benefit from further development, they may become complacent, discouraged, and de-motivated. They may even sneak out their bedroom window when they think you are sleeping.

Being a manager, like being a parent, means knowing when to let someone grow. And at some point, that might also mean letting them go.

The Invisible Woman

Every once in a while, usually after we have watched an X-Men movie, my son and I discuss which super power we would like to have.

Mine has remained the same: the ability to be invisible.

I’ve always thought it would be so cool to be able to be in a room and move around without anyone seeing you. Imagine what you could see, what you could hear? Seriously. Never mind that fly on a wall shit. You would be you – it’s just that no one would see you.

I actually think I have semi-developed an invisibility skill.

There have been many a work day when someone has stopped me in the hall to ask if I’ve been away, since they haven’t seen me in a while. I’ve also been in meetings where people have seemingly forgotten that I’m there and have said stuff that, well they probably shouldn’t have. And at home, well…there are days when it’s like the kids are staring right through me. Like I’m not even there.

This self-imposed invisibility is really not a good idea, from both a work perspective and a personal one. It’s a lonely state to be and often times, hard to get out of. And I’ve found myself there many times in the last little while and it can be peaceful for the short-term, but it’s not healthy in the long run.

I’m still not going to change my super-human talent wish, but I’m going to be cautious when I finally get it.

After all, with great power comes great responsibility.

Should apathy be part of the curriculum?

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I am tentative about wading into the topic of the on-going Ontario Teacher’s Action in response to Bill 115, but sometimes it’s hard not to say something.

I had some really great elementary and secondary teachers. My kids have also had some fantastic teachers. I respect them and I support them, but there comes a time when my patience begins to wear thin.

It’s kind of like when your neighbour’s kid comes to the door to ask you to help finance the 11th hockey tournament he is attending this season. [Side note: if you choose to put your child in a sport – then YOU should pay for it, otherwise I’m going to start sending my son over to ask for money to help pay for his next BMX bike.]

I want to support the teachers, but I also want them to resume that extra they did. I’m selfish that way.

We have had many a discussion about this at home. It gets pretty interesting with the mix of my vocal pro-union husband, my somewhat apathetic kids, and my HR “now let’s see it from all sides” view.

School is a place to learn and the teachers are doing what they need to ensure that this is happening. What is not happening are the extracurriculars: sports, clubs, field trips, lunch-time help, basically any activity that does not occur in the classroom. So what the kids are not getting is the full experience – they are punching in and punching out. No frills, no fuss. Just a lesson in apathy.

In the short-term, this action may seem like its inconvenient and unfortunate for the students, but I wonder about the long-term effects.

My highschool experience with extra-curricular school activities was pretty pathetic (by choice). I did well in my classes, but I also worked a 15-20 hours/week at part-time job, so my focus was more on this. And hanging out with my friends.

In fact my son couldn’t believe that I wasn’t on any kind of team or anything (because I’m really sporty, riiiiight). However, I did get to correct him on this. When I was a junior, I was part of the volleyball team. The senior boy’s volleyball team. As the manager. Oh yeah, I may not have been sporty, but I wasn’t stupid. Good times, good times.

Whether I played on a school team (I did not), liked the cheesy lunch-time activities (not) or the dances (yes) is irrelevant. They were part of the school experience and also a great place to learn and interact with the teachers in an informal setting. It frustrates me that this is what my kids are missing out on.

And honestly, any action that takes away my daughter’s opportunity to sit on the bench with a bunch of cute sweaty guys. Well, that just can’t be right.