I wrote about the manager pass-through in 2011. It’s an important fact of life in every organization, so I’m writing about it again today. Here’s the trick: Imagine you could film every manager in your organization trying to defend a strategy, action, change, etc. taken by the company to their team. Would they own it or point to a higher power as the reason for the strategy, action or change, effectively separating themselves from responsibility for the decision/action?
Manager Pass-Through ((mn-jr ps thr)
1. What managers of people do when they don’t want to own tough or difficult news with employees.
2. Alive and well in every organization I’ve ever been a part of, and it’s alive and well in your company.
3. Rather than owning bad news or a difficult conversation with an employee, managers look for an easier out. They/you explain deflective reasons why the action is necessary. They/you often end up using terms like “them” and “we” to describe what’s going on and why.
“Them” and “we” (and words that mean the same thing) are at the core of the manager pass-through. Rather than explaining to your team member why a particular course of action is necessary for the business, you end up rationalizing—you say that you’ve been told to do something, and the conversation you’re having is the next logical step.
It’s not you who’s asking for more or something uncomfortable from the employee, it’s them. Who is them? Usually it’s a tribe known as “management” or “leadership.” Could also be the customer.
Whoever “them” is, what you’re doing when you use the manager pass-though is making it clear that it’s not “you.”
And it’s lame. Before I step off my high horse, allow me to confess—I’m guilty as well. But the first step in recovery is acknowledging you have a problem.
The next time you’re delivering bad news or asking for something you know is going to make a direct report uncomfortable, listen closely. You may not say “them” or “us”, but you’re probably in the neighborhood. As a manager of people, sometimes you get paid to be in a lonely spot. Own tough news or requests as your own, even if you didn’t start the fire.
Good luck with the next conversation. I hope the first day of the rest of your life as a manager goes really well.
Although I have a lot of problems with America’s Newspaper of Record – it’s gotta be exhausting constantly trying to find new ways to write how the sky is falling because of Trump – they published an interesting story this week about how it’s good for people to take time off after leaving a job to recharge the batteries before jumping into the new one.
Wow – who knew?
I’m somewhat of an expert on this because it’s something I have tried to do, and failed at, many times. Maybe it would have helped if I knew to call it what the NYT does – a “Jobbymoon.”
A way to “exorcise the vestiges of the last job”
Beneath the silly Monty Pythonesque name is a solid notion: that having time off to shake away the old job before starting the new one is a good personal workplace practice.
Here’s how the newspaper describes it:
“Honeymoons and babymoons are both culturally anointed trips timed to big life events. But there’s no common name for the trip that follows another milestone: switching jobs. Although these “jobbymoons” (as we might call them) vary, based on employment circumstances, budget and personal passions, they often share one objective: to exorcise the vestiges of the last job before starting the next one.”
The story goes on to make the point – and it’s a good one – that it’s valuable for those who have secured their next job to have the opportunity to disconnect before engaging in the next one. When you’re between jobs, you have nothing on your plate to distract you or worry about, so you get the maximum benefit out of the down time.
I wish I could say I know how that feels, but I can’t. That’s because in the nearly 10 occasions I’ve tried to take a “jobbymoon” before starting a new job, I’ve fallen prey to something that’s pretty common – the guilt trip laid on you by your new employer who wants you to get started because they need you “right now!”
Who knew you were that important? And, who doesn’t want to start off on the right foot with the new job? That’s the leverage your new employer has, and take it from me, new employers love to employ it in all sorts of subtle and not-so-subtle ways.
A “jobbymoon” I wish I would have taken
The worst for me was one time when I wrapped up my old job on a Friday and had my new employer tell me that I just had to start work the very next Monday. They were having an off-site sales meeting I just HAD to attend even though my job had nothing to so with sales.
I tried to rationalize it in my head:
Doing this would help me to get to know people in my new company quickly, in a casual setting;
Doing this might earn me brownie points with the new CEO for being a “team player” since I was putting my personal wants aside to help the company;
Doing this might really launch my new job in the right direction from Day 1.
Well, those all sound like good reasons, but sometimes, they come with a good dose of reality.
That came for me when I found out that the multi-day, off-site sales meeting with being held in a rented house… and I would be expected to stay there with another new hire who was coming in from out of town. The problem with that is that you never get ANY downtime because you’re stuck where the meeting is being held 24/7.
But that wasn’t the worst of it.
I have attended many off-site meetings during my career and I know how they go. I thought I had seen everything and anything that could happen at one, but boy, was I was wrong.
In the middle of the sales meeting, after a particularly difficult group discussion, the CEO walked one of the newer salespeople out to the back patio. In full view of everyone, as the distraught lady cried, he fired her.
So much for thinking I had seen everything.
Now, I had been to sales meetings where someone’s performance at the meeting got them fired at a later date, but never, ever had I been to one where someone got canned on the spot while everyone else watched the drama unfold. As you might imagine, it changed the tenor and tone of the meeting for all of us who were there.
It also made me ask myself – “I gave up my vacation and started my new job early, for this?” At the time, it struck me that this was bad karma, a bad omen, and just a terribly bad way to start a new job.
Well, it was all of that and more. As it turned out, the job never panned out and I was out of there in six months, by far the shortest stint in a job I have ever had in my long career.
Lord, I wish I had held fast, resisted the CEO’s prodding, and taken my “jobbymoon” instead. I could have done without someone losing their job like so many lost their heads during the French Revolution – publicly as a crowd of others watched it all unfold.
Resist the urge to start and get a little workplace R&R
The New York Times story, although it tackles an interesting topic, doesn’t do much to get into the many psychological reasons why taking time off between jobs a whole lot of sense. The closest it gets is a quote from a marketing and PR guy taking time off between jobs who says, “You’re starting down a new path; you want to mark the occasion, celebrate it and prepare yourself.”
I say “amen” to that. My advice is to resist the urge to jump in and get started on the new job right away. I’ve been there, done that, and can’t see any long term benefit that I ever got from denying myself a little workplace R&R before jumping into the fire again.
My advice is to take your “jobbymoon,” or whatever you call the time off between jobs, and don’t look back. Resist the urge to jump into the new position right away because if the new job is really a good one, it will hold until you arrive.
Take care of yourself first, no job or not. Know that if you do, your karma will thank you.
Core values: the words that propel a company to great heights. Simply place them on the “about us” tab on your company website, hang a sign on the break room wall, and periodically send an email as a reminder – right? I think we all know it doesn’t happen that way. The purpose behind the existence of company values seems elementary in concept, but why is it so easy to miss the mark in the creation and execution of a value system?
A set of values can mold and guide an organization’s behavior, but they can just as easily be a culture robber. When I say culture robber, I’m alluding to company values being used as a policing tool versus a performance tool (more to come on that). Until recently, I didn’t understand or appreciate the potential impact of having core values, nor the process of developing and introducing them to a company. It takes work, patience, and even more work to create a strong, authentic set of core values for your organization.
When present, core values guide your culture by impacting everything from daily decisions to how you treat others, and also extend to hiring and managing. In the past month, two mega companies have released commercials speaking to their values the wake of major crises. One organization lost the trust of its customer base and the other lost the trust of its employees, shareholders and customers. Now they’re in damage control to reestablish their company values. These crises, however, could have been avoided or mitigated with a stronger, more consistently applied set of company values in the first place.
As a result of having a core value system, the behavior of your team is molded by what the organization values – both good and bad.
Before we move ahead, a word of caution to those in companies that already have a set of values. If you feel your company values are lacking, or are not an accurate representation of the values that truly define your company, tread lightly when trying to influence change! Depending on how the values were created, there very well may be deep-rooted connections to them.
The Problems & Solutions:
Based on my specific experience, we learned a great deal about exactly what not to do and what to do in the effort to develop or re-develop Core Values. Here are some of the problems and solutions we identified:
Whose Values are they?
When creating or re-establishing Core Values, use the power of your workforce to help identify what is truly valued in an organization. One common theme you will see in my posts: “People support a world they help create.” This is especially important in this type of initiative.
Are the values those of your CEO/C-suite? That’s where the first error can occur. Make this an inclusive initiative in an effort to create Core Values that most accurately reflect your entire organization.
This is where I experienced my first roadblock. In our effort to set our Core Values in stone, a few members of our senior leadership team initially focused on the values they saw as important. That was a mistake and caused serious pushback because we didn’t include enough of our employee base to gain support and adoption. Once we took the route of facilitating a values meeting with a larger group of employees, the momentum began to build.
Are they Relevant?
Core Values are often paired with both the Vision and Mission of your organization. A Vision statement outlines what a company desires to be and the direction it’s headed. The values should be “who” you are and what values are important to the people that make up the organization. Often, Values end up being what a company wants to be rather than who they actually are. Fortunately, that’s why you have a company vision can be revised over time.
In an effort to make ensure values truly speak to your employee, try to make the values authentic to the company. A great way to do this is to track feedback from focus groups during the development stage of core values.
The Adoption Process
The process of gaining buy-in from your team is a large undertaking and one that takes an ongoing internal marketing campaign. The first step is educating your employees and positioning the Core Values between them and their daily lives at work. Before rolling the values out company-wide (in our case to 1,700 employees), first target every leader to ensure they understand the meaning and goal of the Core Values. This allows for them to actively apply the values and also to influence the adoption process for employees.
In addition to an all-hands meeting and marketing materials (print, video etc), we created an online learning module that engaged the employee by giving them real world examples of how to learn and implement the Core Values.
Putting them to Work
Use ’em or lose ’em. All of your work can go to waste if you fail to incorporate these in all areas of your company. Having Core Values can help set expectations for employees but don’t fall into the trap of using them primarily as a policing method when employees aren’t exemplifying the values. If the values are looked at as a set of “laws” they are no longer values, but rather bylaws.
Putting values to work and incorporating these into your work style is a behavior shift, and it was uncomfortable at first. Rather than just exposing employees to Core Values during on-boarding or through marketing materials, look to incorporate in areas such as:
Incorporating Values into Coaching/Performance Review process
Reward Employees who exemplify values
Accountability – Hold yourself and teams accountable to values. Terminating an employee is never fun and when everyone is held accountable to your Core Value system it brings clarity to the hard decisions you may be faced with.
I recognize that everything I just covered is a long-game and it can’t be achieved overnight. Hopefully this can serve as a guide to define your Core Values and turn them into something other than just a poster on the wall.
“The pattern of highly accomplished and successful people committing suicide is transfixing. It assures the rest of us that a life of accolades is not all that it’s cracked up to be and that achieving more will not make us happier. At the same time, it reveals the fact that no one is safe from suicide, that whatever defenses we think we have are likely to be inadequate.” (Andrew Soloman, The New Yorker, 2018)
I don’t feel much like writing today. I just heard that Anthony Bourdain died. Killed himself. Clearly I didn’t know Anthony Bourdain, but I knew him. Over the last 20 years of watching, reading and admiring Bourdain, I knew him. He was “my people.” High-functioning, authentic, credible and refreshingly honest.
I really don’t care if the social snark-patrol thinks I’m targeting a “easy” HR subject since a high profile celeb – actually TWO high profile celebs (RIP Kate Spade) – died by their own hands. The subject right now may be spilling into every HR blog, but there is nothing “easy” about the topic. Bourdain did what most pros can’t or won’t do: mix high credibility with complete honesty. He was honest with us about his drug and depression struggles, and that made me watch him even more.
Actually, let me clarify the statement above. Bourdain did what most pros can’t, won’t or are scared to do at work. Tell someone they suffer from mental illness in whatever form it takes on. And frankly, although Bourdain was honest about his heroin and depression matters, he may have been of the generation where you don’t talk about suicidal thoughts. Or dark depression. Or need help.
So a few things, since again, I’m not really sure what else to say right now:
I will be talking about this topic, especially how it impacts work, a lot more.
I am a huge advocate for counseling, especially if it can help detect and properly diagnose an underlying mental health issue. I’ve recommended it to many employees.
Suicide rates are up 25% in the last two decades. I heard a doctor on CBS say if we saw a 25% increase in deaths due to heart disease there would be a very loud, public cry for help. Not so much with mental illness.
I don’t think it is a coincidence Bourdain and Spade took their lives at 55 and 61. By that age you are just too tired to go through a cycle again.
What do we do:
Fight for good mental health benefits on our plans.
Know success and mental illness are not mutually exclusive.
Quit all this crap about, “I really don’t want to know if there are problems with an employee, they may sue us”. You need to know so you can point someone in the right direction. You don’t need to know everything. But you need to know.
Seriously, work is broken. I really believe that. Make it better. Use your common sense.
If you, as a leader or HR pro, stigmatize mental illness yourself, get a new job. Work a job where you hide alone in a corner, because likely most of the people around you have something going on.
The other day I watched a Facebook live of a recruiting pro panel talking about AI and chatbots and the impact on recruiting. One guy said they were coming to take away recruiters jobs. Another gal compared it to letting a robot write your legal documents so you don’t have to talk to an attorney.
First things first. AI stands for artificial intelligence. In short, software being able to do tasks that are usually carried out by humans. Decision making, visual, voice, and translation. AI has been around for years actually – from AI-powered ATS’s to scanning hundreds of resumes for keywords. If done right, AI is there to help recruiters find the needles in the haystacks. But…
Before you can do any AI or cutting-edge technology, you need relationships with hiring managers. Start by meeting with your hiring manager before you do your search. Create a Google form that captures all the information related to what they want a successful hire to look like. Many people call this a “recruiting intake form.” At a minimum, print a paper form, have a call or meeting with them, and write down what they say. Then follow-up. Not cool technology but effective.
Once you have the relationships and boring form out of the way you can use AI to make your wildest dreams come true, like…
Save time. How about using a robot to schedule interviews or send out job offers? Hmmm.
Remove bias. Instead of using your gut or a good feeling, church buddy or bunko friends – use some pre-selected software to predict the success of a candidate so you can use less of your feelings and base your decision more on data.
Find candidates. Use software to scan all over social media to find candidates. This helps the recruiter get more people and faster at the top of the funnel.
Improve the candidate experience. AI-infused chatbots never take a day off, not even paternity or maternity leave. Midnight or Sunday – your candidate’s questions can get answered.
For the skeptics – yes AI will not solve everything. Watch out for software products that claim to predict everything. Many candidates are nervous when interviewing or maybe they just like to put their hands in the pockets when they talk so they use fewer hand gestures. How do you replace empathy or contextual understanding with AI? Seems like a stretch to me.
AI can do the mundane and boring work most people don’t like so they can focus on more interesting tasks, like building relationships with hiring managers over good coffee and helping them solve big problems.
AI is here – get after it once you have the relationships with your hiring managers.
PS need a basic recruiting intake form to copy? Click HERE.
You know what a “full-stack” developer is, right? Whether you do or not, you know that when you hear those words, you’re dealing with an expert. Full-stack developers know that there are many layers to developing software. They’re masters of many of those layers, and they know how all the layers work together.
How about recruitment marketing? It’s got many layers, too, and those layers interact to create the user experience for your candidates. FOT’s Kris Dunn has partnered with the HRO Today Outsourcing Thought Leadership Council to show you how to become a full-stack developer in a webinar on Wednesday, June 13, from 10-11 ET.
Have you ever been fired? I have. Three times. The typical response when people hear this is “wow, for what?” always with a bit of trepidation in their voice for what they are about to hear. When people think about being fired they think of the obvious bad stuff. Fraud, harassment, not showing up or maybe just unacceptable performance. I’ve never been fired for any of these reasons.
Nope, I was fired for doing my job.
But aren’t you in HR, aren’t you the one that typically does the firing? Yes. And haven’t you been on the other end of literally thousands of terminations for virtually every reason one can imagine? Yes. It’s a dubious statistic, but I’ve probably terminated a couple thousand people in my HR career.
That statistic alone might cause some of you to think I had it coming. But when you’re in HR, you are the executioner. Not usually your decision (although sometimes it is) but you’re in the meeting when the dirty deed is done, supporting the manager.
So back to the point of this post, how does someone (particularly in HR) get fired for doing their job? That sounds like a good story, a protection mechanism in my psyche, and that really there were other good reasons that warranted being fired.
Let me explain.
The first time I was fired because I highlighted an unlawful practice that had been endorsed by the CEO. In the second instance I was vocal about a terrible culture and was pushing an agenda to address it, against my bosses wishes. And in the third instance I was calling out behaviors by leaders in the company who were high-performing but were leaving bodies in their wake, and because they were high performers I was expected to look the other way.
So while the reasons for my firings were slightly different in each of the three cases, the theme is that I was doing the tough part of being an HR leader. Being the conscience to the organization, protecting the rights of employees, and telling the CEO what they didn’t want to hear. That’s tough, but it’s the job. If you’re not up for it, find a different profession. We don’t need any more yes-men/women in our profession. It’s doing all of us a disservice. If you’re a strong HR leader, you step up and take the heat to protect the organization and the employees.
So here’s the crazy thing – these same actions and behaviors have also got me promoted. I’ve been blessed to work for leaders who wanted feedback, expected me to challenge them (professionally of course) and offer solutions that will improve the company and the people that work for it. They appreciated me for being a trusted partner who can see around corners and give them a heads up before sh*t hits the fan. But not all leaders are like that.
So what have I learned from being fired almost as many times as I’ve been promoted?
Be on the watch out for CEO’s and executives that say they want a strong HR leader and say they want to build a great culture, but don’t really mean it. Don’t go to work for them. And don’t just go to work for a great company, go to work for a great boss. Be certain that you’ll be working with a CEO and executive team that really wants someone who will represent company and employee interests equally. And not just bring the problems, but also solutions.
If you’re working for a boss like that, and with a team like that, congratulations! You might just get promoted.
And if the boss and team you work for doesn’t stack up and meet this standard? Then take action to make a change, because life’s too short to work for a shitty boss and a shitty company.
For years SHRM (the Society for Human Resource Management) has held a reputation as being risk averse and sometimes even Pollyanna. As the largest HR organization globally, with over 250,000 members in the USA, it has significant reach within the HR community. Its TV commercials the past few years have only added to its brand and visibility. They are also known for playing it safe and being “non-partisan” in their significant lobbying on capital hill. Supporting such a large and diverse constituency certainly can force an organization to middle of the road practices too. Lets not offend anyone or everyone…
So it is surprising and refreshing that they have suddenly taken some risks with their keynote speakers at their major conferences this spring. It started with Sean Spicer, the high strung former presidential press spokesman, at their legislative conference this past March. Then in April they had Bill Taylor, the Co-Founder of Fast Company, at their talent conference in Vegas. We know of Spicer’s temper tantrums and the awesome Melissa McCarthy SNL parodies this past year, and then to have the man behind the magazine that set HR back a decade (you know the article: Why we Hate HR) get up in front of a thousand HR folks.
The icing on the cake is Oscar Munoz, the CEO of United Airlines, as a keynote speaker at #SHRM18 in Chicago. You know, the same company that literally kicked and dragged a doctor off a plane last year in the same city the annual conference is being held in a few days from now. We know bad things often come in threes, so let’s add the dog in the overhead bin incident, and of course the lottery game bonus program recently proposed and then yanked. Talk about some issues to spin!
Oh, I almost forgot that the conference also has Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook. Her controversy is not so much her best-selling book, but the questionable business practices recently at Facebook. Sandberg has always been a fan favorite of the HR community, yet these actions resulted in Congressional and European Union hearings. Facebook appears to be “facing” up to their questionable practices, however Sheryl certainly has had a hand and a say in their on-going business strategy that caused the mess in the first place. Will Oscar and Sheryl address these issues or sidestep them?
Maybe it is Johnny Taylor, the recently appointed CEO of SHRM, and his pledge to be courageous in action that has the organization bringing these leaders to face the fire. Or it could just be the availability of a treasure trove of high profile folks that could use some positive press. What better audience, then 15,000 HR practitioners for these well known executives to get in the conference confessional and atone for sins. By design or default, it doesn’t matter. As a side note, I happen to think Johnny is a major influencer of assertive change at SHRM. I will let you, the readers, make your own mind up on this…
What I am sure of, is this is a great opportunity for HR to ask some tough questions. I attended both spring conferences with Spicer and Taylor presenting. In Washington DC, the audience did speak up and ask some tough questions. In Vegas they ran Bill off the stage before we had the opportunity to grill him on the article and Fast Company’s position on HR today. Maybe some of the SHRM staff are still a little skittish to take a risk.
In Chicago, the HR community may be afforded a unique opportunity to ask some hard-hitting questions of two of the country’s most formidable leaders. I will be there presenting two sessions on my “Last HR Jedi Tour”, blogging, and hopefully challenging these folks and others. I like Sheryl and Oscar both, but sometimes you need to own up to your company’s actions.
I’m hoping you will be there too and join in the discussion. If you are, please make sure to say hello.
Maybe the time has finally come for HR to step out of it’s comfort zone… and talk about being handed it on a silver platter… will it happen???
Have you heard the saying, “You can’t go home again.”
The saying actually comes from a 1940s Thomas Wolfe novel, “You Can’t Go Home Again,” in which the author writes a book about his own hometown and the residents are so mad about how they are depicted that he gets death threats.
In modern terms, it’s usually used to describe kids who have gone off to college or their first job, then they have to move home and find that transition to be really difficult. You leave home and have unlimited freedom, then all of sudden you’re back living with mom and dad and it’s miserable!
Based on the above example, if I asked you how much would it take you to move home and live with your parents, I’m sure many of us would not be able to put a price on that request! Basically, there is not enough money in the world to get me to move home! I’d sleep on a park bench before I would move home!
Okay, my back would never take a park bench, but honestly, I would only last a couple of days in my Mom’s guest room with a private bath, cable tv, and a king-sized bed!
What I’m talking about are boomerangs! Those people who moved away from their hometown for a job, but now a hometown employer wants them to come back!
A number of small Midwest towns are now offering to pay residents who graduated high school from their town a move-back bonus if they move back for an accepted job with a local employer. Port Huron, MI is offering $15,000 to people who were originally from the area if they come back to work with one of their employers in the county.
Port Huron has lost 15% of its population since 2000. It has growing employers who can’t grow without workers.
But, wait, there has to be a catch?!
Of course! These “Come Home” scholarships to people who are 1. Originally from the county, and 2. Have graduated with a STEM degree in the past ten years. If you’ve done this, and you move back to the area, you get an additional $15K, plus whatever the employer wants to pay. The local economic foundation (most likely paid for by grants from local businesses and government funding) is paying for the scholarships.
Small Michigan cities aren’t the only ones, you will find similar programs across the Midwest in Iowa, Indiana, Ohio, etc. All of this makes sense with national unemployment at 3.8% and technology-related unemployment far lower. Companies are begging for help.
So, that’s my question:
How much would it take to get you to move back to your hometown?
You graduated college. Took the big money offer to go out to Silicon Valley. You pay $3500 per month in rent for a 500 square foot apartment you share with 2 other people. Now, Local Co. Mfg. Inc. is calling and offering you a job.
I really want to know what figure gets you to reverse course and come home? Is it $15K? What about $50K? What if I gave you $100K, but you had to promise to stay ten years? (but it would be released if you lost your job do the company leaving, etc.)
Does any amount of money really make a difference?
I don’t think any of these programs make a difference. I think it’s a waste of time and money to even try. I believe if a someone wants to come home, thousands of dollars won’t make a difference, especially when you’re talking about STEM career folks who are already making really good money.
Where this money should go is for scholarships and internship programs for kids who have shown an interest to want to work local, go to school locally, and believe they want to return and work local after graduation. What we know is most people will accept a job from the place they had an internship at, if it was a decent place.
I know. I know. You need more than entry-level hires! I get it but don’t sleep on the long-term needs, you need to fill that pipeline as well. For experienced local people, keep building that pipeline. The first step is to know who they are and connect with their parents and relatives. Find out the motivations and desires. Catch them when they come home for the holidays and summer vacations.
Market at hotels and wedding spaces where these kids return to be in each other’s weddings. Think like a late 20’s and 30’s something! What would it take to get them interested in coming home? Sometimes, it’s just showing interest and letting them know they’re wanted!