Category Archives: HR

The anatomy of a Mistake

What is a mistake?

The Oxford online advanced learners dictionary defines the noun “Mistake” as “an action or an opinion that is not correct, or that produces a result that you did not want

Male hand holding wooden pencil and delete word "MISTAKE" on the white paper

So does making a mistake – intentionally or unintentionally make me a bad person?

Why do we spend so much time beating ourselves up for action(s) that were simply put – a result of a temporary lapse or lack of better judgment? I decline to use the phrase good judgment in favor of better judgment because I do strongly believe that we all are subject to our perception of our surrounding and our decisions are similarly subject to the holistic result of numerous factors that directly and indirectly influence our perception and thus the interpretation of facts which culminates in our decisions at any given time.

I have a rule about mistakes. Its ok to make many unique mistakes as they are simply a learning opportunity but it is not acceptable to make the same mistake repeatedly.

No mistake should be big enough to stop us from travelling the path toward our objective. I keep this rather generic to accommodate a variety of personal and professional objectives.

What is really important is to remember to get back up from a mistake and reassess and reload to jump back in action. Beating oneself up over a mistake is only unnecessary burden which will create lag in the future of our journey.

Learn to forgive yourself as the worst thing you can do is to keep blaming ourselves.

Mistakes
Learning

So go ahead and make mistakes, learn from them and make NEW ones.

Keep learning 🙂

The life of a probationer

In the midst of many permanent workers the lone probationer along with many other singular probationers walk the pace. Being a probationer is like being an understudy for an actor in a play who has no lines.

You move around the stage and perform the actions required, but you never get to take center stage, and you hardly ever get to speak more than a few lines. ( Some dramatic exaggeration) 

The probationer needs to be on time, oops early I mean as being late is like not coming or showing up to a 90’s theme costume party in a space suit.

The probationer needs to be updated, perfect and beyond doubt to survive and be placed almost at the side of the privileged permanent folks 🙂

Brings alot of songs to mind about love lost and experience gained. A probationer has a dream…

One day he / she too will be a part of the permanent staff. Have actual authority be taken serious..Perhaps.

Like all evaluations , the probation period is exactly that. A timeframe for mutual evaluation. What most probationers miss out is that they feel only they are being evaluated. It helps in the long run to understand that while the company is evaluating you.. you too should be evaluating the company.

In the ultimate performance / probation review it is to me a deadly SIN to say that you have nothing to say about the company or a simple ” it was a good experience here” to your seniors.

Coming back to the probationer and his/her dream. Most probationers I have met have felt that the moment their status will be converted to “permanent” somehow magically everything will change. Their peers will look at them differently, they will suddenly have greater respect and an elated position in the corporate food chain.

Reality check: No this does not happen.

A word of advise to my probationer colleagues who have yet to experience the brutal reality of the corporate world : Your position and status is only a name card. Your performance and your delivery is what will define how your colleagues look at you.

Work well done, is exactly work well done and there is no second opinion to it.  The only performance indicator that one needs to be concerned about are the KPI’s. And if the work is done well and a flare of pro activeness and innovation added to the mix it more often then not translated in to a very tasty solution ( pun intended).

So all my friends who are fresh and on probation and have not realized this yet.. buck up and smell the fresh air of new resolves and work smart and work hard.

K

A Dog in Sheesh Mahal

Don’t be too amused at the title just yet. Its a local idiom showing how a dog in a palace would behave. Out of place, bewildered, confused even bedazzled. Most of us started out careers at the entry level. We all have come from different backgrounds. Some have been exposed to corporate setups due to our parents or family and some of us have not. Some come from elite institutes while other from very humble beginnings. What all of us have in common is that we started somewhere and today we have achieved a certain status in our professional lives. Going back in the journey and recalling our first day at work …. Do that…please go back in time and remember. The nervous insides, tingling unexplained sensations, the fear of the unknown … Are you there yet? Good, or not too good 🙂 Now, do you remember the first senior who took you on and explained some of the basics to you. The first senior who corrected your mistake and told you ” Its ok. We all make mistakes…learn from this and you will be ok!” I feel certain that we can all name at least one senior in our professional lives who carved the path to our achievements , to our success. Being senior professional in our respective fields today … we owe it to those mentors, friends, guides to Pay it forward ! Acknowledge the fact that our knowledge and skill cannot be taken away from us, cannot be stolen. The purpose of our experience is to “share”, to give away to our new generation ( batch ) of budding professionals who stagger in to the hall ways of professional greatness .. unsure and unaware of the magnitude of potential they are carrying hidden away inside them. It is up to us to act as guides and in many cases as catalysts to build confidence and transform these freshers. I am a result of many great minds who have in their own unique ways contributed to my professional path. And today I would like to say “Thank you ” to all of them. I would request a moment from everyone reading this post to take a minute, remember those mentors and send them a thank you note, sms or email today…now . It may not seem much, but appreciation goes a long way. I am in the process of emailing mine 🙂

9 to 12 Rule

Its been a while since I wrote my blog. A lot has happened since my last update.

I am working with a different company now. I have another little princess in my family. I have gained weight.

Now back to what I was thinking about.

I have found it almost impossible to focus on my strategic tasks at work due to the incessant visitors I get to my office. So after seeking advice from a few very wise mentors I have decided to implement the 9-12 Rule.

The 9-12 rule stipulates that my “visiting hours” so to speak are from 9am to 12pm. After which I work dedicatedly on my research and strategic policy matters.

I shall keep updating my blog with the results I get out of this in due course.

Stay tuned.

Handling Office Politics


Political Tug of war
Office politics is just like the lottery.  Dreaming about winning doesn’t get you anywhere – there’s no payoff if you don’t buy a ticket. But YOU have to play if you want to win. 

However, unlike the lottery, there are consequences if you decide not to play.

Game Plan

Not everything in life in black and white and unfortunately, office politics can’t be reduced to this level of simplicity either. 
Office politics is a complex stew of power, ambition, control and ego.  Winning, if there is such a thing, requires continuous attention to who’s important/not important at any given moment and strategically aligning with the right 
faction(s). Mistakes can be fatal to a career. 

It’s easy to see how many people decide it’s smarter to sit on the sidelines.  Swim with these sharks?  No thanks, it’s much safer not to get involved.  Or so you’d think … but you’d be wrong.

Opt out, and the best you can hope for is to be completely ignored.  This might be good for your psyche, but it’s tough on your career.  Promotions or good assignments won’t be coming your way, but a layoff might, if one’s in the offing.  All too often, quiet = expendable

If you choose not to play, be sure you don’t criticize those who do, or the game itself.  You’ll be labeled a loose cannon or a troublemaker.  You’ll also be a target for skilled political players who may decide to use you to further their own agendas.  It’s easy to identify the person who doesn’t want to join in as the malcontent who’s responsible for badmouthing unpopular decisions.

Well, says you, I’m not being negative, I’m just saying that things should be based on merit – the quality of your work, not who you kiss up to.  I agree – in principal:
It sounds great, but I’ve never seen a company where there wasn’t some element of politics at work.

This is Unfair

Right.  What’s your point?  The culture of each workplace evolves over time, largely in reaction to the example that’s set at the top.  Unless you’re the new CEO, your ability to unilaterally create change is very, very limited.  You can continue to resist, but it’s going to be a lot less painful if you adapt.

You’ll be most effective if you can deal with things the way they are, not the way you think they should be.  No one can take your principles away from you, but they can take away your position.  It’s really your choice, and I hope it never comes to that. The best strategy is to modify your view of office politics.  Rather than seeing it as a hotbed of useless gossip, intrigue, brown-nosing, or backstabbing, try to recast it in a positive light.  Think of the political game as a means for you to spread your own gospel through positive example.

One of the few absolute rules of office culture is that it’s not enough just to do a great job. You’ve also got to communicate your abilities and successes to the right people, and you’ve got to do it via the “right way”, which is going to be dictated by the company’s cultural norms.  Observation is the key.

Open Your Eyes and Ears; Keep Your Mouth Shut

A key mistake in office politics is accepting information without independent verification.  There are a couple of ways this happens.  One is that people look at an org chart and take it at face value.  In the work environment, there’s both a formal and informal hierarchy.  There are people on the chart with position and authority who are incapable of exercising it, and conversely, there are people that may not even appear on the chart who manage to run everything.  Your job is to figure out who’s who, and cultivate good relationships accordingly.  That won’t happen if you step away from your desk only to use the bathroom.

Listen
The second mistake people often make is to align themselves with one faction too early, or too closely.  When you start a new job, it’s tempting to latch onto a person or small group fast. Understandable – it gets you over being green and helps assimilate you to the new environment.  The danger is that you may inadvertently align with the wrong group, and you won’t know until it’s too late.  Better to be friendly towards everybody and get the full range of opinions.  If you don’t favor one faction over another, you’ll be able to array all of the different points of view and validate their legitimacy against your own observations. 

Spend less time talking, and more time listening.  This is a wonderful technique that has several distinct benefits.  First, you minimize the opportunity to say anything stupid or ill-advised that can come back and haunt you later. 
Second, people who like to talk think highly of people who listen. They project competence onto you because you let them do what they need to do.  They’ll speak well of you later, even though your view of these conversations is that they’re a good opportunity to plan what you’re going to do for lunch. 

The third benefit of doing more listening than talking is that your silence, especially your continued silence, is liable to make other people a bit uneasy.  People who are edgy tend to chatter more than they should. (Think how job candidates might babble to fill up a silence during an interview.) Sometimes, that chatter includes information that wasn’t intended to be revealed.  All the better for you.

Rules of the Game

There’s one rule in office politics that can trump all the other rules: never make your boss look bad.  Most bad bosses are capable of accomplishing this all on their own.  They don’t need your help and you don’t need to get dragged down with them.  Create a situation where your boss is seen in a negative light and you’ll be the one who pays the price in the short run. 

The other rules of office politics are less about the politics and more about you and your behavior. This list isn’t all-inclusive, and strict adherence doesn’t guarantee success.  But, it’s better than nothing:
1.     Figure out what you want and plot your strategy accordingly.
2.     Be a part of multiple networks, not just one.
3.     Communicate with your networks often, and in the ways that work best.
4.     Judge behavior in the organizational context, not against some idealized standard.
5.     Watch other people at work and identify successful behaviors that you can model
6.     Don’t pass along questionable judgments or spread rumors
7.     Look for win/win ways to resolve conflicts, but never leave them unresolved.

More

Despite all this, there really is one way out of the office politics maze.  Work for yourself and work alone.  You’ll still need to interact with clients and customers, but those politics are for another column entirely. 

Managing difficult people at work

Difficult people present no problem if 

  • we pass or meet them 
  • on the street
  • in the supermarket 
  • in a building lobby
  • in the parking , etc

Nevertheless, when we have to work with them difficult people can become major irritants.

It seems that some people are just born to be difficult. We have all worked with them and most of us dislike them. Difficult people are easy to recognize–they show up late, leave early, don’t turn their work in on time and have an excuse for every failing – bottom line, its never their fault…. Hmm..heard that somewhere?

Wait, there’s more. These difficult people harass you and others, ask too many self-explanatory questions, neglect details, distract you and repeatedly challenge you and others for no other reason than to “appear” important. Even worse, when they interact with customers, vendors and people lower than them in the corporate hierarchy, they can be grouchy, impolite, condescending, uninformed, misleading, inappropriate or simply wrong. — Do you know anyone like this?

Naturally, no one wants to work with difficult people. When dealing with problematic employees, productivity decreases, frustrations rise, morale goes down and customers and vendors get upset.


Now, lets see how we can handle such people:

But I try my best

1. Don’t ignore the problem. Assuming that the employee provides value to the company and possesses redeeming qualities, there are ways to deal with difficult employees. Most often, managers will simply ignore problematic staffers. Managers who live by this rule hope the problem will just go away; that these people will somehow turn themselves around or stop being troublesome. Ignoring the situation is the wrong solution to what could likely become a progressive problem.

2. Intervene as soon as possible. It is important to take action as soon as the negative behavior pattern becomes evident–when left untouched, this problem will only escalate.

Occasionally, the difficult employee has no idea that his behavior is a problem or that others react negatively to his actions. This is because most people tend to put up with the annoying behavior and “go along to get along.” At the same time, some employees just consider it a “job frustration.” Just like some managers, employees want to be liked by colleagues and subordinates and are therefore reluctant to speak up when a problem arises.

Ultimately, it is the manager’s responsibility to take the appropriate action to correct the problem. Whether the concern exists due to the employee’s lack of knowledge of the issue, lack of feedback or projecting the difficulty onto someone else, the manager has the responsibility of addressing and turning around the predicament. The manager needs to gather information from employees to discern the extent of the problem and personally observe the employee interacting with customers or vendors.

3. Research the problem personally. Armed with accurate data and examples, the manager needs to then take this person into a conference room or office–away from others–and calmly address the issue. To begin, the manager needs to ask the employee if he is aware of any ongoing issues to determine if the difficult person is aware of the problems.

If the employee is “unaware,” the manager needs to describe the unacceptable behavior. The employee might interrupt to disagree or deny the existence of any issues. Nevertheless, the manager needs to continue by giving clear examples of the unwanted behavior.

The manager also needs to allow the employee to respond to the allegations. If the difficult employee refuses to believe that the allegations exist despite the evidence, the most the manager can hope for is an intellectual acceptance of the possibility that a problem exists.

4. Help the problematic employee to get back on track. Once the employee begins to understand that these negative behaviors are real and experienced by others in the organization, the manager or someone from human resources should begin to coach the difficult employee in displaying more acceptable and appropriate behaviors. The employee needs time and practice in “trying on” new, more suitable behaviors. HR and/or the manager need to provide specific feedback to this employee on the success or failure of his efforts in minimizing the negative actions and implementing ones that are more positive.

5. If all else fails, termination may be necessary. If the employee continues to deny his inappropriate behavior and refuses to try to improve the situation, the manager needs to place this person on the fast track towards termination. Often this involves recording a series of well-documented verbal and then written feedback about the behavior. Strictly following company protocol, there should be a period for the employee to address the questionable behavior. If this trial period does not result in improved behavior, then the employee needs to be terminated.

Most employees will recognize the negative behavior and will at least attempt to turn it around. This is especially true during tough economic times when unemployment is high and finding a new job is difficult. In any case, the manager needs to follow company guidelines in recognizing the unacceptable behavior, providing direct feedback, providing input to try to turn it around and ultimately taking action in a timely manner.

Not doing so is a disservice to the problematic employee, other employees and the success of the organization.

Some top reasons WHY HR is often misunderstood

Some top reasons WHY HR is often misunderstood –Take 1 J
Readers, I absolutely don’t pretend to speak for every HR department worldwide, but the HR professionals that I know are committed to both their employees and their company. They avoid causing employees pain intentionally. Here are some top reasons why employees might perceive the situation differently. These are the reasons why I feel I have observed non-Human Resource professionals having a list of depressing and so to say “HR horror stories”.
·         The HR staff person is caught daily in a balancing act between the role of employee advocate and the role of company business partner and advocate. And, no, the employee doesn’t often see or understand that the HR person is playing two roles. They gauge the HR person by their affect on the employee’s need.
    • As an example, the employee wants HR to make an exception for him; the employee doesn’t realize that an exception for him begins to set a precedent for how the company must treat other employees – employees who may be less deserving of an exception.


·         All information about employees is confidential. Even when the HR staff person handles an issue, whether the issue involved disciplinary measures or just a conversation, the steps taken and the outcomes are confidential. An HR employee can tell the complaining employee that the issue was addressed. Because of employee confidentiality, they cannot reveal more. This can leave the complaining employee believing their issue was not addressed. (The outcome of a formal, written complaint, as in sexual harassment charges, is generally disclosed.)
Blame it all


·         HR staff members need documented evidence that a problem exists. Witnesses are helpful, too, as is more than one employee experiencing the same problem. It is difficult to take action based on one employee’s word, especially if the other party denies the problem.


·         What an employee may see as unreasonable behavior on the part of a manager or another employee, HR may find within acceptable bounds of organizational behavior and expectations. The employees may have a personality or work style conflict. The boss may supervise an independent employee more closely than desired. HR can talk with all parties, but often, no one is wrong.


·         When an employee doesn’t like her job or work goals or experiences a conflict with her supervisor’s management style, HR can’t always find the employee a new job. Additionally, because of the cost of employee on boarding and training, the organization is likely to have policies about how often an employee can change positions. Indeed, proving yourself in the current job is the fastest path to a coveted new job.


·         HR doesn’t know about the promises you say your manager made to you about a raise, a promotion, special time off, or a rewarding assignment, unless the promise was documented in your performance development plan. You are welcome to complain to HR if you have addressed the issue with your manager. But, the end story is likely your word against the manager’s word. Is it possible you misunderstood your manager? If not be wary about promises made – when he has demonstrated he doesn’t keep his promises. Work with HR on an internal transfer.


·         HR is not always in charge of making the decision. In fact, the decision you don’t like may have been made by their boss or the company president. Good, company-oriented HR people won’t blame other managers publicly for decisions with which they may disagree. And, they won’t bad-mouth the decisions of their boss or other company managers, so you may never know where the decision was made.
So, an unresponsive, unhelpful HR office that avoids helping employees with their problems is not always the case. (Though I know from my experience that such organizations do exist, let’s hope they are on the path to change- Inshallah). There are legitimate reasons why HR cannot fulfill every employee’s wishes.
If the HR staff listens, communicates actively, and informs the employee why a decision is made or an action not taken, employees are much less likely to write asking how to solve their HR horror stories.
This information may help our fellow HR professionals better address the “misunderstanding” by employees.

Exit Interviews– Not exactly like the recruitment interview

“No-one is indispensable”


The adage might ultimately be true, but that’s not really the point…is it?


The fact is that most people who leave do actually possess useful (often critical) knowledge and experience not to mention personal connections, as typically applies in sales and buying roles, and obviously business unit management. 
Moreover most departing employees are delighted to share this knowledge, to help a successor, or to brief a management team, if only the organization would simply ask them politely to do so (assuming their exit is handled decently of course, which the exit interview helps to enable).

Aims and results of an Exit Interview

  • They provide an opportunity to ‘make peace’ with disgruntled employees, who might otherwise leave with vengeful intentions or worse will spread negative word-of-mouth in the industry.
  • Exit interviews are seen by existing employees as a sign of positive culture. They are regarded as caring and compassionate – a sign that the organisation is big enough to expose itself to criticism.
  • Exit interviews accelerate participating managers’ understanding and experience of managing people and organizations. Hearing and handling feedback is a powerful development process.
  • Exit interviews help to support an organization’s proper HR practices. They are seen as positive and necessary for quality and effective people-management by most professional institutes and accrediting bodies concerned with quality management of people, organizations and service.
  • The results and analysis of exit interviews provide relevant and useful data directly into training needs analysis and training planning processes.
  • Exit interviews provide valuable information as to how to improve recruitment and induction of new employees.
  • Exit interviews provide direct indications as to how to improve staff retention.
  • Sometimes an exit interview provides the chance to retain a valuable employee who would otherwise have left (organizations often accept resignations far too readily without discussion or testing the firmness of feeling – the exit interview provides a final safety net).
  • A significant proportion of employee leavers will be people that the organization is actually very sorry to leave (despite the post-rationalisation and sour grapes reactions of many senior executives to the departure of their best people). The exit interview therefore provides an excellent source of comment and opportunity relating to management succession planning. Good people leave often because they are denied opportunity to grow and advance. Wherever this is happening organizations need to know about it and respond accordingly.
  • Every organization has at any point in time several good people on the verge of leaving because they are not given the opportunity to grow and develop, at the same time, ironically, that most of the management and executives are overworked and stretched, some to the point of leaving too. Doesn’t it therefore make good sense to raise the importance of marrying these two situations to provide advantage both ways – ie., facilitate greater delegation of responsibility to those who want it? Exit interviews are an excellent catalyst for identifying specific mistakes and improvement opportunities in this vital area of management development and succession.
  • Exit interviews, and a properly organised, positive exit process also greatly improve the chances of successfully obtaining and transferring useful knowledge, contacts, insights, tips and experience, from the departing employee to all those needing to know it, especially successors and replacements. Most leavers are happy to help if you have the courage and decency to ask and provide a suitable method for the knowledge transfer, be it a briefing meeting, a one-to-one meeting between the replacement and the leaver, or during the exit interview itself.

Things never to say in a job interview

Off all the things one wishes they had not said in a job interview I would like to highlight the top five 🙂

So here are 5 of the biggest blunders…………..

1. “I hated my last boss.” It doesn’t matter how bad your last boss was — don’t cite it as a reason for leaving your job neither should you complain about your boss’s managerial skills. This kind of “trash” talking will make your potential new boss think your interpersonal skills are weak and you’re not a team player. Follow the advice your mom gave you: If you can’t say anything nice about someone, explain that your last role was not a good fit for you, or you are looking for new ways to grow.

2. “I don’t know anything about this company.” Do your research. Know something about the company you’re interviewing for, and be able to articulate how your skills will complement the business. If you’re a Web designer, for example, at the very least study the company’s Web site and explain what you like and what you would change, given the chance. A neutral example would be for instance reviewing the company’s website for the careers section or the Human Resource section. You can easily start an educated and informed discussion with the HR representative on how you feel the section could have been more informational or why you liked it etc.

3. “No questions, thanks.” When it’s your turn to ask questions about the company and the role, have something to talk about. If you don’t, it looks like your lack of inquisitiveness means you are not genuinely interested in a career, but just a paycheck. Did the interviewer already answer everything you wanted to know? At least rephrase something you already talked about in a new way.

4. “What sect do you belong to ?” Small talk can be great. You may use small talk to include something unrelated to the job directly but that shows competencies that are transferable to the job you are applying for thou. But know where the line is and don’t cross it — don’t ask or talk about stuff that’s inappropriately personal.

5. “And another thing…” Avoid rats and bitterness. It’s great to have strong opinions, but be careful that you don’t come across sounding like you are angry or so opinionated that you’ll be difficult to work with. No one wants to work with a serial complainer.


Wish you the best of luck for your interviews.

How to say “good bye” in a job interview

In the line of work that I am in, one gets to interview numerous candidates for a variety of roles and positions. One thing I have noticed is that the candidates come rehearsed with answers for even the toughest job interview questions, but are rarely prepared on how to end the interview? 
While it’s true that first impressions are important, many people forget that last impressions tend to linger. Ending a job interview is nearly as important as starting one.
I was talking to a fellow HR Manager, belonging to a large technology firm. He agreed with me that one of the important things in an interview is how you end it.
He says, “Just as importantly is how you end the interview, so just shaking their hand and saying ‘I look forward to hearing from you’ is not really the best last impression you want to make.”
I read online that Human Resources expert Sarah Paul agrees that your attitude at the end of an interview can help or hurt your chances. She says, “Show confidence by giving a firm handshake and making strong eye contact.” 
Her other suggestions include:
Avoid looking needy – make the interviewer feel like you have other options on the table.
Asking if it would be appropriate for you to follow up in a week regarding the status of the recruitment also demonstrates assertiveness and shows you are not afraid to take control of your career.  

Even if you don’t think it went well, confidence goes a long way and is sometimes more important than how you answered that dreadful ‘give me an example of a weakness’ question.

You can also suggest that the interviewer please contact you should they have any further questions/clarifications. This shows you are collaborative and want them to have as much information about you as possible.  
If you think you did a terrible interview, don’t show it. Good interviewers can read body language.
Keep your head up, have a strong handshake and maintain eye contact.
Make sure you get a business card so you can email a thank you note. 
Marci Schnapp-Rafael, president of TeamQuest Systems Inc. also suggested the following actions to ensure you leave a positive lasting impression:
  • Leave behind examples of your work and positive evidence of what you have testified to during the interview
  • Stop talking and exit gracefully

She cautioned that sometimes job candidates unconsciously sabotage their job chances at the interview. Some of the actions she has seen include:
  • Leaving behind garbage like an empty Starbucks cup or water bottle. She adds, “Not that you should bring your own into the interview in the first place.”
  • Taking a call on your cell phone as you are walking out the door.
  • Continuing to talk or ask questions even after the interview has ended
  • Slamming the door, stomping feet or showing any signs of being emotionally upset.

The end of the interview is the final chance you have to make a good impression. 
Best of luck 🙂