Category Archives: Television

Pope Francis I and Learning to be a Remote Worker

The smoke was white this afternoon (evening in Rome) and Twitter was all aflutter with the news.  I scrambled to find the TV remote in the nightstand cause I was sitting on the bed at the time, reading articles online or writing or something.  I have no idea.  I couldn’t find the remote for a long time and was worried I’d miss the big reveal.  I forgot how long these things take, so I really had no reason to worry.  When I found the remote, it wouldn’t work.  Dead batteries.  I switched them out and then I watched a new Pontiff emerge on the balcony.  History was made.

pope-new-jorge-mario-bergoglio-argentina-conclave-chosen-cardinal__oPt

This whole scenario made me realize exactly how long it’s been since I turned on the TV in my bedroom.  When I tell people that I don’t watch TV, I mean that I don’t watch it ON the TV.  I am pretty much all about Netflix streaming these days, but occasionally some Hulu or iTunes.  I still haven’t seen the last 5 episodes of “30 Rock” and I am way behind on my absolute FAVE current TV show, “Community”.

I say all of this because I have officially been a remote worker for about 2 weeks, but unofficially for a bit longer.  I always thought remote workers, or more accurately, people who work from home (not Starbucks or a restaurant), would be able to multi-task and do their laundry and clean and watch TV and have it so easy compared to the office workers.  There are elements that are awesome, definitely, but all this multitasking hasn’t been one of them as yet.  I have to focus on my work.  I haven’t done any more laundry since I became a remote worker.  I haven’t watched TV during “working hours”, I haven’t been cleaning my house even during NON-working hours, and I have yet to get a single mani/pedi on company time.  I also haven’t put on pants today at all, which has been lovely, I won’t lie.

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I think this will feel more like a job-job when I get my office set up but that’s still a couple months away.  In the meantime, it feels like a lot of “playing” on the internet.  In my head I know that all the Twitter stuff is reading and compiling professional articles and it’s FOR work, but it doesn’t feel like WORK.  I think that’s the sign of a good fit at my job, ladies and gents.  The new has not worn off.

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That being said, I’m very aware of the fact that this remoteness could be TOO perfect for me.  Especially during times when I’m not in school, I could easily not interact much with the world.  I am not trying to have this blog turn into Diary of a Shut-in.  As someone diagnosed with anxiety and major depressive disorder, I have to work harder than others to be social.  Not to have fun; I always have fun once I get there.  The work is in leaving the house in the first place.  That’s only during episodes, which are few and far between, thankfully.  The latest one (which was more severe and longer-lasting than ever before) is winding down big time now that my job stress (and then joblessness stress) is gone.  Life is getting really good again.  I’ve been out with friends lately, old and new.  I’m very much looking forward to the upcoming SHRM Conference here in Baton Rouge, and I bought a Groupon for some Zumba classes!  I will NOT become a cave dweller 24/7.

In my family, we talk on the phone and email to stay close.  We have visits and reunions and the occasional road trip.  We go out to eat.  We do not do this.

In my family, we talk on the phone and email to stay close. We have visits and reunions and the occasional road trip. We go out to eat. We do not do this.

I know that with some people, the challenge to working remotely is in being productive and not screwing around.  For me the challenge will be not letting this take over my life and mental health.  So far it’s going really well, but if this starts to read like Diary of a Shut-in, someone holler at me!

BONUS Fun Friday – Fighting with the Scanner

As I cursed a brand new printer/scanner/copier this afternoon, along with all aspects of God and man…I was reminded of these.  When I later discovered that I had the scanner plugged in incorrectly, I knew I had to share my hubris and shame with all of you.

If I live a million years, these will never stop being funny and they will never stop being true.

Jimmy Fallon as Nick Burns: Your Company’s Computer Guy

nick-burns-computer-guy

http://vimeo.com/24762526 (guest Jennifer Aniston)

http://www.hulu.com/#!watch/276508 (guest Billy Bob Thornton)

http://vimeo.com/24762642 (guest Jackie Chan)

http://www.wannafork.com/humor_video_play.php?ID=312 (guest Jamie Foxx)

Enjoy!

-HRGF

Are You A Zombie? You May Need To Be Killed.

Zombies, zombies everywhere…and not a bite to eat.

Move over vampires.  Your glittery cheesiness will not cut it anymore (except for Buffy).  Nope, you’ve been replaced as the trendy monster du jour.  Zombies are the new thing.

zombie

They’re everywhere.  Unlike vampires though, zombies are REAL.  No, I’m not kidding and I’m not talking about the crazy bath salt zombie people either, though you should always be on the lookout for them.  Real zombies are easy to spot and, make no mistake about it, they are hunting for brains.  The worst part?  No one is safe.

bath-salts2

All zombies would be easy to spot if they wandered around in a bra and panties. I guess that’s just wishful thinking though.

Unlike in “The Walking Dead,” there is a cure.  They need to be killed.  It’s for their own good.  It will help them get back to normal.  I know because it happened to me.  I was a zombie and I got killed.

I’ll back up a sec and explain.  I became a zombie at my last job, the one I parted with most recently.  In my professional career, this job was the best thing that ever happened to me…both getting it and losing it.  When I first went to work for this company, they’d had a fire a while before and were in the process of designing and constructing what would turn out to be our fabulous new office building.  In the meantime, for the first 16 months that I worked there, it was out of a FEMA-style trailer set up to be an office. There were 3 ladies in the middle room, the office manager on one end in her own room, the HR manager on the other, and then they crammed me into her office.  It was NOT built for 2 people.

In this scenario, I'd be the big fella.

In this scenario, I’d be the big fella.

This could have been an absolute recipe for disaster, but a couple of things happened to make sure it wasn’t.  For the first seven weeks of this job, I was filling in for an employee out on medical leave in another department and was doing accounting type stuff.  I saw the HR manager daily, but for short bursts of time, so I didn’t immediately jump into being squished in this office with her every minute of every day right from the start.

Also, she was cool.  I was very lucky to be in an office with someone who, I flatter myself to think, was very similar to me.  She was funny, she was liberal (as am I if you haven’t noticed yet), and she was very straightforward.  When you are sitting so close to someone that you could high-five (or slap) them without getting out of your chair, it helps if you get along.

Ok, she wasn't THIS cool, but she was pretty close.

Ok, she wasn’t THIS cool, but she was pretty close.

Those close quarters were also miserable in some ways.  The bathroom was tinier than an airplane bathroom and bending down to pull up your pants could (and did) sometimes result in hitting your head on the sink.  We griped about the tight quarters a lot, but I didn’t realize until later how much it helped me learn about the company.  HR is often so insulated that it doesn’t matter if you work at a shoe factory, the zoo, or CNN.  Sexual harassment policies are the same, FMLA is the same, etc.  What the company “does” is largely irrelevant to HR unless it carries some special government or OSHA regulations.  Being in that trailer, though, was so enlightening.  You couldn’t help but hear everyone’s conversations with each other and on the phone.  I learned a lot about patience from the customer service lady who had to calmly explain to a woman that 50 lbs of our product did weigh the same as a 50 lb bag of potatoes (while we were all falling out around her laughing).  I saw all the duties of the office manager even though she was clear across the trailer, and I saw and heard EVERYTHING my boss did which was great because I admired her and wanted to model her skills, etc.  If any of us needed a REALLY private chat, we’d get our cell phones and go out to the parking lot.  There was no privacy but I absorbed so much new info.  It was exciting.

Then we moved into the new office.  For a while there, before the shine wore off, it was AMAZING.  So much space!  A full size computer monitor, not a teeny laptop!  I can play MUSIC IN MY OFFICE!  Woo Hoo!  Then the office politics started.  The upstairs people vs. the downstairs people.  The HR wing vs. customer service.  Little things got blown up into big, stupid, mean things…as is the way of every office in the whole wide world consisting of more than 2 people.  As we had more space and became more physically distant, we became more emotionally distant as well.  I hung out in my office, doing my work, getting really good/fast at it, and playing on the internet.

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Without everyone to socialize and laugh with, I got my work done a lot quicker.  I know that sounds like a good thing, right?  But I stopped learning.  We did the occasional cross-training but I was in my own office (something I’d always thought I wanted) and could no longer observe my boss as closely.  I was a hallway and a huge lobby away from the receptionist, customer service, and the office manager.  I had no idea what was going on with them.  I had my tasks, I got very good and efficient with them, and really no new projects came up…none that couldn’t have been done by a moderately-trained Labradoodle, that is.  I became a zombie, doing the same routine all the time…or new tasks that were not intellectually stimulating or challenging at all.

By the time I took that 4 weeks off for that neck/spinal surgery I’ve mentioned before, it was like nothing changed.  For starters, I trained people on what to do before I took off, but even the stuff they left for when I got back, though large and menacing stacks of work to them, took me maybe 3 partial days to complete.  I got a few obligatory “Wow, I had no idea how much Dominique was responsible for!” remarks when I returned, but after those 3 days I thought…”No, you don’t know how much Dominique is capable of.”  I was dead inside and I was on the hunt for brains…MY BRAINS.  That’s when I knew I had become a zombie.

the working dead

Here’s how you can tell if you’re an office zombie:

1. You finish your work almost every day by 2 p.m. and have to sit there counting the minutes till 5.  Even the internet gets boring sometimes.  You may develop calluses on your elbows from leaning on them.

2. You have time to wander the building talking to people, refilling the copier paper, watering the office plants, etc. because dear god you’ll do anything to get up from your freaking desk.

3. You have reorganized your office, obsessively labeled everything, and even cleaned up behind the janitor because DEAR GOD YOU’LL DO ANYTHING TO GET UP FROM YOUR FREAKING DESK!

4. You get excited when asked to participate in anything REMOTELY different…even if you know ahead of time that you will hate it.  A meeting?  Love to!  A presentation?  Can’t wait.  Lunch?  Are you f*#king kidding me?  LUNCH?!  Hell yes, I’ll do lunch!!  You want to run over my foot with a forklift?  Is it Christmas already?!  Go for it!  If there’s a lunch meeting with a presentation about forklifts, you just might climax.

Eventually I completely succumbed to the apathy I felt at work and they no doubt realized that.  When my boss left the company for a new opportunity, it was decided that HR should be outsourced and they didn’t need me anymore.  I can’t say I disagree one bit considering I could leave for weeks at a time without even a ripple.  It made good business sense for them, and I needed to be killed…my position, that is.

How_To_Kill_a_Zombie_T_Shirt_by_Micha811

Yes, I was worried about bills, etc. but searching for a job made me use my brain.  Instead of being routine, things were very uncertain.  I was forced to call upon friends, acquaintances and come up with creative ideas.  I started this blog and took to Twitter.  I took a couple of writing gigs.  I signed up to be poked and prodded at the Biomedical Research Dept of LSU to get some money (and ultimately didn’t qualify because of a Rx I’m taking), but still…thinking, thinking, thinking.  I spent some time with my family and eventually stumbled into something pretty amazing.  More details on that in next week’s Fun Friday.  I felt myself come back to life.  The uncertainty brought me back to life.  The zombie fog had lifted.

zombie_apocalypse_2012_rescue_team_apparel_1

Having survived my own Zombie Apocalypse in 2012, I am now on a mission to help others and spread the word.

As for the rest of you, be on the lookout for zombies.  If you are one, you might need to leave.  You might need to ask for more work.  You might need to do some online crosswords instead of reading about the Kardashian/Kanye baby.  You absolutely need a gel mat for your desk so you don’t get the elbow calluses.  Those hurt.  Do whatever you have to do to USE your brain instead of walking around like a reanimated corpse.  If you see a coworker in this state, give them more work.  Give them some crosswords or Sudoku.  Run over their foot with a forklift.  Whatever it takes.  Friends don’t let friends turn into zombies.  I would kill any of you if I had to.  I’m a giver.

Have a great weekend everybody!

-HRGF

“Duck Dynasty” or The Pros and Cons of HR in a Family Business with Guest Blogger Terri Kaye Beregi

Hi everyone!  I’m chatting today with my friend, and first guest blogger, Terri Kaye Beregi.  She and I used to work together at a family business and we both have a lot of experience in that unique realm.  Terri’s words are in BLUE.

First off…do you watch “Duck Dynasty” at all?  I’ve seen it a few times with my Dad and that’s what got me thinking about this post.  I know they do a lot specifically for the camera, but the safety violations ALONE on that show make me cringe.  They rode a canoe or something on an assembly line?  I can’t really remember but all I could think was, “It’s a good thing this is fake because if someone really did that and lost a hand or whatever, the paperwork would end that business.”

We LOVE “Duck Dynasty!”  Phil for President!  LOL

phil

Secondly, you and I have both worked at multiple family businesses over the years.  All of these companies are relatively small, right?  Both of mine were between 200 – 300 employees…and I’m not counting the skating rink when I was 15 because I was just the birthday party hostess, not HR.  Is that the same for you?

I’ve been all over the spectrum in size, attitude and degrees of respectability with regards to HR in the family business.  Of course there is our mutual experience and currently the company I work for holds 230 employees and 5 multi state locations. 

My PROS:

Everything is more personal.  You get to really know a lot of the employees and are able to help them in ways that you definitely couldn’t in a large corporate setting.  I’ve advised people on domestic violence intervention, low-cost prescription drug assistance, getting a passport…you name it.  By advised, I mean I Googled a few things, made some calls, and put the employee in touch with someone else, but I’m able to take 5 minutes out of my day to do that for people because I actually interact with them.  To some people I’m still the mean HR lady because that will never change, but to some of them…I’m their hero.

Agreed.  Statistically speaking we all know the benefits of making an employee feel invested in their company. This is one of the great examples where HR can be directly involved in that.  This is what I call the ‘touchy feely’ part, and it is way easier to get involved in this side of HR in a family setting as opposed to a corporate structure.  It allows HR to be really hands on in areas of assistance that may or may not deal with true HR items such as benefits and compensation.  Our family member bosses appreciate the effort to help the after school worker that lives 2 doors down from them complete financial aid paperwork and maybe, just maybe, that kid will go to school for something relevant to the company and remain a productive member of your business’s work force.  Win win!

Flexibility is always good.

Flexibility is always good.

More flexibility.  The owners are largely around more and you get to know them better and they understand a little more that you need to get to soccer practice on time, etc.

This is a huge benefit, especially to the family oriented, the college student or the caretaker of a sick parent.  As a mom of 3 this is extremely key to my life personally and I’ve seen it work for so many others in a family owned business where it would never be a possibility in the corporate world.  Again, invested employees are better employees and by working with someone’s situation both the business and the employee benefit.  If Jill isn’t stressed out all the time about getting little Johnny off the bus because the babysitter quit again, she’s going to be way more productive even if she has to leave at 2 instead of 5. Personally, I was once in a position that I had long since outgrown professionally but turned down more impressive job offers because the flexibility wasn’t there.  Yeah, it’s THAT big of a deal.   

Faster decision-making.  Things don’t have to go up an endless corporate ladder to be implemented.  You have an idea, you track down an owner, schedule a meeting and make a decision.  You don’t need 17 signatures and a committee to make it happen.

If there is one key person in charge, sure this could be the case.  However, more often I’ve seen this be a road block because there is only one person in charge or two people in charge who you can never get in the same room.  What I would like to interject here is maybe the ‘ask forgiveness not permission’ benefit.  I pretty much live by this in my current position because I can never get the top dogs to sit down for 5 minutes together to OK or veto something I need to do.  So, I go with my best option.  They will either love it or hate it but chances are I won’t lose my job over it.  In a corporate world, you’re more likely to be punished for making decisions on your own because the board meeting is 2 months away. 

open door

Open-door policies.  Most family companies are very good to their employees because they see the day-to-day work they’re doing and how their sweat is building a future for this family business.  They try to keep employees happy, so if you have a question or concern about something and your manager doesn’t adequately resolve it, you are free to go above their head.

Where this is most definitely a benefit to the employee, it could create HR nightmares.  When Manager Marty was enforcing a die-hard no cell phone policy when he disciplined Emily Employee she took it straight to President Paul.  President Paul buys Emily’s excuse/reason and assures her she shouldn’t worry about it and all is forgiven.  What she did not tell him is that she was driving the forklift unloading a pallet of bricks while talking on the cell phone and speeding!  What we’ve created now is a misinformed President, an undermined manager, and a smug employee who feels she got away with something and WILL do it again.  And who has to clean it up?  You, the HR Hero!

This is very true, especially with poor communication between Marty and Paul.  Ideally Paul would confer with Marty before telling Emily anything.  USUALLY the transparency and closeness of owners makes an open-door policy a good thing.  Not always.

My CONS:

T_GamblingAddiction

EVERYTHING is more personal.  The gossip increases tenfold, and so does the office politics. In a corporate environment when you hear Ted in accounting is getting a divorce because of his gambling addiction, you don’t care to listen to that or repeat it because you have no idea who Ted is and gambling addiction and divorce are sad.  At a smaller, family run company, everyone knows everyone and often, everything.  If you’re having a bad day and get a little terse with Sheila in the next office, you can apologize immediately but you can bet your life she’s already told 3 people, it will get to your supervisor, and she’ll hold that grudge for 2 weeks.

Most definitely true!  Even in a 230 person establishment, news…good or bad spreads like wildfire.  Once, it beat me across the parking lot! :)

Different HR ideas.  At a family business, the family has the final say and that’s that, whether you agree with it or not.  For example, I think that when an employee is caught stealing, they should be fired.  This is a clear violation of policies, it ruins morale because people will know he was caught and NOT FIRED if that’s the case, and stealing is illegal.  If the owner decides to be charitable and keep _____ around and just “keep a closer eye on him” then you just have to suck it up and deal with it.

In my earlier HR years I struggled with this immensely.  I mean, your employer hired you as a resident ‘expert’ in the field of HR.  Not that you are the ‘end all be all’ of course, but in this organization among this group of people you are expected to be the most knowledgeable in this field.  They realized they were to a point where HR was important enough to hire someone to handle it so they should be on board with this method of thinking, right? Wrong! And sometimes that’s hard to swallow.  I’ve learned to come to the meetings prepared and give them the most informed opinion why something should or should not be done.  Then, most importantly, I’ve learned that they may or may not take my advice and I’m ok with that (for the most part).  At the end of the day, their name is on the sign and the paychecks.  I had to come to a hard realization that even though I knew what I was talking about and had HR law to back me up, ultimately they had the deciding vote because it’s their money and their potential lawsuit to risk.

I will also say that this gets better with age and practical experience.  Even though I was the highest HR authority in an organization at 23 years old – to the 73-year-old President – I was still a baby, wet behind the ears even with a 4 year degree and a few years of practical work experience under my belt.  I could hold my own in a meeting but the moment someone mentioned how young I was even in casual water cooler conversation, I think I lost some credibility.  Like with anything else, you become more respected and trusted the longer you’ve worked in a particular field.  Now, still the youngest of Department Heads in my organization, I have many more years of practical experiences to back my opinion and I typically meet less resistance.

no

It’s a word you’ll hear a lot.

Resistance to change.  Their payroll, inventory, or accounting software is way out of date.  You know of a much better one that would help speed things up so much.  They won’t do it.  The reasons run the gamut from “too expensive”, “too risky”, “what we have is working”, etc…but the bottom line is, they won’t do it.

Policies, equipment, procedures need to evolve.  But it’s a hard thing to get accomplished for the reasons you list above.  What I’ve found is that they will eventually come around if they see examples of the benefits of doing such…or if they get pissed off enough about something!  Employees clocking each other in?  Get a biometric time-keeping system (finger/hand scanner). Too expensive?  Show them the 10 hours of overtime on Jim’s timesheet when we know for a fact he left early at least 3 days last week.  One department’s color printer is out and they are walking clear across the parking lot all day long to use another one.   Can we get them a new $$$ printer? No.  Note the amount of time it takes Denise and Michelle to do this and show the owners just how much time is wasted in productivity.  They could recoup that $$$ printer cost in no time.  It just takes a little bit more effort and probably a lot more time to prove your point here in a personal, family setting than in an impersonal, $ driven corporate setting.  But the benefits of making a move are hard to deny in black and white.  Oh, and you have to pick your battles.  Note: You WILL NOT win them all! 

Little to no room for advancement.  You aren’t family and you never will be.  You won’t be made partner, ever.  If you’re the highest person in your department right now, congrats.  You’ve summited Everest.  It’s all downhill from here.

HR is usually the last department an organization thinks they need.  Let’s face it…HR is largely viewed as a necessary evil.  All this department does is put out money on things like benefits, payroll, safety equipment and the Christmas party for goodness sakes!   At first, it’s a handful of people, they either are all family or friends of the family.  No major HR problems and payroll is a breeze.  10 years down the road they have 100+ employees, unsafe work practices all over the place, and the employees want benefits and a 401k!  They need help and hire you.  For a long time you will probably be the only person in the HR department.  You’ll be both the VP of HR and the grunt.  (I love this line!  So true! – HRGF)  Maybe eventually you’ll get to hire some help.  Yay!  But Dominique’s right, there is nowhere else for you to go.  If one is lucky enough to get on board with owners who see that the position evolves and see that you’ve done a lot with the department, monetarily you will surely benefit the longer you are with the company.  But your position is what it is and you will not ever be the deciding vote in an owners meeting.  The family will.     

Slower decision-making.  Yes, it’s great that we don’t need 17 people to sign off and form a committee before we implement this policy but if the owner is the only one who can OK this and he’s out of town for 2 weeks, it sits for 2 weeks.  If she doesn’t prioritize HR and puts you last on her to-do-list every day, then finding her and getting her signature can take a while.  If she just wants to mull it over for a while and takes forever to make a decision, then forever we wait.

Insert ‘ask forgiveness not permission’ statement here!  In a family business you will wait for answers on items that you deem to be extremely important, mainly because the family members probably won’t view them as important.  Also, because HR is not the ‘production’ side of things so it usually takes a back seat to how many widgets they can produce in one day.  Shocker….we are not always viewed as the most important piece of the puzzle!  (I will not go off into a rant of how without HR there would be no people to make the widgets, thus no widgets to sell, therefore no money to earn and no business to speak of!) 

At one point in time, when I was in a particular unsatisfying position with a family company, I had thought family business was not for me.  It was too ‘willy-nilly’ in regards to policies and how they were interpreted for different people and circumstances.  I needed a black-and-white-no-grey-area corporation so that I could successfully function in an HR capacity.  I was wrong.  That particular family, although wonderful people, had made it hard for me to do my job effectively because of how they viewed HR and its role in a corporation.  When I spoke with the family company that I’m with now, I finally realized what was key: how an employer viewed HR’s role as a whole within the company structure.

Do I make less money in a family business than I would in a corporate setting? Definitely.  Do I run into all the cons listed above? Sure.  But I also reap all the benefits listed as well. The family owned company that I work with today allows me flexibility as an employee, values my opinion as an HR director and I’m allowed the authority to do what needs to be done in any given situation.  I know that working with a family organization is definitely not for everyone.  Many people could not deal with the idiosyncrasies involved.  However at least in my own situation, at the end of the day, it’s a good place to be.   

Thank you so much for chatting with me and being my first guest blogger, TKB!  I loved everything you added.  Working at a family business can be frustrating but it is also incredibly rewarding!

-HRGF

terri kaye

Terri Kaye Beregi graduated from Southeastern Louisiana University with a degree in Business Management with a Concentration in HR.  She has been an HR Manager in the Baton Rouge area for over ten years and is currently HR Director of a multi-million dollar family business.  She is also a semi-professional photographer.  Her terrific work can be seen at http://www.photosbytk.com/.  She has a wonderful husband and three gorgeous children: Elizabeth, 9, Jackson, 6, and Tate, 4 months.  She’s a dog person and does not enjoy ANY flavors of Pop Tarts.  (I’m sorry, you guys.  I have to get a better screening process.  I didn’t find out that Pop Tart thing till this was finished, I swear.)

“Duck Dynasty” and associated images are owned by A&E.

Duck Dynasty – This One’s For You, Dad

Very quick post…busy studying for big exam later this week!

Ain't that the truth!

Ain’t that the truth!

I was emailing back and forth with my dad this morning and told him how the blog hits exploded this weekend after the #Buffy posts were added to #Reddit.  Thank you, Reddit community!  I joked and told him I’d have to figure out a way to work Star Trek and Dr. Who into my posts somehow.  He responded, “Duck Dynasty is the biggest show now.”  I laughed because that was not exactly the direction I saw this blog going.

ducks

But then it got me thinking…about HR at a family business.  I’ve worked at 2 family businesses over the years and their HR is very different than corporate HR.  I think Dad may have inadvertently inspired a post this morning…I’ll try to have it completed within a few days.

I think I may do this as a regular thing: incorporate my love of television and HR into a monthly special TV post or something.

I really do love TV.  People who say they don't watch TV are liars and cannot be trusted.

I really do love TV. People who say they don’t watch TV are liars and cannot be trusted.

What do we think of this idea?  Love it or hate it?  What shows would you like to see discussed in an HR capacity?  I prefer scripted shows to reality shows, but here I am talking about Duck Dynasty, so who knows?  Keep in mind: The first one of you that says “Toddlers & Tiaras” or “Honey Boo Boo” is getting blocked, immediately.

“Duck Dynasty” and associated images are owned by A&E.

8 Lessons I Learned about Life & HR from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” – (Part Two)

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If you’ll recall from Part One, we were discussing things I learned from watching Buffy during my very own 1968 Summer of Drugs.  If you read part one early on, please revisit.  It’s been upgraded from 6 lessons to 8.  If you didn’t read part one and now think I’m a crackhead for that Summer of Drugs remark, please read part one for the explanation.  Now, back to the lessons:

Scooby Gang

Scooby Gang minus Cordelia and Angel after they left for spinoff

5. Quit your whining and get it done.

Buffy, at times, had to do some things that were incredibly unpleasant.  Killing slimy demons, saving the world over and over again, and constantly putting herself in danger.  She didn’t ever focus on that though, she just did what she had to do.  She DIED TWICE (again, there’s an explanation but I won’t spoil it) and murdered her vampire lover/soulmate in order to keep a statue from sucking the whole world into hell.  She didn’t love it, but she did get it done.  (And don’t anyone gripe about the killing Angel being a spoiler.  The man came back and had his own spinoff for 5 years.  He’s obviously ok.)

buffy tombstone

In my capacity as “HR”, I have done actual HR work, plumbing, counseling, laundry, cashiering, coordinated food, blood and school supply drives, and handed out about 750 fried Thanksgiving turkeys.  In one office, made up of 99% ladies, no one besides me knew how to use a plunger, yet they found themselves frequently in need of one and I had the honor.  Did none of these ladies ever live by themselves or in a dorm?  You learn these things there.  Did I want to make fun of them?  Hell yes.  It’s not the XR17 Laser Freeze Ray, it’s a stick with a piece of rubber on the end!  COME ON!  Was it the best use of my time and salary?  No.  Is the time to point that out when someone has to pee and the toilet is clogged?  No.  Get it done.

Another time, as part of a minor dispute with a uniform company, I had to sort and count and label all the uniforms of everyone in a factory.  About 60 employees, each with 11 shirts and 11 pairs of pants.  That’s 1320 pieces of (mostly dirty) laundry.  That was not my best day on the job, but I got it done.  As much as it’s true that you never know what’s walking in the door (see Lesson #1), you also never know what task you’ll have to do.  Just do it.  “That’s not my job.” is not something you ever want to hear from an employee, so you shouldn’t say it either.

6a. (Mostly) Identical Problems Sometimes Require  Vastly Different Solutions.  Context matters. 

Pretty much everything will die if you cut its head off, right?  Not in the demon world.  Some creatures can only be killed by stabbing them in their eyes, like Gnarl.  Some have to be killed with a weapon made of silver, like Fyarl demons.  Some of the scariest demons Buffy ever fought were called “The Gentlemen” and they took everyone’s voices away so they could cut out their victims’ hearts without anyone screaming.  But they didn’t just silence the victims, they stole all the voices in Sunnydale.  They could only be defeated once Buffy found the box containing the spell to capture voices, destroyed it, and then screamed really loudly.  It was way scarier than I’m making it sound here, trust me.

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The smiling is what made them scary.

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A Fyarl demon. And oh, by the way, it’s actually Giles, Buffy’s Watcher, who has been the victim of a spell. Context matters.

Sometimes, an employee is underperforming because they don’t feel well.  Other times they are undergoing a divorce, domestic violence, depression or they’re worried about a sick child or parent.  And yes, sometimes they are lazy and horrible and should never have been hired in the first place.  Your actions in HR will depend upon this context.  The identical problems of underperforming employees will have different solutions.

6b. Just Because a Solution Worked Once Doesn’t Mean You Should Always Return To It 

Just because I repaired my own VCR that one time with a knife, a fork, and kitchen tongs doesn’t mean I’d do it again.  A) I don’t own a VCR anymore and B) that small shock wasn’t as invigorating as I told everyone at the time.  The feeling of accomplishment I had that one day was good enough.  I don’t need to do it again.  Change can be good.  Looking for new and better ways to solve problems, once you’ve got the proper context, will keep you efficient and aware.

7. Share Your Power

For a while there, Buffy was the chosen ONE…the only Slayer in the world, with all that responsibility heaped upon her young and slim shoulders.  That’s a lot for one person.  Then, through a few loopholes and technicalities, there were two.  But one died, and the other went bad, so really Buffy was still the only real Slayer.  In the end though, Buffy decided to share her power.  She used a magic spell from Willow to break with convention and activate all the potential Slayers in the world.  Not only did it help her defeat her biggest enemy by having other warriors to depend on, it empowered them to do their best and got them even more engaged in the battle.  (That one WAS kinda spoilery, but whatever.  The show’s been off the air for 10 years.  You’ll live.)

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Willow doing the “Make More Slayers” spell.

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“Everybody ready? KILL on 3! 1, 2…”

The best boss I’ve ever had, so far, had a saying that I loved.  “This won’t be part of your job, but in case I get hit by a bus, here’s how you do _____.”  It was great.  I loved that she trusted me enough to show me some of her tasks.  She was the boss, so they had to be more important and a step up from what I was doing, right?  This statement could also be amended to:  This won’t be a REGULAR part of your job, but I’m (going on vacation, having surgery, moving into BioSphere) so, here’s how you do _____.  I’m a huge fan of cross-training.  Teaching people more skills means you have a smarter pool of resources to draw from and makes employees feel more valuable and engaged.

The worst co-worker I’ve ever had thought she could create job security by being the ONLY ONE who knew how to do _____.  You’re not in charge of the nuclear football, woman.  It’s inventory, insurance, accounting, recipes, whatever.  Get over yourself.  You don’t become more valuable that way, you become a risk!  What if you get hit by that bus?  NO ONE is indispensable and not sharing your skills or being willing to learn the work of others is a surefire way to show you don’t believe in teamwork.  Instead of job security, you know what she created?  A bunch of people calling her a very mean word behind her back.  And she’s since been fired.

LASTLY, AND MOST IMPORTANTLY:

8. Find a Network of Supportive People and Keep In Touch With Them Always

Scooby Core

Scooby Core

I debated between number 7 or 8 as the most important and final lesson…that’s how much I believe in cross-training!  But ultimately, in Buffy and life…it’s important to have people to learn from, to vent to, and who will take you for a drink on the day you get a promotion, get fired, or send out a 911 because you’re getting ready to kill your boss and nothing but a martini and one of Spike’s fried onion blossoms will stop you.

Buffy had the Scooby Gang.  The core was Willow, Xander and Giles, of course, but she also relied on Joyce, Angel (when he wasn’t bad), Tara (when she wasn’t crazy), Cordelia, Anya (when she wasn’t bad), Faith (when she wasn’t bad), Riley, Oz (when he wasn’t a werewolf), Willy the Snitch, Dawn, Clem, and my personal favorite combination…Spike and Andrew (when they weren’t bad). That previous sentence alone should make you want to watch this show if you haven’t seen it yet.

Other Slayers were isolated and kept their identities a strict secret.  Buffy tried a little at first, but then she realized that wasn’t feasible and embraced her group.  She had people to take her out and celebrate her birthdays, which almost always led to death and disaster…another running Buffy joke.  She had people to gripe to when she had a bad day and she had people to literally meld with to make herself stronger.  (It’s a thing from Season 4.  Just watch.)  Buffy was the most successful Slayer because she had a support network.

Spike and Clem

Clem and Spike

Anya and Cordelia - Bitches Unite!

Anya and Cordelia – Bitches Unite!

Yeah, I suppose I could have chosen a different picture of Angel, but why on Earth would I when THIS ONE is available?!  You're welcome ladies (and gents)!

Yeah, I suppose I could have chosen a different picture of Angel, but why on Earth would I when THIS ONE is available?! You’re welcome ladies (and gents)!

A few of my best friends are also in HR, so they understand and help me when I have questions about policies, laws and best practices.  They understand that when an applicant writes under the felony question, “Spank my child & in-laws was being hateful!” that this demands to be scanned so I can look at it and laugh when I’m having a bad day.  They also understand when I tell them that an employee brought me a receipt for his genital warts treatment and though I knew I couldn’t catch it, I still went around my office with a Clorox wipe and cleaned every surface after he left.  Most importantly though, these friends do NOT work at my same office or company, so when I gripe about Larry in accounting forgetting to pay the insurance invoice or Helen in marketing spending her whole day knitting at her desk like we can’t see her…they don’t know these people.  They aren’t friends with them.  I can gripe all I want and they love it.  They do it too.

A few of my other best friends, and all my family, are NOT in HR and that’s important too.  You need people who will take you out of this realm from time to time.  You can’t be focused on everyone else’s problems constantly or it will drive you crazy…she said, glancing at her Rx anxiety medication on the nightstand.  Really.  It’s important to take off your HR hat and focus on yourself and your life and your friends and family.  Have some people you can vent to; have others who will tell you to shut the hell up.  Everyone needs to shut the hell up sometimes.

Here endeth the lessons.  :-[

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Ok gang…what did I miss?  What has Buffy taught you?  Are you a Spike or Angel devotee?  Did you love Cordelia and Anya as much as I did?  Do you think these lessons apply to other professions besides HR?  Hit me up in the comments with your thoughts!

All image credits to Joss Whedon and Warner Brothers Studios.

8 Lessons I Learned about Life & HR from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” – (Part One)

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The summer of 2011 was uncomfortable.  I ruptured 2 discs in my neck, had a double spinal fusion, and spent 4 weeks out of town, at home with my family, recovering.  Louisiana from mid-July to mid-August is NEVER pleasant, but the summer of 2011 was particularly bad.  The temp gauge on the car routinely said 115 degrees and I was wearing a neck brace 24/7.  To get an accurate picture of this, imagine that someone has just cracked a dozen baseball bats over the back of your shoulders.  Then put on your tightest, warmest, itchiest scarf and crawl into a sauna.  Stay there for 4 weeks.  It was unpleasant.  Thank heavens for Netflix and Buffy the Vampire Slayer!

Imagine this, with less cool pajamas, plus a neck brace...for a month.

Imagine this, with less cool pajamas, plus a neck brace…for a month.

During the 4 weeks I was home and largely stoned on Lortab and Valium, I watched all 7 seasons of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” on Netflix and I’ve been hooked ever since.  On Buffy, not the Lortab or Valium.  It was in this Buffy-drug haze that I decided to go back to school and finally finish my degree.  I had long been thinking that payroll and HR was something to do…until.  Until what?  I did not know, but I definitely wasn’t going to do this forever.  I was meant for much more important and interesting things.

Then Buffy showed me that HR could be every bit as badass and entertaining as any other profession.  I didn’t choose HR…I fell into it, and now I’m kind of glad.  I had to tweak my perception and my attitude a little, but once I did, the decision to stay in HR has felt totally right.

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The Badass Herself

Here’s what I learned:

1. In life and HR, you absolutely never know what is going to walk through the door.

It was called “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” but she fought way more than just vampires.  There were lots of other types of demons, gods, robots, evil humans and she even went to war against the concept of evil itself.  The show got pretty deep sometimes.  Hell, for the first four seasons, Buffy was an only child.  Then at the beginning of season 5, up popped a 14-year-old little sis that everyone knew and who’d been around the whole time. (There is an explanation but I won’t spoil it.)  Buffy got pretty good at expecting the unexpected.

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A Chaos Demon. They actually aren’t that mean, but they WILL steal your demon girlfriend.

This is the sister.  She's a brat.

This is the sister. She’s a brat.

I once had a guy come into my office after being terminated and ask to speak to my boss.  He’d called a few times and I assumed he’d apologize and beg for his job back and she’d turn him down and we’d move on.  Nope.  When the boss came out to talk to him, he said “I know you have an opening because my cousin _______ was just determinated from here.  Can I have his job?”  He looked us straight in the face and pretended to be his own cousin.  Are you kidding me with this?

At another job a long time ago where I was working as a cashier, I handed a lady back her change and she went completely white.  (She was black to begin with, by the way.)  She got goosebumps all up and down her arms and refused to let go of my hand.  She leaned in very close and told me she’d had a dream about me the night before and that God wanted me to follow the white rope.  She’d been sent to put me on my path.  She was absolutely serious and I was absolutely stunned.  What on earth can you say to that except “Go away, you’re making me uncomfortable.”?!  I didn’t say that but I absolutely thought it.

2a. Everyone makes mistakes.  Admit it.  Correct it.  Learn from it. 

Shame on You

Shame on You

2b. THEN MOVE ON AND DON’T LOOK BACK.

In the Buffy pilot, Buffy is new to her school and befriends a group of three students: Willow, Xander and Jesse (played by Eric Balfour).  Presumably these 3 have been friends a good long while.  Jesse is turned into a vampire and Willow and Xander are very upset about it.  Then his vampire self is killed, they immediately get over it and HE IS NEVER MENTIONED ON THE SHOW AGAIN.  It’s become kind of a joke among Buffy fans that one of their best friends dies and they barely give a damn.  But, clearly someone decided that Eric Balfour was right up there with Keanu Reeves in terms of annoyance and they fixed that mistake but quick.  And they did not look back even once.

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Bye Bye, Eric! Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. Sorry, not sorry.

I’ve been accused of throwing myself under the bus sometimes.  Not wanting to blame others and appear petty, I take the blame myself.  Or if something goes wrong I just assume it was my fault because I was doing something new, etc.  Or I keep thinking about mistakes I’ve made long after everyone else is over it.  I’m going to stop doing that.  That’s self-centered and gives no one any grief but me.  I don’t flip out and stay angry when others make mistakes at work; why would I assume they’d do so about me?

3. No one knows everything.  Be prepared to research.  Though Buffy had a Watcher named Giles (sort of a mentor) who had been trained his entire life to be a Watcher, they came up against a surprising amount of demons they couldn’t identify.  They positively LIVED in the library, then the magic shop, with their heads buried in books to find info on the latest meanie who’d burst into town.  Research is good.

This is Giles, Buffy's mentor.  He's British, he's brilliant, he's sexy in kind of an adorable dorky way and he can totally kick your ass.

This is Giles, Buffy’s mentor. He’s British, he’s brilliant, he’s sexy in kind of an adorable dorky way and he can totally kick your ass.

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The gang in the library.

I used to think that I wasn’t qualified enough to do HR because I’m not an expert on FMLA, ERISA, COBRA, PPOs, HRAs, FLSA, ADA, EEOC, blah blah, acronym acronym.  You know what?  No one else is either.  Everyone has their fave topics of study and areas of knowledge, of course.  But things come up that are outside the purview of everyone’s expertise from time to time.  Laws change constantly.  Research is required all the time.  Even the experts consult experts.

IT IS NEVER AS IMPORTANT TO HAVE ALL THE KNOWLEDGE AS IT IS TO KNOW WHERE TO GET THE KNOWLEDGE, WHEN YOU NEED IT.

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4. You can never have enough weapons in your arsenal.

One of the best things about Buffy, in my opinion, was that she didn’t rely on guns.  She relied on her own physical strength, fighting skills, and hand-to-hand weaponry like stakes, axes, swords and a baseball bat with a hook on the back of it that I never really understood.  Bet it would stink getting beaten with it though, so yeah…good weapon.  She also had friends who were witches, used “good” vampires to help her fight, and sometimes hung out at the local demon bar for info.  She relied on these old standards usually, but when the situation called for it…my girl whipped out a rocket-launcher or a homemade volcano.  Also one time a magic necklace, but…yeah, a rocket-launcher!

BuffyRocketLauncher

I’ve learned in life AND HR to use all the tools available to me when I need them.  Research, friends, family members, mentors, etc…all make great resources for different situations.  For example, I needed to de-clutter my apartment and though I can absolutely help others with such tasks (and do, pretty frequently), when it came to my own apartment, I’d get overwhelmed and need a nap just from thinking about it.  I created a Facebook event and invited my most OCD buddies over and we de-cluttered the hell out of this place.  For the cost of some vodka and a few snacks, I got hours of free labor from people who LOVED getting rid of my junk!

Just yesterday, a graphic artist from Starkville, MS followed me on Twitter.  I asked for some help tweaking my logo cause the one I designed online myself using a cheesy website was a little static and unpolished.  You know what?  He wrote me back and fixed my logo!  (He even changed it to LSU colors even though he lives in Starkville!  SEC Rivals!)  I had a need.  A new weapon became available to me and I used it…with fabulous results!

Get ready for new logo later this weekend & stay tuned for Part 2 on Saturday, containing lessons 5, 6, 7 and 8!  In the meantime, go watch some Buffy on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon.  The Jesse thing isn’t a big spoiler, I promise!

to be continued

All image credits to Joss Whedon and Warner Brothers Studios.