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March 2011

Maybe Being Snarky With the CEO is GOOD for Business...And That Fledging Enterprise You Call a Career...

Capitalist Note - I'm re-running this post for a couple of reasons: 1) I was reminded last week that hard emails generally have neutral to negative results (suggesting maybe you ought to coach face-to-face), 2) I just love Andreessen's response to the barb (F-you, signed - your CEO), and 3) My partner at Kinetix (Shannon Russo) reminded me last week that the minion who got snarky with Andreessen is now a partner with MA in a Venture Capital firm called .. you guessed it...Andreessen-Horowitz (who is a commenter also addressed for me last year).

Should you get snarky with the CEO via email?  I would seem a high risk/high return proposition....


I'm Gen X, which means I'm...ahem...maturing...

One of the things I've learned?  Email wars don't really benefit anyone.  I know, I know, you're right about your issue.  No one cares, especially if you start heaving email barbs around Outlooksphere.  Especially if you try to call out those who outrank you, even with a veiled barb.

Case in point, this direct report of Marc Andreessen, who thought he had the high ground, as reported inMarc_andreessen_03 Fortune:

"Ben Horowitz was toiling as an unheralded product strategist at Netscape Communications when he opened a scathing e-mail from his boss, Marc Andreessen. It was the winter of 1996; Netscape's public offering, several months earlier, had ignited the dotcom craze, and co-founder Andreessen had just appeared on Time's cover, sitting on a throne, feet bare -- the very portrait of a cocky 24-year-old tech wunderkind.

But Horowitz was irked to learn that Andreessen had leaked news to a trade publication about an upcoming software release Horowitz's team had been working on. So Horowitz sent the Netscape co-founder a note that simply said, "I guess we're not going to wait until March 7" -- the date of the planned announcement.

The blast back from Andreessen: "We are getting killed killed killed by Microsoft! You're destroying the value of the company and it's 100% server product management's fault. I'm just trying to help. Next time, do the f***ing interview yourself. F*** you. Marc."

Hello... Questions?  No one wins in email wars, except maybe those who have so much power they can tell you that without fear of reprisal.

Thinking about sending the email?  Don't.  Just Don't....


or maybe you should.... KD

Did Charlie Sheen Make Narcissistic Employee Behavior More Tolerable?

The workplace follows society.  What's acceptable in the world becomes acceptable at work over time. Don't believe me?  Check out a little piece of legislation called Title 7.  

I rest my case.  It's a magnetic pull that can't be denied.

But how far does that go?  Paul Hebert recently highlighted an article from NPR that suggested the Charlie Sheen saga is going to make us more tolerable of...well... little Charlie Sheens running around the Charlie-sheen-jail_0 workplace.  More From NPR:

"We are fascinated with Sheen because he is us — or, rather, he is what some of us already are and will be. Celebrities, for all their outlandish behavior, are often the bellwethers for what is next for the rest of us. Even as we tut-tut-tut about it, we are all taking notes.

What about the over-the-top, crazy-expensive weddings? Those used to be the exclusive province of royalty and the very rich. Now, as any advice columnist or wedding planner will tell you, they are considered almost the birthright of the children of the middle class. Ditto designer clothing and cosmetic surgery — and, yes, the quickie divorce.  While divorce remains emotionally traumatic, it is no longer the expensive and protracted proposition that probably kept many families at least legally intact, even if the emotional ties were broken." 

All those examples started with the rich and famous.  Those examples got covered over time by the press, and gradually they seeped into society, and as a function of society, the workplace.  Everyone started thinking it was OK.  Freedom that's a part of America probably has something to do with that acceptance as well.

But what does Charlie Sheen mean to the workplace?  The NPR article points not to Charlie, but to a long held standard of great results buying a behavioral outlier that I'll call "space":

"And I know this: He is not the first and will not be the last person to want to tell his boss to stuff it. He will not, in these times when loyalty to employees is nonexistent, be the last to point out inconveniently that however much he is being paid, his bosses are making that much more from the fruits of his labor. He will not be the last to believe, as many people seem to think in many other fields of endeavor, that he can do whatever he wants — sexually, financially, to other people's retirement accounts — as long as he is bringing in the cash. And while I personally don't think his behavior is healthy for his five kids to witness, is it any worse than seeing your parents humiliated by long-term unemployment? But a million people aren't tweeting about that, are they?"

So, it's not about being Charlie Sheen, it's about what you already know:  It's about the rope that you buy when you're among the best in your field or company.  It's about the No-Asshole Rule that Bob Sutton first penned.  

Will seeing the Charlie Sheen saga in so much detail make us more tolerant of a--holes in the workplace?  Read Paul's comments on this, because he rightfully thinks that you and I, as HR pros, are responsible to flush these types out of the organization.  I get that and agree with that.

But high-performing employeees increasing crazy behavior as a result of seeing Sheen's on demand video performances?  I doubt it.  Even if it happens, in most organizations, the outlandish behavior makes determining an employment call easier. 

The hard stuff?  That will remain determining when to make a move on a high performer who is negative to the organization in much more discreet ways.  

That's what you're dealing with today.  It's going to remain harder than making a call on Sheen.

Hard to make those calls?  You're not bi-polar, you're bi-WINNING.

PREACH IT: A Home Without Equity is Just a Rental With Debt....

Michael Lewis is a great writer.  Be a better HR Pro by reading his classics, which include Moneyball and The New, New Thing.  His latest is The Big Short, which chronicles the Wall Street culture that led to the stock The-Big-Short market crash of 2008.  

As with most things business-related, the talent and HR quotes are everywhere in this book.  Here's a great one from an investment banker named Greg Lippman:

"Senior management's job is to pay people.  If they #@## a hundred guys out of a hundred grand each, that's ten million more for them. They have four categories: happy, satisfied, dissatisfied and disgusted.  If they hit happy, they've screwed up: They never want you happy.  On the other hand, they don't want you so disgusted you quit.  The sweet spot is somewhere between dissatisfied and disgusted."

Need another happy quote from The Big Short on a Friday?  How about this:

"A home without equity is just a rental with debt".

Word to your mother.  Try to stay somewhere between happy and satisfied next week, suckers...

But read the book.  Those aren't Lewis quotes, he's simply reporting.  He's money.

HR Capitalist/FOT Webinar This Thursday: The 5 Faces Managers See During Performance Reviews...

Hey Kids - This month, Halogen is teaming up with both Kris Dunn and Tim Sackett from Fistful of Talent for a webinar on how to help your HR team and managers bridge the perception gap between how a manager thinks the employee is doing and how the employee actually perceives their own performance.

Think about that. Mind-bending, isn’t it?

On March 24th, Kris and Tim will break it all down for you and cover:

  • A comprehensive breakdown of the five most common faces managers will see in Performance Reviews - including the Starthe Divathe Deflectorthe 9 to 5 and the Upwardly Mobile.
  • How to identify each of the faces across individuals in your organization and team.
  • The unspoken realities you have to address as an organization to make sure each face is engaged from a performance perspective.
  • A rundown of survival strategies to engage each of the five faces and get what you need - both out of a performance conversation and through higher performance moving forward.

Don’t miss this street smart session designed to help your managers cut through the smoke and get to what’s real related to performance management. 

This session is covered by the Fistful of Talent guarantee: 60% of the time it works every timePromise.

Join Kris, Tim and Halogen:

  • Date: March 24, 2011
  • Time: 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. ET
  • Join us: Register now

What To Do When A Manager Won't Stop Talking During An Interview...

“If you’re a candidate and the hiring manager spends 45 minutes talking about himself, the company or his Harley, let him. He’s going to come out of the interview saying you’re a great candidate.”  Kris Dunn, chief human resources officer at Atlanta-based Kinetix, who blogs at hrcapitalist.com

That's what I told the always sexy Reader's Digest as part of a series entitled "What HR People Won't Tell You About the Job Interview".  Click it to see more "secret advice"...

I have to say - I'm shocked by the reach that Reader's Digest still has - lots of emails coming in off that 50 word blurb...

PS - if you're an HR pro and you have hiring managers who do all the talking during interviews, the best thing you can do is tape them as part of training to make them aware of the trend, then repeatedly tape them until they're no longer domineering the conversation.  They've got to see it in order to begin correcting it...

Why Twitter (and your company) Would Leave the City for the Suburbs...

Why is Twitter thinking about leaving San Francisco proper for the (shudder) suburbs?  Twitter is the epicenter of cool.  They belong in SOMA, right?

Right.  Until you start doing the math.

Twitter is thinking about moving to the suburbs for one reason.  Stupid payroll taxes that San Francisco put in place because they thought they could.  Other cities, like my own Birmingham, have done the same thing.  Then they complain about the flight to the suburbs.

Note to San Franciso and any other city with these types of taxes.  Like Ice-T once said, "You played yourself".  More on the potential move from Business Insider:

"Twitter will be hit with $35 million in city payroll taxes over the next six years if it stays in San Francisco -- and that's only if the city enacts a tax break. The bill will be tens of millions of dollars higher without the break.  

Worse yet, Twitter will have to move to a blighted area of town and spend about $30 million on renovations just to get the tax break at all. The estimates come from a new report by the San Francisco Controller's office, which supports establishing a new economic development zone southwest of downtown. The main benefit of the zone would be the temporary exemption of stock options from the city's 1.5% payroll tax. 

This tax is San Francisco's second-biggest source of revenue, and contributed $345 million to city coffers last year. But as TechCrunch has reported extensively, no other city in the world has this kind of tax, and it could cost pre-IPO companies located in the city -- like Twitter and Zynga -- tens of millions of dollars when employees exercise their options."

When I was a part of the DAXKO team, our CEO (David Gray) was shopping a new headquarters in Birmingham.  He wanted to show support for the city by locating in a hip area off downtown.  The move, without any proactive adjustments, would have been the equivalent of a pay DECREASE for all our team members due to the unbelievable payroll/occupational taxes that exist within the traditional city limits.

The city of Birmingham is lucky to have folks like David Gray as corporate citizens, who believe in the city and want to show support through the location of their businesses.  That deal ultimately fell through due to property availability and development issues, but you have to ask yourself - why would the city have the taxes in place and then bemoan the flight of the most successful startups to the suburbs?

Answer - because they can and don't have any other revenue ideas.  They'd rather tax the hell out of the utility workers who won't be going anywhere than think about development and retention of the smaller fish.

Good luck Twitter - See you in San Mateo or on Sand Hill Road (see below) in 2013...

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Candidate to Generic Recruiters With No Game: "If You Suck, I Won't Be Replying"...

Last week, I ran a tongue-in-cheek post called "The Most Honest System-Generated Rejection Letter Ever"... It was designed to be truthful and direct, to say what needed to be said to candidates getting a rejection note from an employer who likely never even looked at their resume - thanks to the magic of keyword matching.

As luck would have it, a reader I'll call "Jake" saw my rejection letter and emailed me the following - a perfect auto-response from a candidate who is so sick of lame recruiters calling him without knowing the basics of what he does for a living and what he's looking for, that he's giving them the following rundown - which basically tells them they've already committed six sins of recruiting and he won't be giving them the chance to commit the seventh.

The out-of-office type of automated response from the candidate looked like this:

"This is an auto-response set up to deal with the overwhelming number of emails regarding my resume.  Sorry if you are a legitimate contact.  The bad ones are about 95% of my emails.
1)  I am not interested in contract positions.  Please remove my contact information from your systems if you are looking for a contractor.
2)  I am not a MySQL or Oracle DBA. I know nothing of MySQL or Oracle and do not wish to switch to either.
3)  I am not a programmer; I used to do VB programming but switched to a DBA/T-SQL role MANY years ago.  If this position isn't for a Microsoft SQL Database Administrator, I'm not interested.
4)  I will skim your email looking for numbers, if I don't see a salary range I will delete it.  Too many recruiters ignore my salary requirements thinking I am some desperate person looking for a job and may accept 1/2 of what I state I require.  I am currently employed, exceptional at what I do and won't leave my current position for less than $100K, full time and with good benefits.
5)  I am not interested in shops that are running old SQL 6.5/7.  These versions of SQL were obsolete a decade ago.  My expertise is focused on SQL 2005 through 2008 R2 and I have no desire to regress.
6)  Relocation:  If your position isn’t in Ohio, then you need to have a relocation package that includes dealing with a home I own.  I have no desire to move further North.  Florida is preferred, Texas is acceptable.  Chicago or New York would be acceptable for a significant increase in pay to compensate for cost of living.
Thank you,
[name redacted]"

Wow - that's money.  As luck would have it, the candidate is in a profession (Tech, focus on SQL) where he can call his shots and undoubtedly gets a lot of calls from recruiters - obviously the resume-slinging kind where the movie Boiler Room plays in the background and they're there to dial from the database.  Dialing early and often.  We called him 2 weeks ago?  Call him again.

The moral - a good recruiter has to play to the talent pool she's trying to embed herself in.  Without embedding yourself in the job and the profession that supports it, you're just another resume spammer as a recruiter.

Dial or email with that in mind...

The Most Honest, System-Generated Rejection Letter to Candidates Ever

Dear Stan:

We're dropping you this system-generated note because we wanted you to have closure. You didn't get the job you applied online for with our company. We could give you some standard line about your background being impressive, but that's obviously not true for the hundreds of applicants receiving this automatic note, so we won't.

Good luck with your job search, come back to check on other openings with us and remember - if the only thing you do is apply online hundreds of times, you're playing the lottery, not looking for a job.

The ACME Recruiting Team

The Only Thing Missing From the Google Rules on Being a Good Manager - Telling the Truth...

By now, no doubt you've seen the news related to Project Oxygen at Google, which aimed to figure out what constituted a good boss at Google. 

They came up with the following list (courtesy of the New York Times, please hit the site for the full article):

Google NYT





















That's a great list in my eyes, but true to what we know of the Google culture through the press, it would seem they stopped one step short - they forgot to tell managers to tell the truth.

Case in point - they told managers to avoid being sissys, but instead of telling them to remind employees what the company and team needs to accomplish, they actually say "focus on what the employee wants the team to achieve".

I realize this approach can work - but in tough coaching situations where the employee's view of themselves and others is out of whack, you've got to tell the truth.  Sometimes you have to direct them related to what's required.

It seems that Google knows this by being brave enough to say "don't be a sissy".  But it feels like they stopped a step short when they keep talking from an employee-centric point of view.  That's consistent with the culture we think we know through the press.

I suspect the next stage of Google's growth in this area will modify #4 to "Don't be a Sissy:  Tell the truth, even if it means you have to tell them what's required as a last resort and stand your ground".

Good coaches always engage the employee - but in any coaching situation they remind them of what the goal is, not necessarily what the employee wants the goal to be.

If I Had a Few Million Dollars - I Would Aggregate References of Candidates...

Thought for the day.  If I had a couple of million lying around and wanted to do a startup, I'd do some type of data mining play to aggregate references off of resumes, applications and the web.  That's right, references off of the candidates who are rolling into your careers site daily.  I know LinkedIn sort of does this, but I am talking about focusing WAY in...

What's the big deal?  If you think about it, you'll agree that references are an underutilized resource ofFave_five candidate flow for key positions in your company.  Let's think about references and what they bring to the table:

1.  A trusted pool of professionals, so much so the candidate is willing to make them a part of their personal brand.

2.  Often have served as mentors for the candidates who have cited them as references.

3.  Usually bring greater experience to the table than the candidate who cited them.

4.  Known to be "stable", meaning the citing candidate knows they're going to be around for awhile.

5.  Self selected by the candidate pool for their communication skills.  They'll be expected to pop a 2 minute elevator speech on demand about the candidate in question, and this is who the candidate selected for that task.  Have any jobs where you need a filter for the ability to communicate on the phone or via email?  Ever come to the conclusion that people who can communicate can also generally perform at a high level?

So, I've got the idea.  Now I just need a VC to step up during a mild recession and give me a couple million to pay some developers and get the product crackin.  Who's it going to be?