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February 2013

Are Motivational Posters in the Workplace Dead? If So, What's Next?

I'll admit it.  I never liked the fluffy motivational posters that people like Successories put out. You know the ones - big title like "Potential" with a picture of an iceberg with a subtitle that says, "the greatest things you're capable of are unseen by others."  Or some %$#$ like that.  I'm probably not the best one to write those things.

Because I'm jaded.  

As I travel around, I see fewer and fewer of the "up with people" motivational posters.  I think they've run their course for the most part, where even the optimists get limited pump from seeing the iceberg.

Which begs a question - if Successories are dead, what's next?  What's next is you writing you own catchy slogan. Something with your personality, decidedly un-"successories" like and hopefully with a little humor mixed in.

You know - write a slogan like regular people talk.  Something that could hit a t-shirt at your company that real people can related to and maybe rally around a little bit. Need examples?  I've one for you from the world of sports that should get your corporate creativity flowing...

Let's look at Ray Lewis (controversial linebacker for the Super Bowl Champion Ravens).  He's "Pissed Off for Greatness":

Why is he pissed off for greatness?  Because he's tired of you being OK with being mediocre.  You're better than that, my friend, you just need to get a little pissed off.  Here's video of Ray explaining his performance philosophy (email subscribers click through for video), watch the whole thing (2 minutes):

Oh my.  It's a call for discretionary effort, but rather than saying those words or talking about boring words like engagement, he's wrapping it up in the mantra "pissed off for greatness". Which is pure play t-shirt and coffee mug fodder that the cynics can rally around.  

We all need the same things from our people.  Think differently about how you market that need to cut through the clutter, and you win big.

THE GREAT REMOTE WORKER DEBATE: The Only Two Things That Matter...

Yesterday, I posted on an internal memo at Yahoo sent to company employees about a new rule rolled out last week by CEO Marissa Mayer, which requires that Yahoo employees who work remotely relocate to company facilities.

Reaction on the web goes one of two ways: Best of both

1. You dummies don't understand that if you don't allow me to work from home, I actually work less once you factor in commute time, crappy meeting time, office politics time.  You should let me work from home.

2. Yahoo nailed it.  Too many slackers working from home don't give enough, aren't availalbe to collaborate, etc.  There's no replacement for being together.

Both reactions have truth in them.  Which means there are really only two things that matter when it comes to the debate of remote workers as it relates to the HR practice:

1.  You should be trying to find ways to make your location specific, "in the office" workers more productive.  Do they have protected time where they can really get away from meetings, people, etc to drive value?   We should be finding ways to bring the best elements of remote work to the office.

2.  You should be trying to make your remote workers more available in all ways to be part of teams, to collaborate and set the expectation that's a part of the role.  You should be thinking video in this regard - nothing holds a remote worker more accountable that being available for video calls.  Much harder to be disengaged if that's the case.

Seems like these two angles are what we should be focusing on related to the remote worker debate.  Best of one world transferred to the other.  Cats and Dogs living together.

What did I miss? 

YAHOO SAYS: You Can Work From Home - Until We Change Our Mind...

When you really sit down and talk to managers of people, nothing is as divisive as the concept of working from home/remotely as a primary arrangement.  I break down anyone's reaction to working from home to one of three camps:

1. Hell no, you won't go - I like my people here - with me.  Maybe I don't trust people, or maybe I think there are natural benefits to being together face to face or some combination thereof.  Report to the office, sucker.

2. Do I get to Pick?  I'll let the people I trust work from home or remotely, but until I have that trust, please report to the office.

3. See you at the quarterly meeting or ROWE meetup - I'm totally bought in to letting anyone work remotely that works for me.  I'm a new age hippie, and let's face it, I really don't like hanging out with people, so it's perfect for me, and for you.

If I attempt to break down those camps into percentages, I think only about 5% of all managers are willing to let anyone who works for them do it in a remote fashion.  That means 95% of the managers of people have some degree of hangup with letting people work remotely.

Also of note - just because your last manager/leader let people work remotely doens't mean the new boss is going to.  Here is the internal memo at Yahoo sent to company employees about a new rule rolled out last week by CEO Marissa Mayer, which requires that Yahoo employees who work remotely relocate to company facilities.  From All Things D:

Yahoo Return From Home Memo

It underscores a couple of things.  First, there are some obvious advantages to being together as a team in physical space.  Second, just because someone said you can work remotely doesn't mean it has to last forever.

Meet the new boss - different from the old boss.

Add value beyond what is expected, ye remote worker.  Or face the winds of change.  Don't fret - there's free coffee where you're going.

THE 8-MAN ROTATION e-BOOK: Because Sports and HR Are Hopelessly Connected...

That's right people...  The 8 Man Rotation e-book is back for another year....and it is our biggest edition ever!!!

You chuckled when you scanned the inaugural season covering the year in sports and HR for 2010. 8man1-300x300  You laughed...you cried...when you read the 2nd season covering 2011.

Now you're invited to check out the 3rd edition of the best sports and HR writing from the minds of Steve Boese, Matthew StollakLance HaunTim Sackett, and myself

Over 60 posts!!! Over 150 pages!!!  With gracious forewords from China Gorman and Dwane Lay.

Plus world class art from Lizzie Maldonado via the 8-Man Rotation logo seen to the right.  #nice

So, what are you waiting for?!?!?  Download the 2012 Season of the 8 Man Rotation here.

Note - This post was inspired by the work of @akabruno.

MORE PLEASE: On Making Your Job Postings Suck Less

The bar is so low people.  I know, I know.  You have legal requirements.  You're an EEO/AA employer. You've got standards.

All those are reasons you won't get outside the box.  Vh

Fine.  Then keep your awful job description and spice it up on the front end to make people think you have a soul.  Here's a great example from MEC Labs in Jacksonville (which brought us legends like Limp Bizcut and Tim Tebow  Jacksonville, not MEC):

"Quick quiz: Why do you think most people buy a ticket to a Van Halen concert?

  1. The pretty flashing lights
  2. The delicious food at the concessions
  3. The guy in the back who won’t stop yelling “Sammy Hagar was better!”
  4. The content

You’re a pretty savvy job seeker, so we figure you know the answer to this one – it’s all about the content (although, you gotta admit, it was all downhill after David Lee Roth left)."

You're a big red tape machine. You can't write custom copy for job descriptions. You're worried about getting sued.

No excuse for you not to put some custom copy in the header and footer of your job descriptions (which goes global to all job descriptions), then change it out regularly.

The bar is low. All you have to do is try a little.  It's a zero expense item that can make you look like a great place to work, without spending the money I describe as necessary in this whitepaper.

h/t to Capitalist friend and reader JN.

HARASSED: Why You Need to Add These Text Exchanges to Whatever Harassment Training You Do...

Gradually - and I mean gradually - your managers are waking up to the fact that text messages don't deserve the informality that they're granted.

What do I mean?  We've learned that conversations can be taped or confirmed through witnesses. Drunk_texting.jpg We've learned that email is discoverable and generally toxic. With that learning in mind, managers and employees watch what they say and the world is generally a better place, with less bullying in the workplace and a general awareness of what you say being held against you.

But when it comes to texting, our world still grants sending a text with informality that it's more like a one-on-one conversation rather than a email exchange. That might work for someone's private life, but it's poison for the workplace.  Or any merging of workplace and private life.

Ask Tiger Woods what ill-advised texting can do to a career.

I could tell you to add the Tiger Woods texting stream to your next Harassment Training for managers.  But Tiger Woods is too much of a mega-star to really help them relate.

So I found one your managers can relate to.  A Toledo track and field coach who was having relationships with the student-athletes he "managed".  Check it out from Deadspin:

"It was a matter of rules and consequences, he said. On Jan. 24, Kevin Hadsell, the director of the University of Toledo's men's and women's cross country and women's track program, announced his resignation, a move that was as mysterious as it was abrupt. Hadsell had been at Toledo since 1998, and in the intervening years he had built the Rockets into a regional power, becoming an institution unto himself along the way. The 42-year-old was a five-time Mid-American Conference coach of the year. He did color commentary on Toledo women's basketball games, and he hosted a weekly podcast and radio show. He cut a lively figure on campus, and when Toledo's football coach, Tim Beckman, decamped for Illinois, Hadsell evidently felt he had enough clout around town that he could scoff at the decision from his Twitter account. "You couldn't pay me enough $ to take certain jobs in big conferences," he wrote. "Some schools are dead-end jobs in some sports. Think two moves ahead."

What Hadsell and the university did not say is that the coach was forced to resign after a female runner had accused him of sexual harassment. The runner, whom we'll call Andrea to protect her identity, had also revealed to the school that Hadsell had been in a long-term physical relationship with her teammate and friend.

Deadspin has obtained text messages sent to Andrea over the past five months from Hadsell's phone. They range in tone from the flirty to the frankly sexual, growing obsessive and paranoid as he learns of the university's investigation; until the very end, it seems, he was unaware that it was Andrea who had turned him in.

"I'm too ***ing selfish," Hadsell joked to Andrea on Oct. 22, denying a relationship with the other runner, whom we will refer to as Caitlin. "I'm down for drinks, laughs, sex. Other than that I value my free time." Earlier, he had told Andrea: "Not gonna lie. I would hook up with [Caitlin] (I havmt) but if she wasn't psycho I would." He added, "It may be a good ride. Just sayin."

The guy is obviously troubled and there's good reason he's not employed anymore at Toledo.

But there's a lesson for your managers in here.  Stop being informal with texting to the people you manage.  It's going to be leveraged against you.  Check out the informality in these text exchanges from the manager in question as reported by Deadspin:

Hadsell: "I want to talk."

Hadsell: "And Be real"

Andrea: "Okay we can"

Hadsell: "Dude. Straighgt up...can I trust you? And. Are u really interested in me?"

Andrea: "Yes you can trust me"

No further texts for an hour. Then:

Hadsell: "Are u awake?"

Hadsell: ":("

No further texts until 12:57 a.m.

Hadsell: "I guess not. ***k."

Four days later, while in Wisconsin for a cross-country meet, Andrea told Hadsell she knew he'd been sleeping with Caitlin, who had graduated the previous spring. Hadsell denied everything.

Andrea: "you really don't lead her on at all?"

Hadsell: "Dude. I don't. I don't completely discourage. I'm a guy. Duhh. That's honest."

Andrea: "I knew it"

Andrea: "Hahahahaha"

Hadsell: "Like you know what I mean. You're not ENCOURAGING. But you're not"


Informality via text. This example is extreme, but your managers are in the margins with the people who report to them way too much.

Add informal texting to your next harassment training/managerial skills training platform.

Use of Comic Sans Can Ruin Your Career Prospects..

It's true.  Comic Sans generates unbelievably strong reactions and opinions from those who encounter it in corporate America.

The year is 1998.  A young HR Capitalist decides to do a back of the napkin employee survey in a 1500 person unit of a Fortune 500.  After a bit of research, stealing from the best and modifying it to reflect his personal style, the survey was sent out via paper (no Survey Monkey in 1998, yo).

In one week, a complaint went into the Corporate Ombudsman from multiple members of the unit's engineering team,  The complaint is summarized as follows below:

"The HR team is attempting to manipulate responses to the employee survey, as evidenced by their use of Comic Sans on the printout.  Everyone knows that Comic Sans has been proven to generate more positive reactions and responses than would otherwise be expected when used in printed documents asking for opinions."

Really?  I just used it because I thought it looked cool and interrupted the pattern. I soon learned that people HATE them some Comic Sans.  The hatred bordered on pathological.

We did the survey anyway.  Somehow people overcame my attempts to be the puppet-master by telling us how much they hated working for their boss. Our follow up action plan was stellar.

What did I learn from that experience?  Looking to differentiate by using a funky font is a poor plan. For every one person that digs it, four hate it. The rest don't care.  You don't need the hate.

Check out the video below (2:00 in the video) on Comic Sans haters (email subscribers click through for video).  

Long live freaking Arial.  Maybe a little Tahoma when you're feeling alternative.  (h/t on video to Gizmodo)

SKILLS FOR MANAGERS: Knowing When to Switch It Up...

Short post today.  All in all, I've got a pretty good life.  Great family, interesting work, etc.

My biggest disappointment and challenge that appears from time to time?  Waiting too long to Joakimdogtee change the game on something that's clearly not working.

When something is not working in any area of your life, you should ask yourself the following questions:

1. If I wait to change this, is there any reasonable probability it's going to get better?

2. If the answer to #1 is no, what the #$# am I waiting on?

The disease of waiting to change or take action is everywhere, and it's impacting the managers you support daily.  Excuses for not taking action if the answer to #1 include the following:

1. We need to give it/them time.

2. I'm afraid of hurting someone's feelings

3. It's too hard to get everyone on the same page.

4. I've got a lot invested in the current solution.

When you really stop and thinking about it, the most dynamic leaders in any organization are the people who can accurately assess if there's any probability of stale results getting better, then take action like a Ninja on five Red Bulls to change it up.

It's on my mind in a big way.  So much so the post today over at our new blog at Kinetix (aptly named Tremendous Upside) is a quote:

"If you're scared, buy a dog"

Kill something that needs to be killed or pivot today. It might just be what it takes to get you interested in your work again.  For some of you, that's the biggest win you'll have this year.

MISERY LOVES COMPANY: On Being an Acquiree, Not an Acquirer...

A lot of the people you support as an HR Pro are going to be impacted by a variety of types of organizational change that look a lot like an acquisition. More to the point, they're going to be in situations where they feel like the acquiree rather than the acquirer, which can...how do I say it....suck.

So let's start this post by thinking about situations that feel like an acquistion: Stop-whining

1. An acquisition. Definitely feels like an acquisition.

2. A big layoff.  Pieces move around.  Feels like an acquisition - without winners.

3. Just got your department merged with another internal department. Cheese moved.

4. Reorganization of any and all types. What would you say you do here?

5. You just got a new manager. Meet the new boss. Different than the old boss.

All of these situations and more can make a professional manager of people feel like he/she has lost a major battle and has been minimized as a result.

Too often, the first emotion of the manager in question is to bitch and moan. Let's use some live ammo to talk about this - take a look at this post from Scott Weiss:

"It took almost six months for my former company IronPort’s acquisition by Cisco to close and it seemed like forever. Although I was still the CEO by name, I was essentially running a “puppet” government with every hire, major expense and strategic shift needing explicit approval from my soon-to-be-overlords. Since Cisco was a functionally organized company, I would soon be losing half of my direct reports as sales, HR, and finance would report into their respective groups. My job was becoming smaller and it had considerably fewer degrees of freedom. So here was the big dilemma: I had signed up for 24 months of re-vesting my founder’s shares that wouldn’t begin until the deal was closed and it already seemed like a paint-drying eternity. I was pretty sure that I wasn’t cut out for a big company but I just couldn’t spend the next two years watching the clock or I’d spiral into insanity. What to do?"

Scott's talking about a big acquisition, but the dynamics feel much the same for any manager of people in the situations I listed above. Change happens, you've got less authority as a result, and you're pissed.  That's a problem.  You might not have an earn out of 24 months, but the cost of switching companies is high enough that your thought process is going to be similar.  The new situation sucks, but you have three choices:

1. Leave.

2. Stay and complain at every turn, without trying to figure it out.

3. Attempt to re-engage and reinvent yourself.

Fortunately, Weiss understands that even if your ego is too big to re-engage, you might want to consider those that work for you/depend on you before you take your ball and go home:

"It’s not about you, it’s about your team. If you’re a disaffected leader, moping around, “doing time” and talking smack, your team will disintegrate and the acquisition will fail. On the other hand, if you land a larger role, you are in a unique position to help them out. You owe it to the people who ate Ramen noodles while you paid them in potentially worthless stock to work at your company in the beginning. In addition to promoting some of them to larger roles within your new org, you will be much more connected to the cross-company opportunities and can advocate for your top performers. When your team sees you engaging, they are more likely to pull harder, too. Most of the mid-level managers at IronPort had a significant increase in their responsibilities at Cisco and it prepared them to take on even larger roles both in and outside the company. There is a myth that employees that come from a startup aren’t cut out for large companies — in fact, many may be ready for a change. Over the eight years we built IronPort, many of our single employees got married, had kids and wanted the current income, benefits, lighter work hours, and increased stability of a larger company."

You owe it to your team. Truer words perhaps never spoken.

The disaffected leader in any of the situations I outlined at the start of this post = A selfish leader. Frustrated Incorporated - that's right, I'm pulling the Goo Goo Dolls into this.

Acquirees of all types: Help thyself.