Job promotion

What we call potential and our managers call potential are two different things. Confirm what potential looks like!

Why the Job Promotion is a mystery

Landing a job promotion isn’t easy. This isn’t surprising because most of us don’t know or understand what we need to demonstrate to our managers. 

When was the last time your manager coached you on exactly what it takes to land your next job promotion?

Today we clear up the mystery. Unless we have a mentor or a pro active manager, we are not given specific advice as to HOW we land the next a job promotion. Most managers will let us know when we are doing well, that’s easy. Some managers will give us feedback to improve when needed. This takes courage and not all managers have it. Very few managers provide a direct path to a promotion. Probably because their own path to promotion wasn’t demonstrated to them. They are not holding back, they just don’t realize how much it can help or don’t have the time. 

In an ass backwards way, we are usually told about a promotion after the decision has been made. The explanation was simply “We promoted you because of your hard work and results”. Specific examples beyond “hard work” or realistic advice on what it takes to land the next promotion is usually not mentioned.

This becomes more confusing because the requirements for a job promotion changes as we climb the ladder. What got us to manager won’t get us to director. What got us here won’t get us there. 

Advice for the Job Promotion

Over the next few weeks, I will de-mystify the path to promotions at different levels. What does it take to go from:

  • Individual contributor to Manager
  • Manager / Sr. Manager to Director / Sr. Director
  • Director to VP

If you are looking for your first promotion or trying to figure out why you rose so quickly through the ranks and then plateaued, the next few posts are for you.

Career path advice, the good and the the ugly

Long hours and hard work isn’t always enough for a promotion. My goal is to focus on the specific behaviors and results that will land us a job promotion and why. Where should you concentrate your hard work and those long hours? As mentioned above, career advice falls into two categories: (the bullets are just examples, your managers qualification requirements can differ)

Worthless Career Advice

  • “You are being promoted because you did really well on your last couple of projects and put up good results.”


Valuable Career Advice

  • I can promote you when you are:
    • Recognized as a Subject Matter Expertise
    • Perceived as a leader among your peers
    • Respected by the other managers in the department,

“I know you’re a SME. You have demonstrated leadership amongst your peers by leading the team on the last integration project working with various departments. Let’s work on getting you visibility with the management team!”

We don’t know what we don’t know

I’d rather hear the second set of commentary. Without any coaching, we could easily check the “Subject Matter Expertise” and the “Perceived leader amongst peers” boxes. But with only 2 of the three boxes checked, our careers would still remain stagnant. We THINK we are doing well because no one is providing feedback to the contrary. Because no one mentioned “respect of the other managers”, we have no reason to think it is important. The feedback makes complete sense when we hear it, but until we hear, “respect from other managers”, we keep swinging and missing. We continue to focus our efforts on what earned us the positive feedback; SME and Leader amongst peers. If our manager doesn’t have the courage to give us feedback on what we need to work on, this leaves us in the dark. We keep asking ourselves, “WhereTF is my promotion? Why am I not being considered?”

It’s difficult to become promoted when we don’t know what it takes or what our managers are looking for

In this example, most of us are only thinking about making an impression with our current manager. Pro-actively gaining respect of other managers in the department isn’t something most of us think about. If your manager doesn’t have the professional savvy or intestinal fortitude to give you honest feedback, we will never know. 

Concentrate on what will get your hired

We can narrow our efforts and save everyone a lot of time and heartache with the second explanation. Over the next few posts, I will provide the HRNasty guideline to promotions.

I will outline a few standard qualifiers to earn a job promotion. These are not hard and fast rules. These are guidelines which could vary from company to company and can change depending on company size and culture. Don’t worry about differences between companies. These posts will:

  • Give you a solid foundation for what managers and HR is looking for
  • Provide a framework so you can drive a conversation with your manager on what it takes to land the next job promotion. If you are not talking with your manager on a regular basis, (at least monthly) don’t expect to be promoted.

Job promotion politics and the dirty secrets

Before we go into what it takes to land a job promotion, I want to share a few of the dirty secrets that get in the way of most job promotions. There are two sets of questions going through most managers mind when direct reports ask for a promotion. The manager will usually think about the first question, but in most cases, you won’t hear about their concern. Rarely will they admit to the second set of questions. 

What managers think about but don’t mention out loud?

  • What will the other individual contributors on the team think about you receiving this promotion?
  • Will team members disagree? Do I need to defend this promotion to the other managers in the department?

Second set of questions:

  • Will other managers feel that someone on their team is more deserving of the same promotion?
  • How much shit will I have to deal with from the other managers that might want to grant a similar job promotion? How easy will it be to defend my guy / gal? 

Although it may not sound fair, there are politics at play. Remember, other managers have asked if they could promote folks from their team and were declined for one reason or another. It won’t be admitted to, but we have to agree, it makes sense. 

Put yourself in your managers shoes

Do you want your peers and other managers asking or thinking “Why did YOU get promoted?” Or do you want your peers to say “It’s about time you were promoted”. We don’t want our peers asking “Why him / her?” We want them saying “It’s about time, you deserve this job promotion”. Credibility will put us in the second category.

Your manager will be putting their reputation on the line and needs to be able to defend your promotion to their peers. The easier it is to defend your promotion, the sooner you will be promoted.

In the next post we discuss what qualities leadership looks for to be promoted from Individual Contributor to Manager and Manager to Director.

See you at the after party,

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

If you felt this post was valuable, subscribe to weekly updates here, (I promise, no spam)  “like” us on Facebook, and leave your comments below. Thank you!

Career advice and wisdom

Posted: by HRNasty in Climbing Career Ladder, Manage your Manager

Career Advice

The last few weeks has seen a steady stream of folks outside the HRNasty office. The end results share a similar resource and I thought that sharing this resource might benefit others. Here is what happens.

The confessor comes by and shares their dilemma. They then ask, “HRNasty, What should I do?”, to which I reply “Young Jedi, What do you want to do? What is your gut suggesting?” Employees who come with a situation already have an idea of what they want to do. Most are looking for validation on what they know is right. Occasionally, they are hoping I agree with what they know is wrong. I find that most people know what they need to do.

Inspirational quotes for HR

I hear their plan of action, and in most cases I just make a simple suggestion and then send them on their way. Yes, there is usually a dating analogy because who can’t relate to the search for a short term, long term or one night stand relationship?  The next day, after they have had time to reflect, I send the confessor a short note to check in. This note contains a quote that is relevant to their situation. It may sound credible when HRNasty makes a suggestion, but a quote with a fancy font, a small graphic and a splash of color adds a ton of credibility. The below are a couple of sample graphics I used in a prior post and post conversation emails.   

Career Advice

HR advice: See the glass half full


Career advice

HRNasty advice: See the glass half full bitch


Depending on the personality, I would send one of the above.  🙂

So, I thought I would share a few others fancy graphics and explain how they are relevant to me. They help me in my day to day and hopefully they will help you.

I have an HR Pinterest page, where I curate HR quotes. I also have a gallery of samples for what to wear to wear for different business occasions. Examples of categories: Interview at a tech company, his business casual, her power exec wardrobe, etc. Check it out and follow.

Easy career advice

Don’t try to train people skills

When it comes to job interviews, the above listed characteristics are qualities which leave a HUGE impression. These qualities requires no prior job experience to demonstrate. A candidate with style and grace will never go out of style and always make a great impression. Because so many candidates lack in this area the bar is low and the impact is high. 

Over and over a manager will say, “I know this candidate is a bit of an ass, but I really want to hire them because they are so technically proficient in the discipline”. To which I respond,

We can teach technical proficiency, but it’s tough to teach work ethic or passion.  You either come to us with that or you don’t. In this case, they didn’t.

The 10 characteristics that require zero talent will usually win out over someone who is a technical assassin but lacking in social grace. 

Leadership wisdom

I aspire to this

Peter Drucker is an Industrial / Organizational guru and if you haven’t read any of his stuff, you should. For a Cliff notes version, he has solid business observations here, all just one or two sentences long.   

I really like the above quote. When I am done with my career, I want folks to say that HRNasty inspired and enabled people to raise their game. I want to be known as a multiplier of talent that catapulted individuals and teams become more effective. The first half of this quote stereotypes why a lot of folks do not like managers. The second half of this quote is the reason people want to get into management. I love the balance of this.

Career Motivation

career advice

It’s not me, it’s you

I absolutely love this quote. Readers of this blog know I like to say, “If we put a man on the moon in the 60’s, we can do anything, nothing is impossible”. And I absolutely believe it. The task may take more resources, time or people than we have, but it CAN BE DONE. We just need to figure out what it takes and work backwards into a solution. We usually start with small proof points and work our way up. 

I like this quote because it makes me feel better about my personal reaction. When I throw out an idea and hear “No” or “Impossible” that is a reflection of the nay sayer, not my idea.  

Inspirational quote

I think I send this quote out the most. Usually someone has come to be about a situation with a co-worker, a manager, a friend or a significant other. They know they need to speak up and they know that until they do, they don’t sleep at night and want to quit their job. The most common circumstance is when an employee doesn’t understand where their manager is coming from. The employees wrongly thinks that asking the manager about the misunderstanding is a career limiting move. Consequently, they don’t ask, they don’t understand and end up stressed out and miserable. It’s not what we ask, it is HOW we ask. 

It’s not just the manager

Too many employees quit a company because they feel they are not getting along with their manager. My advice is always the same. If we don’t speak with the manager and quit, we will re create the same situation with the next manager at the next company. This stress isn’t a function of the manager, it is a function of how me are managing the relationship. We need to value our career enough to speak up.

The topic of speaking up is probably a blog post in itself but I will resist. I REALLY like the above quotes and hopefully it helps others.

There are plenty more on my Pinterest page.  Check it out here.

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

If you felt this post was valuable, subscribe to weekly updates here, (I promise, no spam)  “like” us on Facebook, and leave your comments below. Thank you!

job interview

Job interview? Don’t be late, but don’t be too early either

When to arrive for a job interview

This week’s topic is a job interview no brainer to many, but I feel it is important. Based on a long history of conducting interviews, this is a topic that needs to be explained. Show up too early or too late to a job interview and it will be over before it started. Just like Goldilocks and the three bears, our arrival time needs to be “jussstttt righhhhtt”.

There are plenty of blogs titled “When to show up for an interview”. What is missing is the “WHY” it is important to show up at a specific time. By providing this background, I hope candidates will understand why timing is so important and can start the interview off on the right foot.

Confirm the location the day before

I do agree with the advice of visiting the place where the interview is going to take place the day before. This ensures you know exactly where you need to be. In a day with Google Maps on phones, there is no reason folks should be using the excuse, “Sorry I am late, I couldn’t find your office”. Inexcusable. 

Sorry I am late, I got lost

If we are late and use the excuse “I got lost and could not find the place”, the interview is over. If you are lost or running late, it’s easy to salvage the interview. Text me, phone me, email me or send me a homing pigeon. Just give me a heads up 15 minutes prior and not when the interview is going to start. With all the various forms of technology out there, a heads up is the courteous thing to do. This way I can give the folks who will be conducting the interview a heads up. Hiring managers don’t like to be kept waiting and no one wants anyone wondering “Where the hell is the candidate?”

My advice is to show up 10 minutes early in the lobby of the desired company and let the interviewers know you made the appointment. I think that more than 15 minutes is a too early. Conversely, 5 minutes is a little too late. As a candidate, waiting too long or feeling rushed in the lobby will only add to your anxiety factor and we want to start the interview relaxed. Ten minutes gives us time to use the restroom or check out any company literature in the lobby.

Don’t stress the interviewer before the meeting starts

This will sound very selfish, but interviewers have schedules to keep. I realize that interviewers run late ALL THE TIME. This blog is about landing a job, not about the candidate experience. Managers want the assurance that their schedules are on time because running late effects the next meeting. If the manager has a hard stop, a late starting interview late gives us LESS time to prove we are the worthy candidate. As a recruiter, I rest easy when I know the candidate arrived 10 minutes early. I don’t have to worry about you not showing up, or worse, showing up late. Showing up late is a lack of courtesy and can potentially put an entire day behind. As a candidate, we want to make the best impression that we can.

I am not asking you to suck up, or act submissive to the hiring manager. I don’t want you to think that the hiring company has all the power. Most recruiters want to make as good an impression on the candidate as the candidate wants to make with the recruiter. It’s a two-way street. Believe it or not, good recruiters and good managers worry about the candidate experience. I just want candidates to take as many liabilities off the table as possible. The ability to show up on time is critical. It is a predictor of showing up on time for work, meetings, and functions with clients.

Don’t be too early

Over the years, I have had seen many candidates show up 30 minutes early. This is too early. As a host, I feel like I need to rush what I am doing so the candidate doesn’t have to wait so long. The reception person feels badly that the candidate has to wait this long. If we do arrive 30 minutes early, stop at a coffee shop and show up 10 minutes before.

Requisite dating example

Let’s say I have a first date with a woman I am sincerely interested in and she is sincerely interested in me. (Hey, even a blind squirrel finds a nut!)  If I commit that I will come by her place to pick her up at 8:00 PM, I shouldn’t ring the doorbell at 7:30. I shouldn’t even ring the bell at 7:45. Hair is going to be in disarray, multiple outfits are going to be laid out over the bed, 6 pairs of shoes are going to be in front of the full length mirror and general panic will ensue. At least that is what would happen if she showed up at on my door step 30 minutes early. I will feel like I need to rush while she is awkwardly waiting in the living room.

For both of us, each minute passing is the preverbal “dog minute”. Each minute feels like 7. I am sure that by 8:00, I will be frazzled and not happy with my outfit. She will feel like she should have waited in the car around the corner. 

Job Interview

This guy wasn’t supposed to be here for another 15 minutes!

Keep em updated

If I am picking her up, the courteous thing to do would be to text her at 7:50 and let her know I am about 10 minutes away. She doesn’t have to worry if I am going to stand her up, and knows I am the punctual type.

If I show up late with no notice, every minute after 8:05 feels like an eternity. We could have taken this concern off the table, instead, we just started the first date off with anxiety. If I want to send the message that I really don’t give a shit, I just need to show up 20 minutes late and not give her courtesy text.

Not just your reputation is at stake

If I am going to be late, I send a text. I think most people are very forgiving when they receive a heads up.

Remember, the recruiter is putting their reputation on the line when they ask you to interview with the hiring manager or the VP. They want to know that they can count on your to show up on time, well dressed and with minty fresh breath.

Next time you have an interview, treat the event as if it is a first date with someone you are interested in having a LTR with. You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

If you felt this post was valuable, subscribe to weekly updates here, (I promise, no spam)  “like” us on Facebook, and leave your comments below. Thank you!

requesting company resources

You and your career do not want to look like this guy when requesting company resources

Are you asking for enough when requesting company resources?

Today’s post is a phenomenon I have observed over the years that I haven’t seen mentioned in other blogs. Employees are shortchanging themselves when requesting company resources. This is the wrong attitude and it sets us up for failure. Typically, this type of request is coming from someone early in their career or folks who haven’t made it to senior management. Folks in senior management were promoted because they mastered the art of requesting resources. They ask for the right amount in their initial request AND have a clear plan of how these company resources are going to be used.  

Let’s say you are working on a project that needs $10,000.00, 5000 widgets, or 80 hours of consulting time.

What I have seen time and time again is that folks ask for $5,000.00, 3000 widgets or 60 hours. In all 3 cases, the initial ask is less than what is estimated to complete the objective and there is little data to back up HOW the resources are going to be used.

Reasons we ask for less

  1. The wrong assumption that the company can NOT afford to spare the resources needed
  2. Fear that asking for the full amount will make us look weak, less skilled, or that we are not “crunching the numbers” well enough
  3. We think that $10,000 is too much money because as individuals, $10 grand is a whole lot of Benjamin’s. We treat the request as if this is coming out of our managers personal bank account.

The baseline of assumptions

If a project requires 5000 widgets to complete, and we only ask for 3000 widgets, we are setting ourselves up for failure before we start. If we don’t start with the necessary company resources, we aren’t going to cross the finish line. Unless the person who is going to approve of the resources has prior experience with our project, that person doesn’t know what the project really requires. With this approval, they are expecting the project to be completed on time and to perform flawlessly.

Some of the readers are thinking, “If I ask for the 5000 widgets I will only receive 4000. My manager always undercuts me”.


When you ask for the full 5000 widgets, you have set yourself up for success. Because we asked for what is needed to succeed, success or failure of the project will not be hinging on our initial request for resources. 

If we are granted the cut rate of 4000 widgets scale the project back and start with a proof of concept. Prove that your idea works on a smaller scale. As the project proves successful with enough ROI, we should be granted more widgets. The key word is “ENOUGH” ROI.   

“I told you so biatches.”

If we know a project requires 80 hours worth of work and we only budget and request 60, we are essentially hiding the truth from the company. We should not assume the company is going to make the wrong decision and only grant us 60 of the 80 hours requested. Employees should avoid going into a pitch for company resources with this mentality. We need to give full disclosure to the company on resources needed. If all the employees short-changed their requests to the finance department, then their projections on the budget will be way off. And when we find out we really needed 5000 widgets. . .  I don’t endorse this but you will have the option to say “I told you so”. 

This is what your parents envision when you ask them for $300.00

Requisite dating example:

Let’s say we are going to take a date to the prom in 2 months. The budget required is $150.00 for dinner, $100.00 for a tux, and $100.00 for a limo. The total budget is $350.00 for the night before tips and miscellaneous expenses like a corsage.

If we go to our parents and say “I need 350.00 for a date”, our parents have no perspective on why any date would cost $350.00. We receive a curt “No”. We retreat to our rooms feeling like our parents hate us and our lives are going to end.

In an effort to counter the above scenario, the classic move is to make an initial ask of my parents for $200.00. The reasoning is that $350.00 sounds like too much money for a single date. Two hundred dollars still sounds like too much for a single date, but it sounds better than the 3 Benjamins and a Ulysses S Grant. 

One month later, I realize time is running out and I need another couple hundies. But in the fear of facing my parents, I only ask for $100.00.  My parents ask me to budget better next time and, frustrated with my lack of accounting skills, fork over the $100.00.  Emotionally relieved I breath a sigh of relief.  I got half my goal but this still leaves me $50.00 short.

I created my own panic situation

One week before prom, I am in a panic. I know I am at least $50.00 short and haven’t thought about tips or a corsage. Facing the music, I go to the parents one more time and ask them for the last $50.00. I get a long-winded lecture. My father gives my mother the evil eye, telling her what a dumb son she raised. After a dinner eaten in awkward silence and no one enjoying dessert, I head to my room. Later that evening, mom comes up with her purse and pulls a hundy from her wallet. She winks and whispers “Don’t tell your father, here is another $100.00 so you don’t come to us again. This is saving ME a lecture. Have a good time.”

Moral of the story:

A $350.00 budget request is no more unreasonable than a $200.00 request for a single date. Backing up the request with business logic and costs will makes more sense. “It’s Prom night and this date comes with additional expenses.”

Breaking down the initial request and explaining how the funds will be used will go far.

“Mom and dad, I am going to go to Prom this fall and am going to need some help with expenses. I am looking at $150.00 for dinner, $100.00 for a tux, and $100.00 for a limo. Total is $350.00.”  The request has perspective. This isn’t just a date, this is the Prom. The $350.00 is going to be used for very specific expenses.   

If your project requires a $10K budget, we shouldn’t ask for the company resources like a pimply faced high school student. Breaking down the request into bite sized and understandable parts will go far. Putting the request into perspective and showing a business need will go a lot farther than just saying “Can I have 5000 widgets, I am going to try and move the needle on X”

The quickest way for an employee to tarnish their reputation is by repeatedly

not asking for enough resources

The Full Monty:

Next time you need resources, ask for the Full Monty. Don’t ask for a percentage. Look ‘em straight in the eye, don’t make excuses and recognize this is a business. Make the request like an senior business person in business terms. 

See you at the after party,

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

If you felt this post was valuable, subscribe to weekly updates here, (I promise, no spam)  “like” us on Facebook, and leave your comments below. Thank you!


Onboarding, Welcome to the Team

New Hire Onboarding

This past week I went through the onboarding process with a new employee. I got to know this individual well throughout the hiring process and really enjoyed getting to know him so I wasn’t just professionally vested, I was personally vested.

On his first day and throughout the first week, I found myself going through the normal list of onboarding paperwork including confidentiality agreements, I-9’s etc.

My reputation is on the line

Because I posted the job description, recruited him, and presented him to the hiring manager, I know my reputation is at stake. If the candidate works out great, it would be normal for the hiring manager to take the credit for hiring such a great candidate. If the new hire doesn’t work out, the first question that will be asked is “Where did this guy come from? Who referred him?” and all eyes will be directed at me. It isn’t a knock on the hiring manager, it is just the way it is with all new hires while the verdict is still out. Welcome to the world of HR and recruiting.

So, it is in my best interest to not only make sure I find the best candidate I can, but to make sure he is successful once his butt is in the seat. Where most recruiters just wipe their hands clean of the new hire, I know my job is only beginning.

I thought it would be a good exercise to share what I do and say when onboarding a new hire to ensure that they are successful. My hope is that this would help other HR pro’s, and managers that are welcoming new hires or anyone starting new job.

Meet the team face to face

Whenever we have a new hire come in, we put a box of donuts on their desk and invite then wolves. We ask the new hire to send out the following email to the department or the entire company depending on the numbers. I have blogged about this in the past here. 

Hey, my name is Johnny New Hire and today is my first day. I am a developer here at Acme Publishing and sitting on the 2nd floor near the water cooler. I am really excited to be here. A little bit about me: I came from XYZ were I was a developer for 3 years and I am a Seahawks fan with season tickets. I have a box of Top Pot Donuts at my desk so swing by and introduce yourself and enjoy a donut. PS, I believe that the Samoa’s are the number 1 Girl Scout cookie.

This gets co-workers out of their chairs and walking over to the new hire for face to face introductions. I feel this is more effective than the sterile email that HR or the hiring manager sends out. A few conversational talking points never hurt (Seahawks fan and Girl Scout cookies). 

Carry a pad of paper and pen everywhere for the first 2 weeks

I know this is the age of EverNote, MSFT OneNote, Zoho, (you pick your flavor) and most of us are taking notes on our phones. In our first couple of weeks with a new job, we are going to be learning a lot. We need to write stuff down. This isn’t just for ourselves as the new hire. We want to make our bosses confident that we are paying attention to the training. If we take notes on our phone, our trainers don’t know if we are sexting, on FB, or earning our paychecks. Emotionally, trainers and managers are put at ease when they see a new hire taking notes, because trust me, 8 out of 10 new hires do not. For what it’s worth, I still carry a pad of paper and pen everywhere I go so I can try and instill confidence.  

Dress a half step the first two weeks

I work in tech and it isn’t uncommon to see flip flops, shorts and t-shirts in the winter. Regardless of the position, I encourage new hires to dress business casual the first couple of weeks to establish a reputation for putting their best foot forward. This let’s your manager know that you CAN represent the company at business events. Within a few days, your co-workers will chide you into dressing down. It is always better to create a good impression and then relax the company rules vs. making them wonder if you can meet them. 

Set up a regular meeting with your manager

Take the initiative to set up a regular check-in meeting with your manager. The purpose of this meeting is to reassure your manager that you are on top of your work and taking your career seriously.

In the first meeting, we want to convey the following:

  • “I am very happy with this new opportunity. Thank you for hiring me!”
    • We need to reassure our manager that we made the right decision. Don’t assume they know this!
  • “Johnny has been a big help in getting me on boarded. Everyone here is so nice.”
    • Team players give credit to others. Let your manager know you understand what a team is.
  • “My goal for the first couple of weeks are:”
    • “Learn the job”
    • “Get to know the departments”
    • “Read up on a specific product”
      • We want to go to our manager with a list of bullets outlining what we expect to accomplish the first week. If they haven’t given you a training program, use the above and let them make the corrections. Don’t take offense if they correct your list. New hires WANT our managers to make corrections because then we can be assured that we are working on the right objectives.

Follow up meeting

  • “I am STILL very happy with this new opportunity. Thank you for hiring me! I feel like I have an opportunity for a long-term career.”  Show Job Excitement
  • “Johnny has been big help in getting me on boarded. Everyone here is so nice.”
    • Yes, spread some more love. It doesn’t have to be Johnny, just keep being a positive team player.
  • “Last week, I said my goal was to do X, Y, and Z. I did accomplish X, Y and Z and this next week I am going to do A, B and C.”

Future follow up meetings consist of: rinse, lather and repeat.

Create a support network

We picked up a $10.00 SBUX gift card for the new hire and asked him to find Johnny Badass (I told him who to meet with).  I suggested he take him out to coffee at least 2 times over the next couple of weeks. The conversations should include and morph from:

  • I am really excited to be here.
  • As the new guy I was hoping you might be able to provide some advice for me.
  • It is understood that you are the most knowledgeable /  successful / respected in the department.
  • What 3 pieces of advice would you have for me to get along with my manager?
  • If you had 3 pieces of advice for me to navigate the company culture what would they be?

I will check in with the new hire over the next couple of months. My reputation is still on the line so we will make adjustments. This will incorporate other Nasty moves along the way. At a basic level, this is how I cover my onboarding bases.

See you at the after party,

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

If you felt this post was valuable, subscribe to weekly updates here, (I promise, no spam)  “like” us on Facebook, and leave your comments below. Thank you!

Goal setting to manage your career

Posted: by HRNasty in Climbing Career Ladder, Manage your Manager, Recent Graduate

Master Barista and Asian Super Hero – Kato from the Green Hornet  

Professional Goals

In the past two blog posts we discussed two related topics.

  1. A candidate who was VERY accomplished and someone any company would love to hire. Unfortunately, she didn’t realize that she needed to be descriptive and detailed about her accomplishments. Hence she looked just average.
  1. Why hard work goes un noticed and the benefits of talking about what we are going to do BEFORE we do them. 

This week I share how to list out your accomplishments BEFORE they are complete. This does few things:

  • Removes the stress of bragging about what we have accomplished with our managers after the work is done
  • Ensures that you and your manager are aligned in what you are working and that the work is important and valued
  • Gives the actual work (and not just the final results) value that your manager can see, understand and appreciate. (Especially needed when managers don’t know what you do)

When we do this, our manager:

  • Has pre-written material when it comes to your review. (This makes your review the easiest to write for your manager, always a good thing.)
  • Understands our professional goals and can help or notify us when opportunity comes up.

Low maintenance employee

Managers want to work with employees who are self-directed and need little to no management. The way we keep our managers off our back is by keeping them updated on what we are working on and why. One simple way to do this is outlined below.

  1. Commit to your manager in writing, the actual task you are going to accomplish over the next 3 to 6 months. (hopefully it is something that is important to your manager)
  2. Put together a very brief synopsis on why your project is important to the department or the company
  3. Outline the steps needed to accomplish this task and include dates when individual milestones will be hit
  4. Update your manager via email in a consistent format and time cycle so your manager becomes trained to your specific style.

Do the above and you will stand very tall amongst a low bar of folks doing nothing proactive about their careers.  Yeah, I’m in HR and I just said that.   

The Goal

So, for instance, let’s say I am a coffee boy in training at the local Acme Coffee Haus that also specializes in coffee roasting. I happen to love coffee and my goal is to become a full-fledged barista. How much do I love coffee? I buy coffee beans on the internet and roast them in an air pop popcorn machine myself. Believe it or not, I grind them in a hand grinder and weigh coffee portions for consistent flavor profiles. Call me a coffee nerd, but I watch the Barista Championships on YouTube. What can I say? I live in Seattle and I got me some dreams bitches!

Professional Goals

Not part of my career plan

As a coffee boy in training, I get to sweep up the floor which is covered with coffee beans, ground coffee, used coffee grounds and empty sweetener packets. I get to clean the toilets and when the Master Roaster wants a sandwich from Jimmy Johns, I get the privilege of running around the corner and coming back with a Number 9 on wheat with a bag of plain chips. Basically, I am the rented mule at the Acme Coffee Haus and I don’t get any trophies when I bring back the Master Roaster’s sammy in record time.

I do NOT get to touch the coffee roasting machine, I do NOT get to steam any milk, and I do NOT get to wear a cool flat brim hat with our Coffee Haus Logo on it. I get dickus.

The Epiphany

One day after cleaning up a spilled triple latte with extra mocha, and a splash of mint with whip, I get frustrated and say to the Barista, “This is bull shit!  When you going to make me a Barista? Haven’t I paid my dues yet?”

All I get in return is the equivalent of The Devil Wears Prada and an order to fetch a Number 9 on wheat with a plain bag of chips. Fuming, I storm out and slam the door. I can’t believe this shit.  

On the way back from Jimmy Johns with Number 9 on wheat in hand, I have an epiphany. I can’t wait for the Master Roaster or Barista to feel sorry for my broom pushing ass. I can’t wait and pray that someone takes me under their wing. I gotta hustle yo!

The Pitch

That night, I put together a list and the next morning, I present the following to the Barista.


My dream is to become just like you. You have an important job and I admire what you do. You make peoples day start off on the right foot every morning with their fix of caffine. All our customers like, admire and tip you. They feel important around you when you remember their names and their drinks. You are a bad ass Barista.” (A little suck up never hurts).  

Professional Goal

Professional Goal

The Milestones needed to hit the goal

“My goal is to get off the rented mule program fetching sandwiches and become a “Barista in training”. In an effort to become the Barista in training, I am going to do the following and hope this puts me on the path to becoming a Barista.”

  1. Read the book “Barista for dummies” over the next 10 days.
  2. Memorize 10 customer’s names and their drinks in the next 20 days.
  3. Familiarize myself with all the pastries we have and their calorie count in the next 30 days.
  4. I am going to memorize all the drinks that we make from Americano to Double Mocha with an extra Splenda and no whip AND THEIR PRICES in the next 40 days.

“Barista, if I get onto the path of becoming a barista, you could take a three day weekend and have a back up (thats the business case for this goal). I think the above are important steps to becoming a Barista in training. If I do the above 4 things, would that QUALIFY me for the title of Barista in training if a position were to open?”

Manager / Employee Negotiation

Barista looks at me shaking his head side to side.

“Newb, I like your moxi. You got heart kid, and you are on the right path, but you got a few of these wrong and obviously, you have a lot to learn. Let me see that list.”

  1. Barista for dummies. . . Check, I like it.
  2. 10 customers names and drinks in 20 days? We get 300 customers a day. How about 20 names and their drinks this week. At your rate, it will take you over a month.
  3. Skip number 2 and that calorie counting bull shit. If our customers knew how many calories were in an apple fritter or the pumpkin spice bread, we would lose out on a high margin item that requires no work to serve. 86 that!
  4. You need to memorize the names of the coffee blends we sell and their characteristics in the next 2 weeks. I want you to know what coffees are fruity, which are from Africa, and which are good for drip vs. espresso.
Professional Goal

Memorize the flavor profiles

“You do all that and then we can THINK about calling you a barista in training. Don’t be thinking you are going to be touching any espresso machines!  Got it coffee boy?”

Email confirmation to Manager

My plan in place, I update the list and send an email confirmation with the revised list to the Barista AKA, the manager. I reads something like:

Thanks for taking the time to talk about my Coffee Career here at Acme Coffee Haus. I am excited. Just to confirm, I am going to do the following over the next 40 days and then I will qualify for being a Barista in training. I am going to: 

  1. Read the book “Barista for dummies” over the next 10 days.
  2. Memorize 20 customer’s names and their drinks in the next 5 days.
  3. Learn all the drinks that we make from Americano to Double Mocha with an extra Splenda and 2X whip AND THEIR PRICES in the next 40 days.
  4. I am going to memorize the names of the coffee blends we sell and their characteristics in the next 2 weeks. I will explain what coffees are fruity, which are from Africa, and which are good for drip vs. espresso.

Manager updates

Over the next 40 days, I send the Barista, AKA my manager a weekly update on my progress. After 2 weeks, a progress report might look like:

Barista, just a quick update on my progress towards my goal of becoming a barista in training.

  • Goal: Read the book “Barista for dummies” over the next 10 days.
    • I have read the first 4 chapters and have 3 to go. I learned the history of coffee and the different styles of espresso machines on the market. It’s a great book and is giving me background on coffee. I didn’t realize there was so much behind the culture.
  • Goal: Learn 20 customer’s names and their drinks in the next 5 days.
    • I have surpassed this goal and am now working on 40 customer names and their drinks. It’s cool to be able to greet customers by name when they come in! Watch and count my peeps tomorrow morning!
  • Goal: Familiarize myself with all the drinks that we make from Americano to Double Mocha with an extra Splenda and no whip AND THEIR PRICES in the next 40 days.
    • This is done and was relatively easy because all the drinks build off each other. I get the pricing structure now. Ready to be tested.
  • Goal: I am going to memorize the names of the coffee blends we sell and their characteristics in the next 2 weeks. I will explain what coffees are fruity, which are from Africa, and which are good for drip vs. espresso.
    • I am still working on this one, but have itemized the blends of coffee we sell and categorized them by country of origin, flavor profile, and price. Still working and tasting the various ways the different coffee is prepared but I still have a few weeks and am confident I will pass your test.

For the record, at the end of the 40 days, you just wrote your own review. Your manager can cut and paste what you accomplished straight into your review. 

The pressure is now on the manager

The Barista didn’t think I was going to follow through with my professional goals. He thought I was going to give up or quit, but suddenly, he realizes he is going to have some pressure on his hands. The closer I get to finishing this list, the more pressure there will be to find me a Barista in Training slot.

  • My boss, the barista knows the qualifications of the job “Barista in training”. 
  • The barista knows – “that I know”, we agreed to the qualification of the job “Barista in training”. By his own words, “I will be qualified.” 
  • I backed him into a corner. Barista realizes he made an informal commitment and unless he wants to look like an ass, he is going to be training a barista, ME! He won’t have an excuse that I am not qualified because of the first two bullets.
  • He also realizes that he has someone that is serious about becoming a barista and is willing to put in the time and effort.

Over the next 2 months, I get to touch the espresso machine, I get to steam milk and I get to serve drinks. I even get a flat brim baseball cap with the logo. We see a couple of coffee boys and girls come through and most quit after a week of cleaning toilets.  But there is this one young kid that seems to really want it. . . I think I need someone to fetch me a Jimmy Johns.

Who schooled who?

Interestingly, I observe the Barista approach the Master Coffee Roaster and say:

“Master Coffee Roaster, my professional goal is to become just like you. You have an important job and I admire what you do. You make peoples day start off on the right foot every morning with their fix of java. Customers might not know who you are, but everything revolves around you. The baristas wouldn’t be anything without your skill as a roaster and that expensive machine wouldn’t be worth squat without your discerning nose. You are a bad ass Coffee Roaster.”

Professional goal: Coffee Roaster

“My professional goal is to get off this barista job and not have to talk with customers. In an effort to become a Coffee Roaster in training, I am going to do the following and hope this puts me on the path to becoming a Coffee Roaster like you. . . .”

See you at the after party, 

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

If you felt this post was valuable, subscribe to weekly updates here, (I promise, no spam)  “like” us on Facebook, and leave your comments below. Thank you!

hard work

Are you invisible to your manager despite hard work and results?

Why hard work goes unnoticed

Last week I blogged about a candidate who in all rights is a superstar. Unfortunately, from a career standpoint, if you were to talk with her, you would never know it. I love how she puts in the hard work and is so humble, but within the corporate framework, this is unfortunate. When folks don’t know what she has done, they don’t know what she is capable of. She loses and the company loses.

Why you would never know she is #EPIC

The candidate didn’t look at her 3.85 GPA, Fortune 20 experience, National Champion cheer squad or black belt as accomplishments. No mention in the resume or during interview practice. She mentioned good grades, martial arts and being a cheerleader, but she talked as a participant. She didn’t quantify her accomplishments or her hard work. Consequently, she just sounded like an average participant.

Since hiring managers aren’t mind readers, braggadocio Fraternity dudes with a 3.2 GPA, 6 months of martial arts experience and the ability to do a black flip will sound similarly qualified. Great for our outspoken fraternity Bro, but not so good for our genuinely qualified candidate who didn’t realize she needed to speak up. This example gives new meaning to the saying “Nice guys/ girls finish last”.

If you think that hard work, or great results will speak for your worth, think again. Nothing could be further from the truth.

This week we continue the series on “speaking up” because in the last few weeks, I have run into phenomenon repeatedly. The first was working with the above-mentioned candidate and I blogged about that here.  

The second was when I led a session on High Performance and “How to Manage Your Career”.  A discussion point and question that came out of that presentation was:

“How do I tell my manager what I am working on? I am an introvert and am not comfortable telling anyone about my accomplishments or hard work. It seems like bragging.”  Great question and one I hear on a regular basis! (For the record, this trait plagued me personally early in my career.)

Let’s start with a couple of baselines that I hope makes sense:

  • High performance will not be noticed if we don’t tell anyone about it. It is tough to manage your career if we don’t share what we did or where we want to go. (After my talk on Managing Your Manager, I did inspire folks a little bit. They said they were going to set stretch goals for themselves. Thing is, they didn’t have plans to tell their manager what the regular goal was. So even if they hit stretch, the manager wouldn’t have thought it was special. DOH!!!!)
  • Your manager absolutely WISHES that everyone on their team is updating them on what they are working on and the progress against that goal. How many times have you heard a manager complain: “Joey sucks as an employee. I know exactly what Joey is working on and I hate it when he is pro-active and updates me along the way!”
  • We have heard managers bitch over and over: Would someone please tell me WTF Joey does with his time all day! In other words, if they know what we are working on, they won’t be asking this question behind our backs. 

So how do you share your accomplishments with your manager without sounding like an ass, braggart, or loud mouthed sales person who thinks they piss rosewater and their shit doesn’t stink?

EASY PEASY, I call it manager engagement

The way to tell your manager about your accomplishments is to share what you are going to accomplish – BEFORE you accomplish it. This way, you are updating your manager on progress and when it is done, it is obvious, documented and publicized. You don’t need to brag or show off your results because your manager was there every step of the journey. They are usually helping you get to the goal and literally anticipating completion.

Instead of telling your manager what you did AFTER you did it, tell your manager what you are GOING TO DO, before you do it. Below I give the pro’s and con’s of sharing your hard work after the accomplishments are completed vs sharing what you are going to do in the future.

If we don’t share what we are working on, it can appear that you are taking credit for an accident that happened. Your manager has reason to think, “Well, that did happen, but you really didn’t have any influence over the process. You were just there, it just happened on your watch”


When we share, you are predicting your results – you are predicting the future. Your results don’t appear as a lucky accident that you are taking credit for. When our manager knows what you are GOING to do, they can see you had influence and direct impact.


If we don’t share what we are working on ahead of time, we may work a week or 3 months on a project and not know for sure if our project is relevant to our manager. We don’t want to turn in 3 months of work or even 3 hours of work and find out that this wasn’t important to our manager.


We will be on the same page as our manager and the results we are striving for are in line with what our manager is looking for. When we share what we are GOING to do in the future, our manager can approve, decline or make adjustments to the plan. No manager is going to say “yeah, I knew they were working on the wrong project 3 months ago, I just let them go ahead with it.”


Without knowing what you are working on, our manager has no ammunition to defend how our time is being spent. They have no fodder to tell their peers or their VP what a great job we are doing.


Your manager can share what you are working on with the rest of the team, their peers, and their boss. They can share your hard work and accountability.


If there were any snags or complications along the way, your manager will never know about the hard work you did to overcome the obstacle. All they will hear about is the result. The important part of accomplishment in corporate America isn’t completion, but how we overcame the obstacles. Anyone can finish a project in the best of conditions with a lot of funding. The employees everyone wants on their teams are the ones that overcame the hardship.


If there are snags or complications to the project, it is easy to bring our manager in for help. Leaders do not like surprises. They like to be kept informed and who doesn’t like to be part of a solution. If the manager is helping you solve a problem, they are engaged. Engagement is a good thing to have in a manager.

Not looking for Moon Shots

Don’t think you need to set or share herculean accomplishments that are going to be done in the future. Most managers just want small gains consistently met over time with predictability. They are not looking for home runs because they know that singles and doubles win games. Swinging for the fences on every bat will not win the game.

So, if telling others about your hard work, is difficult for you, try the above. Trust me, it isn’t bragging when you outline what you are going to do ahead of time and just provide updates along the way. Bragging isn’t about the “what we do”, it is about the “how we talk about what we did”

Next week, how to communicate your goals and the hard work invested to your manager in easy step by step directions.

I got your back!

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

If you felt this post was valuable, subscribe to weekly updates here, (I promise, no spam)  “like” us on Facebook, and leave your comments below. If you know someone that would benefit from this post, please email them the link Thank you!

Don’t confuse being humble or quiet with being introverted and un able to speak up


Are you talking about your accomplishments in an interview? We think we are but most of us are not. We are too humble, too shy, or brought up to act differently. Many of us don’t realize it. The next few posts are going to show us how to talk about our accomplishments. In the last month, I have had a couple of experiences that have shown me that most of us:

  • Don’t realize what we did is an accomplishment
  • Are not comfortable sharing our accomplishments
  • Don’t know how to share our accomplishments without sounding like a braggart
  • Think we will sound like a braggart if we share our accomplishments
  • Or all of the above

I recently worked with a candidate who is VERY accomplished. How accomplished you ask? How bout a 3.85 GPA, member of a national champion cheer squad and a black belt and instructor of martial arts? (I’m just getting started) I have gotten to know this woman a little better in the last few months and she has her shit “Together” with a capital “T”. Humble, quick smile, social skills and a great presentation layer. She has also worked in a Fortune 20 company so we know she’s got corporate game. A hiring manager couldn’t ask for more in a candidate.  

If you met this woman, you wouldn’t know she was super accomplished. She is humble and treats everyone like an equal and that is what makes her so dang special. Not only does she have the smarts and athletics, she has the inner confidence of a black belt. You know the mindset that I’m talking about. Normally I’d share her twitter profile here, but I want to hire her and don’t need any competition. BOOM bitches!

Humble beginnings

When I first received her resume, she had a small section of Achievements which read as follows:


  • Martial Arts
  • Cheerleading
  • Scuba Diving

Prior to meeting her, I didn’t know she had a black belt and I didn’t know she had the high GPA. I did know she was a cheerleader because she was introduced to me via her team mate who is also super accomplished. Per my usual routine, we worked on the resume and then went through interview questions and answers. The following quantitatives were NOT listed and came out through the process of refining her resume. 

  • “3.85” GPA
  • “National Champion” cheer squad
  • “Black Belt” in Martial arts.

It boggled my mind that someone with any one of these accomplishments wouldn’t include them on their resume. Personally, I would have been happy with 1 out of the three and I would have been shouting it from the roof tops. Not this candidate. Her attitude was more “Meh. . . .”  

She is used to being a badass, she’s not familiar with the need to advertise all that she can do. The true sign of a badass.

Why we quantify accomplishments

I explained that this is the quantifiable goodness that every resume dreams of. This is what makes all other resumes envious and what makes recruiters drool like a Pavlovian dog who just heard the bell ding.

If Sir Mix a lot was a recruiter, her resume would be the “big butt”

It was these quantifiables that separates us from all the other candidates who went to school, went to some dojo for 6 months and your stereotypical ditzy cheerleader.

Accomplishment translations

  • 3.85 GPA says, I know how to study for the long haul of 4 years. I didn’t just get lucky and I will be successful with your company’s training program and learning new topics. I’d rather have 3.85 GPA over C grades any day. 
  • National Champions practice at a different level than your local cheerleading squad. The teamwork and trust required to make it to this level is literally “next level”. I’d rather have National Champion over the local squad any day. 
  • Black belt: Do I need to say anything more? This is about both the mental and physical discipline. Of course if someone goes postal in the workplace, I know who run to and hide behind. 

Most candidates wouldn’t usually have any one of the above and I just scored the Trifecta in a single candidate! With a high GPA, a Black Belt and a National Champion title, no matter what this person does, the odds of success are super high.

After we worked on the resume we went to phase two and practiced the interview questions. To her credit, the answers I heard consisted of the humble following:

  • I practice martial arts
  • Worked hard for good grades
  • Participated on the cheer squad

Do as I say, not as I do

For the record, if you were to ask me about my skill with fly fishing, playing the cello or this HR blog, you would hear about someone who participates. You would not hear about passion or someone that might be considered “accomplished”. This is appropriate for social gatherings over drinks or coffee. In this case, we are talking about AN INTERVIEW and the hiring manager is not a mind reader!  Some outgoing and energetic fraternity boy who went to the dojo for 6 months, got C’s in school and can do a black flip will essentially have the same answers as we do if I don’t quantify our answers. Their enthusiasm WILL get the job over us. 

In her answers, I repeatedly heard about “participation” but I never heard the actual accomplishments. When I asked her about the absence of accomplishments in her answers, I was expecting that she was going to say “I don’t feel comfortable bragging”. Oddly, this was not the case. To her credit, this candidate just DID NOT consider the above accomplishments.

She was proud of what she did. She explained that she worked hard for the end results, but she didn’t think it was special enough to be mentioning. It turns out she was the youngest black belt to take the test and held a leadership position on the cheer squad. She was also an instructor in martial arts. HOLYYYY SHE-EYE–t Batman!!!!  I think in her mind that there was someone out there with a 4.0 GPA, there were other black belts and her entire squad won the Nationals.  She didn’t think this was that special. In a self-deprecating sort of way, I get it.   

Tiger child

After practicing the questions a couple of times, the quantifiable’s, “3.85”, “Black Belt” and “National Champion” were still absent from her answers. To her credit, she was SO accustomed to not talking about her accomplishments it was a real shift for her. I literally asked her if she was Asian and was raised by a Tiger Mom. For the record she is Caucasian.

It wasn’t that she felt like she would be bragging if she quantified her accomplishments. She was proud of her accomplishments and more specifically, she was proud of the journey to accomplishment. She just didn’t look at them as special compared to her peers. And when I looked to her side and saw our mutual friend who introduced us, I got it. Her peer group is all hard working, dedicated and highly accomplished.



Compared to the rest of the candidates, she is a SUPERSTAR! 

I am flattered

I share this NOT to embarrass the candidate.  It is the LAST thing I want to do so if you are reading this, please don’t take it this way. I am super flattered to be part of your job search and hope that someday soon we will be working together. Yes, would love to be the hero recruiter that brings you to the hiring manager or CEO.

I share this because I believe that there are a lot of others out there in very similar situations, myself included. We don’t always realize that we need to quantify our accomplishments. If we are fortunate enough to realize we need to quantify them, we don’t know how. I know I was in this same situation early in my career and to this day, the baggage still weighs me down. Thankfully, this was explained to me early in my career and I blogged my personal story here:  

Accomplishments, not the journey

So, if you are interviewing or talking with a manager, think about the accomplishment and not the journey. Resume and interviews don’t just care about the journey. Resume’s and interviews care about the results. Stay tuned for the next couple of posts to find out more ways to bring out your accomplishments in ways that don’t sound conceited, or timid. We need to find the happy medium, and use it in the best way.   

See you at the afterparty,

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

Update: Since the initial draft of this post, our candidate landed a position with the finance company she was interested in working with. Congrats Gurl! And to her sidekick who introduced us, thanks for correcting the grammar, spelling and additional word smithing on this post.  You guys will accomplish #EpicShit!

If you felt this post was valuable, subscribe to weekly updates here, (I promise, no spam)  “like” us on Facebook, and leave your comments below. Thank you!


This is a well intentioned start, but the real benefit is in the 401k

Candidates have choices beyond the 401k

When markets are tight for talent, employers add more benefits to the menu. (I consider Seattle’s job market to be tight.)  These could include free food, entertainment, flexible work schedules and unlimited vacations to name just a few. I found this downloadable infographic What Top Talent Really Wants: The 10 Best Workplace Incentives which HR professionals and candidates alike should pay attention to. This isn’t your parents workplace and their employers are rolling over in their grave’s at the mention of unlimited vacations. Just like the buyer should be aware of their options, the millennial candidate should know about their benefit choices.

401K and “The Match”

This week’s post is on the topic of the 401k, explained in lay person’s terms. The benefits in the above mentioned infographic are relatively straightforward. I find that the 401K match has nuance that is usually mis understood by younger generations so  I am going to try to give a couple of high level thoughts on behalf of the company and the employee. Big thanks to one of the smartest guys I know. It would not have been able to be written without the help of a financial guru I really admire and consider a personal friend, @barstonel. Seriously, you should follow this guy.  

This post came up because of a couple of different reasons. @barstonel and I worked together at a Fortune 100 company and found that most recent graduates were not familiar with 401k’s. They had heard of the term, they knew it is a retirement plan, but they didn’t understand the mechanics and benefits. This makes complete sense. If our company is their first job out of school, they probably haven’t run into a 401k plan before. The schools are not providing education on the 401k and most of us don’t listen to our parents when they tell us to save money. Not fully understanding a 401k is understandable. I just can’t sit back and not do anything about it.

Once a month, I meet with a number of HR execs in the city that are leading the HR teams within their companies. Last month there were several different opinions on “match” or “no match”, but the one thing everyone agreed on was the fact that we all wished someone sat us down early in our career and explained the potential of the 401k. We all wished someone said “DON’T BE A DUMBASS, YOU WILL PARTICIPATE”.  I was the only one at the table that had an education in 401k’s, and my education was from family. 401k education wasn’t part of the company culture. 

What is this blog post?

This blog post is an introduction to the 401k. I am not going to go into IRA’s or stock options. If you are going to participate in a 401k, because of compounding interest, the earlier you start the better. I want to give folks a foundation on the 401k so they can start their exploration for further information. My goal is to seed inspiration so we ask questions. I am OK with folks not participating (sort of) but as long as it is an informed decision. I also want to show the benefits of misunderstood “the match”.

So who is HRNasty and @barstonel?

@barstonel has a biochem degree, worked for bio tech his entire career in finance departments and has his MBA. Yes, he is maxing out his 401k.  HRNasty is an HR guy. He is not a CPA, an investment broker and does not have his Series 7. I am just trying to provide information on a very basic and misunderstood benefit that most companies offer and yes, I am maxing out my 401k. When I have worked at companies that didn’t offer a 401k, I pitched the exec team and made sure we did. 

What is a 401K?

A 401(k) is a retirement savings plan sponsored by an employer. It lets workers save and invest a piece of their paycheck before taxes are taken out.  Taxes aren’t paid until the money is withdrawn from the account.

Before we go into the mechanics of a 401K, let’s get some basic facts out there.

  • 401’s are voluntary. Employees do not have to participate and not required to contribute to the fund.
  • This fund is not the company’s. The company is not able to access these funds. These funds are the employee’s. The company pays a third party to manage the funds on behalf of the employee, but the company doesn’t have access to the funds. They can deposit funds on behalf of the employee, but are not able to withdraw.
  • You can stop your contributions at any time and you can adjust your contributions at any time. If you are 25 years old, you are NOT locked into 40 year commitment of contributions.
  • If you move from one job to another, you can leave your contributions in the original fund or you can move them to your new employer’s fund. No tax penalty. 
  • We are living longer than we were. Recent graduates are expected to live to be 89 years old. If you retire at 65, we need to sack away enough savings to last us 24 years. If you are living off $50,000.00 a year now you will need at least $1.25M to retire at todays costs. Remember, our cost of living will probably be more when you are in your 60’s. 
  • The company offers a 401K as a benefit to its employees. Government regulations allow employees to save up to $18,000.00 tax-free through a 401K, or $24,000.00 for those over 50 years of age. Without this benefit, government regulations only allow savings up to $5,500.00 tax-free through an IRA, or $6,500.00 for those over 50 years of age. Some companies feel that it is their responsibility as an employer to provide a retirement plan for their employees. Other companies try to differentiate themselves as an employer by offering more robust benefits in their competition for talent.
  • The employee designates how much money they would like to be taken from their pay check (pre-tax) each pay check and these funds are invested and managed by a professional, third party. The employee has the choice on what funds they want to have their funds invested in. If the employee is unsure, the third party usually has a simplified formula ANY employee can use to figure out what funds they should invest in. This formula just asks a few questions. 
    • Years until retirement?
    • How much do you feel you will need a year after retirement?
    • Is your personality type risky or conservative? (How much risk do you want to take with your funds)
  • Folks early in their career will usually weight their funds in more risky categories (with higher investment returns historically) and those later in their careers will shift to the conservative. The thought is not because of youth being reckless. The thought here is that if something happens to the economy and things go badly, a young person has more time to make up for any negative swings. A person later in their career won’t have as much time to make up losses so may want to play it a little more conservative.
  • If we do take the funds out, we pay a penalty. Some 401k’s will allow you to borrow against your funds.   

The Match

This is what the 401K is all about.  This is where the 401k gives the finger to all the other benefits out there. It literally says “I am FU Money”. This is where you NEED to pay attention. Some companies “match” the contributions that the employees make into the fund. Companies that match are usually larger and profitable, but I work for a smaller start up and we match up to 4%. (Did I say it was competitive in Seattle) So what does this mean?

Let’s say you make $50,000.00 a year. 4% of $50,000.00 is $2,000.00.  Spread out over a year’s time, this would be 24 contributions (pay checks come out two times a month) of $83.33.

Over the course of a year, if an employee contributes $2,000.00 in to their 401k, at the end of the year, the company will match that $2,000.00 and put that additional $2,000.00 into the fund in the employee’s name.

The employee’s $2,000.00 contribution just became $4,000.00.

So, your $50,000.00 salary just turned into $52,000.00. This is an extra 2-week paycheck!!

You do NOT participate in your 401k

You can spend the money, but remember, this $2,000.00 becomes $1,500.00 after Uncle Sam takes his 25% tax.


Contribute $2,000.00 ($83.33 per paycheck) over the course of a year. If your company matches up to 4% on a $50,000.00 annual salary, they will be contributing an additional $2,000.00.  That $2,000.00 contribution just became $4,000.00 and we saved $500.00 in taxes.   

You can think long term, contribute $2000.00 and turn it into $4000.00. OR, you can think short term, plan to spend $2000.00 and only end up with $1500.00 after taxes. $4000.00 vs. $1500.00, you do the math.

Our personal counsel

If you do not have any other alternative forms of savings (EG: IRA, Stock portfolio, etc.), start a 401k. It is easy, convenient, and tax free.

Per government regulations, we can contribute up to $18K a year, or $24K a year if over 50 years of age. Early in our career, we may not be able to afford the full $18K, but as we get more seniority and larger compensation packages (thanks to reading this blog), we will be able to contribute more over time. So just contribute what you can. Maybe it is $25.00 per paycheck, maybe it is $50.00 per paycheck. Think about how much we spend on coffee, Coke or cigarettes every 2 weeks. I am not asking you to go cold turkey, but just look for perspective in your spending vs. saving. Your future self will thank you, me and @barstonel.

If we receive a raise or a cost of living adjustment, we can contribute some or all of the additional income into our 401k. We were able to live without the raise, so we won’t miss it if it goes into savings. If we were living on $50k a year and received a raise to $52K a year, use part of or all the $2K increase for additional 401k contributions. 

As we look to 2017, think about a New Year’s resolution, think about taking care of your family after you retire, and ask your local finance or HR person about your 401K. Seriously,  follow @barstonel.  You know that guy is maxing out his 401k contributions and skipping out on a new pair of shoes to do it. 


See you at the after party,

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

If you felt this post was valuable, subscribe to weekly updates here, (I promise, no spam)  “like” us on Facebook, and leave your comments below. Thank you!

Employee engagement

Posted: by HRNasty in Company Culture, Strategic HR

Employee Engagement

This team is engaged

Employee engagement

Employee engagement takes many forms. It surprises me how often executives don’t capitalize on the many opportunities to maximize employee engagement that are available in an office for not much money or effort.

I work for a small tech company that is in growth mode. Consequently, we are doubling our square footage and moving to a new location. Because we are small, we really don’t have much in the way of resources for interior design, but that hasn’t stopped me in the past. At a prior company that wasn’t profitable, we were able to make the number 1 slot in our category for Best Place to Work here in the Pacific Northwest. In my opinion it was as much for the employee engagement as it was the culture.

Building a great culture doesn’t mean anything without being purposeful about employee engagement and for those into infographics, this one is really good. Employee Engagement in the Workplace (downloadable) talks about a number of ways to engage employees. This one starts with the basics like setting clear expectation and definitions of success to and hits the nuance like gift giving, conversation topics, philanthropy, employee recognition, and rewarding environments to name just a few. For those into easy to read lists, this one goes through Engagement at Each Stage of the Employee Life Cycle. I like this one because engagement is very different for new hires vs senior leadership. Both totally worth a look.

Employee engagement and great places to work can be done with a little consistent effort and it doesn’t mean you need to spend a lot of money. People think that Google spends a lot of money on their company culture, and they do, but they also have a lot of benefits that don’t have to cost much.  Below are a few services that sound amazing and can be offered for little or nothing but the “hosting” of the service.

Laundry service

Just call up a local dry cleaner and most will be happy to put a drop box in your office. If you have a large enough team, the cleaners may offer a discount. The employee picks up the tab for the cleaning and the employee receives the convenience of being able to drop off and pick up at work.


Everyone thinks the company has gone off the deep end when massage is offered. Some companies do pay for massage, but it is easy to find a masseuse that will come in and give 15 min seated massages for a reasonable amount. Employees can pick up the entire tab or the company can contribute a small percentage. Knock it all you want, but no service gets employee engagement like a subsidized massage. Employees won’t use get a massage via their insurance benefits but they will take advantage when it is in house and a braggable moment.  

Package pick up

It is very hard for me to get to a post office when I want to send out a package. Having a scale in the office and selling stamps is a small thing but makes life easy. All employees understand that this a self-funded service.

Subsidized gym

Call up your local gym and explain that you have 20 employees that want to join. They will usually give a company discount. Of course the company can sponsor some of this, but just offering an organized discount is a great benefit.

If you don’t have the numbers that will generate the discount or service, work with other companies in your building or very close physical proximity.

Switching gears, here are a few things we are doing with our new space that costs little to nothing.


We are going with our strengths and hiding our weakness. Our office is in the historic part of Downtown Seattle and the center of all the tech startups. Big name companies are spending a LOT of money on their sexy interiors but we don’t feel you must. We have high ceilings, brick walls and a lot of exposed big beams and pipe in the ceilings. We are leaving all of that exposed  and painting the walls white. It looks super clean and highlights the space. We ARE highlighting the space (our strength), and NOT spending a lot of money (our weakness) on fancy gold flaked paint or multiple trims schemes. And we didn’t use an interior decorator to come to that conclusion. 

“Inspirational Sayings” wall

Yes, this theme is a little old, but I don’t think anything has the potential of high lighting company values than your wall with inspirational sayings.  So, how is ours different? We are pushing the envelope and going with more than just the Pollyanna.  “Get shit done” is one of the sayings and it does reflect one of our company values. I wouldn’t dream of doing this in corporate America, but in our small funky tech start up, it works. The other notable saying we are going to put above the entrance to our CEO’s office is:

What got you here, won’t get you there

I literally picture him dragging some newb to the front of his office by the scruff of their neck and pointing to the “Inspiration”.

Update, post build out, above the CEO’s office

I did stop the process before we got to:

The beatings will continue till the morale improves

or my personal HR favorite

Nothing like a public hanging in the morning to motivate the troops

Nap room

I was asked for a nap room on more than one occasion but after a little clarification I was able to politely decline. This is the opposite of employee engagement. Nap rooms are an old rage. I have worked in companies that had nap rooms and I get it. But just because you are doing a build out, doesn’t mean you need a nap room, bean bag chairs or ping pong tables. (None of which we will have).  Nap rooms can work when the employees are working crazy hours. If the teams are working against a burn rate, competition or it is the culture of the company, nap rooms can work.

With a company that is working 40 – 45 hours a week, they are just a reinforcement to slow down productivity. After I explained that the companies that have nap rooms are working 70 – 80 hours a week, most of the folks requesting the amenity retracted. For the record, we will probably have a “Mothers” room (as we currently do) as we have a number of newly minted mothers.

Front entry
We have a brilliant head of marketing and I love his ideas for the front entrance. We are a software company and have VERY few visitors. Consequently, we are going with an technology based receptionist in the form of iPad. No humans at reception. To make sure that folks understand to check in, we have a 5 foot arrow pointing to the iPad and a sign that says the following (think Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory interior):

Welcome to Acme Publishing

Glad you saw the arrow directing you to this spot. You passed the first test. Just touch the iPad screen and technology will call, text, email and Skype whoever you are looking for. They will be out shortly.

Thanks MGMT.

PS. It’s not that we don’t like humans, we just don’t receive many visitors. You are the first all week and we’d rather invest the resources into continuing to develop our award winning product.  

employee engagement

Update post move: 5 foot sign pointing to our electronic reception desk


If you are building out a new space or thinking about adapting your current space, keep employee engagement in mind. The more your employees are engaged, the better it is for everyone. It is better for the company, the team, the individual, and the family at home.

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

If you felt this post was valuable, subscribe to weekly updates here, (I promise, no spam)  “like” us on Facebook, and leave your comments below. Thank you!