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”.

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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:  http://hrnasty.com/great-career-advice/  

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!

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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”.

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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 Seattle but 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 here is a great infographic on Employee Engagement in the Workplace (downloadable) that talks about a number of ways to engage employees. I find most lists very limiting but 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.     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:

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results

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

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 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 “pump” 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.  

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”.

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cover letter

For job searches and dating, we match our response to the individual ad

Cover letters

get a bad rap. It’s unfortunate, because I would say that most of the folks that are hired include cover letters. Don’t get me wrong, I throw out a lot of cover letters. It isn’t because of a rule that states “Cover Letters are never read, so don’t write a cover letter”. That rule is a lie, don’t listen to the haters. 

I make it a rule to NOT read cover letters which list skills irrelevant to the job posting, use the phrase “I am perfect for the job” or fill an entire page. That is the gospel. 

No candidate was ever offered a job based on the cover letter so let’s start with the following premise.

The cover letter is not a resume and it is not going to land us a job offer. The cover letter is the introductory announcement that gets the hiring manager excited to read the resume. It is not a narrative of the resume. FULL STOP.

Based on the 1000’s of cover letters and resumes I have read over the years, I am convinced that most candidates create their cover letters and resumes with the wrong goal in mind. I know for a fact that most of these documents are not accomplishing what they set out to do because after reading most of them, I am NOT interested in reading the resume. Honestly, I get bored, pissed or both.

A lot of readers are thinking I am on my high horse and I get that. After reading 5 – 10 cover letters a few patterns start to surface. I am going to share those patterns with you so you don’t fall into the trap and YOU CAN write a compelling cover letter. 

The number 1 goal of the cover letter is to tease the reader so they are interested in the resume. The cover letters should not be lengthy. 

When was the last time you proofed a cover letter or resume for a friend and were given the job posting of the targeted position? I bet it has never happened. It is tough to proof a cover letter if we don’t know the desired position. 

So, let me put it into terms we all understand. Even if we are not dating, we understand the concept of attracting a potential +1. 

Requisite dating analogy: SWF looking for SWM, aka, recruiter looking for qualified candidate. We are looking for a hook up. 


SWF: Single woman looking for a +1.  Attractive, has a healthy relationship with daddy and is a professional. She posts a dating ad on the dating site of the month and waits for the responses to roll in.

Recruiter: The recruiter is looking to fill a position. She works for a company with a great brand and good benefits. Our recruiter posts a job description on Indeed.com and waits for the responses to roll in.


SWF and BFF / Gay Boyfriend: This is not hot – single woman’s first rodeo. SWF knows what she is looking for. She worked with her BFF / gay boyfriend to put the ad together and they didn’t just bang something out in two minutes. They agonized over the phrasing and the words chosen. They both have a specific vision of Mr. Right. (Like, OMG, I am not high maintenance. I can’t help it if I happen to know what I want and have high standards. Fer reals though!) Yes, the headshot got a LOT OF RESPONSES.

Recruiter and Hiring Manager: This is not the recruiters first rodeo. The recruiter and hiring manager know exactly what they are looking for because they pitched the position and skill set to their VP and requested a specific budget. They worked together on a job description. Because the company is a well-known brand, the recruiter received A LOT OF RESPONSES. 


SWF: Our single woman is hot, has a great sense of style, and a headshot that shows she knows how to have fun. Her inbox is flooded with responses.

Recruiter: Our recruiter wrote an interesting ad that talks about a great company culture, opportunity for growth and a cool product. Her inbox is flooded with responses.


SWF: Single Male comes along and responds to the SWF dating ad. He sends an email and attaches his own headshot showing he knows how to have fun. 

Recruiter: Unemployed Candidate is interested in the posted job and responds with an email. His email contains his cover letter, and attached resume. 


SWF: Because hot single woman has more responses than she can handle, she is NOT able to read each and every response line by line. She reads the first half dozen, but soon sees a pattern. She opens each response and within the first three lines she knows if she is interested or not. If she is interested, she reads on. If she isn’t interested, she moves on.  

Recruiter: Because the recruiter has more responses than she can handle, she will only sift through the responses. She will open each email, which contains the cover letter, but she doesn’t read each and every response line by line. She knows within the first three lines if she has a qualified candidate, or not. Some candidates apply without a cover letter and she thinks:

  • “What! Am I not worthy of a cover letter? This is Acme Publishing dammit, we made Best Place to Work 3 years running”
  • “I guess this candidate was just too lazy for a cover letter, his loss not mine.”
  • “So special that your resume speaks for itself? I see Johnny Candidate sent me a cover letter. Hmm, extra points for him, none for you”


SWF: After reading the first three lines of the response, hot single female forms an opinion and a mental picture of the potential suitor. Misspelled words just keep Single Guy single. SWF talked about Yoga, red wine and walks along the beach. If Single Guy talks about Football tailgating and NASCAR, we just don’t have a fit peoples. No need to read further.    

Recruiter: After reading the first three lines of the response the recruiter / hiring manger has formed an opinion on our unemployed candidate. If the position is for a bank teller and we are talking about our experience as a chef, plumber, product manager or real estate agent the search continues. Our recruiter is looking for a bank teller or an accounting major. 


SWF: If the response was interesting and relevant, hot single girl reads the entire email and is getting excited about opening the attached photo. The email uses proper grammar so she is hopeful our potential Mr. Right paid attention in school and has half a brain. He isn’t vulgar so she imagines he is a gentleman. Single guy lets her know that he has future goals and she can already see herself making a life with him.  She is hoping that she is in the suitors league. If he talks about how he is into physical fitness and enjoys Red wine all the better.  She is getting tingly.

Recruiter: The absence of misspelled words, proper business letter format, and bulleted accomplishments will make the email easy to read. After reading the first three lines of the response, the recruiter / hiring manager is already hopeful about us as a candidate. Yes, we may have a player! I hope I can afford this candidate and yes getting tingly.


Write an effective cover letter and the resume will be reviewed with intent. If the online dating ad is looking for Yoga and Red wine, you respond with Downward Dog and Burgundy. If you don’t want a response, list Yogi Berra and Red Bull in your cover letter.

  1. Write an ineffective cover letter and even a great resume will be reviewed with a distracted attention span.
  2. A strong cover letter will put the hiring manager in a very different mood for the resume that will follow.
  3. If the cover letters are eliminated, the candidates first comparison will be to the candidates that DID send in a cover letter.

Think bad appetizer, bad foreplay and uninspiring movie trailer. What are we mentally and emotionally expecting after all three? Bad, Bad and Uninspiring. For a cover letter format that is simple to write and effective, see my earlier post here and  here.     

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!

How HR F’s-up an exit interview

Posted: by HRNasty in Climbing Career Ladder, Company Culture, What HR Really Thinks

exit interview

We should have the same courtesy to exiting employees as we do when we welcome them

Exit Interview

I have a friend that is going through an exit interview process. She is leaving her current job for a new gig. Her current HR department is taking it personally. This friend is a VERY gracious individual and when I say doesn’t have a mean bone in her body, I mean it. She is always smiling, always has something nice to say, and makes everyone around her feel welcome. FULL STOP. She is in a high-profile job that connects her with anything and everything related to fashion, restaurants, entertainment, and retail in the Pacific Northwest. You don’t land or keep this job acting like a biatch.                  

So it scares me for the HR community when I hear she is treated like shit on her way out the door as she moves on to her new gig. We wonder why HR has a bad rap? Short sightedness people, short sightedness. We talk about candidate experience, we should consider the exiting employee experience as well. I am here for the long game and invite other HR Pro/Am’s to play the full 18 holes, and not just the front 9. Win the battle not the war and remember that we live in very small towns and HR reputations are shared AFTER we leave the room.   

HR needs to accept change

As employers, we are not going to hang onto everyone. We don’t want to hang onto everyone forever and we shouldn’t take it personally when employees leave us. HR  shouldn’t be jelly, we shouldn’t be pissy, and we shouldn’t be childish. We want our employees to grow and have new experiences. Growth isn’t always going to be within our company. I am not saying I am a fan of the 18-month average tenure in tech as it is here in Seattle. We do need to accept that employees grow and change personally and professionally and we have to accept that employees will leave.

The Rub

The company she is leaving does not pay out for unused PTO. She has 2 weeks of un used PTO and they are not going to pay her for that. It is company policy and I get that. Working in tech, where so many technologists do not take vacation, there can be business reasons behind the decision. Not paying out for PTO is a forcing function and works in a couple of ways.

  1. Not paying out PTO forces the employee to take vacation. Use it or lose it. The company wants employees who take breaks and has the opportunity to spend quality time outside of work. It is the employees responsibility to schedule that PTO.
  2. The employee doesn’t get an opportunity to save up PTO in the case they think they are going to be fired or laid off. We don’t want employees taking this sort of defensive posture. This is a mindset that is playing defense or thinking we are going to fail. “This company (or me as an individual employee) is going to fail. I better put some PTO in the bank so I can walk out of here with a couple of weeks of pay.” Uhh, no, that is not what PTO is designed for.
  3. If employees don’t take time off, that is their fault. We as employees need to be proactive. I haven’t heard of too many instances where employees were declined in PTO requests so often they were not able to use it up. I can’t think of a single instance.

Civil vs. Condescending

The rub is that this employee does have a couple of weeks of PTO and politely asked for it when she turned in her two weeks. What she got was a scathing reminder that there is a policy in force and PTO is not paid out. It wasn’t civil, it was condescending.

On hearing this response, my advice was to take the next two weeks off, but her company had a big product release and she wanted to ensure her customers were going to get the features they wanted. I stood my ground and recommended she take the time off and skip the exit interview. 

Thoughts on exiting employees

If our company doesn’t have the growth for an employee and they leave for a larger position, I should celebrate that. More than likely, they were not able to get the more senior position without the experience they received at our company. I should be proud that our company helped them on their journey. I should not be angry they are leaving because the company doesn’t have opportunity.  

Employees don’t leave a company; they leave a manager. If an employee leaves for what they think is a better manager, we as employers should take a real hard look at our managers. If an employee is poached by another company, that is a reflection on the company left behind as much as it is a reflection on the employee. I understand one offs are going to happen but if there is a trend that folks are exiting a single department / manager or we keep hearing about a lack of benefits, we shouldn’t make excuses. If any of us were offered more money, talked to a more inspiring manager, or offered a shorter commute, we would all consider the new opportunity and shouldn’t be chastised for taking a chance.

Why treat employees with respect

I have worked with plenty of employees that have left and returned.  They found out the grass wasn’t greener on the other side of the fence. Employees that have left our company have referred friends that we have hired to us. I have worked with employees who have left our company and returned to reunion parties. It doesn’t matter if the decision to leave the company was the voluntary or involuntary. We try to treat the employee with the same respect we did when they were first hired. We can be confident the exit interview information was worthless when the employee was pissed at HR. Any credibility the HR department built over the employees tenure was pissed away in the last 2 weeks. It’s the right thing to do dammit! 

Personally, I love it when an employee talks with other companies and decides to stay with us. I want employees to be 110% confident in their decision throughout their tenure. I love it when an employee tells me they just interviewed with another company and turned them down. That is a good day my friend and a reflection of what we have built, who we have hired, and how we treat employees.

Requisite dating example

When a couple breaks up, there are good break ups, there are bad break ups and there are ugly break ups. Regardless of the break up, no one wants to be remembered for having a public fight in Walmart or the one that is throwing personal belongings out the window for neighbors to see. When we see the word “ASSHOLE” scratched in a car, as much as I am confident the driver was a probably an asshole, I also think that the driver is better without the author. If we are with someone who is going to key a car, there is a problem.

When an employee leaves, HR shouldn’t be the petty. HR should not be condescending or creating drama. I am personally encouraging this employee to leave her company and their short-sighted HR department. She is better without them.  If your ex is the type that is going to key a car, there is a problem. If HR is going to cause drama, there is a problem.

Graceful exit

I said my friend is the epitome of grace. She did stay for her vendors. She didn’t like it, but she took the high road and it didn’t surprise me one bit. I wish the HR department could have done the same.


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!

Thanksgiving, Artful Ashes, what I am thankful for

Posted: by HRNasty in Personal

Artful Ashes

Artful Ashes artisan at work

Thankful For

Artful Ashes, you made a huge difference for me in 2016, and this a post of thanks to Greg, Christina, Minhi and the crew there in Ballard Washington. Readers of this blog know that 2016 was a tough year for Mr. and Mrs. HRNasty.  

In 2015, Mrs. HRNasty was diagnosed with breast cancer. She went through a partial and then a full mastectomy, radiation then declared a survivor. In 2016, the cancer had returned to her lungs and after having 1 lung removed, she passed in July of this year.

Glass half full

It sucked then, it sucks now and there isn’t a night that goes by where I don’t question the meaning of life. Despite that, I have a lot to be thankful for and if I can be thankful, anyone can. This post is a thanks to Artful Ashes, and looking at the glass half full.

What am I thankful for? Here is a very incomplete list.

  1. We had 20 years of marriage that only got better. We became stronger in the last year and I am proud of what we did together both personally and professionally. I couldnt be more proud of Mrs. HRNasty.
  2. All the friends that helped and continue to support the both of us. I tried to thank folks here. 
  3. Well wishes and support from the readers of this blog. Long time subscribers who email regularly, and folks I haven’t heard from. Thank you for the support.

I am putting one foot in front of the other and putting a smile on my face. Mrs. HRNasty wouldn’t want to see me moping around or feeling sorry for myself. If the situation were reversed, I WOULD be raising my voice if I saw her giving up. No one wants to be around “The guy that gave up” and I don’t want to become “that guy”.


What got me through and continues to be the game changer in my life moving forward?  Simply put, a compassionate group of folks at Artful Ashes. For those of you who are not familiar, Artful Ashes creates glass art with a very small amount of the ashes of loved ones. Mrs. HRNasty was related to the owners Greg and Christina and her wish was that her ashes be made in glass art. (It takes a VERY small bit of ash) 

I wasn’t familiar with the process or the group, but when I saw they had 500K + Facebook likes, I took notice.  

So why was working with Artful Ashes so important to me? It was important at a lot of different levels and a few are listed below in an effort to help others that have lost loved ones.

I didn’t know what I was missing

Per Mrs. HRNasty’s wishes, she was cremated. Her ashes were presented to me in a nice wooden box with the standard brass plate. My mother was cremated when she passed of ALS so I was familiar with the process and knew what to expect. I like the wooden box, I have the box in a prominent place in my home office, and I get good juju from her presence. But I didn’t realize how much I was missing until I took the journey with Greg, Christina and Minhi at Artful Ashes. 

Greg and Christina are the owners and Minhi is one of the artists working with the glass. For the record, they did not and are not paying me for this post. In fact, they didn’t want me to go through the effort on their behalf. As much as I am trying to articulate how grateful I am to them for the experience, I am trying to share how this helped me so that it may help others.

We all deal with grief in a different way and Artful Ashes was instrumental for me. The biggest difference is that I can see, touch, and hold the creation from Artful Ashes. This is much more personal than looking at a wooden box. They provide a lighted base that the glass sits on which makes the sculpture come alive at night. I feel much more connected to the glass and see something different in it each time I spend time with it. You can literally see the ash in the glass. The experience for me is much more personal and the feeling of connection is much greater. 

It’s all about the people

But it isn’t just the “thing”, it is the experience. A great meal at a restaurant sucks if the waiter is a snob. I hadn’t met Greg prior, and had only met Christina briefly years ago but they both made me feel as if I were immediate family. Greg is a soft spoken individual and knows how to make you feel comfortable in unfortunate times. Christina is the outgoing personality that gives you confidence you are going to have fun. Minhi is a real artist and I appreciate all the effort she took to make sure everything was done right.

Minhi creating glass sculpture

Minhi creating glass sculpture

I was fortunate enough to meet the folks that work with the glass in the studio and watched as the ashes turned into a beautiful piece of glass art. I watched in awe as Minhi took shapeless glass and created the perfect heart. There were probably 4 people on the crew working the glass, all with art degrees, a few post grad degrees and over 50 years of experience. This team took the job seriously and the thing that struck me was the respect shown for the ashes and the glass.

Artful Ashes, respect and sincerity

The respect was emphasized when I gave Minhi the ashes. She looked me in the eye, smiled and said “I will take good care of her for you”. I hire people for a living and feel I can see through the bullshit. You don’t present yourself this way unless you are serious about your craft and her sincerity really stood out for me. In their spare time, all the artists work glass projects. You know how I like to hire people who don’t stop their craft after 5:00? This was that crew.

They engraved the glass with Mrs. Nasty’s first name. When I asked about adding the year she was born and passed, Greg schooled me and I am glad he did. He explained that engraving years into the glass puts a start and a finish to the name, and that Mrs. Nasty isn’t finished. She is still with us. He explained he would add the years if I wanted to, but I really appreciate his perspective and the glass just has her name. I am not a religious person, but I literally think about her differently after learning about this perspective. Yoda he is.   


Over the course of going through the process with Artful Ashes, I saw a lot of families drop off ashes and pick up finished glass sculptures. I initially said to Greg and Christina that I thought they had a very hard job because I initially only saw folks dropping off ashes and based on experience it isn’t easy. There were a lot of tears of joy when I saw the glass picked up and I felt the same. I didn’t think this would have as much of an effect on me and yes, I cried. When I saw families picking up the finished glass, I realized quickly why Greg and Christina do what they do.

They are literally healing individuals and families. They are re-uniting, and giving loved ones a way to work through loss. I thought I had a good job because I offer folks meaning via their work and a job offer. These guys have it good.

Don’t feel bad for me

So, this Thanksgiving, I am sad, but I am also grateful for the friends and experiences I have had with Mrs HRNasty. Don’t feel sad for me or Mrs. HRNasty. I and Mrs. HRNasty had 20 great years and the last 9 months were our best work together.

Finished glass

Finished glass

I was able to hold her hand when she was scared and she held my hand when I felt helpless. I am proud of what we had and thankful for the memories she gave me. I think Dr. Suess said it best,  

Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.

No matter how hard things are, try and find something to be thankful for, and have an extra helping of stuffing for me.

See you at the after party,



Overcoming a negative reputation in 4 easy steps

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

negative reputation

just 37 easy steps

Normally this time of year, I would post on the topic of inappropriate Halloween costumes and make a prediction of what NSFW characters are going to show up at the company and create a negative reputation.  I have done that a few times over the years and those posts are listed here:

2011:  How HR views Halloween costumes

2012:  Celebrities of 2012 that made the news and employee costume list

2013:  How costumes effect your career

2014:  Tasteless costumes of 2014

Been there, done that. Moving on. 

In last weeks’ post, we shared examples of language that was well intentioned but often interpreted as a negative attitude. Negative language doesn’t mean we have a negative attitude. It is easy for the intent and impact of our message to be inconsistent. What we say and what the listener experiences can be two different messages. Last week I provided specific examples of how we can unintentionally come across with a negative attitude. We also provided examples of how to communicate the same negative statement with a positive message.  

I don’t believe anyone is purposefully negative, but if we come across as having a poor attitude, our careers will stall.

This week I share a method for overcoming any perceived reputation for a weakness that may be holding back your career. This methodology works. I have seen it work many times and it is adaptable. These simple steps can be used for changing perception on just about any weakness. For today’s example, we will use the desire to overcome a “negative attitude” reputation.  

Below are the 37 steps needed overcome most weaknesses. (there are only 5)

  1. Reset expectations with your audience*
  2. Give examples of what new behavior will look like
  3. Enlist help from your audience
  4. Check in with your audience
  5. Rinse, lather, repeat

*Audience can be your team, your manager, customer or your peers. Often, it is our manager whose opinion matters the most. 

If you are thinking “HRNasty, you are a dumbass. If you want to shed a reputation for a negative attitude, just don’t be negative.”  You are probably are not alone in your thinking. (I know that attitude is a teensy bit negative. Hear me out peoples.) I only wish it were this easy. If it were that easy, everyone would get along and we wouldn’t need the HR department. I am working my way out of a job as we speak. Booyah! 

There are a couple of problems with the “Just stop the bad behavior” approach. WE as individuals know we are changing our attitude. Unfortunately, because we have already established our brand as a negative person, its what the audience expects and looks for. Because we branded ourselves in a way that identifies us as negative, we need to go about marketing a new image. It isn’t us as individuals we need to convince. We need to convince our audience that we are changing. Our prior behavior has already been engrained into our audience. Our colleagues come to us with the pre conceived notion that we are going to display negative behavior. When they are expecting negativity, negativity will be seen. We need to break the cycle.   

37 steps

If we THINK we have a negative attitude, we probably do. If you suspect you have a negative attitude, your manager is not only aware of it, they are hyper-sensitive to it. Your negative attitude effects their day to day. The reason they aren’t going to bring it up with you? They don’t want to deal with your negative attitude.  DOH!!!

It is an easy reputation to overcome.  Just follow the 37 step process below.

1:  Reset expectations:

Explain the following to your intended audience:

“I have been thinking a lot about my career. My goal is to get into (management, more opportunity, your goal here.) and know I need to change my negative attitude. Moving forward, I need to be more positive. I would like your help and am going to work on how I am perceived moving forward.”

2: Give examples of what new behavior looks like

“These are some examples of the things I am going to start trying differently. Moving forward, I am going to try to stop using the work “NO”, and instead use “Yes, if. . .”. I am going to try and use the word “we” instead of “You” and “Me”. I believe the word “We” denotes team work.  “You” and “Me” insinuates two opposing teams. I am going to try and be encouraging instead of putting ideas down”.    

This does a few things for us:

  1. Breaks the cycle of what the listener is expecting. It changes their focus from an expectation of negativity to an expectation of a better attitude.
  2. Shows initiative to your manager on your self-improvement.
  3. Plants the seed that you want to be a manager / more opportunity / etc.
  4. Commits you to the change in communication style (manager will be on the watch for a difference in behavior)
  5. Your manager can start sell your positive changes to the VP or department head.

3: Ask for help from your audience

“If you see me projecting a negative attitude or body language, can you help me with feedback and alternative ways of presenting myself? I consider you a role model and know I could learn from you.” 

The above may sound a bit over the top, but you get the idea. Get them engaged in your efforts. This gets the manager on your side. Instead of being sensitive to negativity and expecting a bad attitude, this changes their focus. They become an ally.

4:  Check in with your manager

Schedule a check in with your manager after a couple of weeks. Let them know what progress you have made, let them know what you have learned and what you are going to try and do over the next couple of weeks to continue on your path to nirvana. This is a retrospective and all managers love retrospectives.

This allows them to become participatory in your journey. It changes their status from a by stander waiting for you to fall on your face to that of a Sherpa helping you summit Everest. Someone who can help you achieve your goal.

Example number 2

The above steps can be applied with a little adaptation to anything. Have a reputation as being a weak public speaker and want to shed that perception?

Reset expectations: Explain to your manager that we know we are weak in public speaking. We know public speaking will help us achieve our goals and is holding us back.

  1. Examples of new behavior: Give them examples of what to look for in your next public speaking engagement. “I am going to use the entire room vs. just standing behind the podium and I am going to use fewer “umm’s” and “you know’s” in my speech.
  2. Ask for Feedback: Ask your manager to listen to a practice run of your presentation and provide feedback.
  3. Check in with your manager after the presentation or meeting. Give them a status update and let them know what you are going to work on at your next presentation.

Trust me, the above can be done. Changing behavior isn’t enough because until our audience is made aware of the change, they are not going to notice and our negative reputation continues to suffer.

Requisite dating example:

Let’s say you and your significant other are fighting because yesterday was garbage day and we forgot to take out the garbage. The usual argument ensues. He says, “Wednesday is garbage day. Last Wednesday was garbage day and the Wednesday before that was garbage day. What part of Wednesday do . . . . blah blah blah”.

If we tell ourselves and only ourselves we are not going to forget about the garbage next Tues, our significant other is STILL going into the situation expecting us to forget. Things go much better if we admit that we forgot, explain we will handle our business next Tuesday AND ask for a help.

So, if you have a weakness or negative reputation that you want to over come, think about the above 37 step process.

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!

Positive attitude, career accelerator

Posted: by HRNasty in Climbing Career Ladder, Job Interview Tips, What HR Really Thinks

Positive Attitude

Attempt to avoid the traditional HR “positivity quote” of the day

Positive attitude vs. Negative attitude

A positive attitude is an asset and anyone that tells you otherwise sucks. All kidding aside, a negative attitude is one of the personality traits that will keep an individual contributor out of management. It doesn’t matter how technically proficient we are at the job. Without a positive attitude, the career ladder will only reach so high. Most of us are reading this post and thinking “HRNasty, you state the obvious. I don’t have a negative attitude so I don’t need to continue reading.”

Au contraire mon ami.

90 percent of employees think they have a positive attitude. Mangers think 90% of their employees are neutral to negative. My Vegas odds say that most managers feel only 10% of their team verbalize a positive attitude. We may be positive thinkers but if the team or our manager “perceives” us to be negative, then that is how we will be branded. This brand will not help us climb the ladder. 

The thing about a negative attitude is that most of us do not know we sound negative. We may think we have a positive attitude, but what is heard by others is often different. Below I will provide examples of common responses to request that most of us take for granted. 

It’s not what we say, it’s what people hear

HR observations

Three observations after years of seeing employees passed over for promotion and declined in interviews:

  1. Having a neutral tone in conversation is better than having a negative tone. A neutral tone won’t get you promoted.
  2. We may have a neutral tone. We may not sound negative, but if we don’t sound positive, we won’t be perceived as positive. Let me say that one more time. We may not sound negative, but if we don’t sound positive, we won’t be perceived as positive.
  3. We can be positive about our friends, our colleagues and our projects, but if we are negative on our selves, it will be tough to climb the ladder. 
Positive Attitude

In the immortal words of Rob Schneider from the movie Water Boy “You can do ittttt”

I used to be the guy that rolled his eyes when someone was talking about PMA. I wasn’t just THAT guy I was the guy that had eyes rolling like a giant Ferris wheel.  Over time I trained myself to see the “other side” of every situation and trust me, in my field, there is always the “other side”. 

Fast forward to the present. I roll my eyes when I hear anyone poo poo an idea, tell me a project cannot be done, or comes into an interview and the answers end on a negative sound byte. In most cases, these party pooper’s don’t even know what they sound like. After all, who would come into an interview with negativity or present themselves as less than positive to their manager?

Why demonstrate a positive attitude?

For starters, no one wants to be around Negative Nelly. Gather any 5 people, ask them about the traits they want to see in their next hire or co-worker and “positive attitude”, “fun”, and “open minded” will be at the top of the list.

Requisite dating analogy

It doesn’t matter how easy on the eyes a potential plus one is, or how much we have in common with our future ex. We will grow bored and frustrated if they possess a negative attitude. We will put up with the potential +1 longer than normal, but the end result will be the same. 

When it comes to management roles, having a positive attitude is key. Managers aren’t really needed when the times are good, deals are rolling in and everyone is making their bonuses. Any monkey can hand out a raise or a bonus. Managers are needed when times are tough, when deal flow is drying up and when the results are not there. Good managers are paid to solve problems and it is tough to follow or be inspired by a manager who is always thinking “we’ll never get it done” or “that’s impossible”. Managers figure it out. Great managers solve problems. The expectation is that managers produce results.  Most leadership teams believe they can teach technical skills and do NOT believe they can teach a positive attitude. F-U-L-L S-T-O-P.

Moon Shot

If you say any of the below on a regular basis, you probably aren’t getting into management any time soon.

  • “No”. Extra steps backwards in the ladder to management if you say “No” without a reason why it is a “no”.
  • “That can’t be done”. I have said it before and will say it again. If we put a man on the moon in the 60’s, we can do anything. It may cost more money and take more resources than what is initially available, but it CAN be done. The United States proved it. Our first rocket didn’t make it to the moon, we made baby steps, but we did it.
    • NASA shot a moon into space.
    • The United States put a monkey into space.
    • We orbited the moon.
    • THEN  we landed on the moon.
    • The United States put a man on the moon.
  • Any sentence implying an idea is stupid, dumb or useless. We don’t have to state the idea is stupid, dumb or useless, but if that is the impression we leave, we probably are not going to hear any further ideas.

Positive Examples

One of the most creative biz dev guys I know and admire taught me that the answer should never be “No”. The answer should always be “Yes” or “Yes, if”. As in “Yes, IF we can do X or Y”.  So, if someone asks if we can haul the piano up the stairs to the 4th floor, we don’t say “No, it can’t be done”. We try some version of “Yes, IF we just have the right equipment including a crane and we can take the window out of the room it is supposed to go in. We will put the piano through the window.

The CEO pulled me aside and gave me an edict: “Don’t ever let me fire Creative Biz Dev Guy. He and TL are the only two guys that understand where I am coming from when I am thinking forward and dreaming big. Everyone else thinks I am on crack and shit’s on my ideas but those two guys can see the potential”. Two lessons here:

  1. If you want to hear ideas from your team, don’t shit on them when they are suggested.
  2. Anyone can see the potential of an idea with the right frame of mind.

These two guys didn’t think about how it “couldn’t be done”. They were always figuring out how it CAN be accomplished and this is why they were able to keep up with the CEO. Are you an AmericCAN or an AmeriCAN’T?

There are no impossible tasks. There are “interesting problems” and “tough challenges”.

Alternatives to negative answers

Instead of saying “No”, “No, it can’t be done.” or “No, that’s stupid.”

Try: “That is an interesting challenge. That could be tough. Let me think about that for a minute?” If we say “It can’t be done” and someone does get it done, we will have mud on our face.  

Try: “I can see where we could come to that conclusion. Have WE thought about it this way?”

Instead of saying: “We don’t have enough people / budget to get that done.”

Try: “Let’s figure out how many / how much it will take to get what we need and back off from that number.” Then follow up with:  

  • “What is the minimum that we can get away with?”
  • “What can we do to make an initial viability test?”

Instead of saying, “It isn’t MMYYYYY fault”

Try: “I am sure what ever happened wasn’t intentional. Let’s figure out how to improve the situation.”

Instead of saying “I don’t like that.” Or “I hate that”.

Try: “I haven’t learned to appreciate that yet. What should I be looking for?”

Instead of saying “Johnny is stupid, dumb, an asshole, etc”. 

Try: A small personal dose of STFU.  OK, that sounded horrible, but I am pretty sure you will remember it. BOOYAHHH!

Glass half full

The goal is to think before we speak and try and present ourselves in at LEAST a neutral tone. It’s not going to happen overnight. Change will be a process. 

Look at the glass as half full instead of half empty and if the glass is less than half full, find a smaller glass.

Next week: how to shed a reputation for having a negative attitude.

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”.

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Presidential Debate 2016, the ultimate job interview

Posted: by HRNasty in Job Interview Tips

presidential debate

Presidential debate or job interview

Presidential Debate Disclaimer:

Any political opinions as it relates to the presidential debate in this post are not intentional and merely coincidental. The writer does not take any financial compensation from advertising or placements. This blog is intended to provide tips on interviewing and career advice only. Political opinions are not intentional and intended for learning purposes only. All data and information on this site are for informational purposes only. HRNasty.com makes no representations as to accuracy, completeness, currentness or validity as it relates to political views.  

Debate or Job Interview

Like many people, I have been sucked into the train wreck of politics. I have been watching the presidential debates and seeing job interview lessons to be learned from both candidates. Both candidates are interviewing for one of the most powerful jobs in the world. The candidates are in the largest panel interview of their lives.

presidential debate

Interviewers Holt, Raddatz, Cooper, and Wallace conducting the interview on behalf or the American public.

Instead of walking into a room where there is just a panel of 3 or 4 interviewers, the candidates are being interviewed on behalf of the American public.

Rest assured, I am NOT going to discuss politics in this post

My one and only goal is to leverage the presidential debates as a platform for job interview lessons.  Instead of using my normal dating analogies, I will be using presidential debate analogies. Wish me luck. 

There are a number of lessons that can be demonstrated as it relates to interviewing for a job within this presidential debate. We are only going to focus on one, Behavioral Interviewing.

Behavioral Interviewing

The theory of Behavioral interviewing says that prior success is the best indicator of future success. Recruiters want to find a track record of success and candidates want to prove that track record of success. I am a big believer that this is one of the best ways a candidate can prove their qualifications into a job and have blogged on the topic here.

In the first presidential debate, the 1st question asked of both candidates was on the topic was “Achieving prosperity”.

Lester Holt asked both candidates,

“Why are you a better choice than your opponent to create the kinds of jobs that will put more money into the pockets of American workers?”

Hillary response:

The central question in this election is really what kind of country we want to be and what kind of future we’ll build together. Today is my granddaughter’s second birthday, so I think about this a lot. First, we have to build an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top. That means we need new jobs, good jobs, with rising incomes.

I want us to invest in you. I want us to invest in your future. That means jobs in infrastructure, in advanced manufacturing, innovation and technology, clean, renewable energy, and small business, because most of the new jobs will come from small business. We also have to make the economy fairer. That starts with raising the national minimum wage and also guarantee, finally, equal pay for women’s work.

I also want to see more companies do profit-sharing. If you help create the profits, you should be able to share in them, not just the executives at the top.

And I want us to do more to support people who are struggling to balance family and work. I’ve heard from so many of you about the difficult choices you face and the stresses that you’re under. So let’s have paid family leave, earned sick days. Let’s be sure we have affordable child care and debt-free college.

How are we going to do it? We’re going to do it by having the wealthy pay their fair share and close the corporate loopholes.

Not about politics

This is not about the answer being right or wrong answer. This post isn’t about politics so please don’t read into it this way. (Noticing a theme?)  But I am an interviewer and I cringed when I heard the above answer as it relates to a job interview question. Behavioral interviewing says that “Demonstrating prior success is the best indicator of future success.” With this in mind, candidates want to demonstrate prior success and give details of prior success as it relates to the question.

Politics aside, and with only job interview lessons in mind, (recurring theme) I didn’t hear anything about prior success in Hillary’s answer. The answer we heard is what typically gets candidates declined from hiring managers and department heads. The answer was simple arm chair quarterbacking.   

Breakdown of the answer

The very first sentence of the candidate’s answer doesn’t relate to the question. There is talk about the grand daughter and the connection to the initial question is tough to make. As an interviewer I am IMMEDIATELY wondering “Where is this answer going?”   

Hillary then goes on to list off what we should do on a number of various topics including equal pay, companies implementing profit sharing, affordable child care to name a few. But she doesn’t give evidence that she CAN make the changes. 

Towards the end of the answer, Hillary stated the following but in my opinion, she didn’t close the deal. 

“How are we going to do it? We’re going to do it by having the wealthy pay their fair share and close the corporate loopholes.” 

But at no point in her answer did we hear how she is qualified to implement the solution, has deep knowledge about the situation, or had solved anything similar in the past. 

When it comes to being qualified for the role of president, Hillary Clinton is much more qualified than HRNasty but I wouldn’t have been out of bounds if I had given the exact same answer. She could easily differentiate herself from HRNasty as a candidate if she listed prior successes. ( I would not be able to list prior successes)

(Again, politics aside)  Hillary has worked in public service and in politics for a long time. I have done nothing even close. I could have easily given the exact same answer and not been out of bounds. The answer didn’t contain specific examples. She could have easily separated herself from a monkey like me by talking about her prior successes as it relates to politics and change.

She could have followed up her initial answer with a demonstration of prior success. “And I have helped put more money into American pockets when I did X, Y and Z.)

As it relates to Behavioral interviewing, Trump said something very similar.

Trump explained that jobs are leaving the country and that US companies are going overseas. Trump then pointed to a reduction in taxes to keep the United States as an attractive place for companies and corporations. 

But at the end of the day, I could say all of the above with just as much credibility because the answer doesn’t give any specific examples. And this is exactly what happens in a job interview. The candidate tells the hiring manager what they want to do, or what they think should be done. What we as candidates need to do in a job interview is articulate how we have had success solving a related problem the past. A hiring manager hears candidate and employee ideas every day of the week. It’s all just hot air to the manager.  The candidates that receive job offers are the ones that have been able to articulate prior success and the steps taken to accomplish the desired outcomes.  

A history of success creating jobs or higher salaries would have been a demonstration of prior success. Demonstration of providing tax breaks to corporations would have shown prior success. In the context of a presidential debate / job interview, the above examples are talking points that I personally would NOT be able to demonstrate. HRC has the ability to separate herself from a monkey like HRNasty as a candidate for the position.   

Demonstration of success

Hillary DID articulate prior successes when she addressed Trumps comment about her being in government for 30 years. Hillary responded with “So let me talk about my 30 years in public service, I’m very glad to do so”.  She then went on to tick off a laundry list of accomplishments directly related to a presidential position. Hillary was able to demonstrate she is more qualified to fill the job of president over HRNasty. I would NOT be able to rattle off even one of the below bullets.

  • Eight million kids every year have health insurance, because when I was first lady I worked with Democrats and Republicans to create the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
  •   Hundreds of thousands of kids now have a chance to be adopted because I worked to change our adoption and foster care system.
  • After 9/11, I went to work with Republican mayor, governor and president to rebuild New York and to get health care for our first responders who were suffering because they had run toward danger and gotten sickened by it.
  • Hundreds of thousands of National Guard and Reserve members have health care because of work that I did.
  • Children have safer medicines because I was able to pass a law that required the dosing to be more carefully done.
  • When I was secretary of state, I went around the world advocating for our country, but also advocating for women’s rights, to make sure that women had a decent chance to have a better life.
  • N egotiated a treaty with Russia to lower nuclear weapons.
  •   Four hundred pieces of legislation have my name on it as a sponsor or cosponsor when I was a senator for eight years.

The above bullets are more effective in proving qualifications over “What we need to do” or “What we should be doing.” “What I could do” and “What we should do” is just arm chair quarterbacking and not effective in a job interview. The above bullets demonstrate she has plenty of political experience and success. Candidates that provide examples of prior success are a higher percentage bet.

Again, I am NOT trying to show one candidate in a better light as it relates to the presidential debate. (Plug for neutrality) I am trying showcase behavioral interviewing as it relates to a job interview.


Numbers can lend credibility. Both candidates demonstrated this tactic in their answers. Hillary stated she was re-elected to office with 67% of the vote. Trump spoke to numbers when he talked about being endorsed by 16,000 border agents. Numbers put everything into perspective. 

EG: Instead of saying “I am a hard worker” try the following. “Yes, I believe I am a hard worker. I put myself through school in 4 years while working 30 hours a week. I am proud of this because I maintained a 3.0 GPA.” 

What other lessons can we learn about job interviews from these candidates who are both interviewing for our votes? Share them in the comments below and let the games begin!

For my Behavioral Interviewing style answers to the top interview questions click here. 

See you at the voting booths!


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”.

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