Corporate training has come a long way. Our attitudes toward training should also move forward.

To train or not to train employees

When employees resign after a company invests in employee training, it is not just a gut punch, it’s a kick in the ding- ding when the manager is down. With the average length of career tenures getting shorter, there are numerous leaders who are fearful of investing budgeted straining dollars into their employees.

A generation or two ago, the average tenure for employees was 10 – 15 years with a single company and employee investments were easy to justify. With today’s tight labor market and a different generation of workers, it isn’t unusual for employees to shift every two years because of the desire to work on new products or technology. Today’s workers wants to expand their skill set. Todays workforce wants to learn and does not want to remain stagnant.

The employer mindsets have become insecure because of this. They are afraid that if the company invests in the employee, the employee becomes more valuable. Training makes the employee more attractive to higher-paying competition. The fear is that the investment of training and certifications, all paid for by the current employers profits can walk out the door.

I call this shortsighted leadership, and the term leadership is used pretty loosely here. To the managers who don’t want to invest in training because of a few bad apples, consider this to be the same attitude as the HR folks we are all resentful of. These same HR folks put red tape and rules into place for the entire workforce when a few bad players weren’t managed correctly. Because one or two employee came to work with dilated eyes (who wants to get high by themselves?), in typical HR fashion the thing to do would be to administer regular drug tests for everyone. One bad apple shouldn’t spoil it for the rest of the bushel.   

Training not only makes employees valuable TO THE COMPANY, training can increase individual productivity and loyalty to the company. If a manager is worried about making an employe more valuable to the competition, the manager should be reminded that a trained employee is more valuable to the current employer as well. According to a trends report from a recent FORTUNE 100 Best Companies to Work For article, the best companies are:

  • Offering 66.5 hours of training annually for salaried employees
  • Offering 53 hours of training for hourly employees
  • Fill on average 31% of open positions with internal candidates

Not all training requests are cray-cray boondoggles.

Maybe you are thinking about expensive classes where employees are away from the office on some Vegas boondoggle. Yes, we have all seen the cray-cray expense reports, but again, we shouldn’t let a bad expense report ruin it for everyone else. This my friend is called “prejudice”.  If your company doesn’t have the resources to send an employee to off-site training, wants to keep employees on campus, or isn’t able to have employees out of the office for the extra travel days, online resources are a good alternative.

Earlier generations viewed classroom learning with textbooks and a classroom as the ONLY way to train. Today, online training has become the new black. Many people are receiving accredited degrees online and using YouTube to learn how to do everything from cooking to changing the oil on their specific model car to advance skills in EXCEL. Online training can be particularly appealing to employees because they can study at their own pace and retake a class or replay a video they don’t understand. For me, YouTube is the very first place I go when I want to learn more about ANYTHING.

Leadership should take notice that a vast majority of the workforce is hungry to grow and will stick around when presented the opportunity to develop new skill sets. Seeing anything less is a miss. If we train a department of 20 employees, it is usually just one or two folks out of the 20 who leave. These folks were probably going to leave regardless of whether or not they received the training and we shouldn’t make the correlation between training and leaving. These employees didn’t leave because of the training. These employees were going to leave. Try not to think about how much you spent on the ungrateful few that left. Think about how much benefit was reaped across the department and the long-term gain. 

Many employees leave because they are not challenged and did not feel they were growing professionally. If employees are stuck on the same product, service or technology year after year, of course they are going to get bored. If we can give them training, we can expand their skill set and keep careers interesting. 

As an HR professional, I don’t create policy in fear of a few bad apples or experiences. I need to trust that our employees are going to do the right thing a majority of the time. We shouldn’t EXPECT 100% of the workforce to stick around for the rest of their careers. This attitude is arrogant and in most cases not reasonable. There is no single company decision that is going to make everyone happy. If there is one thing I learned in HR is that no matter what decision you make, there will be employees that find fault or complain. Provide a free breakfast and someone will wonder about why there isn’t a free lunch. Provide a MacBook and someone will say there isn’t enough memory.

Most of the population will be grateful. We need to focus and invest in this group. If we create policy for the bottom 10%, we will certainly drive away the top performers and this is the last thing we want to do.

At the end of the day, we need to make decisions for the sane and rational 90% of the company, not the 10% that doesn’t appreciate it. I count myself lucky when the ingrates leave the company on their own volition. If that means we lose 10% and they take their negative attitudes with them, I consider that a long-term win. The damage this 10% will do over the long run can’t be measured. If they want to take the training and run, I will be perfectly content watching this demographic go to the competition because they probably weren’t the right fit for us and can be the cancer at the competition with their bad attitude. We still have the 90% of the population that matters. If someone doesn’t want training, that is a sign. But if someone does want training, we should be so lucky.
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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Gender equality and pay

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

gender equality

Who can help gender equality?

Gender Equality and Pay

As an HR guy, I hear a lot about gender equality / inequality and pay. Fair warning: This post isn’t going to be politically correct. If you are not able to handle season 4 of the TV series Sons of Anarchy or Breaking Bad, better move along cuz’ it may get ugly.

Gender equality

Read further at your own risk

I do understand diversity issues. There are demographics of employees out there that are not getting paid their worth. I completely agree with this. There are demographics of employees who are over paid and it isn’t always fair. There are mainstream employees who are under paid and believe it or not, there are individuals belonging to culturally diverse groups that are overpaid. 

When I hear someone talk about a specific demographic being treated differently on topics of pay, opportunity, promotions, or a specific demographic in leadership, I tend to get a little bitchy. Today is one of dem’ days people.

It’s not always the company’s fault. I think the employees can do better. I belong to two specific demographics and depending on my mood and sense of fashion on any given day, am placed in a third and am flattered for it. I am a minority and over 40 years of age. I work for a company that requires a minority be interviewed for any position of leadership and I work in HR. I don’t think I would have made it to where I am if I didn’t have some awareness on this topic. 

Let me be the first to say, I do not want a job, raise or an opportunity because I belong to a specific demographic / minority group. I do not want my salary to be increased because I am a minority. I want to land a salary adjustment, title, opportunity or promotion because of my skills and thought leadership, not because of favoritism. The last thing I want is to have the mainstream whispering amongst themselves and thinking that I slept my way to the top off my model good looks.

HR is conditioned to be sensitive to this topic. I think the sensitivity can hurt careers and I want to make sure that the diverse groups and genders are not making the same mistake. If HR folks are reinforcing the notion that different groups are being underpaid or missing opportunities, I believe we are pushing the wrong message.

It is easy for HR to say:

  • We don’t have enough minorities in leadership positions.
  • Women are not receiving similar pay for similar work as compared to their male colleagues.
  • We don’t hire enough veterans.

Yes, if the company wants to retain specific groups of employees, it won’t hurt to make adjustments to the process. If there are not enough minorities in leadership positions, recruiting at minority career fairs is a good start. 

That being said, as a minority I CANNOT rely on or blame the company for not giving me the opportunity. I need to figure out a way to get that opportunity and in a lot of instances it is our approach or lack thereof. I need to break the “approach” code. 

If ANYONE wants access to training, salary, opportunities or promotions, first and foremost, they need to let the manager know what they want. There are employees from all backgrounds that do not ask for what they want and are waiting for a tap on the shoulder that will probably never come. 

I can not assume that my hard work and good results will be enough to get me noticed.

I can not complain when someone who isn’t performing at my level, asks for (aka:shows interest) and receives the opportunity.

I come from an ethnic group that has a reputation for being the “Quiet American”. Stereotypically, this group is reserved, stoic, will not ask for anything, and avoids conflict. I blogged about the best advice I ever received in my entire career here: Best Career Advice. The advice I was given was to take the initiative to speak up and went against every cultural value with which I was raised. I was underpaid and not receiving opportunity, but I wasn’t asking for it either. It wasn’t all the company’s fault. I wasn’t fluent in the corporate speak and in their eyes, I wasn’t showing any interest. Now I speak the corporate language and my career is moving. 

I don’t think HR should go to our CEO and say:

  • “The company is not paying our women enough, we need to revisit their pay.”
  • “The company doesn’t have enough minorities in leadership, we need to start promoting minorities.”

I appreciate the intent of the above statements but I don’t think we are doing anyone in these groups any favors. The above actions may be address the gender equality problem but we are not fixing the root cause.

I would prefer HR provide insight and coaching directly to all employees as to what it will take to be tapped for additional opportunities. Instead of reinforcing the notion that “This company doesn’t pay group X equally”, I believe we should coach employees and provide them the tools so they can stand up on their own. If the company changes behavior and adapts to the employee, then the employee won’t learn or become better. I believe HR could:

  1. Train employees on when and how to show initiative and speak up for new opportunities.
    1. Do great work and ask for more on the heels of the completed project. Don’t ask, don’t get. 
  2. Coach the fact that it is not only OK to share great results, it helps the company. There is a difference between being a braggart and sharing results for the benefit of the company. Market your brand. Don’t share, don’t get.
  3. Work with employees to be specific about what they say when it comes to pay, opportunities, etc. You would be shocked how many times an employee THINKS they are asking for something and the manager did not get the message, for example: 
    • Manager: How much are you looking for?
    • Employee: I am looking for something between $50K and $60K.
    • The employee thinks he said $60K, the manager heard $50K.  DOH!
  4. Gotta ask more than once. Managers need reminders too.

Let’s say I recruited 14 employees last quarter, and this was an all time high for our recruiting team. Some culturally diverse groups may be uncomfortable sharing this information because they think it will come across as being a braggadocio. I know that 20 years ago, I would have been happy with my accomplishment and probably would not even shared this celebratory moment with Mrs. Nasty. If someone were to ask me about my best month hiring 20 years ago, I would have replied, “I got lucky and hired a few folks” and left it at that. This statement is NOT going to move my career anywhere and for the record, there are a lot of 6 foot 2 males weighing 170 pounds wearing a size 40R jacket that remain quiet and unnoticed. Not saying you need to be an ass about it, I’m just sayin’. 

If I were to enter a room and yell, “Hey bitches, I just put 14 butts in seats last quarter, WTF did you do?” Add a dope slap to one recruiter on the back of the head and flick another with my forefinger and thumb like they were a discarded booger, and we just checked the Asshole box. But when the project comes up that needs a recruiting animal, guess who will get tapped on the shoulder. That’s right bitches, me the booger flicker.    

Below is a marketing message with annotations on how I could talk about 14 hires and setting a personal best. The tone and cadence would sound like me sharing my accomplishment with a good friend over a beer and not a chest thumping douche. If we were to say:

(1) I am proud of my results from last quarter. I hit a personal best with 14 hires and we were able to accelerate the timeline put in place by the Program Managers by 1 month with the additional resources. (2) I tried a couple of different passive recruiting tactics and (3) happy to share them with the recruiters in the Western Region. I can give them a contact at LinkedIn so they can have access to the same algorithms we are using. (4) It really was a team effort and the Dev team totally stepped-up to the plate. We ran a lot more candidates through interview loops and I know they had packed delivery schedules so I really appreciate their effort. (5) We wouldn’t have gotten the hires without them.

  1. Explains our accomplishment with pride and without arrogance. We are also tying a business need to our accomplishment.
  2. Markets ourselves as someone who is willing to try something different.
  3. Markets ourselves as a team player.
  4. Markets ourselves as a team player.
  5. Demonstrates we know how to spread the wealth, cuz’ that’s how we roll.

I could have said the above with only 5 hires notched on my belt and would have made a great impression. I would have marketed myself more effectively and at the same time sounded like a team player.

If you belong to the demographic that you feel is not being treated fairly, don’t just look to the company to do the right thing. It is our career and ultimately our own responsibility. We need to figure out how to work within the system. The system may or may not be a fair one, but remember this: 

Managers are not mind readers

Look for these opportunities by making a conscious effort to market your brand, your skills and speaking up for what you want in a corporate friendly way. I coach folks from all backgrounds and demographics. I can honestly say that when employees put in the work and speak up, “they get”. Life isn’t always fair and when it isn’t we can’t just give up and blame the system. 
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, “like” us on Facebook, and leave your comments below. Thank you!

manager employee relationship

nuff said

When bosses are friendly with employees

Can the manager employee relationship be friendly? I am asked some form of this question on a regular basis and I believe the answer SHOULD be yes. Sometimes the question comes from an individual contributor who is now reporting to someone who used to be a peer and is wondering if the relationship will change. Other times the question comes up because an individual contributor says “I don’t want to manage my friends”. In reality I think the real crux  is the fear they may have to fire their friend. I think both attitudes are whackity-whack. For all of you who were thinking about a physical relationship, shame on you. This isn’t that kind of site. 

First things first:

Thing 1:

If you are NOT able to hold a friendship with your manager, don’t expect to get very far.

Thing 2:

If you don’t want to be friends with the team you are managing, don’t expect to get very far.

I am not saying you need to kiss up to your manager, sleep with your manager or put up some fake, insincere front. I am saying we should have the emotional intelligence and maturity to be able to hold a positive relationship with just about anyone we work with. We should absolutely be able to have a similar manager employee relationship. After all, this is the person that will have the most influence on your career.

Hanging out for drinks, going to the occasional ball game with company tickets, or having lunch with my manager are all things I should be able to do within a manager employee relationship. Receiving advice, mentorship, or career guidance are all things I want to hear from a manager and a friend.

I am NOT saying we need to elevate our relationship to BFF status with pinky swears. I don’t expect anyone to share the chewing gum you are currently chewing that might still has some flavor in it. 

The strong manager employee relationship

Personally, I have learned the most from prior managers where there was a strong manager employee relationship. I would say that in a number of cases, my best managers have been best friends and mentors. For some this may sound weird but for me it makes total sense. I want to see my manager / good friend be successful and my manager / best friend wants to see me be successful. If my friend isn’t going to give me any advice, who will? It takes an emotional investment and courage to give real advice and that isn’t going to come from someone who doesn’t care. How can we not help but align and accomplish goals when we have a strong manager employee relationship? Relationships without trust and a common goal usually fail in dating, marriage, and sports teams. It is no different with work. 

We may not always have the ability to pick our managers the way we pick our teams or our significant others, but we need to work with what we are given. We need to figure out a way to make these relationships work. 

Take the emotion out of the equation and just consider the business logic. Our manager is the person that can have the most impact on our career both short-term and long-term. For this reason, it is in our best interest to hold a positive manager employee relationship.

A strong work ethic and results are important, but to accelerate your career, we need to demonstrate emotional intelligence and maturity and navigate relationships long-term. We don’t want any leader to think we are not able to handle sticky situations. EI and maturity will help us navigate the relationships. Successful employees are able to balance these 4 factors as they progress through their careers whether they are managers or individual contributors. We are not talking about dating your manager, romantic dinner invites or giving up your season tickets to the local sports team. 

It is our career, so it is ultimately our responsibility to make sure these relationships work.

A few scenario’s I hear on a regular basis:

“My best friend at work was just promoted to manager and the power will go to their head.”

Gimme a break. Yes, there is the slight chance that the power of becoming a manager will go to our friend’s head but I want to throw out two questions. Would the company promote your friend if they thought the power would go to their head? Would you have become friends with this person if you thought they were one small promotion away from becoming Napoleon with an ego complex? As their friend, don’t we owe it to them to help them keep things in check? 

“I don’t want to be the manager of this group because everyone on this team is a friend. I don’t want a manager employee relationship because I wouldn’t want to fire anyone.”

This is a cop-out. Instead of looking at the glass half empty, let’s look at the glass half full. As a friend first and a manager second, don’t we want to be the person that helps your team promoted or land new opportunities? YOU can be responsible for making sure these folks are successful. YOU know what makes these individuals tick better than any manager from the outside. YOU know what motivates these folks and turns them off. Who is better equipped to help them be successful?

manager employee relationship

Next time you hear yourself poo-pooing a manager employee relationship or hesitating on a manager role because you would be managing your friends, take a minute for a reality check. In the immortal words of Ice Cube “You better check yo self before you wreck yo self”. Is it the manager / manager role we are worried about or is it ourselves?

Next time we are wondering if we can have a relationship with a manager who was previously a peer, check yo self. Whose maturity do we really doubt? Ours or the managers?

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, “like” us on Facebook, and leave your comments below. Thank you!

Executive Coaches and a great career resource

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

Executive Coach can make a difference

Executive Coaches for the individual contributor

I was just introduced to a new online resource, and it is full of well written, relevant articles on the topic of career growth. This blog looks to be part of The Economist magazine’s Executive Education Navigator site which is full of resources including a lot of great blog posts. One blog post in particular on Executive Coaches struck a positive personal chord and I wanted to add a couple of personal comments in the hope that others might find value. That post is here. I have been blogging on the topic of coaching and mentorship lately and this post on executive coaching echo’s my personal philosophies.

The author, Liz Funk makes a case for the use of an executive coach and I couldn’t agree more. Even if you are not a CEO, I think a “career” coach is something that all of us should consider regardless of where we are in our careers. Olympic athletes have coaches. Luke Skywalker had Yoda and the Karate Kid had Mr. Miyagi. Why shouldn’t we have a coach for our individual careers We want to make progress just like the previously mentioned right. Let’s face it, if CEO’s are utilizing coaches, shouldn’t we as individual contributors? Who says they should get all the perks?

To be clear, I do not consider myself to be an executive coach, and this is not a commercial or pitch for So just a quick couple of data points.

  • I have used coaches in the past and found them to be immensely valuable.
  • We don’t need to be an executive or spend big money on coaches. There are many ways we can find career coaching regardless of where we are in our careers and our budgets.
  • I have never met and do not know the author of the article. 

At the last company I worked with, the executive team was given a monthly budget for executive coaching. Our CEO worked with a coach on a weekly basis and found tremendous value. This CEO is a smart guy and the problems he is trying to solve are at a different level than most. Just like a sports coach, a career coach can make us better. As Funk’s article mentions, “It is lonely at the top of an organization” and CEO’s feel less comfortable letting their hair down with a peer or their boss.”

When I was early in my career, I was brought on as an early employee into a fast growing company to head up the HR department. The company was relatively small at the time, and my 10 years of HR experience was enough to get us to the first 50 or 60 employees. When we got to employee 100, I was getting in over my head. I had a small team of great employees, but I didn’t have what it took to get the company to 200 + employees or more.

Initially I tried to get it done, but I realized quickly that even if I got us to 150 employees, I wouldn’t get us much further. We needed software, process, more resources and most importantly, we needed the ability to scale. Although I wasn’t at the point of panic, my breath was getting shallow and I always had a brown paper bag nearby. I was feeling backed into a corner. To me it was inevitable (and a bit embarrassing) that my skill set would run out. I approached my CEO and said that I should step down and we should hire someone who could really scale the company. I would love to be an individual contributor, but I didn’t think I had what it took to take us to the next level.

He didn’t even hesitate. Johnny on the spot, he said that I should go out and get a coach. That coach may be a player coach initially but to get a coach to help me through the knothole. If the coaching wasn’t enough, then maybe the coach would be my next boss, but he let me know I would be involved in hiring any future boss. This turned out to be a very short and casual conversation and not half as scary as I thought it would be. For the record, a coach was not an option I had even considered. The CEO set the tone for that career make or break moment and I try to remember that as I find myself leading others.

Initially, I worked with the coach a couple of days a week, then 1 day a week, then a couple of days a month. Eventually, I just had a quarterly check in. I have the CEO to thank for giving me that opportunity and believing in me, and we eventually grew the company to over 300 employees with 6 offices and 4 international locations. Yes, I continued to lead the HR department and I couldn’t have done it without the coach. I don’t know where I would be today if I didn’t have a CEO that believed in me and provided access to a coach. At the time, I was not considered an executive so yes, I am a fan of coaches.

The article referenced above goes on to explain what to look for in a coach and what questions you should ask a potential coach.

Although the article is geared toward executive coaches, the concept of a coach can apply to all levels. For those of us who are not executives or receive an allowance, I blogged about how to find a mentor here  and I believe they can cover a lot of what a coach will do. Make no mistake, mentors and coaches are two different things and I am not trying to dilute the author’s message. Execs usually get a budget for executive coaching but as individual contributors, we may not have this luxury and mentors can be as reasonable as a cup of coffee or a nice lunch.

Check out the site and next time you are facing a crossroad in your career, consider a coach.
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, “like” us on Facebook, and leave your comments below. Thank you!

Thankful for 2015, looking forward to 2016

Posted: by HRNasty in Climbing Career Ladder, Recent Graduate

2015 2016

Surrounded by supportive subscribers

Thanks for 2015

As 2015 comes to a close, I wanted to take a moment to thank all of the subscribers and supporters of the blog. When I started this blog 5 years ago, it was an excuse to lock down a URL for a nickname given to me by my co-workers. I didn’t have a blog in mind. Vainly I just wanted the URL. I was casually helping folks find jobs, had a number of white papers I put together on the topic and realized I could use the blog as a public host. I also realized I could learn a lot more about my own personal weakness, social media.

5 years later, I would have never thought I would learn so much about social media, make so many friends, or help folks find jobs and advance careers. What started out as a fluke has turned into a personal success. The blog has close to 35,000 subscribers via various channels and I couldn’t be happier. This would not have happened without your support.

It is with your subscription, questions, comments, emails and thanks that keep me motivated to write, and I like to believe have helped more and more folks with their careers and finding new jobs. Frankly, we all have each other to thank. Without the subscriber engagement, I wouldn’t have kept going. I also know that a lot of readers have been helped by other subscribers and twitter followers and that in itself is pretty damn cool.

2015, a year of change 

2015 2016

Thankful for great friends and times shared in 2015. I know these guys will always have my back.

I started 2015 with the sale of the last company I was working with in January. I knew I would be looking for a new job but before that search took a bit more than a month off to go fly-fishing for Steelhead in the Olympic Peninsula. This was time to decompress and figure out next steps. I blogged about the experience of being unemployed and was able to share the time off with very good friend, entrepreneur and professional angler / pro photographer, Brett Seng. If you are into the outdoors, check out his stuff here. I was flattered to be involved in the evolution of his new startup and I am really proud of him and his recent success with the new venture. The guy is a bad ass. During that month we fished and smoked cigars with a great bunch of anglers including my closest friends above. 

In April, I took a new job with a technology company working with a CEO I had worked with in the past. The CEO is guy I respected and knew I could learn from. More importantly a guy who valued HR and a guy I call a close friend. Even though the job market is hot in Seattle and unemployment was at an all time low, it was good to feel wanted.

2015 2016

I don’t wish cancer on anyone, but we are stronger for the experience.

In June, Mrs. Nasty was diagnosed with cancer. Our CEO was extremely gracious and explained that I should do what we need to do for us. I am glad to say that Mrs. Nasty just finished her radiation therapy a few weeks ago and was given a clean bill of health. She handled it like a champ and had a really positive attitude through the multiple major operations. Coming from a Tiger Mom upbringing, I know I don’t say this too often, but “I am proud how she handled the situation”. I am happy to say her employer hired her back and she starts full-time January 4.

2015 2016

Some highlights of 2015 from a career perspective:

  • I have been working with an HR colleague for a number of years. I just received a message that this year she received a $75K end of year bonus. When I first met her, her yearly salary was less than this. It’s not all about the money, but money is a reflection of value. She has been providing great value, but I think that these last few years she has learned how to communicate and market her value. She holds a legitimate “seat at the table, and is doing the HR community proud.
  • I worked with a colleague of Mrs. Nasty and we landed her a $25K raise. 
  • I partnered with a couple of millennia this past year and we have been seeing solid success. One landed a job at a salary over her expectations and above the salary band. She has since just negotiated a raise and a promotion. Another makes an effort to have a bi-weekly call where we talk about school, internships and how to set herself up for a successful graduation. The thing that is cool for me is that these young millennia’s are the children of CEO’s / executive friends who trust me to counsel their son’s and daughters. 

In all of the above situations, folks took a leap of faith and trusted the advice. I don’t take that trust lightly and am very thankful for it. I think that the subscriber support of this blog lends a lot of credibility and I have you to thank for that. 

When I was early in my career, I didn’t understand the “Be thankful for what you have”, mantra and took a lot for granted. As life becomes more complicated, I think that one of the qualities I am trying to strengthen is the ability to appreciate the little things, even in the face of hardship. Being able to accept what life throws at us and not taking matters personally can make a difference. No matter what the situation, if we can find something to be thankful for and look forward to, we can make the best of a shitty situation. 

As we look towards 2016, I wanted to say how appreciative I am of your support. This blog has given me a sense of pride, an alter ego, and a lot of great friends. I wouldn’t be who I am without the continued support. Thank you very much.

2015 2016

HRNasty swag on water bottle

As a small gesture of appreciation, I’d be more than happy to send anyone interested a vinyl decal for their laptop, water bottle or skateboard. Just email me at and I’ll send it out. 

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, “like” us on Facebook, and leave your comments below. Thank you!

Building Team Trust

Posted: by HRNasty in Company Culture, Strategic HR

building team trust

Obligatory HR Trust Fall shot (not my idea of building team trust)

Building team trust

is difficult. Sometimes individuals on our teams don’t seem to want to build a relationship with us as managers. Some folks may have had a bad experience with management in the past and others may look at the job as just a “Jay.Oh.Be”. They don’t come to work with the mindset to build relationships. Some employees are just there for the paycheck and these folks are usually the least engaged.

Last week, I blogged about how to influence your manager and get your VP to notice you. That post is here. I also promised that I would explain how to run the same game on individual contributors if you are a manager or the VP.

Building team trust is easier said than done, especially when you inherit a team vs. building a team via direct hires. This week I share a tactic I have used effectively with leadership teams in the past to build trust throughout the org.

Just to provide perspective, last weeks blog was a suggestion to help individual contributors manage their manage. My suggestion was for individual contributors to take the opportunity and send a complimentary email about your direct manager, to your managers – manager. This email would be complimentary of your first line manager and does two things:

  • Gives your VP visibility into who YOU are as an individual contributor
  • Gives your manager the opportunity to look at you in a different light. You are not just someone who needs to be managed, you are now an ally. Management is a lonely game and most managers do not believe they have ally’s reporting to them.

If you are cynical about this tactic or your manager, please read the post where I explain more here.

Building team trust

As managers, we are constantly on the mission of building team trust. Without it, our days can be not just lonely but down right difficult. Most employees don’t trust management and I understand why. The very word “management” gives some folks the impression that the manager is there to manage. Managers are responsible for budgets, raises, disciplinary action etc. When the corporate system puts limits on budgets and raises, it becomes very difficult to be the company representative and build trust. Trust would be much easier to give if there were adequate budgets and the word was “career accelerator” vs. “manager”. Most employees do not believe that managers are there for the employee. One way to break this stereotype is to do something for the employee that gives the IC that you are there for them as individuals.

As managers, we take it for granted that individual contributors understand that there is a budget, limited resources and guidelines for the collective to follow. What is common sense to one person is ludicrous to another. As managers, part of our job is to bridge this gap and explain the company philosophy around the nebulous topics.

Budgets and merit increase philosophy can be a hard thing to understand. Before we explain what many employees may not understand it can be helpful to build trust with the employee so they really do believe you as their manager are on their side. It is easy to buy lunch or coffee for your team, but many cynical employees will think that their manager makes so much more money than they bring home that it is the very least they can do. So we need to do the something that they can appreciate and that money cannot buy. We need to give them the confidence that we are there for them as an individual. One way to do that is to give your team the confidence that in addition to playing sheriff, we are there to accelerate careers.

Building Team Trust

As a manager, next time Johnny Employee does something good, try the following.

Meet with your VP. Explain to Suzy VP that you noticed Johnny Employee went the extra mile. You want to send a note to Suzy VP outlining the deed and explaining how that deed helped the department, business, team, etc. In this email, you explain that you would like to make sure that this deed goes on record and you thought it was such a great move that Suzy VP should know about it. (We are not sending this email  to Johnny Employee.)

And then the coup de’ grace.

You explain to Suzy VP that you would like her to forward the email to Johnny Employee with the following short note:

Johnny Employee:

Thank you so much for doing X to help the (department, business, team etc). Your efforts embody the culture and philosophy of Acme Publishing and your efforts are not going un noticed. (You add your own words here.)

Thank you!


Simple and short. The entire effort between the manager and Suzy VP took all of 5 minutes and I promise you your VP will now look at your management skills in a different light. Your management IQ just went up a couple of points.

What this does for the employee is that it gives them the confidence that you, the manager is looking out for their career. In a larger organization, this move gives the employee confidence that the VP does know who they are and isn’t this what all employees REALLY want from their manager and VP or department head?

We leave the impression that there are some “behind the scenes, executive bathroom” conversations going on. These are good conversations and they are about Johnny Employee. Who doesn’t want this to happen to them?

What employees don’t trust

The typical 3% raise on a $40,000.00 a year salary came out to about $1200.00 a year or $50.00 per paycheck and about $35.00 in pocket after taxes. An employee cannot go home and take their significant other to dinner to celebrate with $35.00. Tell an employee that raise is going to be effective in 30 or 45 days in the future and you just kicked them in the ding-ding and made the stars come out.

I know when I received my first few 3% raises in my corporate career, I didn’t tell anyone about them. I didn’t tell my wife, and I didn’t tell my parents. I wasn’t embarrassed but I didn’t think it was an amount of any consequence. I didn’t want Mrs. HRNasty hitting me up to go shopping thinking we had extra money to burn. She would have heard $1200.00, when in reality it is $35.00.

There are a number of things about this tactic that I really like:

  • The deed or accomplishment doesn’t have to be anything of consequence. It can be a showing of teamwork, it can be someone volunteering for a tough shift, or as simple as an employee making a new hire feel welcome. Obviously if the accomplishment is a little bigger, we can incorporate more depth in the note to Suzy VP. I would suggest you compliment behavior you want repeated.
  • This doesn’t cost you anything but a little bit of time. Zero budget, no extra dollars and did I say “very little time?”
  • No one has to know about how you are looking out for your employee. If word does gets out that you have a reputation for getting your team visibility, that isn’t a bad thing. If you want to take it one step further and milk your gesture, you can thank the employee publicly at the next department meeting. (We don’t have to share the fact that this went to the VP because that could look like playing favorites to the cynical)

Where most employees won’t tell their significant other about a smallish raise, they will share a glowing email from their manager to the VP. They are proud, their significant-other is proud and if the email is written correctly, the employee knows EXACTLY what behavior to repeat and build upon in the future. I call this the coaching part of being a manage – er.

It is very easy to point out to employees when they are doing wrong and “manage” liability. If you want to start building team trust and reward the behavior you are looking for, give them visibility to your SuzyVP.

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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Career Ladder

She knows that to climb the career ladder it takes more than just great work.

Career ladder, how to make friends, influence people and gain opportunity

Who are we kidding, everyone wants to climb the corporate ladder. You can do great work, but plenty of people do great work. We also need to be able to influence folks. We may not all want to be an exec, but we all want new opportunities and career growth. If you are not able to influence your co-workers or your manager, you will be destined to standard raises and no new opportunities. This weeks post, how to break the cycle of mediocrity and climb the career ladder.

Make quick friends with your manager

Let’s say your boss’s name is Manager Doo-Dah. Doo Dah also has a boss and her name is SuzyB, VP. Below is a quick and easy way to score points with your manager and your VP.

The way to gain friends with manager Doo-Dah is to send a note to SuzyQ, VP which shows your appreciation for Manager Doo-Doo work on a project, a good deed, or helping you grow your skill set.

The note will go something like this,

SuzyQ VP,

I just wanted to let you know that I really appreciate working with Manager Doo Dee. We are working on the budget project and he took a few extra minutes out of his schedule to explain to me how the budget process works and why it is so important. I know that this may sound pretty ordinary, but I do not know how the budget process works at Acme Publishing. I have been involved in the process with other companies, but every company is different. He didn’t assume anything, he made sure everyone was on the same page and set the ground rules. He didn’t have to do this and I don’t know any managers that have in the past. They all assumed we knew what was going on. I appreciated him taking the time and wanted someone to know I appreciated the gesture.

Entry Level Career Ladder Climber

Hopefully you get the idea. Say something nice about your manager, don’t lay it on too thick, and be sincere. If you can’t find anything good to say about your manager, that is a different story, but let me say this.

If you cannot find anything too say about your manager, you are destined to a life of standard raises.

I will leave that hang there for a just a few minutes, but it is true. If you don’t have ANYTHING good to say about your manager than assume the same about yourself. Your manager probably isn’t going to be able to find anything good to say about you and that my friend means minimal raises and very little opportunity in your future. Someone has to break the ice and the last time I checked, we are the ones responsible for our careers and our salaries.

Back to the career ladder and influence topic

Trust me, very few of your co-workers are sending a note of ANY kind to your VP. Your peers are not working the influence people game because they are too timid to send a note. They think the VP is untouchable, and shouldn’t be bothered. Hence, they don’t bother her, ever. They will bother a director, an executive director, and others that report to her, but the VP title has certain “untouchableness”.

Of those very few co-workers that may have sent a note to Suzy VP, none of them are complimenting Manager Doo-Fuss.

By sending a note to SuzyQ VP, you get instant notoriety and cred. Your email WILL be answered, you WILL be noticed and next time you two pass each other in the hallway, she will know you exist and give you the imperceptible chin nod. If she doesn’t know you yet, she will now. You just popped up on her radar in a good way.

When SuzyQ VP has received a note in the past about with Manager Doo rKnob in the subject line, 9 times out of ten, it is a complaint, rant or bitch from her other managers, her peers, or worse, her superiors.

Your note to SuzyQ VP goes bold about you in a number of ways:

  • You are a team player; you like to make sure credit is delivered where credit is due.
  • You have a great attitude. You are a cheerleader and every team would rather have a cheerleader than a Negative Nellie that thinks the project won’t work.
  • You have confidence and you are a veteran. Even as an entry-level, runny nose noob, you can still show confidence and seniority amongst your peers of other entry-level JAFO’s. (Just Another Frick’n Observer)

Here’s the thing. After working in HR for years, and being responsible for dropping notes both good and bad in the personnel file, I found a loophole you can exploit and I am going to share it with you young CLC (Career Ladder Climber) which is different from the CLM or Career Limiting Move. Yes, this is ‘influence people 101″ folks so pull up a chair. The higher you get in the corporate food chain, the fewer people there are to compliment your work. Which makes sense, there are fewer directors than there are managers. There are fewer VP’s than there are directors. And there is only one C level for each discipline in a business. Entry level folks haven’t figured it out yet and no one is going to tell you about the secret note society except lil’ o HRNasty.

Those that rise to the top are either good ass kissers, related to the CEO or actually do good work and get shit done. For the sake of this blog post, let’s assume the latter. SuzyQ VP was on her game early in her career. She did good work, and then stumbled across a way to influence people.

Let’s say SuzyQ has been working for the past 20 years and landed the coveted VP title.

In her first 5 years as an entry-level career ladder climber, this future VP would have been on her game and was tearing it up at Acme Publishing. She didn’t have any direct reports, but her personnel file is filled with notes from co-workers, managers and directors. They are waxing poetic on the quality of work, ability to meet deadlines in the face of adversity, and being a leader when she didn’t have a formal title. Her work was stellar enough to be noticed and garner some kudos dropped into her file. She soon become addicted to the action. It was a simple Pavlovian response. Do good work, get written kudos. I know because I keep getting the notes-o-granduer to drop in the file. Some employees receive notes on a regular basis, others do not. Some are nominated for awards on a regular basis, others are not. Early in her career, SuzyQ’s MANAGER received a lot of notes on her work. The manager shared these notes with SuzyQ and so SuzyQ soon figured out that sending “Kudo’s” on other colleagues work was in vogue. (Are you seeing a trend here?)

Back to your note complimenting your manager. SuzyQ VP reads your note, asks HR to drop the note in Manager Doo Woppty’s file and then forwards YOUR email to your Manager, the one and only Manager Doobie.


Just received the below note from Entry Level Ladder Climber and wanted to say great work. It isn’t often we receive accolades from direct reports and it is obvious your team has a lot of confidence in you. Keep up the good work.

While your manager DooKey is floating on cloud nine, you my friend just got noticed by the VP as a team player and scored points with your manager DooHickey. You play it cool now. You don’t go running into your manager’s office spewing “Did SuzyQ VP tell you about my note I sent?” Veterans of the game don’t play like this. They wait for the manager to come to them, sit quietly and blush.

This needs to be genuine and sincere. We are all part of a team and as far as your manager should be concerned, if you are not successful, they are not successful. If you are playing them, they will end up playing you. If you don’t trust them, they don’t have any reason to trust you. Yes, we should all find a way to get along and like our manager.

Next week, how to go Down Town and reverse this play if you are Manager Doo Zee and want to make a similar run on the Career Ladder Climber. 

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, “like” us on Facebook, and leave your comments below. Thank you!


Day 1, the only time the interns are shown any attention

Can interns manage their manager?

Todays post is on mentors, mentee’s and all of the feel good that surrounds what is right about these relationships. If you have read this blog for any amount of time, you know I am a big proponent of mentors and I believe they can make one of THE LARGEST DIFFERENCES in a career. As I look back on my career, I absolutely know that I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for a number of individuals I call mentors both professionally and personally. I am sure that if you were to ask them, they would say they were not my mentors, but this is the very nature of most mentors. They are humble and allow the mentee to take credit for the wins. After 20 plus years in HR, I still have an HR mentor and would be lost without her. When she speaks, the hills are alive with the sounds of music. I wish I figured out the mentor game when I was much younger. How young? Read on about someone I know that is a fast track flyer.  

A few months ago, a daughter of a very close friend left to attend college out-of-state. I had watched her grow up for the past number of years, occasionally helped her with her interview skills, and watched her land a number of jobs through high school. In all honesty, I wasn’t expecting to see her for the next four years as the entire family moved out-of-state as well. A month ago, she reached out via phone and asked if we could set up a weekly call and yes, she used the word “mentor” a number of times. We agreed to keep the relationship going after we established a few ground rules.

  • We re-established that we are colleagues who will exchange ideas and work together vs. mentor and mentee, which for me implies a Sr. and a Junior.
  • This wouldn’t be a relationship where she asks questions and I would give her the easy answer. We would collaborate on solutions.
  • We wouldn’t introduce each other as mentor and mentee in public. We are equals, we just have different experiences.

Needless to say, I was flattered. Not only to keep in contact, but it meant a lot to me that she valued what I had to say and wanted to keep connected. Her father is a very well-connected individual and although I am sure she is having a number of these types of calls I was excited to be on the list. She is a fast and thoughtful study and it always brings a warm feeling to my heart when I hear about her wins both professionally and personally.

As promised, she set up the call and we spoke the last weekend. She is taking a full load of college classes, and has an internship. All this as a freshman. Oy vey! Who ever said millennial’s are lazy haven’t met this high flyer.

Of course she came prepared. We caught up with some chitchat and then got down to business. She had 3 asks for the call.

Thing 1:

Her new job treats her like a stereotypical intern. They pay no attention to her and her single assignment is endless data entry. She doesn’t feel respected and her manager doesn’t have time for her. How does she get noticed?

I asked a few probing questions:

  • What is the CEO / culture like?
  • How old is the manager / Do you think this is the manager’s first job?
  • Are there other interns and are they doing the same type of work? Are they treated any differently?

It was determined this was the manager’s first job, all interns are treated the same and the CEO was compared to The Devil Wears Prada.

Together, as colleagues, we came to a couple of assumptions to establish a baseline:

  • The company is not looking to develop talent to be recruited come the intern’s graduation. The company is using interns for the menial tasks so that more expensive talent is freed up for time to think strategically. If they wanted to form a recruiting program for future full-time hires they wouldn’t hire freshman, they would hire juniors and seniors. Although not optimum, this is completely OK for us. We are not wearing a hair net and a name tag (which she did in high school and wants to move forward). We want a job, we want to be paid and we want tech company experience. Check, check and check.
  • They treat all interns this way so we shouldn’t take it personally. (Easier said than done, but we need to keep reminding ourselves it isn’t just us.)
  • Her immediate manager’s biggest concern is not the interns but being chastised by the Prada fan. AKA, don’t take our managers lack of interest personally.
  • Her immediate manager has had no management training. This is the manager’s first job in a leadership position and our Prada wearing devil probably isn’t helping her become a better manager or investing in the people.
  • Prada may not know the intern exists, but this is a good thing. We are not prepared for interactions or questions from this level of experience just yet.

I think this in itself was a big relief for our high flyer. My young colleague manages her parents, manages her boyfriends and now she just needs to manage her manager. At first glance, we were dealt a shitty set of cards, but in the grand scheme of things, our needs are being met. We can still win this hand.

Together we came up with the following way to get noticed:

Send the immediate manager a short email that gives a progress report on what we are working on. It would read something like the below:

Ms. Manager,

I am still enjoying the job and learning a ton every day, thanks for the opportunity. I just wanted to give you a quick update on my progress regarding the data entry input. For the past few weeks, I have input on average about 6 projects a week totaling about $230,000.00 worth of inventory. At this rate, I think I will be done in about 4 weeks. I don’t anticipate any hiccups. If anything out of the ordinary comes up, I will give you a heads up. If I can provide more clarity with anything, please don’t hesitate to ask.

This email accomplishes a few critical things:

  • Lets the manager know our intern flyer is excited and engaged. No drama here.
  • Gives the manager (with no training) an update. If The Devil asks the manager for a progress report, the answer will be “I am not sure when the interns will be done with the project, but I know that Ms. Smith will be done with her portion in 4 weeks. I will find out where the others are.”
  • We can almost guarantee that the other interns are NOT providing this kind of update to the manager, so the intern will look pro active. Since the manager isn’t asking for an update, she either doesn’t have time OR doesn’t know to provide updates to the Prada wearing devil.

Thing 2:

She wanted some advice. Specifically, she asked if there was anything else she should be doing this quarter to get ahead of the game. Get ahead of the game? Are you shitting me? Sports, full academic load and an internship? If anything, I would recommend to back off and do a few things really well vs. going for broke. I was specific and explained that I am confident her father would say, “Don’t listen to that pansie, HRNasty. When you can succeed at these activities than you know you can accomplish anything moving forward!” “That which does not kill us, only makes us stronger.” He is a bit more aggressive than this HR guy because I like to set folks up for success their first foray into anything. I let her know I was really proud of everything she has accomplished and I couldn’t think of anything else she should tackle her first quarter.

Thing 3: She wanted to recommend a book to me and wanted to ask if I knew of any books she should be reading. If you have read this blog you know that I believe we can all bring something to the table. Even when working with someone who has more experience than us, we can at least offer to return the favor and add value

Of course our flyer brought something to the table. She recommended a book to me I have to say I was intrigued. The book she recommended is, The Hotel On the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. As she described the book, I could clearly see where she thought I would be interested and yes, it has been downloaded to the Kindle app. I recommended two books. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, by Goldsmith And Work Rules by Lazlo Bock. The first is probably more appropriate for her particular situation and I am currently re-reading the second.

Per the linked blog post, a few days later I received a screen shot of her email exchange. She had sent the update to her manager, the manager had responded and wanted to start meeting on a weekly basis. The manager is also asking all of the interns for a weekly update. Boom! I love it when it all comes together.  

In my mind, this young flyer is doing it right. I wish I had the foresight and courage to ask for advice from those that had been there and done that when I was early in my career or in college. Which is why I wanted to share this story with you. If this young flyer can manage her schedule and still fit in a weekly call, than any of us can.

Be inspired and we will 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, “like” us on Facebook, and leave your comments below. Thank you!

phone screen

Project excitement during the phone interview

Phone screen, the common mistakes

Phone screens are the great unknowns in the job interview process. I believe the phone interview is the easiest interview to prepare for and the intent of this post is provide reasons why and confidence. My goal is to change your view and potential fears of the phone interview.

Most candidates fear the phone screen because we don’t know what to expect with this first call. If we do well in the phone interview and land the coveted in-person interview, we have an indication of what to expect based on the initial phone screen. When it comes to in person interviews, recruiters will often give the candidates some insight into what to expect and the names of the folks conducting the interviews. On the flip side, the phone interview is “first contact” and we don’t know what to expect or prepare for.  

If you are having a tough time moving past the phone screen, then you are probably missing something important on this call and hopefully this post will help.

First and foremost, we need to be positive about the phone interview. Thinking about failure will become a self – fulfilling prophecy and recruiters can sense interview insecurity. It doesn’t smell or wear well. Remember, preparation is the best way to project confidence. 

The number 1 reason you should not be fearful of the phone interview is because you are one of the chosen ones. For most jobs out there, the recruiter or hiring manager has a LOT of resumes to pick from and they picked yours. Yes, for once, you are a horse in the race.

HRNasty’s reasons on why you should NOT be fearful of the phone screen

If you landed a phone interview then you can assume the hiring manager feels you are qualified.

You have to believe you are qualified. If there are no qualified candidates, we will change the headline on the job description or tweak the content of the job description. Recruiters will avoid candidates who are not qualified. We won’t waste anyone’s time, especially ours.

So, don’t fret. You are not just in the ball-park, you are on base. The hiring manager is not just interested in you as a candidate, they are hopeful you will be the chosen one. Concentrate more on being qualified than how you might not be qualified. They called you! Play your cards right Gomer because you can win this pot.

How to prepare for the phone interview

I have conducted a lot of phone interviews over the years and with most candidates, this stage is a weak link. It is surprising to me how many candidates do not have a grasp on the message they want to deliver. I would say that most of the candidates I talk with are technically qualified but they weed themselves out of the process because of how they present during the phone screen.

In most cases, this interview is only 30 to 45 minutes long. What this means for most recruiters is that they only have time to ask about 10 questions. Remember, within this call, recruiters need to make introductions, conduct a little bit of chit-chat to take the nervousness off the candidate and then give the candidate an opportunity to ask questions. This only leaves time for 10 or so questions, but with this limited time, we should know what is coming. They are not going to waste time with “what is your favorite color” or “if you were an animal, what would it be?”.

But what 10 questions are asked during a phone screen?

Any quick Google search for “top phone screen interview questions” will get the job done. If you want to be an over achiever, add more detail to your search with the following:

  • Top phone interview question for Customer Service Representatives
  • Phone interview questions for Product Manager’s

If you are lazy, just check out my link to the interview questions on this site here. These are not necessarily phone interview questions, but show the format of HOW to answer actual interview questions. 

Remember, the scheduled time will limit the number of questions that can be asked. This is not a session on the couch with your counselor. This is speed dating and we need to make an impression quickly.

Here is what I want to know. You should absolutely have prepared answers for these questions.

  1. What are you most proud of?
  2. What do you know about Acme Publishing?
  3. What is your weakness?
  4. What did you like about your last manager?
  5. How much do you want to make?
  6. What is your long-term / 3 year / 5 year plan?
  7. Why should we hire you?
  8. Why did you leave your last job? Why are you considering a new job?
  9. What do you look for in a manager?
  10. When can you start?

If you are like most candidates, you read through the list and felt good about your ability to answer the above questions. Based on the answers I hear, I believe most candidates read each question, formulate the first sentence to their answer (or came up with a general concept for an answer) and are quickly moving onto the next question.

If you were one of the folks that came up with short one-sentence answers and moved to the next question, the interview process will probably end after the phone screen, if not before. You may not know it, but in the recruiters mind, finito. I hear a lot of great first sentences to interview answers during the phone screen but then most candidates stumble. They have a general concept of what they want to say, but they are not able to articulate a complete answer. This is a deal killer. Lack of articulation will equal the lack of an in person interview.

One of the best ways to prepare for a phone interview is to write out a complete answer to the interview questions and then tape record what we sound like when we answer these questions. You will be surprised with what you hear. Remember, there are no “lemme start over” 2nd chances. 

Common problems with phone screen answers:

The most common problem is that the candidate isn’t articulate. There is obviously an idea of what the candidate wants to say, but there is a lot of stumbling and a lack of well formulated thoughts.

Many phone interviews literally sound like this is the candidates VERY FIRST EXPERIENCE with an interview

Having well thought out answers to the questions, writing out the answers in their entirety, and then practicing the complete answer out loud will make a big difference in how we present over the phone. With practice, we don’t miss points we want to make and the answer will flow. This isn’t cheating. If you were hired and later asked to give a presentation to a customer or the CEO, you would practice your presentation. You would not wing it. You would not come up with the first sentence and then assume “I got this bitches”. 

The other thing that listening to your phone screen answers will do is help ensure that we are answering the question. One of the big phone screen killers is being asked a question and not providing an answer. Having a pre-planned answer and then listening to what our answer is, ensures we are giving the interviewer what they want.

Most candidates that fail the phone screen have one thing in common

The candidates are asked an interview question and the candidate gives a long explanation and background before actually answering the question. The hiring manager is losing interest in us as a candidate when we give background explanations before answering the actual question. Make sure to answer the question first and then provide any necessary background information.


Q: What do you know about Acme Publishing?

Non Answer: “I have done a lot of research. I have talked with friends, I obviously went to your web page and I have read forums on your customer service. I took a look at your year-end financials for the last quarter and saw you guys have a great Twitter following. I know that you guys did well last quarter and posted a profit. I saw on Twitter that you have 10K followers which is really good. I only have about 300 followers. Your web page says you were established in 1980 and have been in business for 25 years.

I shit you not, I hear this stuff. The candidate thinks they are answering the questions, but they are really just providing me fluff and the first 4 sentences didn’t answer the question. Those first 4 sentences were DOG sentences. Each single sentence was equal to 7 sentences of a dog barking up the wrong tree.

Better answer: Well, Acme Publishing was founded in 1980 and specializes in book binding and color catalogs for sports equipment. Customers are all over the world and include X,Y, and Z. Recently Acme has expanded to online web work and I am really excited about this part of the business. Per the financials, “we” posted a profit of about $1.2M on revenue of 15M and had year over year growth for the past 5 years.

If the recruiter says “enough already”, you know you answered the question. The point is, answer the question.

If you have a phone interview coming up, prepare well thought out and complete answers and then record your answers to ensure that you are presenting your best self. The sighs, the heavy breathing and loss for what to say will disappear quickly.

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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workplace change

How do you handle change and stress in the workplace?

How do you react during workplace change?

This is just a personal observation on change in the workplace, but I believe that 90% of employees feel they handle change in a positive manner. As a casual observer that is usually involved with rolling out workplace change, I believe less than 10% of employees handle change in a positive manner. After a change is announced, I usually have a steady stream of folks stopping by the office to give me their opinions. The more significant the workplace change the more people I see. Even if the change doesn’t affect the individual employee, I still hear their thoughts and see the reactions. As the HR guy, I have the unique opportunity to compare and contrast these attitudes and behaviors and hope readers may benefit from these observations.

After workplace change is announced, I get the spectrum of reactions and emotions:

  • “This change should have happened years ago. It’s about time management woke up to the problem! I have been talking about this for months!”
  • “We have always done it this way! Why would they want to change anything? It works and getting everyone onboard with this new way is going to slow us down.”
  • “I am looking forward to the new workflow. I think it is going to speed us up and make things more efficient. It might be tricky initially, but it will be a good thing for everyone in the end.”

Ask yourself this: When change is announced in your workplace, how do you react? How did you react when the following were announced in your workplace?

  • Change in workflow or process
  • Change in leadership or a new reporting structure
  • Announcement of budget cuts

What did your manager and your peers see in your behaviors and reactions?

  • Did you look past the adversity and get back to business?
  • Did surround yourself with drama queens and fuel the fire?
  • Did you look for the positive and try to provide a solution?

I have been involved with lay offs, integrated multiple purchased companies post M&A and seen changes in leadership. I have seen controversial promotions and rolled out new software tools. In each of these instances, I saw multiple employees on a daily basis comment both publicly and behind closed doors. In these situations, attitude, behavior, verbal tone and body language was good, bad and ugly. Heavy on the ugly. I completely respect that folks may not appreciate change in the work place, but how they present themselves as they communicate their “suggestions for improvement” in public is hard to be ignored by peers, managers and leadership. I try to coach a more diplomatic attitude, but in the heat of the moment, it can be hard to keep a level head when talking through change. These are stressful times and we need to be self-aware of how we carry ourselves in these situations.

It is easy for anyone and everyone to act graciously when the big deals are being closed, the money is flowing and times are good. It is easy to carry yourself with style when folks are getting promoted or receiving year-end bonuses.

What separates the great employees from the not so great employees is how we handle adversity, stress and change. Whether it is a lay off, a re-org, or personal stress, these events set us up for opportunities to be judged as nay sayers or supporters. The business needs to carry on despite change and individual attitudes will be viewed as one of the big factors of change management in the workplace.

Behavior as it relates to extremes

HRNasty’s theory on people and how they handle themselves:

An individual’s true self will emerge in extreme circumstances.

The two examples of extremes I use on a regular basis are alcohol and money. I think I am in a unique situation to observe this because I don’t drink and have seen friends and colleagues become drunk in both good times and bad. Working in a tech bubble, I have seen friends and colleagues fall into un godly amounts of money. In both cases, I was able to witness the before and after effects of alcohol. I have also witnessed the broke employees suddenly having the ability to wipe with hundies. Based on these observations, I believe the extremes bring out the real you.

Even if you have hidden it well, if you are a mean or petty person and you become drunk, I believe the rest of us will see a mean or petty drunk. It is easy to put on a show when we are sober, but the real self comes out with the addition of alcohol. Our “guy friend” becomes an asshole as the evening wears on. Our cheerleader girlfriend becomes a bitch. The polite Dr. Jekyll becomes evil Mr. Hyde. Conversely, if you are nice person and drink, you will be a nice drunk. Alcohol becomes a catalyst to be more friendly and more complimentary of others. 

Regardless of your financial worth, if you were cheap and stingy before winning the lottery, you will probably be more cheap and stingy after winning the lottery. If you were generous when you were broke, you will probably be more generous when you win the lottery. 

HRNasty’s Theory of Behavior in Extremes extends to stress and change in the workplace. We can have an employee who is doing great work and is a consummate team player. Add stress, shake violently and the real self emerges. The flip side of our asshole is the nice guy. In the face of adversity, the gracious employee will continue to be gracious and our petty employee becomes the asshole, the Mr. Hyde, or the bitch.

If there is an unusual amount of resentment and stress around a company decision, the company may need more communication around that decision. To be a problem solver and not a problem causer, I blogged about increasing company buy in here.  🙂

As employees we can accept or fight the decision. We can accept the change and play ball or we can question the change and resist. 

By all means, we should ask  the questions and clarify the intent of the company decisions. We should be conscious of asking these question in a diplomatic fashion.If you think the company is making a wrong decision, I am not asking you to consider playing ball for the company’s sake. I am asking you to play ball for your individual careers sake. There is a difference.

I always wonder if folks realize what they look like when they resist change and rant about what they believe to be poor company decisions.

If your company is going through change, my recommendation is that we first recognize that the decision was made and for most of us, we are probably not going to be able to do much about it. I don’t want to sound too cynical, but lets face it: if your company is going through a lay off or changing leadership, these decisions have been in the works for quite a while. CEO’s don’t wake up one morning and say to HR, “Lay off 15% of the company today” with no heads up. It may feel like that is the case, but trust me, these decisions are usually thought out.

How we react in these stressful situations will be seen and judged. HR isn’t running around with a clip board documenting and rating reactions. It is human nature. Everyone gets a little more judgmental in stressful times. Some of this is just a loss of focus on the job at hand and the stress getting the best of us.

It is easy to lose focus with our day jobs when our futures are uncertain. My advice is to recognize that in most cases, all we can do is focus on the day job, and not become distracted.

Quit if you want to, but until we have an offer from another company, we are employed with our current employer and we are not in a position to go anywhere. For our own careers, we want to create as many options as we possibly can. Being resistant to change in public venues is limiting our options.

I am NOT saying we should blindly follow the company gospel when we think the company is making bad decisions. It is not only OK but it is encouraged to give opinions when change is afoot. We just want to make sure that these opinions are presented in such a way that they will be listened to. We may be well-intentioned, but if our message isn’t received well the impact will be harmful to our careers. It’s all in the approach folks, it’s all in the presentation. We can have the best idea, but if the presentation of this idea is perceived to be out of frustration or anger, the idea probably won’t be heard. Before you march into your manager’s office and blow off some steam, write down your thoughts and put a strategy in place.Figuring out a way to be supportive of workplace change is the quickest way to be noticed in a good way. Bitching about a company idea that we are probably not able to have much influence on is probably not in our careers best interest. 

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, “like” us on Facebook, and leave your comments below. Thank you!