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HR lessons learned behind closed doors. What they won’t tell you.

HR lessons learned

Lesson #1:  Don’t oogle the talent.  In the least, don’t get caught.

HR Lessons Learned as the fly on the wall

I feel like I have had a lot of HR lessons learned and the majority of what I learned was learned behind closed doors. These are the lessons your manager is probably not going to take the time to share with you.  There is nuance with every group, but there is a lot of commonality between people. These learning’s come from observations of both and being the preverbal “fly on the wall”. 

Corporate Lessons:

  1. If you want credibility inside and outside of your department, learn the business of your company first, then learn the business of your department. It surprises me how many people know their position but not the company goals.       
  2. If you want to be promoted to the next level, prove you can succeed within the job at that level.  Prove you have the technical chops and the maturity to work with peers at that level. Success at your current level is not enough. No manager is going to say, “you have been doing well as an individual contributor, we are going to take a chance and make you a manager”. They will say “even though you are an individual contributor, everyone treats you like they want you to be their manager.  We want to promote you to a manager.” Look like a duck, walk like a duck, quack like a duck. 
  3. There is ALWAYS a way. It might take some digging, it might take more hours, but there is ALWAYS a way. If we can put a man on the moon, than any impossible task your manager has assigned you can be done. The word “can’t” should not be in your vocabulary.
  4. The answer is not “no”. The answer is “Yes if we can do X”.  The answer is not  “We can’t”.  The answer is We can – if . . .”
  5. If you don’t like your current manager, trying to escape that manager by quitting or asking for a transfer is just putting off the inevitable. HR will rarely approve a transfer under these conditions. If you are not able to figure out how to make it work with your current manager, you won’t be able to make it work with your future manager. Don’t quit a job because of the manager. Figure out how to make it work.
  6. Employees don’t quit a company.  Employees quit a manager.

HR Lessons learned

  1. HR should always keep a box of tissues handy.
  2. I have never met someone who joined a company with the attitude that they were there to take advantage of or try to screw the company. Everyone accepts a job excited and wanting to make a difference.  If they lost interest, it was over time. It wasn’t any individuals fault. More often than not, it was a matter of communication. The company needs to communicate and the employee needs to get clarification on that communication. If you don’t understand something, ASK!  
  3. Working in HR, I do NOT work for the employees. I work for the company.  Make no mistake, I am here to protect the company first and the employees second. By taking care of the company, I am taking care of the employees. Spock said it best. “The needs of the few and the many, outweigh the needs of the one.”
  4. When I can help coach individual employees to perform at a higher level, the department will become stronger.  When I can make a difference with a department and help that department become stronger, the company becomes stronger. 
  5. HR has a reputation for “seagull management”. Seagulls shit on you and then fly away. HR’s biggest sin is NOT that their explanation is “no, it can’t be done”. HR’s biggest sin is explaining it can’t be done with the assumption and attitude that everyone should understand why. The “WHY” is not obvious to everyone. My goal is to deliver a business decision and explain it 5 different times, 5 different ways so we increase our chances of widespread understanding of the “WHY”. I don’t expect everyone to like the decisions personally, but my goal is to have EVERYONE respect the decision from a business point of view, so they can do their job.  There is a difference. They may not like the decision personally but hopefully most can respect it’s business application. Break the stereotype.   
  6. I am not going to please everyone, EVER. I can move the needle incrementally. I can make a difference over time, but I do not know of any time ever in my career when EVERYONE was fat and happy. There has always been one person that wanted more, and that is OK. 
  7. My ability to maintain confidentiality is all that I have. 
  8. Culture can make a difference in a company. Culture will keep employees longer when a company is on tough times. Any company can have a great culture when the times are good and the deals are coming. Real culture will sustain when the chips are down.  Ping Pong, Pool tables and beer Fridays do not make culture. People and a belief in leadership makes culture.
  9. Hire people passionate about your product, service or industry and they will be thinking about work 24/7.   Passion doesn’t quit at 5:00 PM.     

Career Lessons:

  1. I need to speak up. There are no mind readers. I am helping the department and the company becomes stronger when I volunteer my ideas. I am doing the company a disservice when I keep my ideas to myself. If the ideas are being rejected, it might not be the idea; it is probably the communication style.
  2. It is your career. Your career is not your company’s career or your manager’s career. Only you can put the time, effort and most importantly INITIATIVE into your career.
  3. Do not come to your manager with a problem. Do not come to your manager with a problem and 3 solutions and ask them to choose one. Come to them with a few solutions and a single recommendation. Be a problem solver.
  4. I am the CEO of the department I work in, and I should push for what I believe in a positive way.  “This idea is stupid” is not positive.  
  5. I am an individual contributor within the company, and when I push back or disagree, I need to do that in a diplomatic and productive way.
  6. Everyone in the company has a customer.  Everyone. The richest person in the world (Bill Gates) and the most powerful man (POTUS) in the world has customers. We as employees have customers, and they write our checks. 
  7. Too many employees expect the company to treat them like the customer. As an employee, I am the one that delivers the service and sends out the invoice (time card). The Company is my customer and the Company pays my invoice (paycheck). Care about your customer or you won’t have one. 
  8. Resigning or quitting a job ugly may make you feel better, but only reinforces to the company that they should have let you go earlier. Give good Face on the way out the door. Don’t let good years of hard work be wiped away in a single afternoon.  
  9. Everyone wants to work with someone who knows how to smile. 
  10. When I talk with Sr. leaders, I need to keep it short, high level and strategic. Sr. leaders do not worry about the minutia. Companies don’t pay Sr. leaders to deal with the day-to-day details.  They are paid to think “strategic”, delegate “tactical day-to-day”. This is a very tough communication transition for many and ultimately what keeps people held back.  Individual contributors are from Venus, and Execs are from Mars. 
  11. If you don’t know what your manager does, find out. If you don’t know what makes them successful, you don’t know how to help them become successful. If your manager is not successful, you will not be successful. 
  12. Get to know your manager at a personal level. You don’t have to be their BFF, but if you don’t take an interest in your manager, how can you expect them to take an interest in you?

HRNasty works full-time as an HR professional and has a side business writing fortunes for Chinese cookies. 

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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