No, I would not like to imagine a world without HR, thanks all the same. What a ridiculous notion. I was almost too afraid to watch this You Tube video, in case it was just a series of people staring dreamily into the middle distance as they reflected on how much better their lives would be…
The song was dramatic, confusing and pretty OTT. But then it was followed by interviews with some seemingly credible CEOs. Spoiler alert: a world without HR is basically the WORST THING YOU COULD POSSIBLY EVER IMAGINE. Even worse than someone eating the last of the Nutella; or being short and stuck at armpit level on a crowded bus at the end of a summer day; or finding out you’re allergic to chocolate. EVEN WORSE.
Today’s work tip is about resigning. I know a bit about this topic, from both sides of the fence: having had quite a number of different jobs, and working in HR. My worst resignation was probably when I told one of the Partners of the firm that I was leaving, and he started to cry. Even worse, we were in a bar (probably not an ideal resignation site, now that I reflect on it), so it looked like I was a heartless girl breaking up with him over cocktails. Which I guess I was, except for the heartless part – although I was so happy to be leaving, I may have been grinning while he mopped at his teary face with tissues.
Interviewing for a new job is like dating (more on that in a future post), and resigning from your job is like breaking up with someone. One is full of excitement and promise; the other is awkward and can be a bit sad (especially if you’ve worked in a place for a while). So, if you’ve decided that it’s time to leave your job, and you’ve really thought about it properly, not just decided after a crappy day (or short series of crappy days), then our suggestion is that you tell the truth about it. And don’t tell everyone else before you tell your boss – it’s definitely not great for them to hear your news from the well-meaning barista in the local cafe.
And please don’t try a fake resignation, where you actually don’t want to leave, but just want to force your company into paying you more by competing with another opportunity that may or may not exist. You’re better than that, champ.
Many people get stressed about resigning – whether they’re not entirely sure it’s the right decision; or they’re worried about the reaction of their boss; or they feel guilty about ditching their colleagues and friends. The act of resigning is rarely as bad as you think it’ll be. Unless your boss is a Bad Manager – maybe they’ll take it personally and cut you off as soon as they know you’re going; or try a guilt trip to convince you to stay; or pretend they saw this coming; or criticise your decision / new employer / attitude / life. In such cases, you need to remember: it’s not you, it’s them.
Whatever happens, don’t lose your temper or make threats. And don’t start any fires or steal things before you leave. And resist the urge to have a few too many drinks at your farewell and start telling Brian in Accounts what you really think of him. And please don’t send a “Dear all” email – it might feel cathartic as you write it, but will undoubtedly seem like a very bad idea as soon as you hit send.
You might also find this video educational: basically, don’t be like Alice. Good luck out there, friends.
Life in a work place can be challenging. There are rules – formal and informal – to follow; processes that make things work more or less efficiently; and then there are the humans. For Bad Managers, the workplace’s humans are a constant source of confusion and disappointment. They rarely perform exactly like the case studies in Personnel Management text books, so all of those scripts that Bad Managers memorise to deal with pesky HR issues are basically useless.
Enter Terry Tate: Office Linebacker. This Reebok commercial from the Super Bowl back in 2003 shows that Terry Tate always knows what to do. Adding Terry to a workplace (maybe just offices, not factories or building sites #safetyfirst) could be just the thing to kick start productivity improvements and help to leverage synergies. Terry Tate’s tactics have stood the test of time, and his methodology is as relevant today as it was almost 15 years ago.
Terry Tate was a disruptor, innovator and change agent, transforming businesses way before all of those words just became meaningless hashtags. You want to talk about operational efficiency? Or staff engagement? Or paradigm shifts? I suggest that you bring in Terry Tate and see what happens.
Today, another (sort of) oldie but a goodie, in case you missed it. Or if you, like me, will laugh at the Nigerian prince interruption every time you see it. Like all of the videos these guys have made in their business “in real life” series, this one is funny, but also a little bit painful to watch due to its accurate portrayal of office life.
As an aside, my favourite email sign-offs are when people customise the standard Regards, shaking things up with Best Regards or even Warm Regards. I still hope to see Moderate Regards or Lukewarm Regards or perhaps With no regard at all. Once, we worked with a migration agent who revised her sign-off each season – as the months ticked over, we were given Sparkling summer regards and Warm winter regards. And I am sure there was a separate festive greeting too, at the appropriate time.
And then there’s the opening greeting of an email – from the standard Hi to Good Morning to Dear all. I prefer a slightly warmer greeting, rather than just using someone’s first name, but I realise not everyone can pull off Ahoy there as I sometimes do, just to mix things up a bit. My least favourite greeting is sometimes seen in emails to leadership teams: Gents. It became particularly awkward when I joined a certain leadership team and received an email addressed to Gents and lady. Yes, really. And it was in the mid-2000s (AD). #inclusion
Way back in 1991, H. Jackson Brown, Jr wrote a small book of life advice that became very popular. I don’t know who he was, or what the ‘H’ stands for, but he apparently wrote the list of guidelines for his son who was heading off to college. And then it became a global bestseller, so that’s surely a win-win.
Around that time, I think I was in a phase where I loved motivational things – I remember having a pinboard in my room with inspiring quotes stuck on it, and a weird Nike poster, and even a fortune cookie message: You would make a good lawyer, for no detail escapes your attention. (As an aside, I feel that fortune cookie advice would be just as good as the advice given by many high school careers / guidance counsellors – must look into this as a business idea…)
Anyway, I found the book on my shelf during a spring cleaning campaign, and thought I’d save you the trouble of reading the whole thing by sharing some highlights from the (slightly yellowed) pages here today.
And some of the advice is bizarrely specific, and a little judge-y. Like #85: Never encourage anyone to become a lawyer. That’s a bit harsh, H.
The instructions certainly cover a lot of ground, from the philosophical to the mundane. From marshmallows in hot chocolate to learning CPR.
And another very precise instruction is #396. I don’t really like fruitcake, so it works for me as a tip for both work and life.
Like all good things, the stream of advice must come to an end. Strangely enough, it ends on instruction #477, and is then followed by five completely blank pages to complete the book. Maybe it’s meant to be a cliffhanger, as there was at least one if not two sequels to this one (yes, I think I have them).
Most people are now familiar with Humans of New York, Brandon Stanton‘s brilliant series of portraits snapped around NYC (and around the world), which became such a successful photoblog that his reach expanded to books and now film.
If you haven’t yet seen the new Humans of New York interview series, it’s worth checking out on Facebook. There are some amazing stories there, grouped by themes, from a range of very interesting humans.
Here’s one of the trailers to give you a taste – it seems like a perfect thing to watch for Friday feels, heading into a weekend (and it’s a looong weekend and a time change for some of us here in Australia, woohoo). And two of my favourites from Instagram.
And if you’re not on Facebook, you can still check out some of the HONY stories here.
Please don’t be confused – this isn’t a post with suggestions of what to wear for Halloween. It’s actually about one of the most hated HR guidelines – the Dress Code. Believe me when I say that those things are as painful for us to write as they are for you to read.
I am not a fashionista, or stylist, or dictator, so I am generally uncomfortable with telling people what to wear. Maybe it’s a little easier now – back at the turn of the century, such lists had to include references to cargo pants and Juicy Couture tracksuits. And then we saw the launch of Casual Fridays – forever to be misunderstood by those in their late teens and early 20s, who seemed to forget that a day in the office stood between their arrival at the nightclub.
Now, the concept of “business casual” is confusing a new generation of employees. And good luck to those working in a startup or tech company, with their Star Wars t-shirts, ripped jeans and sneakers – may you never need to be constrained by wearing a belt, or combing your hair, or taking off your hoodie.
At Work Tips For Humans, we’re here to help. Our general advice on dress codes? Remember that you’re going to work. Sounds obvious, but it means that when you look in the mirror, you should probably see something different to what you see when you’re going to the shops, or the pool, or the gym. (Unless you work in those places, but even then, please double check yourself in the mirror.)
In an article on Monster entitled “What Not To Wear To Work“, Amanda Frank outlined a long list of things to avoid. I’m not sure about some of the items on the list, including, “heels that clank”, “jingly jewellery”, and “hood ornaments”. But “dresses without underwear” are also out, as are “dirty bra straps”, which sounds like pretty good life advice right there.
I think ladies can also look to almost everything worn by Carrie Bradshaw on Sex and the City. And disregard it for work.
Men’s Journal featured an article called How to Look Like Don Draper: A Beginner’s Guide and since that gives me an excuse to include a photo of Jon Hamm, I am going to take it. I think the article is about grooming, or hair products, or something like that. Whatever, here’s the picture.
In my professional opinion, a big price tag doesn’t automatically make your outfit work-appropriate. Exhibit A: the finance analyst at a big corporate (admittedly, we had a very relaxed dress code) – I saw him lounging at his desk and said, “Ummm, Garry*, are you wearing a tracksuit?” His response, “yeah, but it’s Ralph Lauren”. In my caring way, I asked, “HAVE YOU GIVEN UP ON LIFE? YOU CAN’T WEAR A FREAKIN’ TRACKSUIT TO WORK, GARRY.” And then he explained that he was going to the gym at lunchtime anyway, so thought it was fine to be wearing a tracksuit. Yeah, well, I might be going to McDonald’s at lunchtime, but you don’t see me dressed in a curly red wig, yellow jumpsuit and giant red shoes, do you Garry? (I wish I thought to say this at the time, instead I think I just walked away in shock.)
And now, I think we have solved all of your workplace fashion issues. We can deal with grooming and hygiene in another post – there’s another source of delight for HR professionals! If you’re still not sure about dressing for success, maybe scrawl this mantra on your mirror as a reminder: Whoever you are, whatever you do, please dress so HR doesn’t come after you.
I’m a bit late to the party with this excellent BBC podcast, which started back in November 2016. 50 Things That Made The Modern Economy is hosted by Tim Harford, an economist and journalist (the podcast proved so popular that a book followed this year).
The episodes are short and sharp (less than 10 minutes each) and will help you to feel and sound way smarter. Even if you don’t see yourself as a fan of the economy, or modern life, or lists, I think you’ll find at least some of these episodes interesting. If nothing else, in less than 10 minutes, you’ll learn something new and have some fun facts to share with your colleagues and friends. Or with your enemies, if you prefer. No judgement here.
Not to spoil it for you, but Ikea’s Billy Bookcase made the list. So did barcodes, disposable razors, Google and antibiotics. I’ve just started a new job, so found the Management Consulting episode particularly interesting – and learned that McKinsey employees had to wear hats until the 1960s. Along with their dark suits and white shirts. #diversity
You can check out the podcast here. And you can even vote for the 51st thing via the website before 7 October. And if you need a zinger response for anyone who makes fun of you for listening to this podcast:
If there is a better philosopher than Dr Seuss, I’d be surprised. We were raised on his rhymes and tongue twisting tales, and I think the good doctor definitely helped to feed my imagination and love of clever words and general silliness.
I have too many favourites to mention, but Oh, The Places You’ll Go has been a long-time guide and source of inspiration. Over the years, I’ve bought copies to share with colleagues who need a bit of a kick, or I’ve given the books as farewell gifts when I’ve left jobs. (I know that’s not the way it’s traditionally done, but I guess I think I’m not going to be here anymore, so look to Dr Seuss for answers to your questions.)
It’s a gem, and I highly recommend it for your personal library, and also as a gift for nearly every occasion. I read about a primary school principal who gave a copy to each graduating student as a takeaway pep talk to help on their journey to and through high school. At work, it’s a fitting gift for the recently promoted, the newly hired, and even the newly fired (NB, not if they’re still in the angry / sad stages of the grieving process).
I’ve just re-read it now (there’s another advantage of Dr Seuss vs a traditional motivational book – Dr Seuss’ work is quick to read) and there are so many highlights, it’s tough to narrow it down. Every page is basically packing a wisdom punch. I’d go as far as saying it is the best work (and life) advice you’ll ever get.
You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
Amen to that.
And when things start to happen, don’t worry. Don’t stew. Just go right along. You’ll start happening too.
It’s an upbeat book about opportunity, sure, but it also provides reassurance for when things turn to crap, as they sometimes do.
And when you’re in a Slump, you’re not in for much fun. Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.
So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left.
And then, some hard data to back it all up [SPOILER ALERT]:
And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and 3/4 per cent guaranteed.)
So, if you’re looking for motivation, or if you have lots of questions buzzing around your head, or if you like funny rhyming words that don’t appear in a conventional dictionary, this book is for you. And that is a work tip for humans that I stand by, 100 per cent.
Today, an idea for Bad Managers who are struggling to get that one member of the team to attend regular team meetings. You know the one – they are either “too busy”, or “too sick”, or “leaving early”.
It could be because your meetings are a waste of time, Bad Manager – you let people waffle on without getting to an actual point; the agenda is hijacked by the loudest person in the room; people dial in to the meeting and forget to mute their phones, thereby sharing the sounds of barking dogs and supermarkets and cyclonic winds. And everyone wears their busy-ness like a badge of honour – we get it, but WE’RE ALL BUSY, CAROL.
Anyway, if you’re a Bad Manager and there’s someone who keeps outwitting you and avoiding the team meetings, here’s an idea. Make them feel welcome, and special, by issuing them with an old school, handwritten invitation. That way, they’ll think your meeting is actually a super fun party (that may even have cake and gift bags) and you will trick them into attending.
And if you want to take it to the next level of passive aggressive bad management, you might consider using Princess invitations, to really reinforce your point. “Join us for our weekly team meeting” sounds just as exciting as “Join us for Taylah’s 5th birthday” when you put it on an invitation like this. Especially if you use a glitter pen.