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Monday, October 15, 2012

Bullying is Human... Unfortunately

Good or bad, I think everyone has bullied and been bullied at some point in their life.

I think if any of us could turn back the hands of time, few of us would want to go back to grade 9.  Over the past few days there has been alot of discussion about Amanda Todd, the girl who committed suicide over being bullied.

While I think it is unfortunate that anyone at any age feels suicide is the only way out, I don't think any level of legislation is going to stop people from bullying each other.

Look at the definition of bullying:

a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people.

Based on this definition, my last blog on the mayor of Toronto could be considered bullying.  And not to defend myself, but how many people in Toronto have not said anything negative about the man?

Bullying, like fighting, is a primitive way of moving yourself up the social ladder - by putting someone down, you feel above them.

It moves us up the social ladder because (perhaps subconsciously) as a group, humans support bullying to a strong extent.

Think I'm off the mark with this statement?

Think of the success of:

- Insult comics
- Movies depicting 'dumb people'
- Celebrity Roasts
- Tabloids critiquing celebrities
- Politicians badmouthing each other debating

I'm not going to suggest that all of the above be banned or removed from the public eye... it wouldn't happen.  So legislating anti-bullying won't work either... sorry NDP.

So how do we support our youth?

It may not be able to be done solely in the classroom, but at some point we need to start teaching resilience (click here for 14 ways!).

It's not going to be easy, but it has been proven effective.

Sometimes 'ignoring' bullies is not enough - you have to stand up against them.  Sometimes, we need to help victims take a stand.

Was I bullied when I was young? Yes, I'm human.

Did I eventually learn to be resilient.  I sure did...

Did my resilience mean I never got bullied again? No, but I know I am better than them!

How do we teach resilience?

One day at a time.  It is not teachers, or parents, or volunteers at after school programs - it is all of us.  In my opinion it is done best through not coddling kids but encouraging 3 things:

1. Positive self-image (earned, not given)
2. Independent decision-making (let your kids make choices for themselves from time-to-time)
3. Self development (through sport, music, or other active hobby)

Maybe I'm wrong, it's happened once before, but I don't see bullying ever not existing - that is why we need to prepare people to stand up for their individuality.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Worst Mayor Ever!

We all make mistakes… none of us are perfect… who hasn’t made a bad judgment call from time-to-time?

We learn from our mistakes and move forward – except Rob Ford.

Well he moves forward, just not as fast as the rest of us – zing!

Sorry – it’s difficult to discuss him and not make a fat joke.

The only thing more difficult though seems to be not making a ‘stupid’ joke… But it isn’t a joke; this guy is actually our Mayor. The things he does is reflecting on us day after day.

His campaign was based on ‘clarity’ and ‘openness’ and ‘stopping the gravy train’ and ultimately ‘respect for taxpayers’.

I judged people’s intelligence who had lawn signs supporting him – he didn’t appear smart in debates, why would you think anything different would happen when he waddled into office… sorry.

Within the past month he has:

1. Gone to trial for using his position as Mayor to get funds for his football team

2. Skipped a council meeting to go coach football

3. Embarrassed us in Chicago – where is Windsor anyway?

4. And now it has come up that he had the road re-paved in front of the family business for an upcoming anniversary

In response to the above, my thoughts are:

1. Way to use your ‘weight’ for something good… But bad move.

2. Your role (roll?) is pretty significant at these… and this was the first one since summer

3. Go back to grade 3… also, isn’t the US Deco office located in Chicago? Hmmm…

4. Way to go boss hogg!

I know this blog is generally aimed at work-related topics, and you shouldn’t discuss politics at work, but WTF?

Toronto… How many more chances does this guy get?

I am waiting, fingers-crossed, that he gets kicked out of office following the outcome of his trial.

The cost of an early election would be better ‘respect for taxpayers’ than letting this joke of a mayor continue.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Back to School!

I swear – even at 5 years out of school, those 3 words still hit me like a ton of bricks. It is the sign that summer is over, both in terms of freedom and weather.

And of course the return of exams and late-night studying…

Although the latter portion no longer impacts me, I think we all did enough of it that the thought of going back to it on a full-time basis would be a tough one.

To be optimistic though, I thought I would look back on my post-secondary education and consider which parts of it contributed to where I am today, and if I could, what I would change - or advice I would give to those just getting started.

Outside of the actual academics, I think when most people say ‘College’ images of pub nights and the fun times quickly emerge – weird how quickly the correlation of great pub nights and long late-night study sessions seems to have an obvious correlation now.

But think about it; the pub night social skills have prepared you well for the quick elevator chat that you have to make. Back then we were all on the same level – poor students. Now when I am in a situation with senior leaders, I try and think back to that – at the end of the day we are all just people; if we get along, who cares of social status?

You may not want to challenge your VP to a game of darts the first time you meet, and the language you may have used on pub night might not be appropriate anymore - but you get my gist.

The other thing that prepared me well for the ‘world of work’ truly was the co-op placements. Anyone who is still relatively a recent grad can tell you that there is ‘what they teach you in school’ and ‘how different workplaces do things’.

This can be something as simple as the terminology used – I remember the laughs that I got took when I first used the term ‘gap analysis’ – most places just say something like ‘do a review’ or ‘look at our options’… live and learn.

The other thing you find out is no one cares (too often) about where you went to school. You might get this impression at your graduation when the thousands of other students with the same degree cross that stage… and that is just your school. What employers (and your co-workers) care about is what you can do, and to similar extent ‘do you get along with everyone’.

You will become familiar with the phrase ‘hire for fit, train for skill’.

This is why I would encourage everyone to take advantage of internships and co-op placements that are offered through your school. Think about it – would you hire a graduate with a 4.0 GPA who has no work experience, or would you prefer a graduate with a 3.0 GPA and three (relevant) 4-month co-op placements?

In my opinion, a GPA is good – but experience is better. I would choose a B student that has some ambition and work experience than a straight academic any day.

Would I do anything different looking back?

Nah… I had a good time and so should you!

If you are just starting out on your post-secondary education (college or university) and want my advice though, it is this:

Get involved in the co-op placements or internships; but don’t forget about pub nights and other social clubs – this is the stuff that will wash away your memories of the late-night studying in the years to come... and wear sunscreen.

Enjoy the line-up at the bookstore!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Olympics 2012: A Great Lesson!

So if you've been watching the Olympics over the past 2 weeks you can't help but have heard the controversy surrounding the Canadian women's soccer team in their game against the USA.

It was an incredible battle and everything that a true Olympic game should be - even the healthiest among us were probably close to having a heart attack.

Where the controversy came from though was the comments by Captain Christine Sinclair, when she stated that “We feel cheated. It’s a shame that in a game as important as that, the ref decided the result before it started.”

And the similar comment by coach John Herdman about ref Pedersen, saying she “will have to sleep in her bed tonight after watching the replays,” and that “she has a lot to live with.”

But what makes me both fear and admire Sinclair is the pure fight that came out when she said: “I’d hate to be the team that has to play us next.”

For me, it was this statement that showed just how much heart she, and the rest of the team, have.  Many people in a similar situation might get frustrated and walk away in disappointment.

It is that one line that I plan to keep in my back pocket the next time I am in a tough situation, and one I think any of us can use to our advantage whether through our careers, personal lives, or athletic pursuits.

I think it is unfortunate that the team will be walking away with a bronze medal to show for their efforts; but they didn't settle for bronze - they fought for it and I think the anger will only fuel them to greatness.

Congratulations ladies - you have earned everything you have!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

HR as a Business Partner

Every once in a while I come across an article that says HR deserves their ‘spot at the table’… And typically comes off as self-absorbed and/or whiny.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I think HR is there already, aren't we?

More and more I hear the term ‘HR Business Partner’ in place of 'Generalist' and I think this is a reflection of this shift, and would seem to reflect that we are at the table – Business Partner sounds good to me, definitely ahead of the 80's term of 'Personell' don't you think?

But why be happy with just being at the table?

Most organizations are customer facing and this involves people – so rather than sitting at the table, HR should have no shortage of contributions to the discussion.

To do this, I think back to the classic SWOT analysis from business school.

A SWOT analysis at a basic level helps to identify areas of weakness and potential threats to the organization - no reason HR can't utilize this methodology.

But in doing so, be honest and realistic in your assessment of possible weaknesses and threats.

It just makes more sense to be realistic now than having to play catch-up later. When considering the opportunities, take a look at what is occurring today as well as what could occur in the near future – this is your time to be creative (within means)!

One area I like to look at annually is where the biggest issues were:

For example:

- Employee relations – What was the root cause?
- Health & Safety
- New legislation
- New company policy/practice
- Succession concerns/uncertainty

This list isn’t all-inclusive but makes for a decent starting point. If you can look at your weaknesses and potential threats, this will allow you to lead the discussion and to be more involved… even better if you can quantify some of these!

The point I am trying to make is this – HR, we are at the table; we have been invited. But what did you bring?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Gang Violence: Money to the Rescue!

Over the past few weeks there has been alot of talk about violence in the media - and there should be.

First there was the shooting at the Toronto Eaton's Centre, and the shooting at the theatre in Colorado, and the BBQ shooting in Toronto's East End (Scarborough).

Lot's of violence... all gun related.

So it seems logical that Toronto's response is to put more money in to fighting gun violence... and  that Rob Ford is still fighting for more police (and the subsequent budget).

This is great news right, I mean we're getting $12.5 million from the province to fight crime!

I think fighting violence and crime sounds like a terrific idea, but how much more do we have to spend before we will finally stop crime? How many dollars will finally crush this social ill?

How much has the USA spent on the war on drugs? or the war on terrorism?

How close are they to being done/winning?

To me it seems like a fortune teller who needs more money to get a better vision for you...

Maybe money isn't the answer; and who has to work on a tighter budget than HR?

So what is the HR response to this? Performance Management 101.

I think we have enough police, it is just what we choose to focus on.  Performance reviews are based on a quota system - numbers need to be made.

Now don't get me wrong, quotas aren't all bad - but the easiest way to make these numbers is to get a greater portion of the population on minor infractions then to try and stop (or even slow down) gang violence... It just takes too long... it has deep social roots... try quantitating that!

Speeding or not coming to a complete stop is a little easier to address.

So this is where the focus goes.  What gets rewarded gets done.

This is not the problem of the police, but the system that they have been hired to support.

So if the city and province truly want gun violence to be brought down - then why not make the quota related to how many un-registered firearms they bring in each month?

Do you think there would be a little more focus on gangs then? I do.

I have nothing against the Toronto Police, I just think that it is unfortunate that money continues to be thrown at societal problems (Drugs, War, Terrorism, Bullying, Homelessness, etc.) like a fundraising effort - when it truly isn't a question about having raising enough money ayway.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Levon Helm - Rest in Peace!

Yesterday we lost one of the greatest musicians - Levon Helm.

If you haven't seen The Last Waltz buy it now... Not rent... It is that good - if you don't enjoy it, give it to someone with a soul.

If you're not familiar with it, The Last Waltz is a celebration of the end of the career for the group collectively known as 'The Band'.  They were originally Bob Dylan's backing group until they started writing their own music and becoming hugely successful with tunes like: The Weight, Up on Cripple Creek, and The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.

And not too mention, they are Canadian - so what's not too love?

Levon was the drummer (primarily), and usually lead vocalist - not a combo seen very often.  I use the words 'primarily' and 'usually' because the entire group was so talented - They all played multiple instruments and contributed to vocals in different tunes.

As for Levon, I had the pleasure of seeing him last summer at the Black Creek Music Festival opening for John Fogerty.  Since The Band broke up a few years before I was born, this would be as close as I would get to the real thing.

Levon, you were a great performer until the very end.  Thank you for your music and enhancing the lives of millions through it!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Creative Problem Solving

I read a study the other day saying that beer makes you smarter.

I'm not one to question science, and this situation is no different - but perhaps a little more insight is needed.

The study, and this testament of 'smarter', was linked to 'creative problem solving'.  Apparently tasks requiring memorization weren't quite so successful. 

So smarter, maybe not; reducing inhibitions and better at coming up with new ideas - absolutely!

I don't think any of us would disagree with this statement - who here hasn't been at the receiving end of a socio-political rant by an inebriated bar fly at some point?

As for this actual study, the amount given to the 'participants' was 2 pints - and the group was males between 21-30 (where would you find such a niche demographic?)

Want to see the actual study for yourself?

Click here

Now before I close this blog, my HR side needs to say this: I'm not encouraging drinking to enhance creativity, nor am I encouraging drinking at work to overcome 'creativity' problems.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know your thoughts.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What happens in Vegas... Gets replicated by Toronto?

So earlier this week headlines were made because the Ontario Court of Appeals legalized brothels and ruled that 'sex workers could hire security staff'

There is definitely going to be a ton of debate around this over the coming year(s) from the courts to classrooms; the world's oldest profession tends to be a bit of a taboo subject.

The debate for those in favour of this move is that it makes it safer for the ummm... 'front line workers'.

The goal being, supposedly, to empower the people who 'choose' to get into this line of work and to make it safer for them at the same time.

Those against it see it as modeling ourselves after Las Vegas... and the proposed waterfront Casino is only helping that... and generally take a moral/ethical stance in the stereotypes that come from it.

So ya, this is going to be a subject that gets alot of attention and the opinions will no doubt go to both extremes - I don't think anyone would disagree.

However, those of us in HR need to think down the road - what is this truly going to lead too?

If these brothels become legitimate multi-staff businesses (perhaps in their own district) what will the impact be on employment law?

How do you do a reference check?

What screening questions could you ask or not?

What metrics would be looked at during performance reviews?

Obviously I ask these questions with a little sarcasm, but by the same token every business needs to adhere to employment laws.  What would the head of HR look like in that workplace?

I don't know... your guess is as good as mine.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Presenteeism: At Least I Showed Up!

Since the recession hit in the fall of 2008, there has been a general feeling that you shouldn't take vacation or taking breaks at work is the sign of unproductivity.

I get it - people want to keep their jobs and showing up when you feel like crap or really should have stayed home must show dedication... 'who could fire a dedicated employee?' the reasoning might go.

This is known as Presenteeism.

Presenteeism is tougher to address by the simple fact that with Presenteeism the person is physically there at their work station... Absenteeism is self-explanatory.

But think - are any of us above it?

"That project is due on Friday and if I can just make it through this week I can recover on the weekend!"

"I don't want to use up my vacation pay"

"It's just a bit of a cold, I don't have any meetings - I will get over it"

And so on...

It doesn't really matter whether you're talking about a business, school, or medical setting.  Even doctors, nurses, and ambulance workers do it...

So what's the problem?

One study from Cornell University estimated that Presenteeism could account for as much as 61 percent of the total cost of worker illness... Think of that at your workplace alone on an annual basis.

But how often is it addressed?

If you sneeze at the office do people say "oh, you should go home" or is it more like "Oh, I had that last week - is your throat sore?" "Mine was".

Like j-walking, most people don't really seem to address the concern.

So fellow HR Professionals, what do we do?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Driven: A Book Review

So a little while ago I reviewed Kevin O'Leary's Book... then a little while after that I reviewed Arlene Dickinson's book... I'm taking on each of the Dragon's one-by-one.

Last week I finished Robert Herjavec's book Driven  - and here I am with another fine review for your reading pleasure!

Like the previous 2 books, Driven sheds alot of light on the personal (and business and education) background of the author.

It wasn't too far into the book that I realized Robert is not just that 'kind' dragon with the bright blue eyes - I think he would be a total hard-ass to work for and that the title of the book was actually very appropriate.

Pardon the pun - but I think most of us would mis-judge the book by that cover.

My favourite example was about when people show up late for work and blame traffic - his response was something to the tune of "Well there was no traffic at 5:30!"

I've heard of plenty of successfull people that get up earlier than the rest of us - not because they are insomniacs, but because they can't wait to see their business keep moving forward.

A bit of an HR lesson in there - if you empower employees a little more think of the motivation it could lead too?

In one section, Robert references another book that I'll have to read: The Hypomaniac Edge: The Link Between (a little) Craziness and (a lot of) Success in America.

In the book, the author - John Gartner, a Psychiatry Professor at John Hopkins University - suggests that successful entrepreneurs suffer from hypomania (what is described as  having high energy and boundless self-confidence, just short of bipolar disease).

I think most people have heard bits and pieces of his personal story through Dragon's Den before, but also Robert talked about the struggles his family had when they came over from Croatia - a classic immigrant story.

Robert credits his upbringing and not choosing to be a victim of circumstance, but a pursuer of opportunity... In fact, one chapter is called 'Learn from Failure, Profit from Change'.

Like the other 2 books I have read so far, there is some discussion about the other panelists on Dragon's Den; a favourite was Robert's comparison of his to Kevin's.

Apparently they were both staying at a Miami-area hotel for a few weeks during the taping of Shark Tank.  Robert lost his room key and asked the front desk for a replacement - which they were happy to do after he got some ID from his wife.

Kevin also lost his key during their time there, and was asked for ID - only rather than look for his ID, he told off the staff saying something along the lines of "You know who I am, I have been staying here for weeks" - and a couple expletives in there.

So some different personalities - but both successful individuals...

Overall, I think it was a great read and would encourage anyone that is considering going into business for themselves to check it out.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Twitter Users Beware: Direct Message

Hello all,

I and a few others I've heard from have been targeted in the past few days from a hacker on Twitter.  You will see that you got a direct message from one of the people that you follow, or follow you, and it will saying something along the lines of:

You seen what this person is saying about you? terrible things..

As part of the message there will be a shortened URL... do not click this!

Now if you're anything like me, you probably thought, "who would say horrible things about me?"  because, "I thought everyone loved me?"

Luckily this is just a virus and you can stop it.  Everyone still loves you too.

Just warn your fellow Twitter-users about the virus.