MonthAugust 2012

Gone But Not Forgotten

I signed on as a contributor for Project : Social HR earlier this year. It was designed to encourage and support Human Resource practitioners growth in the use of social media (SoMe) tools and strategies. The blog site featured new and tenured HR professional advocating and providing practical tips to better understand and use SoMe. There was also a mentoring program where SoMe users could help SoMe novices get onboard and engaged with the various things SoMe has to offer. The coordinator or all this was HR pro and blogger, Victorio Milian — and it was definitely a huge undertaking! When he took on new job role in June, it became too hectic to continue the program — and the rest of us that write for the site weren’t able to takeover the duties because our schedules are 50 Shades of Cray, too.

So last week, the Project officially ended.

But I say it is just on extended hiatus. I believe someONE or someONES will pick up with torch because this program is needed. Social media understanding and adoption in business is not going away — it is necessary to have a strategy for dealing with it in today’s world of business and work! HR has to get it — and be able to lead, guide and advise about SoMe!! We can’t do that if we don’t know what it is or how it works.

Until this hiatus ends, I am committing to continue in the spirit of Project : Social HR. One post each month here at The Buzz on HR will be dedicated to educating about social media. I will share great content from others. I will reach out to get help and give help on how social media can and should be used in the workplace. I will get and give help on blogging. I will continue to have the courage to speak and share my truth because I believe it will make our profession better.

Here are the posts I wrote for Project : Social HR, in case you missed any of them:

And here are the links to some of my other favorite posts from the site. You will find some familiar names from guests here — and some others that you should definitely connect with:

Why It Matters” by Steve Browne, SPHR

HR for HR” by Bonnie Titgemeyer

No Do Overs” by Melissa Fairman

Finding Your Writing Voice — You Can’t Do It Without Starting” by Lance Haun

Social Learning” by Sabrina Baker

Becoming A Rockstar! (You’re Welcome)” by Chris Fields


Project : Social HR may be gone but it will never be forgotten. Let’s keep talking about improving our businesses workplaces through adopting and using social media! We must. And we will.

I Can’t Imagine

Imagine for a moment that you discovered the employees in a division of your company were stealing. You had them all on video tape red-handed … except one.

The other thiefs said the one was in on it, too — but video never showed the one taking anything. The one vehemently denied any involvement. The one was an excellent employee — an award-winning, top performer who was respected not only in your organization but by your entire industry.

Would you fire the one? And if you were the one fired, would you protest?

If you were the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), apparently you would. And if you were the superstar 7-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong, apparently you wouldn’t protest.

And, if you were me, the whole thing would leave you feeling … some kind of way.

You can read all the details HERE — but the gist is, despite hundreds of negative drug test results, the USADA is convinced Armstrong used performance-enhancers because the other top racers during his era tested positive and all say Armstrong did it, too. Now the USADA wants to remove Armstrong from the record books and ban him from racing forever. On Thursday, Armstrong announced he is done defending himself and participating in the investigation process to clear his name.

I can see both sides of the issue:

  • For Armstrong, he feels nothing he says or does at this point will change anything. People have already made up their minds — including the USADA. Continuing to spend his time and money fighting a seemingly losing battle doesn’t make a whole lot of common sense. So he is choosing to walk away. Some will say this discredits him and makes him weak. Others will say it takes tremendous courage and confidence. I think it is a little bit of both there. My friend Susan Avello wrote a great article about this on her blog, HR Virtual Cafe. Take a moment to read it.


  • For the USADA, it has to be hard to let this go. Armstrong was able to be the best and beat the best at a time when it has been proven that all of the best were using performance enhancers. It makse sense to conclude he was doing it too and just figured out a way to beat the tests.  Some will say it’s a wasteful witch-hunt. Others will say they are doing their job. I think it’s a little of both there, too.

What strikes me is that these are the types of issues we face in HR all the time. At least, I deal with these types of issues all the time … Circumstantial employee issues where you cannot without a doubt prove guilt but total innocence just doesn’t make sense under the circumstances. Theft. Harassment. Safety incident. Missed deadlines. Procedural fail. Like I said in my post the other day, most of the time, there is no smoking gun and we just have to do the best we can with the information we have.

So I asked myself: what I would do if a claim like Armstrong’s hit my desk?  After thinking about it for a couple days, I’m still unsure. I can’t imagine not taking some sort of serious action with all that circumstantial evidence … but I can’t imagine permanently banning someone who never failed a drug test, either. As an employer, that would be a monstrous risk without some kind of separation or severance agreement to fall back on to preclude separation litigation … But when you’re the US government, I guess you don’t worry about that kind of stuff.

What would you do with a “Lance Armstrong” HR claim?

Should HR Be More Like “The Closer” or “Major Crimes”?

This week’s post are looking at HR lessons from tv police drama “The Closer.”

Set in Los Angeles, the show follows the “Priority Homicide” division led by Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson as they investigate and solve high-profile homicide cases. Because of her ability to get confessions resulting in convictions, Brenda is known as “a closer.”

In the series finale last week, Brenda resigned her position with the LAPD. The division was renamed “Major Crimes” and placed under the command of Captain Sharon Raydor, former head of the Force Investigation Division responsible for ensuring procedures are followed and investigating misconduct allegations against police officers.

While “The Closer” was focused on confessions, “Major Crimes” is all about convictions. The goal is to quickly gather enough evidence to determine who committed the crime and leverage that information to reach a plea bargain.

So which approach is better?? Should HR be more like “The Closer” or like “Major Crimes”???

The answer … I think … is Major Crimes.

There will never be another like Brenda Leigh Johnson. Her skills at solving cases and obtaining confessions are unmatched. And when you have someone like that on the team and/or in charge of the team, it makes sense to utilize those strengths. However, that approach can be time-consuming and expensive. It takes hours, days and weeks of investigating to obtain one confession — followed by months and years to bring the case to trial and convict the perpetrator. When resources are at a premium, it makes a lot of sense to identify a suspect and reach an agreement that includes significant jail time so that police and prosecutors alike can move on to the next issue.

When issues come up in HR, it is rare that we find a “smoking gun” or obtain a “full confession” from anyone. Much more often, we gather data and, based on patterns, we identify the most likely and plausible explanation. And many times, there are layers and mitigating factors to the problems we face because of the interpersonal relationships and histories between the people and departments involved. The “major crimes” in our workplaces tend to be very, very complex issues that are not easy to unravel or solve without compromise, sacrifice and risk.

So without a lot of time or resources, it makes sense for us to take the course of action that causes the least disruption. We settle.

It sounds horrible to say — but it is our reality and our truth. And it is OK.

Settling doesn’t mean we compromise our principles or our integrity. It doesn’t mean we let people get away with craziness, foolishness or unlawfulness. The bad guys on Major Crimes still go to jail! They just don’t necessarily go with an air-tight confession on tape as apart of the evidence package … And in our workplaces, our bad guys are still held accountable for their actions. They are still disciplined when necessary — up to and including termination, when necessary. The difference is we don’t always have every issue documented with irrefutable, independent corroboration before we take action.

Our goal is to make employment decisions that will advance the goals of the business and withstand legal scrutiny. “Confessions” are nice but “convictions” are a must. We must be confident that our course of action is fair and reasonable based on the information we have. That’s what being an HR “Closer” is about.

So farewell Brenda Leigh Johnson and hello Captain Raydor! The Major Crimes way is here to stay.


Don’t miss the rest of “The Closer” series:

HR Lessons from “The Closer” — Don’t Be Like Brenda

This week’s posts are my way of honoring one of my favorite shows on television — The Closer, which ended its 8-year run last week.

In case you’ve never watched, the show follows Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson and her team of detectives as they solve high-profile murder cases for the LAPD. Because of her reputation for closing cases by getting suspects to fully confess to crimes, Brenda is known as a “closer.”

I think she’s a great example for HR and anyone responsible for managing people of how to get the job done! However, Brenda is also a great example of what NOT to do  … I know, I know. It’s just as hard for me to criticize her as it is for fans of the show to hear the criticisms. But keep reading.

Here’s why HR should NOT be like Brenda:

She didn’t develop her team. While Brenda was fantastic at utilizing strengths, she did not do a very good job at developing across disciplines. Did you ever see Lt. Tao do anything that wasn’t related to tech or forensics? Nope. And why was Det. Gabriel the only one ever assigned to research and review financial records? It wasn’t because they weren’t capable of more or different. It’s because they weren’t given the opportunity.

  • Specialities are fantastic and necessary. However, cross-training is still essential. Don’t let your team get stale or stagnant by failing to create opportunities for them to learn new, different things.

She was self-centered. While Brenda always kept the focus on the work, she was very inflexible with others. She wanted what she wanted, when she wanted and how she wanted — and she was unwilling to accept anything else. While most would say that is admirable (and entertaining), it often made working with her difficult. She wasn’t truly interested in partnering or cooperating unless the benefits to her outweighed the benefits to the other party.

  • It cannot be “my way or the highway” all day, everyday if you want to cultivate a healthy workplace and healthy working relationships. Compromise, consideration and compassion are required — and from the start, not just after bullying through an issue has failed. Figure out how to work well with others without losing yourself, sooner rather than later.

She was manipulative. While Brenda made it a point to work across departments and agencies to gain information and close cases faster, she wasn’t always sincere in her efforts. She would often use others to gain the information needed then cut them out or cut them off so she could close the case and get the credit on her own. Her husband worked for the FBI and she steam-rolled him several times for her own gain. She always apologized and felt badly for it … but not badly enough to not do it again.

  • Pooling resources is always a good idea. It gives access to more information and more ideas. It enables the work to be done faster and more thoroughly. Never lose sight of that as the goal. If you’re going to share resources, be prepared and willing to share accolades as well.

She was insubordinate. While Brenda was focused, efficient and commanding in her role as Deputy Chief, she was rarely deferential. She was known to ignore and downright disregard orders from her superiors. She frowned on rules and procedures and the politics associated with her job. That approach eventually sent her on a trajectory that changed her career, her life and the lives of the people closest to her. Arguably, it stifled her growth and advancement — and that of those around her.

  • Rules and procedures were not meant to be broken — they were meant to be followed. And politics, while not always fun or helpful or necessary, are a reality. Learn to be successful and accomplish your goals with the parameter and spirit of the rules in mind. Know how to lead — but also know when to follow. You can’t help anyone if your need to be “right” or “superior” marginalizes you or (worst case) gets you fired.

Don’t misunderstand. Even with all her faults and flaws, I still love my Brenda Leigh! However, after years of these kinds of behaviors, it is understandable why it was time for her and for the LAPD to make changes. So Brenda resigned her job and moved on. Her “Priority Homicide” team has been renamed “Major Crimes” — and they are continuing without her under new command … The spinoff show, entitled Major Crimes, is clearly different!

So the final post in this series is going to attempt to answer the question: Is Major Crimes better than The Closer? Stay tuned.


In case you missed it, read Part 1 of this series — Be Like Brenda.

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