CategoryRecognition and Rewards

From PIC — Sarah Williams’ Recipe for Workplace Fun

I have always had a love/hate relationship with workplace fun.

I’ve seen employer attempts to create “fun workplaces” go horribly wrong … Instead of fostering cooperative happy, and more productive environments, it spawned competitive, entitled and ineffective environments. What was designed to create camaraderie and show appreciation developed into something divisive and disparaging.

After many years of watching employees take advantage of or be completely indifferent to the efforts of their employers to bring joy, levity, recognition and appropriate fun to the workplace, I became sour to the very idea of it. I decided workplaces couldn’t be fun. It simply wasn’t possible. I believed workplaces should be about work and anything given to employees should be earned through their efforts and outputs.

Ffff the fun, yo!

About 6 months into my latest position, I was tasked with organizing our Halloween contests …with an S. Meaning there were multiple! One each for costume, decorating, pumpkin carving and themed snacks. I began wondering what I’d gotten myself into! I set myself to planning — and I waited for people to suck the fun out of these well-intentioned events. I waited for people to demand more, allege unfairness or loaf off.

I waited … It didn’t happen.

We had fun. Appropriate fun with sincere appreciation and no sense of entitlement … But it didn’t hurt our productivity or our attitudes.

We had fun for that day, for those few designated moments — then we went back to work. Like the fun hadn’t happened.

I watched and waited to see what would happen for Thanksgiving. And Christmas. And New Years. And Valentine’s Day.

The fun came and the fun went. No one missed a beat.

My Fun-less Grinchy Heart grew two sizes … I was amazed.

Now, I gladly lead the “Spirit Committee” efforts for our company. I look forward to it. I post and boast about it using the #MyJobBetterThanYours tag … I believe again there can be fun in the workplace without all the negative non-sense.

So what’s so different about this place vs the others? What is the recipe for workplace fun?

Read the rest over at Performance I Create

When Good Meetings Go Bad

Once upon a time, I was in an all-day meeting. It started at 8am sharp and was scheduled to go until at least 6pm. Presentation after presentation. Lots of talking and lots of slides. Not a lot of breaks.

Sometime after lunch, I started to lose focus. My mind started to wander. And so did my eyes.

My eyes landed on the phone of the co-worker seated next to me. He was texting. I didn’t want to be obvious in my bored nosiness so I couldn’t see what was said. But I know what came back as the response.

Ta-tas. Puppies. Jugs. Tiggle-bitties … BOOBS!!! Big ol’ boobs!!!!

My co-worker was sexting. In the middle of the meeting. And in my nosy boredom, I’d stumbled on his girlfriend’s booby pics.

It was like a car crash.

I tried to look away — but I couldn’t. I was freaking out — but couldn’t say a word. It was so awkward and uncomfortable — and hilarious!

As it gets more difficult for management to be unreachable for long periods, it becomes more common to see smart phones in our meeting rooms … Inevitably this leads to people emailing about other topics during meetings and texting answers to quick questions from staff. It also leads to loafing behavior like gaming, checking social media, online banking, personal errand and calendar prep, and even sexting.

Have I done these things? Yep. Every single one. More than once.

It is nearly impossible to keep a room full of adults fully focused for a meeting, especially when it lasts all day. I’m not sure it is realistic to expect people to hold it together for that long when we all have so many other things pulling at us in any given moment.

Most employers nowadays don’t care. Attendees at meetings are welcome to bring their smart phones and tablets to meetings so they can multi-task.

Others find it upsetting. Attendees at meetings need to be focused on discussing and resolving the agenda items. And they need to show respect and appreciation for the meeting organizer by being fully present and attentive.

If you fall into the latter group and want attendees to be more focused in your meetings, here are a few tips you can use:

  • Declare the meeting a device free zone.  Instruct attendees to leave their devices outside the meeting or designate a place for them to put their devices while the meeting is in session.
  • Take longer or more frequent breaks. Schedule breaks specifically for device checking. We often don’t give enough time for lunch, restroom and checking/returning messages. Make sure your break schedule allots for this.
  • Call out abusers. If someone is more into their device than the meeting, politely call them out. Emphasis on polite. Suggest they take a break and step out to handle their issues in a way that doesn’t leave hard feelings or tension.
  • Gamify disruptions. At the start of the meeting, ask attendees to place their phones on the table upside-down. Let them know that turning their phones over will result in penalties like having to wear a funny hat or glasses or gloves. Keep a count and give a cool prize at the end of the day for the least distracted attendee.

Love them or hate them or love to hate them, meetings are a necessary part of the world of work. Whatever we can do to make them more effective, bearable and fun is worthwhile effort.

But the next time you’re bored in a meeting, DO NOT attempt to read your co-worker’s texts. There’s no telling what you’ll see.


Bringing that “Back To School” Magic to HR

I’m not sure how, when or why it happened — but I have a lot of friends who are teachers! And every year around this time, I see all their posts about going back to school. They are very excited, uplifting and full of anticipation for what the new year will bring.

It got me thinking about my own profession and the preparation (or lack thereof) for the seasons in HR … Although we don’t typically have a summer break to come back from or a 100% turnover in our teams each year, there are still some moments where HR can create excitement and anticipation within ourselves and our organizations.

And during onboarding and orientation, HR can definitely make the same magic teachers at the start of a new school year.

Unfortunately, we get so focused on satisfying hiring managers and quickly getting the new hire up to speed that we miss this opportunity. We often fail to put our best foot forward during that critical time. We forget the impressions made in the first 120 days of work sets the standard and expectation for the entire employment experience … Those are bells that can’t be un-rung.

Teachers, on the other hand, never seem to lose sight of this. I’m not sure if this is something they’re taught through theory or something they learn through observation and practice — but teachers understand the importance of making magic at the start of the new school year.

What is the “magic” you ask? Here are a few tricks to keep up your sleeve:

  • Connection on an individual level. Teachers take time to get to know the students, their backgrounds, interests and experiences … HR should do the same. Take moments early in the first few weeks to get to know your people beyond what they were hired to do. Knowing what makes our employees tick will help us to engage and develop them from the start.
  • Guided tour of the environment. Teachers make sure the students know the layout of the classroom, the important people or places within the school, and where to find common, necessary resources … HR should do the same. Tours of the building and introductions to key people should happen in the first few days. Basic explanation of the setup guidelines, times and places for things like lunch, breaks and routine meetings should also occur. This will help the employee become acclimated to the environment more quickly and avoid embarrassing faux pas with colleagues.
  • Positive presentation. Teachers go out all out to make their classrooms look bright, fun and ready for action … HR should do the same. The assigned workspace for a new employee should welcome and exude excitement to have that person on board. The supplies and system access needed to do their job effectively should already be setup and waiting. Nowadays employees want to feel their company is as excited to have them as they are to work there.

These are just a few examples of ways HR can make magic like teachers during back to school. It doesn’t take much time, resources or effort to do these things, either — and it will make a huge difference in the first and lasting impressions of your company and its working environment.

Next, we’ll talk about setting the tone for the environment like our teachers going back to school.

It’s True! She’s Really Retiring!

After over 40 years as a Human Resources professional, my mother is retiring on September 30th.

For real this time.

My mom has always been my secret HR weapon. One of my very first and most popular posts ever was a summary of her advice (Read that HERE). Having mentors and colleagues is great — but there’s nothing like being able to pick up the phone and call your momma for workplace advice. Because she not only knows the HR struggle is real, but she also knows me and my history and motivation like no one else in the world. It has been invaluable to me and makes our relationship even more awesome.

More recently, she’s actually called me for advice a few times. She’s used my tips and recommendations — then come back later to tell me they worked. That was even more awesome. I valued and looked forward to our conversations. It’s meant more to me than she’ll ever know. I’ll miss it.

But I am so happy for her! If anyone deserves to rest and do everything or nothing that she wants to do, it’s my mom … So please join me in wishing her all the best as she closes this chapter and begins the next. And take a moment to re-read her guest post “HR After 40 Years Along the Way”


I am officially a senior citizen.  I have an AARP membership.  I should be basking in the sun on the beach in Aruba or playing the slots in Las Vegas.

Instead, I am in charge of one of the largest Social Services agencies in the nation, overseeing Employee Services (our new, fancy name for HR) and many other things for 1200 employees and social services benefits for close to 150,000 active clients, after 40+ years as a career public servant.  Along the way, I have been the “first” this, “first” that, “only” this, and “only” that … Still am sometimes.

It has been, as Paul McCartney said, “a long and winding road”.

Why am I still working?  Because I believe I make a difference in people’s lives.  I believe that if I bless you, I have blessed myself.  If I help you, I have helped myself.  The Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have done unto you”.  I believe I can help the world, one person at a time.

I am a linguist.  I fell in love with all things Hispanic at the age of 13.  My degree is in Spanish.  I also speak French … a little German … and a lot of profanity.  I love people and their diversity.  I’ve been “different” all my life and I celebrate the individuality of people and their life stories.  I know words can bring us together or tear us apart, start wars or bring world peace, harm or heal.  What better place to communicate than in HR — where people’s lives and livelihoods are within your oversight … where secrets are shared and kept … where you can coach and teach and learn something new every day about yourself and people…

Along the way, I’ve become a resident expert in Disciplinary Action, Performance Appraisal, Equal Opportunity, Staff Development, and Labor Relations.  I’ve learned that discipline is a last, painful resort.  That most people have no self-awareness regarding their performance.  That we should use every opportunity to create a teaching moment, and that there is usually one alternative to every circumstance.

In 40 years, I’ve welcomed new babies — and in later years, I’ve hired them.  I’ve made lifelong friends — and said farewell far too many times.  I have let people go who didn’t fit — and have mentored those with potential.  Along the way, I’ve met three people I truly disliked.  I blessed them, too.

I will retire.  Moses took 40 years and only glimpsed the Promised Land.  He showed his people they could have more, be more, parted the Red Sea, and left!  I have worn out my ears listening, enriched my soul with empathy, led with wisdom and compassion, and hopefully, blazed a path which others can follow.

I can leave confident that I have helped many people, along the way.

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