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Demand a Compassionate Workplace

I’m a huge fan of the show This is Us. Every Tuesday, I’m perched on my couch with my tissues ready for the emotional roller coaster.

One of the storylines centers around Randall, who is a bit of a workaholic, struggling with work/life balance while caring for his father with end-stage cancer. Ultimately, this leads to Randall having a severe anxiety attack that lands him in the hospital. About a week after Randall is released from the hospital, his father passes away.

During his absence from work for both his hospitalization, Randall’s job called him and texted him with questions. And the day before his father’s memorial service, work sends him a basket of pears, which he’s allergic to. On the day of his father’s memorial service, they text him again — acknowledging that they were bothering him but still asking for immediate answers to their needs.

Outrageous???? Yes … yet not all that uncommon.

During my 20 years in HR, I’ve experienced and heard so many stories like this. Some stories were even worse.

When a highly valued and dedicated employee has to take time away from work unexpectedly, managers are often devastated and confused. They cannot figure out how to function without the person. They cannot imagine the person would be unwilling to help. They cannot understand how someone who has always been so reliable could suddenly become completely unavailable.

It is this kind of thinking that makes FMLA regulations still very much necessary in our workplaces. If we want less government guidelines dictating our actions in this area, we have to do better in our workplaces.

We have to demand compassion.

The first thing we do to demand compassion in our workplaces is to model appropriate work/life balance. As managers, we have to work appropriate hours, take time off periodically for rest and give reasonable deadlines … We cannot give assignments on Friday, say the work is due Monday then act surprised when our employees end up with overtime after working the weekend. And if we do, we cannot be angry when they leave early or come in a little later or take off another day. If we are modeling work/life balance, we are making allowances for this and encouraging it when necessary.

The next thing we have to do to demand compassion in our workplaces is to cross-train duties and have back-ups for our positions. No one person should be the only one with the knowledge and authority to complete major tasks in the organization. And compassionate workplaces know that burden is too much for one person to bear … We cannot expect one person to develop all the strategies, organize all the projects, implement all the programs and communicate all the outcomes without assistance while feeling no pressure. And if we do, we cannot be surprised when all our efforts come to a halt because that person takes leave. If we are modeling work/life balance, we make sure responsibilities are evenly distributed and that a second-in-command has been appointed.

The final thing we have to do to demand compassion in our workplaces is never pressure a person who is dealing with a traumatic life event to return to work before they are ready. These tactics only ever have negative impact. Compassionate workplaces know this approach is not going to yield high levels of performance or long-term loyalty. It will only result in causing a dedicated employee to lose all respect for the organization and people they once worked so hard for. If we are modeling work/life balance, we trust the individual to be respectful and responsible and to tell us what they’ll need and what they are capable of.

When we demand compassion and model work/life balance, our employees feel free to take the time they need so they return to work as the best version of themselves. This is what we all truly want. Only demanding compassion can make that happen.

On This is Us, the hurt from the careless handling of his illness and bereavement was too much for Randall to reconcile. He quit in epic fashion.

This video shows his exit speech. If you’ve ever pressured anyone to work or return to work when they were dealing with a life trauma, I promise you that they’ve said this to you in their mind and heart.

Don’t ever let that happen again. Demand compassion.

Performance Reviews Made Simple

This has been a great week for me.

On Tuesday, I had the daunting privilege of speaking at a DisruptHR event. It is the first time I’ve stepped on a speaker’s stage in over a year. I was nervousAF — but I rocked it! Video to come.

On Wednesday, I had the awesome privilege of guest hosting SHRM’s #NextChat on Twitter. Each Wednesday at 3pm EST, this chat covers topics that are front of mind for HR professionals. The guest hosts are HR influencers sharing their advice and best practices along with other Twitter users.

I’ve been a participant in #NextChat for years! To be a guest host was a really cool experience.

This week’s topic was “A Positive Process for Performance Reviews”

On the heels of this, I thought it would be a great time to share some other posts I’ve written about performance:

If you are in a management position with people reporting to you, you will have to provide a performance review at some point. The longer you wait to start the habit, the more difficult the practice will be for you.

Coach your direct reports as close to daily as possible and keep records of all aspects of their performance — both the areas done well and the areas needing improvement. By doing this, it will be much easier to compile an accurate, comprehensive and meaningful review when the time comes.

And that “time” should come formally AT LEAST once per year of employment. Leaving people lingering for years with no specific idea of their standing simply isn’t cool.

Performance reviews are a necessary part of a productive and accountable work environment. Embrace it!

BONUS: Lessons from the #BlackBlogsMatter Challenge

I spent 28 days blogging about topics near, dear and difficult for me during the #BlackBlogsMatter challenge.

For me, this challenge was 2 things:

  • a way to force to get back into writing shape and rhythm
  • a way to force me to share the thoughts I’ve had that I too scared to let out so I slipped into inertia

I wasn’t looking to inspire or engage anyone. But I did.

I wasn’t looking to upset or offend. But I did that, too.

And I wasn’t looking to learn. But I did that as well.

I learned that people still expect an invitation. There were people who didn’t participate because they weren’t personally invited. It left them unsure about whether their voice were wanted or welcomed. I assumed anyone who felt passionate about the topic would happily jump in. That turned out not to be the case.

I learned that people will flake out on you. There were people who were very excited when the challenge was announced. There were others who started out posting and sharing with enthusiasm. That dwindled as the month went on. They got tired. So did I! Somewhere around Day 20, I honestly wanted to quit. But I dug deep and pushed thru it. Posting daily wasn’t easy for me and I know it wasn’t easy for anyone else. I’m grateful for everyone who joined, in whatever way they participated and for however long. I’m honored by those who crossed the finish line with me.

I learned that White Privilege really is fragile. I’d actually never hear the theory of white fragility before this challenge. I had no idea it was a real thing. My decision to tackle it turned out to be far more controversial than I ever thought it would be. But I’m glad that I did it and I’m glad for all the conversations, both public and private, that have come from that post and all the others.

I learned that Black Blogs really do Matter. There are so many of our voices in the blogosphere not getting the exposure and accolades we deserve. I found new bloggers in the HR space as well as in other spaces that are doing and writing dope things! I’m not sure I ever would have learned about them without this challenge. If we do not speak up and support each other, we all lose. We also have to share so others can see and learn what else is out there. New, diverse voices are needed and welcomed.

I learned that this is more than a one-month challenge. There are very few people addressing these topics head on in the HR space. People have called me brave for tackling the topics covered; I don’t feel that way. It took me over a year to muster the motivation to say what’s been trapped in my mind. I’m left wondering what differences I could have made if I’d spoken sooner … But I know I can’t stop. So I won’t. I commit to continue this conversation and these kinds of posts at least once a month. I encourage you to ask questions, publicly or privately. Because it is only thru sincere conversation that we’ll ever reach understanding and progress.

I’ve found my voice again. I plan to keep talking. I hope you’ll keep listening. I hope you’ll holla back.

5 Phrases to Stop Using in 2017

Words matter.

As someone who loves writing and spent decades in nerdy activities like theater and debate club, I know words matter.

And I know verbal fillers are often a hindrance to us and our messages being taken seriously.

A couple times a year, I reflect on the words I use frequently and eliminate phrases I believe have potential to hurt my message or my reputation.

I’ve shared thoughts on this before:

Here are the 5 phrases I’m eliminating from my lexicon in 2017:

  • “Let me know if there are any questions” … This phrase is passive-aggressive and unnecessary. If you’ve created a culture where professional curiosity and clarity is welcomed, you shouldn’t need to give people permission to ask questions. If that isn’t your organization’s culture, work on that — starting with letting the passive-aggressive phrases go.
  • “I think” … This phrase is self-defeating and unnecessary. If you are speaking or writing, it is safe to say the words are your thoughts. If they weren’t you’d say “Bob thinks” or “Jane thinks”. By classifying your thoughts as your own, you actually damage your credibility and appear to lack confidence. If you cannot speak with confidence and credibility, it is always best to be quiet.
  • “Basically” and “Accordingly” … These are passive-aggressive words masking as authoritative words. Authority doesn’t have to assert itself. If you have it, everyone will know and behave accordingly 😉
  • “The problem is” … If you’re using this phrase, it better be followed up by a recommended solutions. Otherwise, you look whiny and incapable. Or worse — you look unwilling or uncaring. Build your reputation as a problem solver, not a problem proclaimer.
  • “I’ll try” or “I’ll do my best” … Just like “I think,” this is self-defeating and unnecessary. You should always be trying and/or doing your best. When you declare it on certain occasions, it calls your efforts at other times into  question. And it makes you appear to lack confidence in your abilities.

What we say has power over ourselves and others. Don’t let that power work against you. Be mindful of these phrases and others that are working contrary to your goals.

Change your language. Change your life.

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