Monday, April 27, 2009

Feedback (Phobia or Mania?)

So, here’s one of the most dreaded question or one that’s asked just about every other minute. Be it after interviews, one-to-one with managers, team meetings, from clients/markets, product launches, peers & most other places.

Do you have any feedback for me?

It’s a very pro-active question. A question that can open a floodgate of varied inputs ranging from opinions to acceptance to criticism. Everything depends on how much the listener can handle or comprehend? Does he have the time for giving you a feedback? How much can the listener filter while listening? Does the listener defend or accept? It’s tough, unpredictable and definitely not in control of the person asking for it. You can also bet on the fact that it’s very hard to predict answers to your query. Often, Murphy’s Law prevails.

Is it phobia?

A start point for asking feedback is in identifying the right person. Most often, feedbacks are asked from the wrong person. Obviously, they’ll stay from giving one citing various reasons. Another one could be a case of an incompetent supervisor who doesn’t know how to give feedback.

Think about an interview situation at work: Jack interviewed with your company last week and is yet to hear from you. So he sends an email asking for feedback (even if it’s a negative one). That’s great. He is keen to know how he performed and wants to improve. It’s a sign of a person willing to learn. Yet, the manager hesitates to give feedback lest they say something that can land them in a potential lawsuit! Not knowing what to say is a major problem that leads to a phobia. There could a thousand other situations at a workplace.

Giving positive feedback is a lot easier. It’s a tough task giving negative feedback. Using tact doesn’t come naturally to many people. This leads them to stay away from the problem, rather than taking it on and learn in the process.

Is it mania?

Here’s a problem that needs to be fixed very soon. You know that team member who can never do anything with asking for feedback. From writing documents, sending/replying to emails, preparing reports or even coding, everything needs to have feedback from either managers or peers. Almost on a 24/7 basis! It could be a serious case of low self-esteem or self-belief. It can lead to an uncomfortable situation for both managers & peers. They want to get on with their work and a feedback-maniac will only hinder their work schedule. That’s not a good sign. After all everyone is heading towards a deadline.

Feedback isn’t always about saying, “‘Great job! Let’s move on to the next project and continue to meet deadlines.” People know when they have done a great job. Right. Feedback is asked to improve performance. Having to give insightful or useful feedback means spending time on someone else’s work. If you are a manager, then you are required to give feedback; either formally or informally. You just can’t shy away from it! Go ahead and ask for help if you need.

For people asking for constructive feedback: Stick with it. Really. It’s a great approach to have at work. It’s the only way to get better at what you do.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Today is Earth Day. It's a day to help promote awareness for a better environment. By reducing our carbon footprints. Yes, you may have heard about enough ways to reduce your contribution to global warming. But, have you done enough?

At the work place, it isn’t an HR action item to implement methods for a greener world. It’s up to every employee to exercise their common sense to help preserve nature. If you still don’t know what to do, here’s a website that might be of help.

The right time is NOW. Reduce, Reuse & Recycle.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Treasure Hunt

That’s what hiring/staffing/recruiting can be compared to.

In good times or otherwise, recruiters are always looking for clues (read: candidates) everywhere: jobs boards, networking sites, search engines, employee referrals, among other resume sources. That prompts me to ask a question:

If you are a candidate looking for a job change (either active or passive) are you leaving enough clues for the recruiters to reach you?

If you have been a hiring manager or a recruiter, you’ll know it’s a challenge to make that ‘right-fit’ happen between: candidate, hiring manager, company culture, compensation plans, benefits & relocation. However, the start point to make that match happen effectively begins with identifying potential candidates. Or in HR parlance it’s called ‘Sourcing Resumes’. Recruiters are spending more than 70% of their time finding candidates to talk to. This is where candidates can make a difference & get their resume noticed by the recruiters.

Getting your resume noticed works similar to the way search engines give information based on search criteria. That would translate to having the right ‘keywords’ in your resume which best describes your work. It’s preferable to use keywords which are in-sync with the job requirements. The mistake is when you choose words to describe your responsibilities. That’s a given. Why else would you apply for the job? Right? Keywords in your resume should act more like a marketing tool which best describes your achievements and accomplishments.

Use of keywords will only guarantee your resume a chance to get noticed. That’s great. From there on it’s content that will take over. You’ve at least cleared the first hurdle.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sixth Sense! Game Changing Technology...

Watched this over at

Pranav Mistry at MIT has created a wearable device called "Sixth Sense" that can interact with our environment.

Just awesome!

Critics & Trumpeters

Let’s face it. If your area of work impacts people (directly or indirectly), then you are guaranteed to get lot of praises as well as loads of criticism. Just which set of people (critics or trumpeters) should you focus you energies on?

Seth Godin writes in his blog asking people to ignore critics & fans alike! He suggests we focus more on people who help promote your work. This couldn’t have been truer than for an HR person.

Think about it for a second, as an HR representative, when was the last time you got an appreciation mail from someone outside of HR?!?! I know, I know. You must be thinking, what’s an appreciation mail! I got a ‘Thank You’ mail last week. Does that count? Instead, all you could recollect was mails that told you in as many words as possible, about why your idea/initiative/plan/suggestion/opinion might not work.

So how do we get our work trumpeted? Can we generate enough buzz about the work we do? And then identify people who will take that buzz and distribute it like flyers to others. It’s possible.

What are your thoughts? I would love to hear them.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Visibility Issues

Conversations you get to hear during a normal workday.

Employee (to manager): Where do I get my policy query answered?
Manager: Send a mail to and someone from HR will reply soon.

External Agency (to finance person): Who handles staffing contract extensions?
Finance person: I’ll check & revert. Someone in HR should get that done.

Manager’s mail (to another common email ID – hopefully belonging to HR): Who will act as a single point of contact (from HR) for my business group? I have some queries.
He get’s a reply (shocking! From HR): We (who?!?) have received your query. Someone from HR will get back to you shortly.

The phrase ‘Someone from HR’ makes me uncomfortable. Is HR not making itself visible? Maybe that’s true.

HR’s role in any company (big or small) can be compared to a client facing job, like sales, marketing or PR. Just imagine if your sales/marketing person couldn’t create recall value with their clients. The deal’s dead. It’s the same situation with HR; we need to create recall-value with our customers (employees, vendors, management, etc.). How else will we deliver results? As much as we don’t like, it takes only one bad remark/comment to ruin our objectives. Yes, that’s bad. Since you know there are 10 other good things you might have done. Sadly, only the pit falls get scrutinized. Sorry, I digress.

The problem is that people don’t know whom to contact from HR. There’s no visibility! We just aren’t making enough noise. Just because you are addressing an issue, don’t assume the entire workforce knows about it. If there is a common problem, it would help if you could circulate the answer to that query – via email, forums, company intranet. The idea is to NOT get that query asked by the remaining employees. You’ll not end up wasting time & effort on redundancy. You could use various methods to tell people whom to meet for HR related business:

- Start with company wide emails telling them about the HR hierarchy.
- Share info during New Hire Orientation (new people getting into the company).
- Make announcements in open-houses, quarterly company meeting, intranet, billboards within the company.

- As a HR business partner meet the managers regularly.

Basically, whatever it takes! In the people business, things get escalated sooner than a ‘bug’ that gets recognized in the software being built. It’s true.

It’s time to get out of the desk and meet people. Start now…go get some visibility!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Analog players in a digital world

That’s what most of us are. I believe HR isn’t immune either. Entry into the digital world is a big step taken towards positive change. Now that can be challenging and I did write about it here.

Why is it challenging?

- We (read: HR) spend money on acquiring the latest Performance Appraisal System to help ease transactional activities and go the paperless way. Only to get back to printing appraisal letters and dumping them into envelopes, because that’s being done for the last thousand years.

- Interview candidates are asked to fill sheets of paper giving their personal & professional data. Only to file those papers in the drawers. Instead, can’t we ask them to fill an online form?

- Often we encounter situations where existing employees who were following traditional systems got introduced to new systems/gadgets. The first instinct is to snub the new systems, since they require time & effort to understand. Even at the cost of making one’s work life easy!

Let me clarify. I’m not saying that we just dump analog systems and head for a digital revolution. At least give it a try. It could end up saving cost, time and improve process. What more can you ask for?

Any other analog ideas we could do away with? I’m all ears.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Abusive Managers: Confront or Walk-out?

Recently during my discussions in a forum, I got to know there were a number of people who quit their previous jobs due to an abusive manager. It’s not surprising. Really.

I believe the transition to a manager’s role is very similar to fresh-grads who get inducted into a new role. Quite often, companies hardly take the initiative to train managers and are in a hurry (Read: Retention) to promote employees to become managers. There’s a very small chance that the person getting promoted is an ideal fit for the role. Chances are that most of them learn the ropes while on the job. This means they develop managing styles that they feel work for them, purely based on their personality traits.

One such trait is that of an abusive manager. The bully who enters the room yelling, shouting, door-slamming, highly criticizing, foul mouthed and everything else that you didn’t expect!

It’s not hard to predict that abusive managers hurt team morale, productivity and could even cause emotional trauma. I’ve known employees who dreaded team meetings, one-to-one meetings, sending simple status reports and living in fear every minute while at work. Not surprisingly their personal lives got affected just as much. What would you do if you are stuck with such a manager? Do you confront them or keep your self-esteem intact & walk out?

Confrontation is great, only if you are on a self-less mission to improve someone else’s life. In this case your manager’s. I’m serious. Unless it’s a first time manager role, aren’t you convinced that his earlier team members might have tried some tactics of their own; confrontation being one of them. The reason that I give such a slim chance for this approach is because of wasted efforts that go into altering the manager’s personality trait. Generally, they are very bad at even receiving feedback. Criticism is then straight out of the window. Try your luck.

Bottom-line, you don’t need to take abuse at work. I understand it’s a tough call (especially in this market), but such abuse will take a heavy toll on both work & personal life. It will end up leaving you devastated. You need to take a tough call & decide if that paycheck is worth putting up with such a manager. Have faith in your skills & competency. Look for another job. Do your research about the new manager with the same rigor that you put into finding more about the new company.

When your time comes, just promise yourself that you won’t turn out to be an abusive manager. All you would need to do is ask for help to learn more about managing people.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

On-the-spur Policy...Backfires!

This does happen! Policies do get read between lines which leads to interpretations.

Beware of your policy wording!