I remember the first time a manager asked me for advice on how to train one of their employees to “manage up”. This kind of question is my favourite part of working in HR. It’s like overhearing a fascinating snippet of conversation as you pass a dinner table at a restaurant and then trying to figure out the topic under discussion*.
What the heck does ‘managing up’ mean? I mean, I know what I think it means. But more importantly, what the heck does it mean to you, the manager on the other end of the phone? What unmet need or unarticulated frustration lies behind the request to HR to suggest how you can make someone on your team understand how to manage you, their manager? Let’s backtrack to explore the winding path that led to this moment, when you are asking me for a book** I can suggest for your employee to read on ‘managing up’.
This week I read that about 70% of US managers are afraid to talk to their employees. This produced a series of conflicting thoughts:
- I sort of sympathize. I want to avoid talking to anyone about 70% of the time, so #twinsies, you know?
- It also deserves a big eye roll because REALLY? WHAT DID THEY THINK BEING A MANAGER WAS ABOUT??
- But really, so what? They’ll mostly be replaced by AI soon anyway.
- Also, I’m not really surprised since like most HR people, I’ve had an otherwise capable person physically deposit a crying employee in my office as though they were a mogwai that got fed after midnight (Google it, Millennials!)
It’s a bright, shiny new year, and the world has been given a fresh start. Good thing too, since we really need a do-over after 2017. But underneath the flurry of optimistic resolutions and ardent promises to eat better and exercise, we’d be wise to remember the lessons that we hadn’t quite yet absorbed from 2017 before the holidays began and forcibly turned over a new page for us all.
The HR profession seems to have found its voice on sexual harassment, and if the slew of upcoming events and panels are any indication, lots of us want to use it. I hope we will remember that the voices we need to hear from most are those who have experienced harassment in our organizations.
I learned a lot this year, even if you don’t count all the things I learned for a second or even third time (sigh). I’d been vaguely thinking that I should write something about these lessons, when I had a flash of inspiration. Instead of sharing what I learned this year I realized that it would be much, much more interesting to ask the people I learned from this year what they learned in 2017.
I didn’t expect all of them to answer my request. When they all did, I didn’t expect them all to take time to share a thoughtful contribution. When they all did, I got a teeny bit emotional. I’m very grateful for the generosity of the people on this list and many others who I learned from this year. I invite you to immerse yourself in their thoughts, shared below in no particular order. Best wishes to all for a learning-filled 2018.
The tide of revelations about sexual harassment at work has continued to go out, receding to expose an ugly landscape that has been there all along. I suspect that I’m not the only one who has found it shocking and yet also depressingly unsurprising.
I’ve been relieved to hear the voices rising from within HR, calling us to reflect on our role as a profession in the epidemic of sexual harassment, and urging us to do better. It’s certain that we must do better, but I worry that this doesn’t set the bar very high. The tales of HR complicity, or astonishing and willful ignorance if we’re exceedingly generous, are shameful. If even a small percentage of HR professionals are contributing to the pain and exploitation of employees, this should be seen as the crucial and foundational failing of Human Resources that it is.
It should be a moment of somber reflection for us; as individuals and as a profession, we must be unflinching in examining the outcomes we have contributed to, not just our intentions. But it would be a tragic missed opportunity if we were to stop there.
One way I gauge the degree to which the world is getting to me is how much my throat hurts. I’m an incurable jaw clencher and after a few days of upper and lower mandible warfare the tension spreads down the front of my neck until it feels like I’ve been strenuously holding in a scream, which sometimes I think I have been.
Reading the accounts of the many brave women coming forward to report that they experienced sexual harassment and mistreatment from Harvey Weinstein is both freshly devastating and oppressively familiar. We’ve been here. A lot.
There’s been a string of startup scandals involving people practices in the news recently, and I’m getting really tired of reading variations on the phrase: “If only they’d had HR….” Every time I come across a headline or a quote that advances this notion, my eyelid starts twitching.
At a recent author’s talk at the University of Toronto, Joshua Gans opened discussion about his latest book ‘Disruption Dilemma’ by observing:
“People now want to be called disruptive, even when what they are doing is not, and that is a problem.”
He’s right, of course. If I have to listen to one more person tell me that their business idea is ”like Uber, but for X” and then proceed to explain something that is completely and entirely un-Uberesque, I am going to start carrying an airhorn.
“It’s like Uber, but for pet foo-MEEEEEEHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!
Happy Saturday everyone! It’s a little extra happy if you’re in Canada, as it is the Victoria Day long weekend and the sun is shining. Hope you’re all enjoying it as much as I am. Things have been a bit quiet on the blog in recent weeks, but I assure you that I have several posts on the way. This week I was honoured to write a guest post over at The Buzz on HR, celebrating the anniversary of Sarah Williams’ fantastic blog by writing about What HR Means to Me. As it turns out, that has something to do with The Hulk (Incredible, not Hogan), sandwiches, and the lack of sorcery involved in HR. Sometimes I am as surprised as anyone about how these things turn out…
Anyway, please take a minute to check it out, and stay tuned for new Talent Vanguard content soon!