Archive for the 'Human Resources' Category

I’m Outta Love

blog heartbreakI can remember the exact moment I fell out of love with each of my ex-boyfriends. I can visualise the instances in my mind as if they happened yesterday. In each instance there was a defining moment where, while the moment itself was certainly not the sole cause of the breakup, a line was crossed and enough was finally enough. Break-ups rarely happen overnight – they are the outcome of a sum of many dissatisfactions, disagreements and incompatibilities. Things build up over time, you feel as though something isn’t quite right, you try to make things better; to turn it all around, but in the end it’s futile and better for both parties if you cut your losses and walk away.

In my experience, jobs are like this as well; with just one exception I remember the moment I fell out of love with each of my jobs. As with breakups, I didn’t fall out of love with them overnight and many factors contributed: There were no career prospects that matched my career plan, the job had become repetitive or unenjoyable, my role was insecure, management had different values to my own, and so on. Many times it had nothing at all to do with the organisation or what it stood for but, instead, that I had grown and developed and that my wants and needs for a role had changed. As with relationships, I wouldn’t go down without a fight – conversations to try change things and improve the way I felt, suggestions for new ideas, learning more about company plans… Sometimes it was a success and I moved internally. Sometimes it wasn’t.

With both jobs and relationships, I personally have a point of no return. That defining moment where all hope is lost and I fall completely and utterly out of love. Once this line has been crossed, no amount of bargaining and incentives can convince me to change my mind – things have gone too far and it’s time to move on. But even though this is perhaps a severe response, I have no regrets or hard feelings about any of my experiences (no matter how unenjoyable they may have been at the time) because they have made me who and what I am today, and I’m glad that they were a part of my life.

Though I haven’t worked properly as a direct line manager for any serious length of time (such is the joy of working in matrix organisations or as a contractor) I have seen many colleagues fall out of love with their jobs over the years, and I often wonder what it looks like from a manager’s viewpoint. I can’t believe that the signs aren’t there to be read, but knowing that something isn’t right doesn’t necessarily mean that you know how to to fix it or that you are able to fix it.

So my thought for the day is this: Look around you at your staff and colleagues. Look at them without judgement and ask yourself – are they happy? Are they falling out of love with the job, team, company, management (statistics vary but nearly all research ranks line managers as the number one reason for employees wanting to leave their jobs)? Read between the lines and ask yourself whether there are tell-tale signs that you have failed to recognise before now or have spotted but are trying to ignore. And then ask yourself whether you really want to or can afford to lose that staff member. And if you’re not sure whether they’re getting close to the point of no return then sit down and have a chat with them; find out a bit more about what they’re thinking and feeling at the moment. Do it now. Don’t wait til their appraisal is due in several months time when it might be too late.

Sometimes the best thing for everyone to do is to go their separate ways; after all there’s little more poisonous than a negative and disengaged staff member. But any breakup – job-wise or relationship-wise – is much easier handled when it’s not a complete surprise to one of the parties.


Don’t be a Smug Git

So I like to think I’m reasonably tolerant of cold calls from recruiters. They are calls that I myself sometimes have to make and I hate when people give me  the run-around rather than just saying from the word go that they’re not interested. But you know what? If you’re going to cold call any company, then try and retain some form of professionalism and don’t be a smug, arrogant git!

The website of my recruitment-related employer often attracts agency phone calls. We’re very niche and, while we do often recruit in-house, we also recruit for external positions and, if you don’t look at our website properly, it can be an easy mistake to make.

Of course; if you read the website properly it’s screamingly apparent…

So anyway, yesterday I had a phone call from an agency (who shall remain nameless… for now!) touting for business. I didn’t have to, but I took the call. The guy made his pitch, spoke about a specific role we were advertising for, told me how he had looked at our website (looked perhaps, but not read…), and asked whether we’d be interested in utilising his services. Though he had read the job ad, he had clearly done no further research on the company. He didn’t understand what we were or what we did. I explained that we wouldn’t be interested and why. I explained what the company is about how we work. I was, in my humble opinion, perfectly polite, friendly and helpful – if you know me then you’ll know it’s not generally my style not to be.

At the end of the conversation – clearly annoyed by his lack of success – he opted to take the sarcastic, smug approach and closed with “Oh, I see. Well in that case, I suspect the job you’re advertising is for XXX company – thanks for the heads up on that!” [Note: For this to really work, when you imagine him saying it in your head, you have to imagine a really smug, stupid voice and, at the end, a really fake, self-satisfied laugh]

Well there was no need to speak to me like that. And, actually, it wasn’t for XXX company at all…

…But thanks for the lead! 😉

Work related stress

There are people in this world who are always stressed about their job. They moan about it and (genuinely, I believe) get really upset and harassed by the problems and conflict that the role brings about.

Now I’m not unsympathetic to work related stress, and there are some jobs where it pretty much goes without saying: For paramedics, firefighters, social workers, and so on, stress is pretty much a daily occurrence in their lives. But on the whole (and I know this is a sweeping statement), office workers don’t really have much to grumble about. We don’t look death in the eye every day and people’s lives don’t really depend on us (though I concede their livelihoods often do!)

I understand totally that stress in the workplace can be caused by more than the obvious though. I’m not that obtuse – honest! There’s a whole host of things that can have an impact – from trying to do a role you are not trained for, to not receiving support from colleagues and, not least of all, from bullying and harassment. But honestly; this is where I fall down a little…

Annabel Kaye recently posed a question on Twitter about grievances. We exchanged a couple of tweets on the topic and she asked what, if anything, would make me more likely to raise a grievance. I tell you – my mind went blank! Now I’ve worked in jobs I’ve hated and for people who’ve been bullies and I’ve never raised a grievance. I genuinely can not imagine a situation where I would! Maybe (maybe!) if I had a problem with one person or aspect of a role, and it was something I felt was worth trying to resolve, then I would consider it. But only if the good really outweighed the bad overall, and only if resolving it wasn’t going to be like stirring up a hornets nest! Even then though, I sincerely doubt I’d ever make it to grievance level. If I have a problem with someone or something, then I talk about it. I’d like to think that my colleagues and managers are mature enough to do likewise and for me not to have to make matters formal just to have my basic working environment and rights maintained.

I’m a great believer in second chances and I like to think I’d never quit on a role without trying to resolve any problems first, but I would want to do it informally, and if it wasn’t resolved reasonably speedily then I wouldn’t waste my time bringing up the issue again. In my experience, it’s often those at the top of the food chain who are the biggest culprits too and, if this is the case, then who are you meant to turn to?! To me (and this is only my personal opinion) if the problem is major and not likely to be easily resolved, then I won’t stick around. I don’t want to work for a company where the owner is a bully – that kind of behavior seeps down through the management chain and often becomes seen as “acceptable”. Likewise, I don’t want to work for a company that allows whole groups of people to bully and intimidate other members of staff. And, for me at least, this applies on so many levels: Don’t want to train me to do my job properly? Then I don’t want to work for you. Don’t want to support your staff? Then I don’t want to work for you either! I know it’s a very black and white view, but I’m a black and white kinda girl! I either love you or I hate you – there’s not generally many grey areas in my life!

Everyone likes to gripe about work sometimes and I’m all for venting because we all need to do it and it’s part of what makes life bearable! But if your job really has such a negative an impact on your life that it’s causing you to be stressed and is affecting your health and life, then you have to ask yourself: Is it worth it? We work 7, 8, 9 hours a day – that’s the bulk of our waking day. Yes, not many of us can afford to be out of work and I’m not for a moment suggest that you hastily hand your notice in, but do be honest with yourself! Ask yourself what it really is that makes you so stressed at work and try and formulate a plan of action to remedy it. Maybe that involves an informal chat with a manager or colleague; maybe it involves raising an official grievance; or maybe it means recognising that the role just isn’t for you and that it’s time to look at moving on. Whichever: Don’t let work related stress rule your life – it’s just not worth it!

If you’re an employer and want to find out more then you should check out the
ACAS Stress at Work PDF Advisory Booklet.

The Problem with Short-Time Working

I suppose I always knew this day would come, I just didn’t realise quite how soon it would arrive. For those of you who know me or who follow my blog with any regularity (and rest assured, you are loved!) you’ll already know that I currently split my time between two jobs. There’s my “proper job” as a recruiter in the construction industry, and my “freelance job” consulting with a university on graduates and the buzz word of the day: Employability. This came about because my “proper job” had to put me on short-time working just under a year ago due to the recession. I held off looking for any other work for a long time in order to avoid the complications that have now arisen… Plus, you know, it was nice being a part-time lady of leisure for a while (albeit a poor one)! But here I am… Between a rock and a hard place.

Yesterday my “proper job” said that they’d like to increase my days from three a week to four a week. I am genuinely really pleased – though it’s partly due to the fact that another member of staff has left, it’s great that they’re in a position to ask me rather than letting the days go as “natural wastage,” and hopefully-maybe-possibly it means the beginning of the end and an eventual upturn in business for us. But I only started the university work a little over three months ago and I’m deep into it now. I sincerely doubt it could cope with just one day a week’s attention. In fact, I was only saying the other day that it could do with more really.

So here I am. Contractually the recruitment job can ask me back at any time, however I did ask permission before taking on the freelance work and it’s not fair to just walk out on the university. But what to do?! My recruitment job can still only offer four days a week and is still not as secure as it once was. But the freelance work, while guaranteed for another two months (and possibly to be extended a further six on top of that) is still freelance and is not really any more secure itself.

The university were kind enough to take me on on very flexible terms due to my situation and I enjoy the work – it’s a new, interesting challenge for me and really good for my professional development. I don’t want to burn my bridges with them. But, likewise, my employer has been flexible about my getting another role and has kept me on where others have fallen by the wayside. I love the company and everything they stand for. And I don’t want to burn my bridges with them either!

So what to do… Until I can speak to the university later in the week I don’t really know where they stand on the issue but, presuming they’d still like my services for two days a week, I’m not really sure where that leaves me. The worst thing is that I don’t even know what I want really. I like both jobs. A lot. And I like working for both companies. And I actually enjoy splitting my week in two, too!

I always knew this day would come. I knew that taking on a second job would ultimately end up complicating things and it was for exactly this reason that I shied away from finding one sooner. But in the end I didn’t really have a choice. And now I have to lay my cards out on the table for all to see, and see where the tide takes me…

The Darker Side of Recruitment

Though recruitment has various dark sides to it, the biggest for me is dirty old men! (Let’s not be ageist now, men can be inappropriate at any age!)

In my (main) job, I work almost exclusively with men; a large percentage of whom are between 50 and 60. Generally I like this demographic – they’re a flirty bunch, but with values. And by that I mean that they’re mostly happily married, respect that I too am married, and are just having a bit of harmless fun if and when they say something risqué. If at any stage I was to give them the impression they’d made me feel uncomfortable they would totally mortified, stop instantly and apologise profusely. But that never happens because they know the difference between cheeky and inappropriate. They consider themselves to be charming and, on the whole, I agree… Though I concede my feminist values may be a little lax compared to some!

There is, however, a very small percentage of men who really make my skin crawl. They don’t know when to stop and have no mental filter which tells them not to make totally inappropriate comments. You know the type, I’m sure – the planet’s still riddled with them, sadly. They give good men everywhere a bad name!

I’ve encountered a few of these types over the years, but last year I had a real corker. A gentleman we’d registered some time before (with no issues) contacted us looking for work so I gave him a call to update his details and speak to him about a couple of relevant roles. Well. What can I say! I’ve got a fairly unshakeable disposition and am not easily lost for words, but this fella left me speechless! I was asked, amongst other things, my height, weight, what I was wearing, whether I was single, how I’d feel about a dirty weekend on the continent… The list goes on! He even sent me an email starting “Hi Sexy”! Thankfully I got him off the phone reasonably quickly and had a good laugh about it afterwards. What did upset me though was that, while I can take it on the chin and see the funny side, there are a lot of people more vulnerable than me, and that call could have seriously upset someone. Now he may be from a different generation (he was a little older than the demographic mentioned earlier), but my Grandad is 92 and even he knows stuff like that is downright wrong.

The sad thing is, we can choose not to call him again, but he’s still out there somewhere upsetting the female population. And really, who can stop him?! The best we can do is tell it like it is, so these are my tips for anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation:

  • Be firm, not submissive. You need to make it quite clear that the behaviour is inappropriate. Your marital status or anything else brought up is irrelevant.
  • Say what they’re doing out loud to them – call it what it is: Sexual harassment. Be blunt about how you perceive their actions.
  • Don’t laugh it off or try not to hurt their feelings.
  • Don’t be drawn in to the conversation. Stick to your guns and be repetitive if you need to.
  • Talk to your colleagues / manager about the incident afterwards. Others need to be aware.

NB. I hope any men reading don’t think that this is a sexist post because it isn’t meant to be. I’m well aware that the female of the species is equally capable of being inappropriate; I’m just posting from my personal experience.

Poorly Sick – To Work or Not to Work?

In my humble opinion there’s nothing worse than being ill. Other than feeling rubbish it’s a total imposition on your life – suddenly you can’t think straight; you have no energy; and spend you most of your time either asleep or wishing you were asleep. I am not a good ill person – I mostly think I’m dying (even if it’s just a cold) and feel incredibly sorry for myself! A little like man flu, but worse… This is how I feel at the moment. This is my second (count ‘em!) cold in a month and I’m sooo fed up! 😦

But I’m not here to moan (well ok, maybe I’m here to moan a little!) – I’m here to debate the issue every poorly person faces: Should I go into work when I’m sick? Absenteeism versus presenteeism, if you will. It’s always such a difficult call! UK employees take nearly 7 days off sick a year, on average, but obviously that incorporates everyone from those signed off on long term sickness absence to those who never take a day off.

No-one wants to be the one in the office who’s “sick again” though! We’ve all been there – we want to go in so we can get our work done; so our colleagues won’t think we’re skiving; so we can get paid (well, if you’re self-employed or only get SSP). But let’s be realistic – when your colleagues come in sick, you hate it right? And there are several good reasons for this:

  • They’re potentially contagious and are oozing germs!
  • They’re in a bad mood and don’t want to talk to anyone.
  • They’re too tired and ill to concentrate on anything properly.
  • You know they’ll end up being ill for ages because they’re not getting any rest.

But it’s easier said than done – circumstances don’t always make it easy for you to stay home and recuperate, and business owners (especially of SMEs) can be as guilty as anyone when it comes to this, even though they know it can potentially cost them more money and that they risk infecting their staff. Particularly in small businesses, every employee is key and nine times out of ten there is no-one else to cover the workload. No, the world won’t come to an end if you don’t go in, but when you’re already feeling awful (and, if you’re me, a bit over-emotional too) then the prospect of returning to an even greater workload is totally overwhelming.

So you have three options really:

  1. You go in and martyr on
  2. You stay home and get well
  3. You work from home

Working from home can be an excellent compromise. With the advent of broadband, remote logins, company mobiles and so on, working from home has never been easier. You can keep on top of your emails, delegate tasks to colleagues AND get some rest at the same time. All whilst keeping your germs to yourself!

Maybe you shouldn’t listen to me though because it turns out I’m a total hypocrite. I hate when other people come into work sick, but here I am coughing my guts up and with a nose red from too much blowing, and you know what? I’m going in to work tomorrow…

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About Me

Over ten years’ recruitment, employability, HR and sales experience in both the private and public sectors. I've worked in construction recruitment, FMCG headhunting, and in higher education on the employability agenda.

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