WARNING: Rabbit hole leading confession ahead.
When I need a mindless distraction, I have a few go tos including Reddit. One of my favorite sub-reddits is What Could Go Wrong. The description is “The best place to learn what not to do.”
When visiting What Could Go Wrong, the viewer can almost immediately tell the danger a particular stunt or action poses yet we watch in amazement as the person filmed commits to their choice seemingly without any concern. Some of the posts are definitely NSFW, including the comments. From driving mishaps to trying to take a shortcut, it’s usually head shaking inducing.
As a follow up to my previous blog, I will share some head shaking inducing moments from my first 30 days at particular organizations. These are examples of what not to do and regrettably, all true. In no particular order:
Within the first couple of days in a new HR management role with direct reports, ask them to read the article Why We Hate HR with no context. Meet about said article to discuss all the things you've been told are wrong in our department and how you are going to fix them.
Conduct an I-9 audit and type up a formal report and send to the Corporate HR VP, the Division President, the Plant Manager, and immediate manager outlining in very specific detail the disarray of the forms, the number that were incomplete, and the possible penalties totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars if not immediately rectified. Complete and send without discussion with immediate manager and without recommendations or action steps.
Upon reviewing the first corporate credit card statement for an expense report and upon noticing that there was a charge for some perfume which of course you did not purchase, approach the assistant who happened to have a copy of the card for company use and ask them if they used the card to buy perfume.
When realizing you have no idea about a specific technology that is regularly used within the role, ask no questions, and sit in front of the computer screen hoping the information will become clear through osmosis.
Align yourself with the “friendliest” coworker who is always chatting it up with others during the workday, even when it’s not break time. This is the person who tells you everything about everyone, even when not asked.
Have no structured meeting with your manager and other leadership to discuss their expectations. Instead, spend as much time as possible recreating every form you come across whether you know what it’s used for or not.
Instead of the above and in line with the “Get There With You” philosophy, I could have:
Rather than approaching my new team in an antagonistic way from the beginning, I could have shared about my business philosophy and how that would look for us as a team and how it would play into my expectations for them as individuals. I should have asked them to tell me about their views on how the department was doing, and what support they needed from me in order to serve our organization. I could have asked them their expectations of me as their supervisor and about what was working and not working currently.
HR audits are necessary both for compliance and risk management. However, unless time sensitive, this should not take precedent over relationship building. By focusing so much energy on a project that was not a priority to anyone else, I took a hit to my credibility and discernment. Not only that, but no manager likes to be surprised. I unilaterally decided to include all the mistakes made on federally required documents was a good idea. I was unable to recover, and I am almost certain I was viewed from then on as a troublemaker.
Seeking clarification rather than accuse is an essential aspect of any investigation. In this context, I am using investigation in the broadest sense. I did not have enough information to know what happened with my credit card statement and should not have implied without any context that a person on my team improperly used it. Nothing builds a relationship as basically telling someone that “I don’t trust you; I think you’re a thief”.
Ask questions! No one knows everything all of the time. There are aspects of most if not all jobs that are new or unfamiliar. If others are not available for questions, it is good practice to seek out resources to find the information needed including tutorials. Google is indeed your friend. A better approach would have been to ask my manager for their advice on how to best learn the system rather than pretend or ignore it.
Relationships take time. 30 days is not enough time to understand company culture and different personalities, good or bad. To build relationships, we should evaluate what we observe and hear firsthand, and as objectively as possible. Aligning yourself with someone who lacks conversational boundaries may diminish credibility and approachability. It’s also helpful to know the distinction between those in the know, and those who want to be in the know through gossip.
Understanding what is expected of you in your role and what the leadership views as priorities is the main focus when structuring the first 30 days. This must be an interactive process with the direct manager and other leadership members. Don’t wait for others to set up meetings. Go to them in their work areas. Observe. Ask questions without initially recommending changes. Seek to learn the business first.
Next time on HR Dept of 1…The Agenda: The first 30 days.