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Welcome to the JoyPowered Workspace Podcast, where we talk about putting the humanity back into HR. I’m Susan White, a national HR consultant, and I’m here with JoDee Curtis, owner or Purple Ink and author of “JoyPowered,” a popular book with companies who strive to have a positive workplace. Today’s program is really a new format for us, JoDee, what we’re going to be doing is we’ll be taking voicemails from many of our listeners, what was tough was trying to decide which calls that we wanted to play today.
So we were very excited with the calls we received this month.
And we’re hoping that we pick the ones that are most of interest to you, our listeners. All right, well, let’s take our first call.
Hi, this is Bill. First time caller, longtime listener, and I had a question for you. So I teach construction management to students that 18 to 22 typical college age. And one of the big challenges, HR challenges, they face is how do you manage people who are older than you? And I posed this question to my students in class before, and of course, they just roll their eyes. And they really think this is a tough one. And how do you manage someone who has been working on the job for years, and along comes a young person, and that person is put in the role of having to manage that person who other person has been there for so long. It’s a real challenge for our students, and I know they’d love to hear your insight and your expertise as to how they might be able to work through this.
Bill, I think that really is a very good question to be asking. When you stop and think about the changing demographics, you know, JoDee, people that are millennials, which of course depending on what study you look at will tell you, you know, who are really millennials, but let’s just say people that are ages 20 to 34 today. By the year 2025, they’ll be 75% of the population in the world of work. And so really, I think that people need to start thinking about if you’re a millennial, you’re going to be managing people older than yourself, if you aren’t already doing it in the near future. JoDee, what thoughts do you have? Have you face this as a consultant, or even as a manager yourself?
Yes, I grew up in the world of public accounting, where probably back in the day at least 80 to 85% of our new hires were new college grads, but the 15% who weren’t ended up then working for a lot of new college grads or people younger than they were. And I think the important thing as a leader or supervisor of people older than you is to think about why you were put in the position to be their leaders supervisor manager, what skills, talents, knowledge, put you in to that position, because there’s something you know, or have that they don’t that put you into that particular position for them and working with them, but understanding to there’s going to be times where they may have a lot more experience. And you’re going to be asking them questions about how things have worked in the past what what you’ve done before, not necessarily only doing what’s done before, but understanding that and going in with a positive attitude of having a great working relationship with them, but you’ll have to earn their respect. You can’t walk in the door, thinking you have their respect, just because you’re in a position of authority.
I think that’s really right. I, I think the first thing I would do, Bill, if I was a young person put in charge of people older than me, I think that I would try very hard to get to know each one of them on a personal level, and I would be very upfront with the fact that, you know, I don’t have years and years of experience in this industry. I do have some, you know, I’ve got my degree from wherever. And I’ve done internship here and so on, so forth. So I’d let them know I had some cred. But I’d say, you know, I am going to be leaning on you. I’m going to be leaning on your years of experience and your wisdom. And I really hope that we can make this work and be really good partners at this. I do think most people will embrace that. You may have some older people who just can’t, or they won’t, but I think that’s going to be few and far between.
Right. And it’s really no different with people who are younger than you. Some of them won’t embrace you either. So it’s about just gaining a respect for each other in the workplace, regardless of your age or a years of experience.
Fair enough. All right, Bill, good luck and good luck to your students.
Yeah. Thanks for calling in, Bill.
All right. I think we’re ready for our next caller.
Hi, my name is Zeke. I’ve been working for a large bank in New York City and has more than 200,000 employees across the US in more than 25 states, about eight years ago at the bank management requested that I relocate to Indianapolis from another state, which I did. And I’ve been happy and thriving here ever since. There are also thousands of employees like me who’ve been relocated by the bank over the years. With you know, the bank paying, you know, full relocation costs. However, due to recent changes in leadership and a strategy to consolidate a lot of non customer facing functions to only a few locations, 10s of thousands of employees have been laid off or forced to move if they wanted to keep their jobs. I’ve been told that I also had to move or lose my job. I don’t want to relocate a second time for the firm, now that my family’s been here for a long time and is thriving. So since myself and countless others are able to perform 100 percent of our job or the duties of our job, remotely via email or phone call or video conference, there is absolutely no cost to the company for people like me to work from our home. So I guess my question is what action can people like me take to be able to remain employed by the bank and remain in our current location? Thank you.
Zeke, your problem is one that I think many people either have faced or will face in their careers that they’re going to be working for a company and they’re going to love their work, and they’re going to feel good at what they’re doing. But for one reason or another, the company may decide either they don’t need what you’re doing, or they’re not going to need you doing it, where you’re doing it. In a perfect world, you’d be able to say, listen, let me demonstrate to you how I can work from home and make this work. In fact, our very first podcast was about working from home and building a business case to help convince your management team on as to why to allow you that flexibility. But I’m going to tell you that it’s not always going to work companies based on their own strategies, their needs, their goals, your best business case may not win the day. And when that happens, I think it’s important that you start thinking about who else can use my services? Where else could I add value in the community that I want to live in? JoDee, what are your thoughts?
Yeah, Zeke, I think I don’t think I have a different answer than what Susan said. But just to reiterate, again, about making that business case or even at least trying to get them to give you a try, right? It seems like you’re in a role now you’re currently with the bank, it would seem for them to give it a try would be easier than to bring in someone else, or to start over. So anything you can do to think about it from a cost standpoint, from a relationship standpoint, from a reputation standpoint, that you could take a try. Even if you had to volunteer to maybe some certain days, certain weeks that you would travel to that location if they thought face to face interaction was really important. But to make your case be prepared with numbers and samples and anything you can think of to go to them to see how it might work most effectively for you, and certainly the bank.
Good luck to you, Zeke. Next caller:
There are a number of companies who have gone forward with offering their employed limited PTO, but I know there are a lot of studies that shows there are people who don’t actually take as much vacation as employee to work the companies that limit their employees vacation and you offer PTO that you have to earn, would love to hear your thoughts on that. And thank you, love your podcast.
Thank you. Yes, I have certainly been talking about that topic a lot recently, read a lot about it in different magazines. I just had a specific conversation with someone just a few weeks ago who asked that same question. They have about 40 employees in their organization, they had put the unlimited PTO policy in about a year ago. So just in terms of very specific numbers, not one of their 40 employees took more than one week off in 2016. So that number had, which was two weeks or more the prior year. So they put in a policy of unlimited PTO. And basically people didn’t take off. It didn’t mean they weren’t coming to the office every day. What she said she found happening was that people would go on vacation or they would take some time off, but they ended up working more when they were gone than when they were there. And so in terms of total true recorded PTO time, it was substantially less.
I was gonna say JoDee, I was reading an article in Inc. Actually was Inc Magazine on the line and back in 2015, a gentleman named Jean Marx wrote an article about the reasons why unlimited PTO is so unfair to employees and is exactly what you found in your case. His belief is that it makes people too uncomfortable when they’re told they can have all they need, it makes them very uncomfortable to ever ask off for anytime. And so you’ll find that those companies that people take so much less.
Yeah, it’s kind of an interesting phenomenon, right. But I think people want to know, companies sometimes fear that people would take off too much, and then the employees are fearing that they would take off too much. So no one is taking any time off. So it is not a policy I recommend. I have not personally seen any success stories with the concept. I think maybe just increasing PTO time giving people more time but still having it be a defined amount of time. I had a friend of mine who works for a company who was on this, and this has been, at least – I mean, it’s been much more popular in the past few years, but my friend did this probably it seems like it was maybe 8 or 10 years ago. And it didn’t work well for her company back then either, so I’m not sure we’ve seen progress on that particular issue or a change of heart on it, I just I don’t recommend it.
Yeah, I you know, I was looking at the 2016 SHRM Employee Benefit report, and they say that unlimited vacation is being offered by less than 2% of US companies. So you know, it’s few, now the ones that are getting a lot of attention on it our Virgin, Carmax, Twitter, Uber, LinkedIn, The Motley Fool, so the ones that are doing it are certainly making a lot of press on it but we’re not finding a lot of companies following that bandwagon. So, interesting. But I think your your points on a god I can’t disagree with, I know if someone told me I could take all the time in the world, I don’t think I would. I think I’d feel guilty for my co workers if I took off and went to Australia for a month.
This is Bob from Hartford, Connecticut. I work for a big multinational corporation, Fortune 500 company. And my question is this. What would you say to someone who feels that HR does not have the employees best interest at heart? And that they’re just representing the company because in all my interactions with, with HR, I’d never leave, feeling like I have a good taste in my mouth. And so I’d love to hear you guys thoughts on that. Love the podcast. Keep it up. Thank you.
Bob, you’ve not met the right HR people. You’ve not met us.
That’s certainly though a common feeling. I think in some organizations. I know some of my family members have long felt that way about HR teams in their company, and I think it can be a combination of maybe not meeting the right HR people. It can be a philosophy of a company, or an executive team, or a CFO, in how HR is viewed. Is it a key position for the organization? Is it viewed as a compliance piece? Is it viewed as the bad news bears that they come and fire people or increase the premiums on your health insurance? Certainly, that’s not been the experience that Susan and I have had in our careers. I do think too, though, I have to admit that I’m a CPA by trade, and sort of grew up in business from an accounting perspective more than people and I can sometimes be viewed as more pro company than pro people. And I think that sometimes people view HR as looking out for the people. Sometimes it’s viewed as looking out for the company. So I think sometimes it’s understanding the perspective of the HR team. And hopefully, the most HR teams out there are out there to do a combination of both. But sometimes they’re not creating policies, for example, they’re responsible for making sure people comply with them. And so having some appreciation for what their role and what their responsibility is, in the in the instance, for example, if it’s, you have a bad taste, because they’re telling you your health insurance premium just went up 20%, that might not really be, you know, for lots of different reasons.
You know, I have trained a lot of HR people over a number of years. And the very first thing I start with is, let’s talk about who you work for. Now. It’s my belief that if you’re an HR professional, you do not work for management, and you do not work for the employee. If it’s a corporation, you work for the shareholder. And so when you make a decision or when you’re acting on, you know, your instincts, and you are doing whatever you want to think about, is this manager treating people the way he or she needs to in order to create a good work environment? You know, is this manager doing everything that you as the owner would want them to do? And then turn around, look at the employee. Are they doing everything? Are they delivering a full day’s pay worth of work? Are they treating people respectfully? Are they doing everything they can to make this a productive, healthy work environment? And if they aren’t, if one of them is not in that equation, then I think it’s your responsibility to help them make it right. So I think that’s really important. Now, let’s say you’re in a small business and the owner is management, and you’re the HR person, I believe you owe it to that manager to speak in a way for the employee when they cannot, and to help that manager or that owner of that company understand the employee perspective. So in some ways you do have to… your goal isn’t to be the employee advocate all the time, because obviously your business person at that leadership table, but you have to make sure that that leadership table is creating an awesome workplace, or else you’re not going to have the best company you can have. So the HR person has to be kind of an internal, objective, outsider that can speak the truth both ways.
Hi, there. My HR question is this: we have a fairly new employee who over last weekend dyed her hair an interesting shade of purple. Now, I don’t know that we can doing anything about this, but I’m wondering, from a legal and HR standpoint, what can we do about it? Thank you.
Well, you know of any color you would pick since you picked purple, we love purple because it JoDee’s Purple Ink, but no in reality and all seriousness, the color someone dyes, their hair should be irrelevant. It should be. You know, we have the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII, and it protects people based on their, their race, their national origin, their religion, their color, not their hair color, their color, and other other protections that come along over time. You know, you cannot be discriminated because of your age, you cannot be discriminated because of your disability. But outside of that, there’s no protection for somebody’s hair color. I would say though, as an employer, you really don’t want to nitpick or pick on things that aren’t necessarily bona fide occupational qualifications. I mean, does it matter? I’m not sure what type of work environment you’re at. But does it really matter if that person’s hair is purple or green or white or black or brown? I’d like to pick and choose my battles, and that’s probably not one that I would pick. What about you JoDee?
Yeah, I like to think of it in terms of we hope that our employees or people who represent our company are professional, and how we deem that word professional, I would prefer to focus on their added to their ability to serve the customer, the ability to get the job completed, the ability to get things done on time. And if they do it with purple hair, then it’s maybe not as big a concern as we thought, and I’m pretty conservative. So I understand the concern with it, I’m not putting that off lightly. Again, especially depending on what kind of business you’re in. Again, I’ll go back to I spent 21 years in public accounting, which was certainly a very conservative environment in terms of dress and professionalism codes and all of that. But I think Susan is right to focus on the person themselves and not the color of their hair.
I often get asked for advice on dress codes, and always seems to me, it’s usually in the late spring, beginning of summer, and people are starting to wear flip flops into work, they’re not wearing maybe all their underwear, just various things happen. And so people will pull out their dress code and say, now, listen, can we say this? Can we say that? You know, in in reality, you can, as a company come up with what is professional, the definition of professional for you. And as long as you consistently apply it to every employee, you are going to probably be okay. Now, if somebody has something that they’re doing differently from your policy, and they claim it’s because of their religion, or the national origin or their race or something like that, I would encourage you to sit down and have a good interactive discussion and really try to understand it. I wouldn’t just dismiss it, but I would, as an HR professional, my best advice is, don’t sweat the small stuff. Go ahead, JoDee.
Just one another thought, one of my favorite all time quotes is Donald Clifton, who was the founder of the Clifton Strengths Finder movement through Gallup, he once said, “What would happen if we focused on what was right with people, versus fixating on what was wrong with them?” And of course, that word ‘wrong’ is our judgment, our opinion of what is ‘wrong’ with them. But just thinking about the positives, thinking about what they do well can be way more important in the organization than what we perceive to be wrong.
All right, that may be all of our callers for today. I want to encourage all of you to think about any question that you have that maybe you don’t like your HR person or you don’t feel comfortable taking them something. You’re welcome to call us. Our direct phone number is 317-688-1613. Now, we hear from many of you different ways. Some of you will send emails to us, others will post questions through Twitter, or through Facebook. We actually received one here, JoDee, I’d love to share with you and get your input on. It says “I’m a woman working in a fast growing technology company. Every time I post for a promotion managing others, I am not selected. When I asked for feedback, I get comments like, you don’t have executive presence, or you just don’t come across as assertive enough, this feedback really feels vague, and I can’t help it interpreted as I don’t come across ‘male enough.’ Am I being discriminated against as a woman? What do you think I can do differently?”
Well, Evelyn, it’s hard for us to judge whether or not discrimination is happening here. But I’m proud of you and impressed for asking the question for asking for feedback. And I would encourage you to keep asking and to ask as specifically as you can. You might be doing this already, but when we asked the question, why didn’t I get the position? It’s a pretty broad scope there. But if we can help out the hiring manager by saying things like, do I have enough experience? Are there technical skills required for the role? Is there something I can do to make myself be more qualified to be in a role to supervise others? So asking them more individual specific questions to try and get at exactly what is happening. I also think though sometimes you know, we interview lots of people Purple Ink for our clients, and so many times people come back when they don’t get the job and say, what did I do wrong? What am I doing wrong? What happened? And unfortunately, many times my answer to them is, you know, based on our interviews or based on the client interviews, it’s not that they did anything wrong, they might have been a top notch, outstanding candidate. But we happen to have three of them. And there was one thing that in the end, it might have been a comment made, it might have been a particular skill set, it might have been just one additional thing that really made the hiring people hire someone else. So don’t always perceive that you’re doing something wrong, but just always asking, how can you be better? How can you put yourself in a higher level position?
And you know, the other thing I would add, Evelyn, is if they’re saying that you’re not assertive enough, or that you don’t have this presence, then I would work with your manager about I want to build those skills. If that’s holding me back. What could I do? Are there external classes. I could say, is there mentoring that I could receive? What can I do so that the next time there’s an opportunity for this that comes up, I don’t want to be held back because of something that I can fix. We’re at the in the news section of our podcast. And what I wanted to mention was kind of very local for where you and I are, we’re based out of Indianapolis. And as I mentioned earlier about the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and all the protections there, a very big case was heard in the seventh district Federal Court of Appeals, and they decided within the last week or so that sexual orientation is protected under sex under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which is huge. There’s been lots of different court cases across the nation where this topic comes up, and there’s a ruling here and a ruling there, but for a federal district court to come out and grant that it was a case that had to do with the community college here in Central Indiana, and an instructor who felt as though she was mistreated based on her sexual orientation. So that was kind of a big win on that topic. We’ll have to keep watching and listening. There’s no federal law on it at this point. We really have to watch court decisions as they come out. Yeah.
Stay tuned on that one. I’m sure we’ll continue to hear more about that.
Yes. Well, thank you so much for joining today. If you’ve missed any of our podcasts, you can catch all of our episodes for free at iTunes or PodBean by searching on the word JoyPowered. If you have questions on any HR topic, please do call us at 317-688-1613 or give us feedback on our podcast via our JoyPowered Facebook account or on Twitter. We welcome listener questions and comments.