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Most of the time, a supervisor does not look forward to receiving a resignation letter. I did say most of the time. Unfortunately, there are times when that letter is welcomed! However, today’s blog won’t focus on that but maybe a future blog will!  Today, I’m focused on the actual letter itself and what works when you are putting your intent to depart in written form.

A resignation letter should be short and straight-forward. Yes, I’m stating this as an absolute. This is not the place to recite purple prose or wax eloquently on and on. It is particularly not the place to recite all the grievances you’ve bottled up over your tenure with the company. There are times and places for that but it’s not the resignation letter. For your official resignation letter, I recommend a simple three-part approach in the letter itself.

  1. A statement indicating that you are resigning and providing  X (number) weeks notice.
  2. An expression of gratitude for the opportunity of working for the company and with your supervisor. If you mean it, provide a specific compliment to both.
  3. Indicate your plan and willingness to ensure a smooth transition on your way out and give your best wishes for the continued success of the company.

Each of these should be expressed in your own manner but should not stray from the points. For item 1, please do not neglect to provide notice. It’s professional and expected. As an employee, this is an area that may or may not provide you with extra brownie points but failing to do it can hurt you, long-term.  To resign without notice is a very valid reason for a company to indicate you are not eligible for rehire during future employment verification. Your company may actually choose to waive the notice period that you provide. They can do this and, if so, you should be prepared for the date of your resignation submission to also possibly be your last day of work. The point I started out with bears repeating, do not fail to provide notice. Failing to can only hurt you. If your company has routinely waived the notice period, allow them the opportunity to do it in your case.

The true purpose of your letter will have been served in the first couple of sentences.  The remainder is focused on simply establishing “goodwill” but is also important. Burned bridges can not be crossed again. We live in a vast world that has been made smaller through tremendously increased means of communications. Six degrees of separation is probably more like two now! Social media have linked us in a manner that maintaining goodwill is essential. Your current co-workers and bosses may be already connected with your new company and/or any future organization to which your career may lead you. Go out on a positive note. The music may follow you for years to come. Make sure your work is not left dangling but in good form for transition. And, finally, thank your supervisor and wish your company the best.

Of course, you may have other sentiments you may wish to express. Do this in person or in the conversations that will inevitably and necessarily take place once you’ve handed over your official resignation letter. However, in writing, keep to the 3-part approach.  It’s what works at work!

Best regards,

Vivian L. Mora, MSS, SPHR

Vivian L. Mora is certified as a senior professional in human resources (SPHR) by the Human Resources Certification Institution and holds a master’s degree in sociology and economics. She is the founder and managing partner of Mora & Associates, a retained executive search and human capital consulting firm based in Katy, TX.

Vivian offers Online HR Certification Prep Courses as well as other workplace-specific learning sessions (http://www.morahr.com/hr-education.html). For more information, please contact her directly at (877) 310-6553, ext. 702.

fish in waves

BIG Fish, small pond?

We are not going fishing but we are going to play a short game of “Would you rather…” in which you get to pretend to be a fish! Whether you choose to be viewed as a BIG fish or a small fish is all relative to the size of the body of water you choose to swim in. You may choose a little pond or small company versus Lake Michigan or a large company. Knowing the size of the pond that best suits you in the work world is important. Understanding whether you are at your best leading and setting the pace or whether you prefer to work as part of a larger team with common goals can determine your overall happiness and satisfaction with work and with your organization.

In my most recent work experience, I accepted a leadership position with a small company which was almost immediately gobbled up by a larger company. Overnight, my pond expanded without any input from me. In past work lives, I’ve worked for each a small, a mid-sized, and large company. Although I performed well within the different environments and I believe that I am very adaptable, each experience taught me something different about myself. The experiences provided insights into the types of environments in which I believe I excel best. Understanding that the position I accepted was no longer the position I held, I had to revisit a few questions that would determine my level of happiness with my future work. If you are facing a similar quandary, start your evaluation by asking yourself these “Would you rather” questions.

Would you rather be the architect or the builder? An architect designs and makes the decisions on the structure, whereas the builder follows the architect’s plans to bring the structure into existence. How much input do you need to have in the major decisions of your work? This question focuses on impact, the impact of your contributions. How critical is it to you to see an immediate or fairly swift impact in your work? In a smaller organization, you may be able to leave at the end of each day knowing and seeing the impact of your actions and your decisions. If that means a lot to you, it can be frustrating waiting for others to consider incorporating your input in a larger organization. But, perhaps you do enjoy knowing that you were part of a team that helped bring a project or plan to life? A builder’s team most certainly looks over a structure at the end of a construction project with a sense of pride.

Would you rather be MacGyver or James Bond?  This is in reference to resources. MacGyver didn’t do too poorly with string, duct tape, and a Swiss Army knife. However, Bond had the support of MI6, the Secret Intelligence Service, with fairly unlimited resources and state-of-art equipment.  This is not to say that well stocked small ponds do not exist. In general, larger ponds have a more ready supply of both physical resources as well as intellectual capital from which to draw. I’m certain there are many who love the ingenuity and creativity required to work with limited resources and still excel within small organizations. But it can be very appealing to have the road smoothed out so that you can move at a faster pace. Speaking of pace…

Would you rather be a tortoise or an antelope?  See how I avoided the hare? Okay, the pace of progress and the ability to be nimble varies greatly between the small pond and Lake Michigan. You can row across the small pond in minutes. In crossing Lake Michigan, we’ll see you…. I’m not really sure how long it would take but I can safely say it will take MUCH longer. Communications and decision-making can move quickly if all you need to do is travel down the hall a door or two. Within a larger entity there are levels of hierarchy that must be traversed, buy-in that must be gained from a larger span of people. If you are accustomed to moving swiftly to take advantage of an active market or address an unexpected complication or challenge within a smaller organization, you are going to have to become acclimated to the time-lag that is part of swimming in a much larger body of water.

The questions above were the essential starting point for me in evaluating, BIG verses small. There are others that will be specific to your situation but may revolve around new responsibilities, development and growth, as well as future opportunities for advancement within each environment. Your personal choice of small or BIG company should center on what fits you best, the magical pond in the woods or Lake Michigan where I hear the sailing can be very good!

Best regards,

Vivian L. Mora, MSS, SPHR

Vivian L. Mora is certified as a senior professional in human resources (SPHR) by the Human Resources Certification Institution and holds a master’s degree in sociology and economics. She is the founder and managing partner of Mora & Associates, a retained executive search and human capital consulting firm based in Katy, TX.

Vivian offers leadership development workshops as well as individual mentoring and coaching sessions (http://morahr.com/ExecutiveCoaching.aspx and http://morahr.com/CultivateSuccess.aspx). For more information, please contact her directly at (877) 310-6553, ext. 702.

Mistakes happen. How you handle them is what matters most.

To not anticipate mistakes is futile. It happens. We are human and “to err” is in the nature of being. Shockingly, these statements are coming from a “perfectionist” but I am currently “on the wagon”.  I didn’t think of myself as a perfectionist for a long time. I had “exacting” standards. I demanded the very best from myself (and wanted it from others). Error-free was the baseline. These are just a few of the many statements perfectionists use to justify setting unrealistic targets and expecting unrealistic outcomes. The paradox within my own search for perfection was that although I wanted the very best from others I did not expect it. Why?  Because, of course, I knew that to expect others to live up to my standards was ridiculous and unrealistic. After all, my standards for myself were ridiculous and unrealistic!

For perfectionists, mistakes sound a death knell and then the kicking, head-banging, and wallowing begins. The error takes on monumental proportions and can ruin everything that comes after. We see some of the best examples of this in sports. The player who makes a mistake and compounds it play after play or round after round. We say that he was off his game that day. The player accepts that he was off his game that day. Nonsense! He wasn’t off his game that day. He just didn’t know how to get back on his game.  This same scene is also played out in offices, on work sites, and in homes day in and day out by people who expect perfection when they don’t get it. They beat themselves up in the aftermath of the error and it then affects the next thing and the next thing that he or she does. She’s having a bad day. Again, nonsense! She hasn’t figured out how to recover and move beyond the first mistake.

Recovery is a conscious act. It can be approached in a similar step by step manner used in many counseling programs. It’s a bit more concise than 12 Steps but is just as effective. The first step requires acknowledgement that we are human, errors happen, period. Next, acknowledge the current state just as a fact, placing no judgment on it as good, bad, or ugly. Just the facts, ma’am, as it is. Next, consciously take in that it is in the past now and no amount of “should haves” will change it so don’t go down that path. Next, move forward. Ask what can I do about the current state? What corrections can I make? If corrections are possible, make them. If corrections are not possible, ask what lesson can I take away from this for the future? Internalize the lessons and then move on by letting go.  Don’t continue to beat up yourself. Don’t wallow in it. You’ve corrected it and gained something from it.  It’s over and done.  Let it go.

Take it from a recovering perfectionist, following the steps above will change the way you handle mistakes when they occur and will lessen the amount of angst you suffer over simple human errors. The objective is not to strive for perfection but for excellence. Excellence is progressive and is acheived through learning. It becomes a synergistic process through which one gets better and better. Perfectionism leaves no room for this type of growth. Getting to this point doesn’t happen overnight. I’m still working on it, but it is working.

Best regards,

Vivian L. Mora, MSS, SPHR

Vivian L. Mora is certified as a senior professional in human resources (SPHR) by the Human Resources Certification Institution and holds a master’s degree in sociology and economics.  She is the founder and managing partner of Mora & Associates, a retained executive search and human capital consulting firm based in Katy, TX. 

Vivian offers HR technical expertise including coaching and mentoring (http://morahr.com/HR_Alignment.aspx).  For more information, please call (877) 310-6553, ext. 702 or email her at vivian@morahr.com.

This particular trinity – holy or unholy in your minds – is definitely worth befriending. These agencies are the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). Most of you may be thinking I’m asking you to hug a porcupine! But it is not so. Despite all the fear mongering that seems popular, these three agencies make excellent allies in the battle against unjustified claims and employment issues. In the case of the occasional justified claim, they can also be helpful IF you have taken the precautions and recommendations each of these agencies put forth to keep your organization clear of claims and issues.

My blog today is too brief to cover all three of the agencies referenced so let’s start with the EEOC and progress to the other two in subsequent writings.

What insanity has me asking your organization to befriend an agency that has a reputation (earned or unearned) of being somewhat prickly and overzealous in pursuing claims against employers? And, just how do you accomplish this? On the first question, I’m not necessarily insane. I’ve had the responsibility of working with the EEOC as the employer representative on several claims over the years for different employers. In almost every instance, the experience was pleasant, educational, and affirming. It was pleasant to find that each of the agents assigned was just as interested in resolving the issue or issues as we were. The experiences were educational in that in every instance, the agents were diligent in reviewing the EEOC mediation process with both parties and  in creating a non-adversarial atmosphere from the start. The experiences were affirming in that, having taken the precautions and put into place the recommendations, the EEOC put forth, I felt in each case that the agency was working for us rather than against us as the employer.

So how to you get to this place? The first thing you do is follow the very straight forward guidance the EEOC has provided for every organization on dealing with various issues of discrimination including sexual harassment in the workplace (link included at the end of this blog). Regardless of the nature of the issues, every single piece of policy guidance includes; (1) the employer taking proactive and affirmative steps to prevent or avoid discrimination in the workplace by developing, communicating, and upholding a policy against various forms of discrimination and (2) conducting an effective, prompt, thorough workplace investigation when a complaint is received. 

Now, I would recommend applying the EEOC’s detailed enforcement guidance for “Vicarious Employer Liability for Unlawful Harassment by Supervisors” to developing all such policies. 

To summarize the guidelines, employers are encouraged to develop anti-harassment policies, along with complaint procedures for those who believe they have been harassed.  The policy should clearly explain unacceptable conduct and reassure employees who complain that they will be protected against retaliation. The complaint process should describe multiple avenues for reporting harassment and provide assurances of confidentiality to the extent it is possible. Investigations of allegations should be prompt and impartial, and if the investigation finds that harassment did indeed occur, the policy should provide for immediate corrective action. (Broadus, 2009)

After doing this, the next step to befriending the EEOC is that if  and when you receive a formal EEOC complaint, choose mediation, every time! Don’t blow it off or take it for granted. It will take some of your time but is worth the investment. Come prepared with proof of all the steps you have taken to avoid getting to this point and come with an open mind and congenial attitude towards the complainant. Don’t play coy if you know there were issues, but, be clear if the complainant did not afford you, the employer, an appropriate opportunity to address the issues.  This could be your chance to do so or to make concrete plans to do so, and exit the mediation with your organization’s wallet intact and a potentially salvaged employee-employer relationship.

All of the above steps will help to establish your organization as one that takes complaints seriously and one that actively works to maintain an environment where employees can work free of discrimination and harassment. That will make you a friend and ally to the EEOC.

Good luck and best regards,

Vivian L. Mora, MSS, SPHR

Vivian L. Mora is certified as a senior professional in human resources (SPHR) by the Human Resources Certification Institution and holds a master’s degree in sociology and economics.  She is the founder and managing partner of Mora & Associates, a retained executive search and human capital consulting firm based in Katy, TX. 

Vivian offers Harassment Prevention and Professional Interaction training sessions (http://morahr.com/HarassmentPrevention.aspx) including sessions geared towards the unique issues faced by harassment prevention in hospitality, sports, and entertainment industries which draws on her background successfully leading the human resources function in professional sports and entertainment.  For more information, please contact call (877) 310-6553, ext. 702 or email her at vivian@morahr.com. Referenced link to EEOC Policy Guidance: http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/guidance/index.cfm.

Can these letters make a difference?

Why do we certify? Is it because the letters look good after our names? Maybe it’s to impress others? Well, the letters may look good after our names but I’m in the impress others camp.  Although we, generally, do not certify to impress others in a smug sort of way but to show that we possess a certain amount of knowledge without waving it in the air or shouting it out loud. 

A profession is defined as a vocation founded upon specialised educational training.  Historically, as a vocation moved towards becoming a profession, a specific set of skills and/or a body of knowledge developed. Certification exams became a means of assessing whether any one member engaged in the vocation possessed the requisite skills and body of knowledge.  Hence, certifications were developed for many professions. 

Certification can set you apart from the crowd. It can lend a certain level of credibility that you just might know what you are doing. Employers quite often include preferences for certifications in job postings. In the HR community, it is quite common to find a preference or a requirement for PHR or SPHR certified candidates. Considering the overwhelming number of applicants an employer may receive for a single position posting, filtering by this means can make the task much less daunting.

The Human Resource Certification Institute (HRCI), the recognized leader in HR certification, announces that it has over 108,000 certified HR professionals in more than 70 countries and territories. Considering that the Bureau of Labor Statistics has estimated that approximately 1 million human resource professionals currently work for US businesses, even if all the certified professionals were in the US, we are only talking about 10%!  With those numbers, I’m guessing that those letters after your name can set you apart. 

In addressing the second half of my question, can not certifying harm you? Maybe, maybe not, but why not help yourself wherever you can?

With regards,

Vivian L. Mora, MSS, SPHR

Vivian L. Mora is certified as a senior professional in human resources (SPHR) by the Human Resources Certification Institution and holds a master’s degree in sociology and economics. She is the founder and managing partner of Mora & Associates, a retained executive search and human capital consulting firm based in Katy, TX. 

Vivian offers an online HR certification prep course twice a year once in the Fall and again in the Spring (www.moraHR.com/hreducation.aspx). For more information, please contact me directly at (877) 310-6553, ext. 702.

Leaf in Executive Pocket

Making the weeds tolerable!

How often do we in HR lament the desire to get out of the tactical weeds and into more strategic work? You know, work that actually adds measurable long-term value to the business versus the activities that are more routine or functional and focused on short-term outcomes. It’s one of those things when you wish you had a dollar for each time the lament surfaces. But before we wade into the fracas between tactical and strategic, I want to actually remove the notion that you can totally eliminate the weeds. I’m doing this because wishing for the impossible will only make your work day more and more intolerable. So let’s marinate for a second in the knowledge that we will live with weeds. Okay, that’s good enough. I don’t want you to fret too much because I’m also going to tell you how to make those tactical weeds not just tolerable, but welcome, in your quest to play a more strategic role.

The tactical and the strategic are partners, period. They are not always equal partners. The share that one holds versus the other can vary greatly, so they are very dynamic partners, always in motion.  For most HR leaders, the goal is to shift the balance to the share held by the strategic. However, it is a fact of corporate life is that if the tactical is not taken care of appropriately, it will hold court indefinitely.  The tactical or operational aspects of human resources must function in a manner that makes them more or less background music or you will be stuck primarily in this mode. It’s extremely difficult for the C-Suite to hear your voice on strategic matters when tactical or operational matters under your managment are creating chaos.  Managing the tactical aspects of your human resources function effectively and efficiently so that they run smoothly and do not surface as distracting issues is the key to becoming viewed as someone who can command attention on more strategic matters.

At this point, I am going to toss in what may appear as a conundrum but truly is not. As you are addressing and putting in order the tactical aspects of HR (the processes, the systems, etc.) so that you can shift into a focus on strategy, you must already have your overall long-term strategic objectives for HR in place. If not, you will be caught in a loop of re-addressing those same areas you’re trying to move beyond if they don’t support the strategic objectives. It may sound like this is a “chicken and egg” debate but it is clear that the strategic must come first. How can it come first when you are neck-deep in the weeds? It’s simple. Most of the work has been done for you, if not along with you. Your strategic objectives should already exist within your organization’s corporate objectives. Your first order of business in the quest to be a strategic partner is to ferret out, that is, derive your HR strategic objectives from the existing corporate objectives. This single step will ensure that you have full alignment between the HR objectives and the corporate objectives of your organization.  That’s when you are working with a purpose and the tactical doesn’t seem so much like an intruder standing between you and your dream of being a true strategic partner. Every facet of what you accomplish will tie right into the strategic. You will see it and so will the C-Suite.  And guess what? If they don’t see it, you will have no problem showing the linkage!

Let’s stop fighting in this unwinnable battle between tactical HR and strategic HR. It should all be strategic! If you don’t or can’t see the strategic value in something that you are doing, why are doing it?

With regards,

Vivian L. Mora, MSS, SPHR

Vivian L. Mora is certified as a senior professional in human resources (SPHR) by the Human Resources Certification Institution and holds a master’s degree in sociology and economics. She is the founder and managing partner of Mora & Associates, a retained executive search and human capital consulting firm based in Katy, TX.  Mora&Associates assists organizations with structuring people strategies to fulfill organizational strategy. For more information, please contact me directly at (877) 310-6553, ext. 702.

Good intentions are, uh, good, right?  If that is so, then the best intentions have to better, correct? Not at all. It’s unusual for me to start a blog with such a downer but I think I need to be very clear on this one. This is the one a majority of participants miss on my pre-training quiz  in workplace harassment prevention for supervisors. 

This is the question: At the opening of her presentations, Theresa likes to share something humorous to lighten the mood and make the audience more receptive.  As she was entering the building that morning, she observed a woman across the street attempting multiple times to parallel park. In opening her presentation that day, she shared a joke with her work team regarding the incident and women drivers that put almost everyone into stitches. This can not be considered harassment in the workplace because it was not intended to harm anyone present.

The answer, of course, is “false”. Her intention was to put everyone at ease but many people believe that jokes of this type depict women as less competent and can be detrimental to attaining equality in the workplace. Here Theresa’s humor may have had a negative impact on many members of the audience.

In employment situations, your intentions matter for nought. It is your impact that means everything in the world. The clear fact is that no one can see or feel your intention. They may guess at it but you hold those in your head and in your heart. The impact of actions and words can be more clearly observed so they get to carry the day every time. 

Humor is not uncommon in the workplace. Anywhere you find interaction among people, humor and jocularity is likely to be present. Whether you intend to entertain or to lighten the mood, a joke or comment that takes aim at another group of people will rarely be overlooked just because in your heart you know your intentions were good. Actions and words must be put through a mental filter to assess their potential impact, particularly in the workplace.  As an HR professional reviewing situations similar to this, you must consider the impact that the actions or words had irregardless of the intention behind them in order to provide an effective response. 

To avoid allowing intentions to overshadow impact in determinations, it has served me well in my career to keep in mind the old aphorism, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”.  I don’t know about you but that’s not a road I want to travel!

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