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False Security: Face Time With The Boss

I read this story today and shook my head.

The headline (More workers choosing fear over flex time, experts say) is designed for clicks. The amount of data supporting this assertion is nonexistent (there is literally not a single statistic cited about the decrease in flex time usage). The issue is presented in the boring way it is always presented: no data, a few interviews, and many experts.

We’ll have some fun though: let’s take the article at face value. Let’s assume this is happening and it is as widespread as the experts say. The problem is two pronged.

False Security Alert: Boss

Most bosses are pretty smart by now. Most of them will play the progressive role (especially for HR) and say that they are all about flexibility. Some will even parrot company lines about being that sort of workplace. Here’s the real test: pick a couple weeks and see when everyone checks out. If it varies with people being in and out or working from home, you’re better off than most organization. What has been typical in situations where balance is in name only, you’ll see everyone toiling until 5:15–5:30pm or later.

Of course the boss has said you can have a flexible schedule. Just as soon as this project is complete, we’ll get something worked out for you. Oh, Jones is going to be out all next week so why don’t we talk about it later. And on, and on, and on.

Here’s the reality: if you can’t implement a flexible work schedule in the middle of a major project, you don’t have the right leadership or the right people (and here’s a hint: that leadership picked those people too). This whole span of control issue was an illusion to begin with. Any control any boss has ever had is based on expectations set, results measured and consequences delivered (good or bad). None of those things have to do with a location or time but on actions taken and results achieved.

Sure, this sounds something like ROWE but most companies aren’t willing to go that far. Still, if your company is going to some sort of flexible scheduling, boss face time is the security blanket you’ll have to give up.

False Security Alert: Employees

From being a former boss, there is one thing I cannot stand: the face time guy. Face time guy (and it seems like it was always guys with me) always wanted to meet and talk about what projects he was working on and how crazy Nancy in accounting is and what the latest specials were at the sandwich shop. He’s the guy that always said goodbye to me when I left at 5:30pm or if I was working late, made sure to check in with me before he left. And it was all done with the guise that he was compensating for something else.

He wasn’t getting his job done.

He was not prepared in meetings. He was behind in his work. And he got passed up for promotions several times. Nice guy. Helluva guy. But he wasn’t going anywhere until he actually got some stuff done.

Now there is nothing wrong with playing the politics game at work (don’t hate the player, hate the game) but relying on that for everything is ridiculous. Just like elementary school, playing the game is for people who get their homework done.

And that’s what this fear over flex time is all about for employees. If you are legitimately afraid about taking flex time and other people are using flex time just fine, you probably have significant doubts about the work you’re doing because you’ve relied on bullshitting with the boss to cover for it. For this person, taking flex time will only serve to demonstrate what very little value you actually add.


If you are a boss, you set expectations and you treat your employees like the adults they are and allow them to meet or exceed those expectations. If they do it, great. If they don’t, you fix it.

If you are an employee, you don’t allow an irrational fear of not being recognized to paralyze you. Whatever your boss asks of you, make it great. Even if that greatness happens at 9:00pm after the kids have gone to bed or at 9:00am when everyone is still trying to wake up.

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Annoyed at Job Candidates? Look in the Mirror

One of the ways my blog has shifted over the last 18 months is that it has become less about what job candidates and employees are doing wrong and more about what HR and management are doing wrong. It has been one of those funny evolutions of a blog that you never see coming when you start. Maybe that’s the progression of my HR career which has basically gone through four phases:

  1. The “For Pete’s sake, is every employee and job candidate a complete moron?” phase.
  2. The “This must be a joke. Look at how stupid our managers are acting” phase.
  3. The “Forget all of those other people, am I (and everyone in HR) really this stupid?” phase.
  4. The “I wonder if I can do something to improve all of these things” phase.

I’ve been a resident of stage four for a while and I have been coming to terms with it. Will a smart remark pop out of my mouth when I get a typewritten resume obviously photocopied and updated with white-out and handwriting? I’m not perfect but generally, I’ve been much more solutions oriented than mocking oriented.

What’s Wrong With This Applicant?

A common thing I hear people in HR complain about are applicants and job seekers. Everything from spelling mistakes on resumes to not pronouncing their name correctly, I’ve heard it. And listen, if you process hundreds of applicants daily, I’ll give you a bit of a break. It is tedious work. But if it is the first time in months you’ve processed a resume and you’re complaining, there’s probably a bigger issue there: maybe you shouldn’t be reviewing resumes. When you’re nitpicking on the second resume you see because a tab isn’t perfect, let’s just hope your company has some room for failure because that hiring process may not be the best place for you.

Besides that, it may not even be their fault. Most of the serious errors that job seekers make in the selection process are the fault of the process itself, not mass incompetence.

Don’t Tick Me Off And You Get The Job

Serious job seeking errors aside, if you think that the idea of eliminating candidates based on petty annoyances is a good practice, you should get out of talent selection immediately. Get over yourself already. I love the funny ways that people in selection like to play God a little bit. “Well, I liked them but they double space after each sentence. I can’t hire a person like that.” Good grief, are you hiring a reporter for the Washington Post?

Job seeker errors that happen repeatedly can almost always be traced back to the company posting the position. For example, I knew an HR guy who thought he was a big shot and thought that everyone that applied should know his name and should be addressing correspondence to him. If they didn’t? Junk.

The problem? His name wasn’t anywhere on the site. You could do some digging and find him but he wasn’t looking for internet researchers. He was looking for people to pick up the phone and be helpful. If he was so caught up in his name being brought up, why didn’t he list it on the site? More importantly, why was he constantly trying to hire people even though his area kept tightening their budget?

The major issues and the things that repeated themselves were actions within the control of the company but took no steps to alieviate or fix the issue. That’s a shift in responsibility, right?

Do You Want The Best People Or Just Survivors?

We are currently in an interview era where people no longer nail interviews, they just end up surviving all of the rounds until they are the last one standing. It is like watching the worst reality show ever*. Keep your answers bland, don’t upset the 15 interviewers and you can pass on to the next level. If you think candidate selection is about hiring interview process survivors, it is going to be a frustrating ride for you.

Your process should be built around how you can figure out if a person will thrive in the position you are hiring them for. By the way, about those positions? Usually they don’t involve getting grilled by her office co-workers for an hour and a half at a time. If you are hiring a marketing person, get them in the room with the marketing team and have them work on a problem for an hour or so and see how they interact. If you are hiring a programmer, get them with the IT group and start pouring through code that needs improvement. If you are hiring a mechanic, start going through blueprints and looking at disassembled machinery.

Our selection process is mired in tradition for tradition’s sake. Let’s get over it and figure out a better way to pick the people who will help our companies move forward.

* Actually, I take that back. Temptation Island? That may have been the worst.

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SimplyHired and MySpace together at last

SimplyHired has pulled off quite the deal here.

There is going to be a lot of “old money” companies saying this isn’t significant. “Who cares? These kids on MySpace don’t have any skills we need. Plus the whole lot of them are probably child molesters anyway.” The good thing for these “kids” on MySpace is that they will have one of the most effective job searching tools out there easily accessible to them. Even the old money will be benefiting tremendously through this marriage of sorts (since SimplyHired aggregates millions of job listings including many of old money’s newspaper ads). MySpace has consistently ranked in the top 10 websites since the beginning of the year.

It is all a matter of people eventually figuring out that MySpace has a job search. It will be used and it is really only a matter of time.