… the HR Minion. Because even minions have opinions. And giggles.

Burned out

I’m tired. Like bone deep exhausted, pain in your heart kind of tired. An almost perpetual ball of anxiety feels like it has been lodged in my abdomen and it is unbelievably draining to fight it all the time. To not let it affect your mood, to not let it affect your behavior or how you treat others. This is not a battle I have been winning. For the past month or so more often than not I end the day tired and feeling like an ass.

And this, all of it, has lead me to one inescapable conclusion: I’m burned out. I don’t want to be in the HR trenches anymore. I’m done.

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It would be easy to blame this solely on the frustrations I’ve faced in the last month and a half. After all, my first HR job out of college almost drove me away from the profession altogether so it’s not like I don’t know how a bad fit in one place makes you question your career choices overall. But I know that these feelings are older than the present. For a long time now I have been wanting to move on, knowing that the HR Generalist path wasn’t the one I really wanted. I figured out years ago that I had no desire to be an HR Manager/HR Director/CHRO but I guess I thought a Generalist role would be enough. It isn’t.

But that leaves me with a conundrum and it certainly doesn’t ease any of that anxiety. I already set a goal for myself this year to make a career change; I’m just moving faster than I thought I would be. But what do I do? I don’t hate HR and I don’t want to waste my knowledge, skills, and experience.

As it stands, I see 3 options:

1. Recruiting. My first entry into HR was recruitment and it’s still one of my favorite things. The saddest part of being a generalist is that I never had the time or resources to really enjoy it. It would be awesome to be able to focus on it completely again.

2. Training & Development. I’ve always loved training and helping employees grow their career is intrinsically rewarding. It’s a real passion of mine so any role where I got to do that all day would be awesome.

3. A game changer. This is the one option that is both exciting and unknown. It requires me to stretch myself and my skills and go for something new. This is the one where I’d even be willing to take a step back for in order to take a different path. A job with a vendor? Learning how to be a consultant? Or something I haven’t even considered yet. It’s definitely something I’ve been flirting with the past few years.

It’s a big world out there and I have a lot of time left in my career, even if I don’t seem to have a lot of time to initiate this big of a change. Uh oh, that is kind of bringing back some of that anxiety, but in a good way though.

And this is where you all come in. This blog has played a pivotal role in my HR career. It has connected me with friends, jobs, and a sense of community. I am a better HR professional because of you. I know a lot of you out there have gone through big changes like this and I would appreciate any advice you could give.

What do you do when everything you worked towards is no longer satisfying and you are finally ready to take the next big leap?

Get your HR house in order

Colourful 2014 in fiery sparklers

It’s almost the new year and in between holiday parties and gorging on sugary treats there really is something rather important all HR pros out there need to be doing. It’s something that you’ve probably been ignoring all year while you’ve been running around putting out fires but that doesn’t make it any less important. It’s not hard, just time consuming, but it can go a long way to making sure that you start 2014 off on the right foot. That’s right, it’s time to get your HR house in order.

More than once I have come into an HR shop and found complete and total disarray. No organization, messed up files, half finished or never started projects due to a lack of accountability, and inaccurate or downright misleading information in supposedly trusted databases. Yeah, it’s all kinds of a compliance nightmare.

Sometimes it’s those little things that are so easy to put off or ignore that become the most important. It’s harder because it happens so gradually. At first it’s just forgetting to put that file away or auditing that new hire paperwork. But the next thing you know you are in a DOL audit and can’t find anything you need.

So what can you do?
1. Filing and scanning paperwork. Gah, I hate filing. I always get paper cuts. But having stacks of papers sitting in bins is ridiculous. You can’t trust the info you have in the employees file because you don’t know what you really have. That goes for both the paper filled and paperless offices. If you are paperless than scan those documents and get rid of them!

2. Audit for compliance and retention. When was the last time you audited your I-9’s? Spot checked your employee files to make sure everything was up to date, accurate, and consistent? Do all your employees have the current training or certifications they need? Are you holding on to old paperwork/files/invoices that you should get rid of? Don’t wait for an external audit to find any errors you could have corrected now.

3. Review and update policies and practices. When was the last time you actually took a critical look at the policies and practices you have in place? What steps have gotten redundant or unnecessary? What can you do better or make easier for others? What might you need to revise, automate, or are missing?

4. Set goals. Never mind new year’s resolutions, take the time now to set some solid goals for yourself in 2014 to address how to do better going forward. If you stick with it, next year this whole process will go a lot faster and smoother.

I know it’s not glamorous or exciting, but what else are you going to do when half the office staff is on vacation? So go throw on some headphones, roll up your sleeves, and knock it out for a better 2014 and beyond!

Guest Blogger: FMLA Training in the New Year

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Today, I have a special surprise for all you darling readers out there! The wonderful Ben Eubanks asked me a couple weeks back to participate in a student-blogger mentorship and I was more than happy to help out. If there is one thing I have loved about the HR blogging community is how welcoming it was for me, so how could I be anything else but welcoming in return? And I hope you all are welcoming as well! So for the first time ever, please let me introduce Lori and her inaugural post!

Most leave applications processed under FMLA goes smoothly. The baby is born, the surgery is a success, the treatment ends, and the employee returns to the workplace to do his or her job. However, it’s the other FMLA scenarios that make our phones ring off the hook.

The calls about an intermittent leave that never ends, chronic abuse of protected leave, or the gray area between protected leaves and reasonable accommodations.

As HR Professionals, we can do ourselves a big favor beforehand by ensuring that our managers are knowledgeable and adequately trained with regard to FMLA. That IS the responsibility of HR, to ensure managers as well as newly promoted from within and new hire managers understand how to administer FMLA policies and treat employees with dignity.

What can we do then to ensure both compliance and dignity in the process? Well, for example, even providing all managers a basic FMLA PowerPoint presentation coupled with your companies policies can go a long way towards preparing your managers. Just be sure to follow up periodically with more in depth presentations as well as focusing on helping managers communicate effectively with employees who qualify or may qualify for FMLA.

When our managers are adequately trained it provides positive boundaries; boundaries which ensure employees are treated fairly with dignity and respect. An informed management team stabilizes the workplace, reduces uncertainty, perceptions of unfairness, and lowers employee stress during a time that they need to focus on healing.

Another positive aspect of a properly trained and informed management team is a significant reduction in the potential for lawsuits from employees who feel that they have been wronged or taken advantage of. Training also allows managers to do what is right in the eyes of the law instead of making wrong steps that may land the company or organization in hot water.

Let’s say you have an employee out of work due to the birth of a child. But when the client seems upset due to the employee being out so long the manager tells the employee to return to work or provide additional medical documentation to support her continued absence. However, her manager had also advised against the employee applying for FMLA as doing so would leave a supposed “black mark” on her employment record.

Unfortunately, now both the employee and the company are in a precarious position. The employee is without the protections provided by FMLA, and the the manager has illegally interfered with the employee’s rights. But all this could have been prevented with proper manager training and communication.And hopefully, all of us HR Leave Administrators know to routinely reach out to those employees with protected/sensitive circumstances, not only to monitor and update their status but to gain valuable feedback as well. This is a huge area of opportunity that is overlooked in many companies.

As we head into a new year, an important HR goal should be to train our managers to be knowledgeable with regard to the basics of FMLA so they can help employees use it correctly, as well as keeping our companies on the right side of the law.

Lori Owensby, a first time blogger, has been in Human Resources field for the last 10 years in different capacities: recruiter, Human Resources Generalist, and Benefits Administrator. She has a Masters in Human Resources Management and is working toward her Certified Benefits Professional certification.

Irony

Well, it seems I took a small and unexpected hiatus from blogging in November. What was I doing? Oh, not much, just getting married and going on my honeymoon. No big thing. Silly enough, I actually thought I would be blogging in between getting ready for the wedding or while in Hawaii. Clearly, I underestimated how distracting those sort of things are. Best made plans and all that.

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Life’s ironies are frequently like that though, messing with our expectations and plans. It’s especially hard on me at times because I have such a high internal locus of control. Essentially, I feel like I have more control over my life than I really do. But you would think after all the craziness and changes I have had in the last 4 years I would know better.

For example, the new hubby and I have been experiencing more life changes recently than just marriage. This past year Jesse has been working a contract 4 days out of every week up in Kingsport, TN. That is a 5 hour trip, one way. It’s been like we’ve been in a long distance relationship all year again. Not. Fun. But it paid very well and the Birmingham job market hasn’t been very good.

So after trying unsuccessfully to find him a job back home, we finally decided to make the leap and move to Tennessee. After all, we didn’t want to be married and separated. So I turned in a month’s notice at my job and essentially planned on taking the month of November off to focus on the wedding and honeymoon before focusing on the move.

But then Jesse got a job offer in Birmingham. Of course he did. AFTER I quit my job. And did I mention that the Birmingham job market is bad, even (especially) for HR roles too? Oh irony, you are one cold bastard. Fortunately, I am happy to report that I will be starting a new HR job as well! WHEW. It’s a good opportunity with a growing company where I’ll be able to do a lot of employee development. It’s even in a new industry for me which I love.

So yeah, I should know by now that life enjoys messing with all my plans, especially when I’ve spent a lot of time anxiously worrying about them. Now, I may not believe in fate, but I do believe things will work themselves out if I can stay flexible and open to new opportunities. So please join me in celebrating all those happy, crazy, and stressful life changes that the new year is sure to bring as well. Cheers everyone!

This day in HR Minion History: The worst day…

… or alternatively titled, “Working for the weekend”. We are back again today with another post from the past. It’s kind of funny when I think of all the blog posts I tend to come up with on my commute in to work. But then again, I do spend a lot of time in my car. Hey, whatever works. Enjoy!

On my drive in to work this morning I saw this bumper sticker on the back of a car:

The first thought that crossed my mind was, “Huh, that guy is clearly disengaged”. And really, isn’t that the truth? Here is a guy who is so disengaged at work that he is choosing to advertise the fact that he has checked out. On his car. The car that he is driving to work. The car that his boss likely sees in the parking lot. All he needs to do is slap one up in his cubicle and he can be sure his boss gets the message. Now, as I sped past him (I have a lead foot) I noticed he was an older gentleman so it could very well be that he is about to, or already has, retired. But still, the thought stuck with me.

I know not everyone loves what they do. I get it. Not everyone gets personal fulfillment out of their job/career. And that’s fine. You don’t have to. If you do what you do to pay the bills and find joy in things outside of work then more power to you. I’m just happy you are finding fulfillment in some aspect of your life. People who don’t have that, and don’t enjoy their work too, are often boring and bitter. You don’t want to be that person.

However, I am concerned about advertising the fact that you are disengaged. Because if I was that guys boss or HR Rep, what that bumper sticker is saying to me is that I don’t have to care about you either. And you don’t want that. I see that bumper sticker and I come to the conclusion that you are so disengaged that there is no way to bring you back. Nothing I do will be able to motivate you cause you are just going through the motions. You may execute your job well and I may appreciate that, but will I exert any effort on your behalf? No. Why should I? That bumper sticker is clearly telling me that nothing I do for you (ie. bonuses, promotions, other incentives) will improve your engagement. So if you actually are interested in earning more money or bonuses like extra days off (to go fishing obviously) you have effectively shot yourself in the foot.

Even if you can’t find joy in your job/career, you can at least appreciate it. If nothing else you need it to make a living and fund the activities that you do enjoy. Why make it harder for yourself?

This post was originally published on the HR Minion site on 10/7/10.