Thought Leadership Blog

The HRS Thought Leadership Blog delivers validated findings, visionary perspectives and op/ed commentaries related to HR, Leadership, Organizational Development and Employment Law. To enjoy the full volume of available articles, please enter topic keywords in the search box to explore our body of work. Articles are regularly presented by the HRS team and guest experts.


Unsubscribe Me!!! Too Many Newsletters? A Quiet Separation Beats a Kick to the Curb!

Getting pummeled with newsletters?  Of course you are. We all are.  While many senders are deploying shotgun approach with rapid fire muck and will never notice your unsubscription, many will receive a bold type alert of your action and will be instantly insulted.  
 
Today’s social media and technology often allows the filter of incoming information with discretion and ease, so why send a deliberate insult?  Those who prefer the insult are alive and well and they shall stop reading here. Those seeking diplomacy will continue reading. 

As both example and shameless plug, HRS e-News boasts less than 1% unsubscription rate and a 10% rising subscription rate annually. We accomplish this by distributing only 2-4 newsletters annually, and we use headlines, organization, provocative editorial and concise relevant content to get the reader in and out quickly with appreciated value. Nevertheless, a few will unsubscribe. When approached regarding the unsubscription, the most common answer has postured upon too many newsletters and too little time. Many newsletters are never read. 

As in many organizations, every unsubscription is noticed and monitored by our key team. Some of these unsubscribing geniuses sell to us, enjoy our donations or have subscribed us to their newsletters without our consent. In most mass mailings the link to unsubscribe is typically present only in sender avoidance of the internet “blacklist.” Our team has learned that unsubscribers may lack knowledge of outcomes; however, many recipients of the controversial unsubscription are insulted by the act or consider it buffoonery. Please think it through. 
 
A better time-saving and relationship-saving fix exists. Rather than taking time to open the newsletter and navigating the quagmire of unsubscription clicks which may very well get you negatively noticed, use technologies to vanish the unwanted more quickly.  If you are receiving infrequent correspondence from a sender, the best use of your time is probably to ignore or delete.  If frequent, please be aware that your unsubscription may be ineffective, and deploy your inbox filter rules to reroute the sender to another folder, a clearly labeled folder which distances itself from your normal viewing panes. You may offload the correspondence for future viewing opportunity, or perhaps you may send it to Siberia.  Should you find yourself annoyed by this onslaught of the uninvited, consider your filtering as the letter wrote but never sent.  Take comfort that a well-executed filter will absolutely clean up your inbox and ease your busy workday.

Facebook and other social media platforms can be even easier. Sans a business policy to do so and mutual understanding beforehand, to unfriend someone is quite the middle finger. Facebook allows us 10 levels of unsubscription which the other party may never notice, so why not use them?  There are no “take backs” on the blatant unsubscription or unfriend, so ponder the outcomes of your next move. 

HRS delivers organizational communications with expert guidance in social media practices, conflict management, technology use and internal/external information flow. 

Jessica Ollenburg - Friday, September 21, 2012

 





2011’s Most Important Organizational Communication Lessons

2011 finds employers in eclectic places, damaged by recent economic impact, confused by new legal mandates, often acclimating to corporate restructure, balancing technology’s influence and typically cautiously optimistic in a mode of strategic change… some finding great new opportunity as the dust settles. Organizational communication, both internal and external, is substantially impacted by these adjustments. The keys to success are keen skill sets in organizational communications, companywide, often at employer burden of training. The following are the 5 most commonly missed opportunities to succeed and a brief resolution theory.

1. Compliant Communications:

Anti-Harassment, HIPAA, social media and intellectual property are just a few critical learning topics of employer responsibility.  While it is true employers are not always responsible to actually control human behavior, reasonable care in training, policy establishment and enforcement are essential to company success, affirmative defense and risk management.
 

2. Cost-Benefit Analysis:

Employers are found over-communicating and under-communicating change to the point that the cost of communication is disproportionate, upward or downward, to the actual benefit of the change.  Consider the costs of employee communication including preparation, costs of miscommunication and time away from work when developing the communication rollout plan.  Calculate the anticipated benefits, and weigh accordingly for your blueprint.
 

3. Lopsided Sales Cycles:

In the effort to find the best price point or value, employers are demanding staunch sales cycles from prospective providers.  More than ever we see 3+ proposals sought for a 3 or small 4 figure acquisition…too much.  If you want to find the best value, treat your “vendors” as “partners,” keeping in mind their costs become your costs.   Find ways to help your providers keep their costs down.  Don’t sloppily force information repeats, listen carefully, streamline correspondence and be creative.  Prices are prices. Bullying is not negotiating. Together you can build collaborative strength.
 

4. E-mail Versus Traditional Communication:

Rules exist for communication media choice.  Know them and train them.  E-mail is the least invasive, most easily queued at convenient times and facilitates immediate documentation. Live discussion with or without body language, however, can be more efficient for transactional type exchange. Videoconference is a growing option.  Without proper training as to when each should be deployed, debates emerge as to the media choice, further contaminating topic discussion.
  

5. Blameshifting:

With fear of job security alive and well, elaborate schemes are being plotted and deployed to “save one’s skin.” Sadly, the individual who best plots and conceals usually wins, and here the company loses.  The blameshifting target was usually too busy actually working and owning workplace integrity to have won this nasty unproductive game.  When a team member “blames” a vendor or another employee, please investigate and monitor.  Your team members should be rewarded to help company stakeholders do a better job.  Those willing to throw another “under a bus” are far less valuable to you than those working toward greater good.
 

Communication is the means of knowledge transfer and collaboration toward unified goal.   When it is compromised, so are profit, growth, risk management and sustainability. Further detailed analysis and solutions on any topic herein are available through HRS.


Jessica Ollenburg - Tuesday, June 14, 2011

 





Social Media Etiquette & Tips

For most, social media is no more complex than any social or communications event.  Many find it easier.  All rules of kindness, diplomacy, message, audience and delivery apply.  Used properly, social media can teach, make you laugh, improve social skills, reconnect with long lost friends, find a job, grow a business, explore new cultures, build relationships, enhance wellness, save time and save money.  It is not only a “real life” but can also enrich your life and enhance productivity. As with everything in this world, not everyone “gets it.”  It is a complete myth that you don’t have time for social media.  Used well, social media creates more time in your busy day.  Used improperly, the same facets to life can be adversely impacted. 

We recently addressed this topic at Loyola University, and it has become popular at our own newly emerging facebook page. The following guidelines are offered to ensure getting the best outcomes from the social media experience.  These are relevant to both users and to employer training in proper etiquette. 

5 Rules to Getting the Best Out of Social Media…

Rule #1 – Be discrete and filter your comments.  Remember it is the world wide web, and privacy controls are not 100% effective.
Rule #2 – Learn and use the privacy controls.  They help substantially.  Understand privacy limitations and the licensing you authorize by using a certain site.  It’s very easy to protect your privacy but only if you invest the 5-10 minutes necessary to research and apply knowledge.
Rule #3 – Research the topics, guidelines, options and expectations to a certain site before you participate.  These are available at each site and differ from one site to the next.  Knowing helps you select the right forum and keeps your experience on track.
Rule #4 – Understand that each social media site or application is a business in itself, creating jobs with need for compensation and need for sustainability, job security and hopefully job growth.  It is easy to anticipate what will happen next if you understand the objectives.   
Rule #5 - Apply the “golden rule” at all times.  "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Kindness and courtesy are expected.  Respect others’ privacy.  Stick to the site’s guidelines and respect how others’ use the site if within guidelines.  Avoid or be careful with controversial subjects including but not limited to politics, religion and sexual innuendo.

Do Not Insult or Attack

When you befriend or connect with someone, you imply a social contract of mutual respect and courtesy.  Negative energy is now out of bounds.  Insulting and attacking your friends in social media not only results in the insult/attack itself, but it catches them with guard down and in a highly public forum.  Re-read your comments to ensure they are not misinterpreted.  Trust shall be difficult if not impossible to recover.  Delete, recant or apologize if something gets by that you regret or did not intend.  Understand that de-friending can be an insult.  Should you de-friend someone due to corporate policy, tell them why to avoid insult.

Control Privacy for Yourself and Others

Remind yourself constantly that it is the Internet, as we all forget from time to time in the comfort of it all.  If you don’t want everyone to know, don’t post it.  Without full use of privacy controls, social media posts are likely to land at or around the #1 ranked page for you or others on the Internet.  Search engines can then link to employer, family, schools, charitable causes, other people and organizations.  Guide yourself accordingly. Privacy controls are extremely but not entirely effective.  Every individual has a right to privacy… controlling the perspective of his or her employer, family, neighbor, banker, pastor and any other stakeholder who can form a bias or purport action based upon social media. 
You are legally responsible for any damages incurred by others due to your actions… on line, in person and through any form of media.  Without specific permission, any information, name reference or pictures/videos of others are both illegal and unethical.  This concept is by no means limited to social media… but social media can have immediate widespread distribution.  While a site will protect itself through disclaimer, you are still responsible and can be sued for damages when tagging or posting photos, videos or content.  Create notifiers or prohibit altogether others’ ability to post/tag photos of you. 
Don’t be intimidated by these potential problems, but don’t take unnecessary risk either.   We don’t stop crossing the street because there is traffic, but we learn to look both ways beforehand and we learn to not push others into a vehicle’s path.

Observe Topic Boundaries and Avoid Frequent Complaint

While you cannot create change without stirring the pot at least a little, constant complaining and negativity will hurt your relationships and ability to succeed with audience and credibility.  Additionally, respect how others use the social media site.  Embrace differences.  Keep politics, religion, negativity and all controversy off of sites not specifically targeting to those topics.  Keep business on business sites, personal on personal sites; stick to specific topics and/or causes in their respective forums.   Avoid crossing boundaries.  Universal charitable causes are typically welcome in any general forum … just don’t wear out their welcome. 

Follow the Money for Answers

Nothing in this world is completely “free,” and this is no exception.  Each of these sites is costly to develop and operate.  Advertisers, membership fees and specific application/gaming fees are popular revenue sources.  Ownership of content, development, features control and level of advertising is dictated, of course, by the sponsors of these platforms.  Arguments are emerging regarding free vs. paid membership.  You may wish to entirely avoid sites pretending to be entirely free, as you are likely to expose yourself to spammers, malware and/or sale of your personal info.  We’d rather know who is getting paid while safeguarding our systems and privacy. 

Choosing a Social Media Forum

The primary consideration to site choice is the intended use.  The first choice is “business” or “personal.”  It is easiest and safest to draw a line between the two, although great advantage can be realized by those who learn to successfully mix the two.  It is essential to know and adhere to topic boundaries at each site.  Blindsiding others with topics they don’t want will create failure.  With appropriate judgment deployed, random and creative banter can be the most interesting, desirable and memorable content you deliver.  A little consideration goes a long way. 
We use each of the following for different reasons, audience and with different approach/expectations.  The writers herein have no affiliation with any social media site or vendor.  While this white paper is complimentary, our business interest is ongoing education and consultation with companies.  One of many hot topics right now surrounds social media.  Our firm encourages employers to address social media, creating policies and encouraging practices which protect everyone’s interest, company-wide.  

facebook
Originally targeted to college students, then high school students, facebook is intended to reconnect or maintain connections otherwise difficult to manage in a busy world.  No longer strictly by invitation, features have been changed, removed and added over time.  Not originally part of the fabric, businesses are now present, primarily as advertisers to consumers.  This site is used for personal relationship building, socialization, reconnecting, reciprocity, a sense of community and meeting new people through gaming, common interest and mutual friends.    Age range is unlimited and multi-generational.  Social sites such as facebook can provide a forum for busy productive people to enjoy positive energy, wellness and socialization without abandoning a productive life.  As with everything, abuse is of course alive and well.

LinkedIn
Used entirely with a professional business focus, LinkedIn also began building by invitation only.  LinkedIn is designed for business promotion, professional networking, job search, discussion forum and to use business “connections” as a toolset.  Specific connections are visible or invisible to others as a matter of individual strategy and privacy setting.  Currently both paid and unpaid memberships exist.  The extent to which you post on LinkedIn is directly proportionate and related to your professional position.  Additionally offering opportunity to showcase company websites, blogs, publications and twitter accounts, LinkedIn currently holds more than 60 million registered users in more than 200 countries.

Twitter
Used for both personal and business purposes, Twitter ignores relationship building and succeeds or fails based entirely on the quality and keywords of information.  “Tweets” are text-based posts of up to 140 characters delivered to “followers.”  Account holders can “lock” their timeline for privacy to only followers with some but not entire privacy.  Without such lock, a “tweet” can immediately find itself the #1 ranked item by search engine for the author.  Re-tweet exposure can be substantial.  Twitter offers both facebook and LinkedIn interfaces.
Blogs (Weblogs), Discussion Boards, Forums and More
Endless and constantly emerging/disappearing, the Internet is full of opportunity to comment, blog, post, vote, upload and express yourself.  Each individual site is likely to offer description of topic, questions controlled by the site or existing discussion threads to follow.  Choose accordingly and stick to the format for the site.  Each will likely offer legal disclaimer and instructions.  Read them and comply. 

What You Should Post/Not Post

Ask 10 people and you shall receive 10 different answers.  This is a draw for most social media users and an advantage to the concept. The differences between the posts of one and another users is a matter of among others… personality and timing.  Witty banter that insults no one is always welcome.  Do not expect to interest everyone with a post and do not expect to be interested with every post you see.  Attempt to avoid repetition.  What would you say at a party?  Who is your audience?  Same considerations apply.   Be yourself at your best whenever you can.  Sites will typically provide discussion forums, content, games and/or applications that are good points of exchange.   Most social media is not about the conversation but rather a more brief exchange of ideas.   Chime in only as you wish.  Sound judgment will help you.  If people are interested, they will typically let you know.  If not, find something else to say or a new room/time to say it.

Boundaries:  Business vs. Personal

Actively mixing business and personal relationships is always a risk and warrants consideration and boundaries.  Social media is no exception.  The ability to successfully mix the two, however,  can be your greatest advantage. What if your boss, client or investor befriends you on a social site?  This problem is largely solved by rule #1.  If you are concerned about its visibility, do not post it on the world wide web.  While it is extremely beneficial to use privacy controls and selection rules, again these are not entirely effective.

Preparing for and Handling Abuse or Disagreement

The rules for social media are the same as for any communication, in person, written, electronic, or telephone.  One great thing about social media is that you can more easily avoid, delay or rehearse your response.  Use these opportunities to ensure your message is exactly how you want it before it is out there.  When you build quality relationships through social media, you have also likely improved or practiced certain aspects to in-person social skills as well. Be nice, don’t attack or insult.  On the Internet as in all phases of life, communicate with the assumption there are no bad people, just bad acts.  Social media should not be anti-social.  It will work best for you if you stick with positive energy.  Be careful approaching controversy.  It is controversial because people disagree passionately.  You will undoubtedly insult and aggravate at least some of your friends… so be prepared for the fallout.  People disagree on how to “keep it light” and as always, “teasing” and thoughtless communications are inconsequential to some, the “end of the world” for others, and somewhere in between for everyone else.  Controversial communication creates conflict including disagreement on severity, how to interpret and how to handle.  Be nice and remove the point of conflict. 

Social Gaming Etiquette

Gamers provide a great deal of revenue to social sites, and their contributions to subsidizing everyone’s use should be respected.  At current time, facebook gaming posts are extremely easy to hide if you do not wish to see them.  A simple hover and click on the hide button (currently immediately to the right of the post) will hide every post to an entire application.  Therefore, etiquette between gamers is more essential for discussion. 

Gamers - please consider that your gaming friends have little or no opportunity to hide your individual posts without hiding you or the game altogether.  Peppering the feed with low value posts impedes another’s ability to find the posts actually necessary to gameplay.  Additionally, monopolizing the feed with items of little or no value/interest to others creates the same social impact as monopolizing a conversation.  Often, less is more… and quality here typically outweighs quantity.   

Game developers – remove the temptation to destroy gaming experience by removing the options to do so.  Consider controls on frequency and volume of such posts per user. We know you need to promote your game, but you probably wish to keep gamers playing, too, right?

Social Applications, Groups, Polls and Gifts

These items can be great “ice breakers” and turnkey socialization tools.  With these items you can reach out to someone without other consideration as to what to say.  What users rarely consider is the extent to which profile information is accessed and shared with undisclosed recipients.  Consideration should also be given to system performance when these applications are allowed, as they may be running in the background while not visibly in use.   It is typically quite easy to de-authorize these applications when no longer desired.   It is important to read the disclaimers before using these applications, and it is important to courteously understand why someone may not accept your gift or invitation.  This decline is not an indictment of friendship gesture but rather a de-selection of the system performance impact invited by the application.   Choose applications carefully, enjoy those you choose, respect others’ rights to choose for themselves, and remember… nothing is free.
 
Please visit AskHRS.com or contact HRS for employer tips in creating social media policies to include anti-harassment and intellectual property risk management.  

 

 


Jessica Ollenburg - Monday, November 22, 2010

 





Are You Too Good for Your Job?

It’s a cliché story... one of the most common mistakes... battling for just the right amount of career confidence and self worth.  Being part of a successful team or system creates a restless feeling and a need to do “bigger, better things.”  The restless overconfident person leaves the successful environment and finds a path of greater resistance.   Of course highly visible in the entertainment industry, the inflated “ego” can break up our favorite television series, sports team, band and far too frequently occurs (although with less celebrity status) in the workplace. 

 

We know you can’t really succeed until you’re willing to fail, and the path of greater resistance isn’t necessarily a bad choice.  Overconfidence, however, is rarely a good choice.  When good things happen to those who feel “entitled,” those good things are often taken for granted and opportunities are missed.   It’s really not surprising how many times overconfidence takes one down a lesser path or a path of greater resistance. 

 

Career overconfidence takes many forms.  Sometimes it bears a very unconventional appearance.  Sometimes individuals have an inflated sense of entitlement or expectations, and accordingly, they inappropriately benchmark their success.  Sometimes individuals underestimate the effort, work or risk tolerance required to attain success.  This form of overconfidence is attached to work outcomes as opposed to talents or skills, yet it can lead to the same pitfalls.

 

The desire for advancement is consistently a survey leader among career magnets and motivators, yet employees too often fail to recognize opportunity or fail to invest the appropriate effort.  When advancement does occur, employees often take too much credit and become overconfident with a heightened sense of workplace demand.  Where employees don’t advance, they often shift blame rather than finding their own sense of accountability.  After failing in one workplace, the blame-shifter often temporarily succeeds in the next.  If this is due to learning, success becomes more sustainable.  If this is due to scorn and determination to prove oneself right while still blame-shifting, after a brief “honeymoon period” the same barriers and original problems may re-emerge.  When team members do advance, they may fail to recognize the support they’ve received, and the self-destructive cycle continues. 

 

On the flip side, employers allow these disconnects by failing to properly distribute education on both success and failure.  Inappropriate distribution of rewards, consequences and information around work outcomes is at the heart of the problem.  The answer is not simple.  It’s a lifelong commitment to learning and refreshing learning, supporting why the leadership assessment and learning programs are among the most popular at HRS. Even once learned, these principles are easy to overlook… and even forget.

 

As an individual, if you think you might be too good for your job, we recommend awareness of the “overconfident” syndrome in hope you may avoid its pitfalls.  If you make a bad choice, don’t dwell on it, but please look back at it for the learning.  Without learning we are destined to repeat our mistakes.  Advancement is above all a product of your choices... and not necessarily which job you have but rather how you approach it.  
 


Jessica Ollenburg - Saturday, November 08, 2008

 





Business Etiquette: Back to the Basics!

In coaching others and continually striving for lifelong learning & self-improvement, I’ve been in search of new ideas regarding business etiquette.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to know when to place your napkin on your lap at a business luncheon, but I’m seeking something deeper, more meaningful and directly applicable to our everyday work lives. 

 

As a starting point, I think a few of the biggest things that aren’t published frequently enough are getting back to the basics of 1) Respect other’s time, 2) “Do your homework” and 3) Listen & Retain.  While these seem to be such “common sense” and simplistic topics, they can be easy to quickly stray from.  With that, these are each things that most certainly point to etiquette in the workplace as without them, you will quickly set yourself up to be an extremely unprofessional professional.

 

Communication methods are very literally at our fingertips in various forms including e-mail and instant messaging.  Accordingly, it’s become incredibly easy to access your co-workers & clients.  While these forms are also a benefit in not needing to physically interrupt someone or cause their phone to ring – they are also easy to abuse.  Most especially taking note that Generation Y has grown up with these tools, we need to train ourselves and our teams to stop, search and review before we execute.

 

Though I sometimes wonder if I was born in the right generation, being a Gen Y’er myself, I’ve found I do crave knowledge and, stereotypically, like instant feedback.  Therefore, I recognize the importance first hand of maintaining patience and having the wisdom to see when there’s time for me to gain more of it.  Requesting meetings and feedback sessions with your superiors not only shows respect for their and the company’s time – but also shows polite respect for their knowledge and experience.  If you’re entitled to the information, management will be more willing to help you grow when you go about it in this regard. 

 

Of equal importance, it’s critical to always be proactive and productive on your own.  After all, isn’t that why you’re paid to be around?  To relentlessly be focusing on the bottom line and your positive impact to it should be a constant driver.  Especially during times of training, have you exhausted your available resources before interrupting a co-worker or superior? 

 

If you’re going to ask a question, it’s imperative to have the courtesy of having done your homework beforehand.  To be able to go to someone informing them of the resources you’ve tapped and information you’ve found shows your determination while letting them get straight to the point knowing those actions have been taken. 

 

Furthermore, it’s vital to then listen to and retain the information you’re given.  As employers constantly strive to attract, listen to, and retain their employees – so should we listen to and retain the assistance provided us to maximize the company’s investment and continue to be an asset to it.   

 

In the long run, needing to know which fork to use becomes irrelevant when you’re not even invited to the lunch with a client - because you can’t wow ‘em in the office.  Your internal team should be your #1 clients!  Get their positive attention, look out for the company’s bottom line, and watch your own grow along with your new opportunities!


Blog Article by Jodi Rasmussen, HRS Assistant Director of Professional Service Operations!


The Team At HRS - Sunday, September 14, 2008