From #SHRM13 – The Men of HR



Jeff Pon, Chief Human Resource Officer for SHRM, is a man of HR.

I had the pleasure of re-connecting with him on Sunday at SHRM13, and we had an interesting discussion about the demographics of SHRM members. According to Jeff, SHRM has large chunks of HR practitioners – those in their first 10 years of practice and those at the highest job classifications – who are noticeably absent from SHRM membership.

During the course of our discussion, Jeff also mentioned that 81% of attendees at the conference were women, reflecting the gender make-up of the profession.

But everyone knows – and comments – on the fact that HR is a female dominated profession, so his remarks didn’t surprise me at all. It wasn’t until a little later, reflecting on our conversation, that the proverbial lightbulb flashed on in my head:

I know lots more men in HR than I should, given the statistical domination of women in the space.

And the more I thought, the more I realized that the number of my professional HR contacts was almost evenly split between men and women. How could that be?

It didn’t take me long to figure out the reason: bloggers and SHRM volunteers.

Look at the picture above of the SHRM bloggers who played kickball for charity during the conference. Of those 25 people, 13 are men. Now you might argue that the numbers are a little bit skewed because the teams were designed to be split evenly between men and women. That misses the point that there was an equal number of men available to play, when logic seems to demand that the HR bloggers should be about 80% female.

But there is a pretty even split of men to women among HR bloggers, as you can see by looking at this more casual picture of SHRM bloggers working, and taken before I even had my discussion with Jeff Pon.



I also know that membership in the two SHRM local affiliates I belong to is predominately women, running close to the expected 80-20 split. But the working volunteers and leaders who do more than pay dues (run committees, serve as board directors, etc.) has a much higher percentage of men.

The question that springs to my mind – as usual – is WHY?

When I asked some of my fellow bloggers this question, they thought it was because women were working practitioners with less time to be involved. I disagree with this, because a lot of the men – especially the active SHRM volunteers – are working practitioners, too.

My theory is that women tend to shy away from professional opportunities and development, because “cultural messages undermine their leadership”, as argued most recently by Sheryl Sandberg and her Lean In manifesto. So the “extra” work of blogging or volunteer leadership is dismissed by a large percentage of the female HR pros.

And while I love the conversations and connections I have with these smart and savvy men of HR who blog and those who work so tirelessly for SHRM and its affiliates,  I am a little dismayed that more women aren’t represented, given the larger number of working HR pros who are female.

What’s your theory?







From #SHRM13 – HR Pros Should Think Like Lawyers


Auguste Rodin The Thinker
Auguste Rodin The Thinker

When I was in law school, one of the directives I heard repeatedly from my professors was to “think like a lawyer”. When I became a law professor myself, I would implore my students to do the same.

“Thinking like a lawyer” isn’t an empty catchphrase used to humiliate law students. Search the term on Google and you will find how-to books written with that title, because it is a real skill that needs to be developed for law school – and eventual lawyering – success.

In its simplest form, thinking like a lawyer requires some basic steps:

  1. Pay attention to and analyze everything you see, hear, read and write.
  2. Think about the issue(s) or problem(s) that your analysis identifies.
  3. Use precise logic and specific evidence to support any conclusions about the resolution of the issue/problem.

Jumping through these mental hoops about everything is satisfying for the lawyer or law student, but it can make life frustrating for friends and loved ones who listen to the lawyer logically analyze even the simplest of situations.

But HR pros would be wise to use those lawyerly skills to help them sharpen their awareness of HR-related problems and issues, then using that awareness to confront and solve their HR challenges.

For example:

My first night in Chicago for #SHRM13 was last Saturday. A group of us went to dinner at a restaurant called Dick’s Last Resort. I didn’t know it before we got there, but it became evident early on that the entire staff at Dick’s was either irreverent or downright obnoxious and rude.

Because I was actively engaged in step #1 – analyze everything – it quickly became clear that the staff was behaving like this intentionally.  Thinking like lawyer then helped me identify the HR problem the staff behavior presented:  “How does this company hire obnoxious or rude servers to fit their culture?  Is this a training challenge or a hiring challenge or both?”

I haven’t gotten to step 3 yet, because that is going to take a little more research. But just analyzing the situation and discovering a problem helps me as an HR pro, because the existence of a corporate culture and how to identify it gets reinforced and I get reminded that hiring requires a big look at cultural fit.  By actively engaging in those thinking skills – while I was out having a nice dinner with friends – I can become a more thoughtful, aware HR pro. Researching their specific ways of hiring for cultural fit will give me a practical take-away.

Try practicing this critical thinking skill once every day until you find that you can understand and analyze a situation quickly and succinctly, and see the HR implications or issues presented. You will truly become a better HR pro.

Beware of voicing all of this to your dinner companions, though, because they may not want to eat with you any more. 😉


What’s Fun at #SHRM13?

Starting this Saturday (June 15th) I will be attending the annual SHRM-a-ganza (#SHRM13)  in Chicago, one of my favorite American cities. That should serve to warn you that this post, and several more to come, will be about SHRM. Or something someone discussed, wore, gave away, or found at SHRM13 or in Chicago. Let’s begin, shall we?



The annual SHRM conference attracts almost 20,000 HR and related discipline professionals to its learning sessions, speeches, discussions, and events. SHRM has a reputation for being a conservative organization, and to a large degree their annual conference reflects that. Most learning sessions have a pretty traditional focus, like “Drive Results with HR Metrics and Workforce Analytics”. Sounds sexy, huh? Vendors? Most of them are old school vendors we know, love, and are totally bored with. They are  HRIS providers, background checkers, and recruiting firms.

But sometimes a function, event, or vendor at SHRM13 jumps out and sounds downright fun.

Here’s what sounds fun to me:

Vendor – Rocket Lawyer

I just love the name of this company, Rocket Lawyer, which provides legal services and/or advice as an employee benefit. It seems to me that it only takes a second or two to say “it depends” when someone has a legal question, which is probably how they got their name. But it is a fun, attention grabbing name, so I think I’ll stop by this booth and see how you can buy lawyer services for “less than the cost of a boxed lunch” as they promise.

Learning Session – Stand Up Comedy

Who would not want to go to a session called “Comedy Training as a Culture Change Catalyst”? Yes, the co-founder of Peppercomm, a NYC communications and PR firm, is partnering with stand up comedian Clayton Fletcher to show HR how leaders should use comedy to engage employees. This should be worth a laugh/look.

Networking Event – Kickball

Yes, there are all kinds of parties networking events at SHRM13, promising food, drink, and the opportunity to get on someone’s email list. In fact, Blogging 4 Jobs keeps tally of these, and currently has 17 such functions listed. I am sure there are others.  But the most original, interesting event has to be playing kickball in Grant Park. Dovetail Software and Dice are partnering to sponsor this event, which is generously raising money for No Kid Left Hungry. I have physical limitations that prevent me from playing, but I was a cheerleader in junior high, so I will be adding my not-so-quiet voice from the sidelines.

Onsite Activity – LEGO

The Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI) is having a “playdate”, inviting the HR bloggers and media professionals to build a LEGO mini HR person. I’m not sure if this is going to be available to general attendees of the conference, but I desperately want to build an HR pro out of LEGO bricks. What better way to celebrate the award winning culture of The LEGO Group, acknowledge the importance of HR certification, and spend some joyful time acting like a child again?






#SHRMChat On Hiatus

Stats from the April 2013 SHRMChat
Stats from the April 2013 SHRMChat


noun, plural hi·a·tus·es, hi·a·tus.

1.  a break or interruption in the continuity of a work, series, action, etc.
2.  a missing part; gap or lacuna: Scholars attempted to account for the hiatus in the medieval manuscript.
3.  any gap or opening. (from

When I started SHRMChat in November 2011, I was on the Detroit SHRM board of directors as its first-ever social media manager. I knew I needed some discussion about establishing a social media policy and presence in a SHRM-affiliated local chapter, but the only people to really talk to were people actually outside the chapter.  I called a lot of friends on the phone, but I also knew that social media was the perfect tool to start a dialog among far-flung volunteers of other locals, without waiting for a leadership conference or formal meeting to get, give, share and reject ideas.

A monthly Twitter chat seemed like the ideal platform, so that’s what I started. As my good friend Steve Browne would say, I was geeked.

For a while, it worked exactly the way I thought it would. A small community came together and added their considerable expertise on issues such as conferences, membership, social media, programming, and advocacy. I also had fun.

But lately I have found that I have been struggling to maintain any kind of momentum with SHRMChat. I have a difficult time thinking of themes or topics, and a hard time finding speakers or guests. I no longer have a board position on a local affiliate, either, making me feel like an uniformed outsider.

So here we are, on the eve of the big national SHRM conference, and I have decided to step away from SHRMChat for a while. Yeah, my timing sucks, too.

I truly hope the break isn’t permanent, because I really enjoy the conversations and connections that SHRMChat gives me on a regular basis. I hope to use this interruption to find a way to bring SHRMChat back, with some different leadership and maybe some new blood.

If you have any interest in stepping up, or have suggestions to share, please let me know.


May 2013 #SHRMChat Cancelled

“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not after you.” – Jospeh Heller, Catch 22.


I’m beginning to think the gods really are after me. About a week and a half ago I explained a little about some physical limitations that were keeping me away from my keyboard. Since then, things like 6 days of no internet connectivity and sick dogs have conspired to keep me even further away. It is because of those issues that I am forced to cancel #SHRMChat, which should have been held tonight (May 14th). I plan on being back full force on June 11th at 8pm Eastern to discuss the annual SHRM conference. Forgive me now and join me then.


From the Archives – 5 Copyright Law Myths

(Friends, you may have noticed that I have not been doing much blogging lately. I have been suffering from a as-yet-undiagnosed illness that makes me very lethargic and unable to think clearly. I actually tried to make a phone call with the television remote last week. This has been compounded by a subluxated hip. That means that I took a nasty fall in my usual ungraceful way and twisted my left hip about 90 degrees. It hurts like hell. So while I am dealing with these issues, writing three to five hundred sensible and understandable words at one time is just too tough. Until I can get back on track, I will post some older blogs you may have missed. Thanks for your patience.)


(This was first posted by me in January 2010; I have updated it a little.)

Most of these things have irked me for a long time. But when I jumped (or maybe belly-flopped) into social media in 2009, I found these myths or misunderstandings were more pervasive and common than I expected, particularly among bloggers. And I still see them all the time. Grrrrrr.

MYTH #1: It’s spelled copywrite.

Okay, a misspelling is not a myth, but it bugs me.  Looking up the proper spelling would take about 15 seconds.

The reason it is called (and spelled) copyright is because the law gives the creator of certain “works of authorship” the exclusive right to reproduce (“copy”) that content.  It is not about writing, per se, because even though certain writings are protected creative content, so are such diverse creations as musical works, dramatic works, pantomimes, graphic works, and architectural works.

MYTH #2: You can’t copy my idea.

The foremost purpose of copyright law is to encourage individual effort as a way to advance public knowledge and culture.  By limiting copyright protection to the author’s method of expressing an idea, and not to the idea itself, others can create and disseminate more work and information.  If I have a great new idea for HR practice, and I blog about it, that idea is not protected and others may use it, even if they took the idea from my blog.  The only thing copyright law protects is the particular words I used to express the idea.  Some ideas are protected by other laws, such as patent law or trademark law, but the requirements for protection under those laws are very different and usually very stringent.

MYTH #3: I wrote that title and you can’t use it.

Names, titles, slogans, and short phrases are not copyrightable. Ever.  This is true even if it is unique or novel.

MYTH #4: I can copy your work because I don’t make money with my copy. 

This is probably a simplification of the “fair use” defense, but it is dangerous and inaccurate.  Under the fair use defense, the purpose and use of the infringing work, and whether that use is “commercial in nature”, is only one of four factors that a court might look at to determine whether there is actionable infringement.  Not making money with the copy is not definitive.   I don’t have the right to copy someone else’s blog and paste it here, no matter how much money I make – or don’t make – from it.

Determining if a copy is an infringement or is fairly used is actually very difficult.  There is purposefully no specific number of words, lines, or percentages.  Each complaint is determined on a case-by-case basis.  The best way to avoid any complaint from a copyright holder is to always get permission.  Acknowledging the source of your copy does not legally replace permission.

MYTH #5: I can copy your work because it does not say or show ©.

Under current law, neither notice (©) or registration is required for a copyright to attach to a given work.  A copyright is attached to original expression the moment it is fixed in a tangible form.  But registration of your copyright, while not required for your rights to attach, is desirable for a number of reasons.


If you are looking for more information, the U.S. Copyright Office has an excellent website with a great FAQ section.  It will even tell you how to protect your Elvis sighting.  I will be happy to answer other questions in the comments.


#SHRMChat March Recap


In case you are asking yourself if I made a mistake about including a preview of the April chat, the answer is, “Are you kidding?”  :-)  The April SHRMChat will be hosted by the HR Official Dave Ryan, and he will have the preview and questions on his blog here.

So what happened in March, with our topic of  “What role does and should SHRM and its state and local affiliates occupy in the HR profession?”

 Here is the summary, broken down by each specific question asked:

     1. SHRM national wants to be a professional society and not a membership association. Which is it to your affiliate?

This question prompted my favorite tweet of the night: “If SHRM wants to be a professional society, it needs to push value and not tote bags.” Thanks to John Jorgenson for that response, which sums up the basic attitude of the participants: SHRM’s idea is a good one, but its actions don’t match its message, making most chatters highly skeptical of SHRM’s ability to change the perception of them as a society.

     2. What are the benefits, if any, of a “professional society”? Are they different for a mere membership association?

Most chatters felt that the primary benefit of being a professional society is a large emphasis on professional development of the HR industry as a whole, and not just on the individual development of its members. But while the chat participants were somewhat in agreement that a professional society is more desirable, there was a scattershot discussion of how to achieve that goal with absolutely no consensus of opinion.

     3. Should SHRM and your chapter embrace the middle, or stretch the boundaries of the HR profession as a whole?

Stretching the boundaries of the profession was desired by most SHRMChat people, but there was a sizable minority of people (including me) who had some doubts about the effectiveness of this type of strategy. One of the themes of the dissenters, which ran through the entire evening discussion but was prevalent in this question, was that the size of the chapter has a lot of impact on the ability to embrace some of these forward strategies, with smaller locals at a distinct disadvantage.


     4. How can one association meet the needs of the CHRO and the HR administrator?  Should they?

The majority of the chatters were optimistic that all levels of the HR profession could be reached with one professional society, BUT – and it was a large but, echoing the discussion of the first question, there has to be a very different approach by SHRM than is currently the norm. Several suggestions were put forth, including


“Know your audience and create content specifically for it”

“Have roundtables or other alternatives to address different levels of practitioners”

“Focus on professional development versus a program at a monthly meeting.”


Thanks again to our guests Steve Browne and Donna Rogers for their insight from the SHRM Regional Leadership Conference!

Tune into our next SHRMChat on Tuesday, April 9th at 8 pm Eastern/7 pm Central.


Sleeping With the Boss

Joan Harris Mad Men Season 5
Actor Christina Hendricks as Joan Harris

I’ll admit it – I’m a maddict. “Maddict” is the term that some sarcastic journalists have given to the die-hard, take no prisoners fans of the TV show Mad Men. “Like bordering on Trekkie.”

One of the many – and there ARE many – reasons I love this show is that it makes me think a lot about women in the workforce and their struggles. Some people dismiss those struggles as historical issues, because the show takes place in the 1960’s. But to believe that things are so different now is to deny that women still fight to overcome traditional attitudes about their abilities and suitability for the upper echelons of business.

Last season (“The Other Woman”, Season 5), one of the female characters was asked to sleep with a potential client in order to help her advertising firm land a lucrative account for Jaguar.  The character, Joan Holloway Harris, is the Director of Agency Operations at the ad agency Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, a title given to her for a lot of extra work, but with no additional pay, recognition, or reduction of her secretarial duties.

So despite her initial protestations that she was being asked to prostitute herself, Joan ultimately agreed to sleep with the client in exchange for a 5% voting partnership in the agency. She agreed because her marriage was crumbling, she had a young child to support, and she had been unsuccessful in her efforts to break free of the female chains that bound her to a continually subservient position at work, even though she had repeatedly demonstrated her business smarts and talent.

Initially, I was shocked. I didn’t believe the character Joan (one of my two favorites on the whole show) would have made that decision, and I was terribly judgmental about her sleeping with the ultimate boss – the client. In fact, Joan had already slept with one of the partners (Roger Sterling, father of her baby) with absolutely no positive impact on her career.

“Where’s her self-esteem?” I cried. “How could she possibly do this to herself?”

But the more I thought about her situation – it aired in May 2012 so I have been thinking a long time – I thought “who am I to judge this woman?”

This was not a case of sexual harassment, where negative employment consequences were going to rain down on her if she didn’t consent, presenting her with a false choice. Her career was already suffering because simply she was a female. Joan chose to use the best advantage she had to further a stalled career. She chose to do with her own body what she thought was best for her.

This was not a case of rape, like the recent Steubenville case where a teenaged girl did not have enough physical and mental capacity to consent, or make a choice.

If I believe that a woman has the right to make a choice NOT to use her sexuality and to maintain control over her own body, then I must – MUST – believe that she has the right to do the opposite. If I believe in the right of a woman to control her own body and have an abortion, then I must give her the right to control her body to sleep with her boss if she wants to, for whatever her reasons. I will feel sad for our working women that are still confronted with the sexism that makes these choices necessary, but I will no longer judge the woman for doing what she thinks it takes.

Her body, her choice.

It’s not a lot different than landing a job because your partner is in a position to influence the person doing the hiring. I went to work for my husband’s company, so I guess I got a job because I slept with the boss.

I was a good hire for my employer and good at my job – so who should care?

Not you.





#SHRMChat – February Recap and March Preview



In February, SHRMChat happened to fall on the evening of the State of the Union address, so we teamed up with SHRM’s Governmental Advocacy Team, who was already holding its own #GATChat around that topic. We were fortunate to have Chantral Bibral from SHRM as our guest, and we posted these three questions:

  1. Are you currently engaged in advocacy activities on behalf of the HR profession? If not, why? If yes, what do you find most gratifying about your engagement in public policy?
  2. What challenges or road blocks do you face in your advocacy efforts? How can SHRM help your group become successful advocates on behalf of the HR profession?
  3. What HR public policy issues are most important to you and why?

I am not going to separate the discussion for each question, because the summary of the evening’s chat is simple: SHRM members – at least those represented by chatters who attended – don’t care about advocacy. The answer to question #1 was a definitive “no” – chapters/councils are not engaged because there is not enough time and interest in this area to do anything meaningful. In fact, the word apathy could be used to describe our entire February chat, as well as the attitude toward the topic by those brave few who participated.  I think this topic might be revisited in the future if things change a bit.

I would like to thank Chantral again for being our guest, though. It has been hard for SHRM to embrace unfiltered and uncontrolled social media from outsiders, but they were there and willing in February.

March 2013 Preview

In February, SHRM holds a Regional Leadership Summit for State Council Directors, so while their memories are fresh, I have asked Steve Browne, Ohio State Council Director, and Donna Rogers, SHRM Membership Advisory Comittee (MAC), to be our guests on SHRMChat to discuss issues that may have been brought forward during this summit. Based on that, our March topic will be “What role does and should SHRM and its state and local affiliates occupy in the HR profession?”

These are the questions:

  1. SHRM national wants to be a professional society and not a membership association. Which is it to your affiliate?
  2. What are the benefits, if any, of a “professional society”? Are they different for a mere membership association?
  3. Should SHRM and your chapter embrace the middle, or stretch the boundaries of the HR profession as a whole?
  4. How can one association meet the needs of the CHRO and the HR administrator?  Should they?


Join the #SHRMChat discussion on Twitter – Tuesday, March 12th at 8 pm EST/7 pm CST.

Don’t forget to add a name or three to the “Crowdsourcing SHRM Speakers List here before then!


The Customer Isn’t Always Right

I gave this jar to my partner as a gift once, because he was responsible for customer complaints.
I gave this jar to my partner as a gift once, because he was responsible for customer complaints.


Back in my uniformed police officer days, I once responded to a call at a home our department had visited many, many times. The calls were always of the neighbor/family/kid trouble kind, and the woman who called was often unreasonable and irrational.

I was walking up the driveway alone, because our department was a small one, and working in a double car – two officers – was rare. As I approached the house, the occupant came out her front door and onto the porch. She pointed her finger at me and yelled, “NO! I want a real cop here!”

I stopped and said, “Ma’am. I am a real police officer. If you don’t want ME here, then I presume you don’t need the services of the police.” She continued yelling that she wanted someone “real”, so I returned to my patrol car. I radioed into the dispatcher that the caller didn’t want my services. Then I left.

You may be able to guess what happened next. The woman had apparently called the station and spoken with a supervisor, and another police officer – a male – was sent to take the call instead.

I was livid.

I thought – and think to this day – that she should have been told that a competent, sworn police officer was available to handle her complaint, that she didn’t have the right to choose on the basis of sex, and that no other officer should have been dispatched.

I was recently reminded of this incident after reading about a Flint, MI hospital that allegedly granted a new father’s request that his baby not be looked after by any African-American nurses, one nurse in particular. There is some dispute about whether the father’s request was actually granted, but one statement from the hospital CEO said, “We regret that our policies were not well enough understood and followed . . .” I don’t think this statement leaves much doubt that the nurse in question was somehow prevented from doing her job for this white baby.

HR writers and thinkers – including me – implore HR to have a larger sense of the business that employs them, including an increased awareness of and attendance to the customers that fund them and their departments. But cases like mine, and the hospital in Flint, should serve as a cautionary tale to be sensible about what the customer is asking the employees to do. HR managers should train their employees to managers to ask one simple question:

 Is the customer’s request reasonable and non-discriminatory to the employee?

If the answer is NO, tell the customer to take a hike.


(Do you have any stories of unreasonable or crazy customer service requests? Share them in the comments.)