Is It Ever Right to Break the Law?


I adopted this dog from the Humane Society Naples (HSN) yesterday.


Some of you may be saying, “BFD. Happens all the time.” But hear me out before you exit, because my particular story has a moral dilemma that could use your input.

You see, in order to adopt Macie, who I had been fostering for the past 6 weeks, I had to clear 2 hurdles.

One problem is that HSN doesn’t generally allow fosters to keep and adopt their charges, because they are in danger of losing the volunteer’s services. If you know anything about animal shelter and adoption, you know that foster homes are in short supply and big demand by shelters and rescue groups everywhere. So the rule or policy is a benefit (easy, less-costly adoption) versus risk (losing volunteers) issue.

With the first problem, I felt that the shelter could make their own benefit-risk assessment and do what they felt was best. And they knew that, as a foster, I wasn’t going to leave them.

The second hurdle was, in my mind, the BIG ONE. Collier County, the political jurisdiction where I officially live, has the same 3- dog-per-household limitation that almost every urban area in the USA has. I already have 3 dogs, and we’re not talking internal policy here, we’re talking LAW.

There are good reasons why these dog limitation laws exists.  Barking, wandering, odor, hoarding, and other signs of improperly cared for dogs is a nuisance to others, and the more dogs one has the bigger the nuisance can be. But regardless of the merits of the law, we don’t let individuals decide whether a law is worthy of enforcement.  As a former police officer, I strongly believe that is the way it should be. I can imagine the damage that might ensue if we let each driver decide if it was necessary to stop at a red light, or if an employer could decide whether overtime was justified after a 40-hour work week.

Think about your internal HR policies, too. One of the things you know is that they must be consistently enforced, or they will have no legal teeth when you really need them to. If you decide that employee A,B, and C should  follow the policy, but employee X and Y don’t have to, you have lost your credibility, and makes it hard to enforce that policy  at all.

In other words, sometimes a risk-benefit analysis just doesn’t cut it.

So what do I do when I want to adopt a 4th dog who fits into my household, is quiet and well-behaved, and will not overrun my 1 and 1/3 acre, totally fenced in property? Do I break the law? And does the shelter overlook that law when they know that the animal – and they – would benefit?

Based on the first sentence of this post, you know what happened.

But was I – and were they – right?


I would really like to hear your thoughts about this.  Individual consideration or uphold the law/policy/rule? And who will bail me out if the Collier County Sheriffs Office reads this? Comments appreciated. :-)



#SHRMChat – January Recap and February Preview



Last month participants were asked to “think outside the lines.”  We wanted to know if chapters/councils attempted to promote programs and conferences outside of their specific geographical area, and if there were benefits or disadvantages to doing so. We asked

  • Q1. Does your state or local promote your conference or program to those who live outside of your boundaries? Why or why not?

Most of the participants did not actively promote their programs outside of their geographical area, although many relied on social media and word of mouth to do so in an informal way. Some felt that there were geographical disadvantages to doing this in their specific state and other chatters stated that they were met with some resistance from other councils when they asked to promote their conference. It was suggested that if some locals made an attempt to hold joint meetings, state councils and SHRM national might be able to interact with more chapters.

  • Q2. Do you have specific strategies to suggest for promoting your conference to other states without creating internal jealousies or competition concerns?

The chat participants were a little stumped by this question, not seeing why outside promotion of their programs and conferences would cause others to be concerned with competition.

  • Q3. Have you ever attended a conference outside of your state (not including SHRM national conferences)? Why?

Most of the chat participants, social media devotees that they are, had attended conferences outside of their state. They were quick to point out, though, that most people were limited in time, resources, and geography, limiting the likelihood of multiple-conference attendance.

  • Q4. What are the benefits or disadvantages of attending other conferences?

Cost, travel time, and missed work were mentioned repeatedly as disadvantages of attending conferences or programs outside of traditional boundaries. The most frequently mentioned advantages were networking and the building of personal relationships. I was surprised that the potential diversity of program offerings was not mentioned in this discussion, although I personally believe in that as a major advantage.

  • Q5. Based on tonight’s discussion, will you do ONE thing you will do to promote your program outside of the state or to change your attendance plans to include another state? Name it.

Most of the chatters agreed that there was sufficient advantage for them to invest in the concept to some degree. One chatter mentioned running announcements in neighboring states via LinkedIn. Another made a commitment to attend another state conference, and yet another participant vowed to promote their future state conference to neighboring states. Everyone agreed that social media can help chapters and councils think outside of their geographic lines.

FEBRUARY 2013 PREVIEW – Government Advocacy

SHRM National recognizes that it is at necessity for the human resources professional to be concerned about public policy. To that end, they have an Advocacy Team (the “A-Team”) to help create a relationship and dialog with legislators to help them understand relevant issues. But advocacy isn’t just a national issue – it means involving people at the state and local level, too. So we’ll discuss that issue this month, with special guest Chatrane Birbal, who is SHRM’s Senior Member Advocacy Specialist. Our suggested questions are:

  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 only posting a few questions this month because after the 1st half-hour, I am going to add the hash-tag #GATChat to our discussion, which is the official chat hosted by the SHRM Advocacy Team during  the State of the Union address. We hope that our participants will stay for at least a while and join in the #GATChat.


Join the #SHRMChat discussion on Twitter – Tuesday, February 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!


2nd Annual Tim Sackett Day – Paul Hebert



Somehow I missed the first Tim Sackett day.

Maybe it was because last year at this time I was coping with a recent move from Michigan to Florida. Maybe it was because January 23rd is the day before my birthday and I’m always feeling too sorry for myself and my fading years to give a shit about anyone else.

But I am here for the second Tim Sackett day. I am here to honor a HR practitioner who does great work but isn’t likely to end up on an arbitrary influencer list.

I’m here because I know and love Paul Hebert.

I met Paul in early November 2009, at the very first HRevolution in Louisville. Paul led what we came to call the “baby blogger” session – the session for people who were beginning HR bloggers or thinking about blogging, or who didn’t blog but who didn’t have anywhere else to go. With kindness, thoughtfulness, and the smartest sense of humor I have ever seen, Paul taught that group of wide-eyed, blogger innocents that it was okay to try, to fail, and to try again. There are several of us from that class who started blogging about HR and related issues after that class – and are still doing so today.

Since then, Paul has been a help to me anytime I have asked him for it – and even if I didn’t.  He showed up at my Twitter #SHRMChat last October when we were discussing maximizing membership, just to be supportive and because he knows everything about incentivizing your people there is to know.


Now he  is inspiring me in a different way.

Paul has cancer, you see. Cancer scares the shit out of me, because three of my siblings have already died from cancer, and my mother had it, too, although her heart quit before the cancer killed her.  To me the big C is more of a matter of when, and not if.

But Paul is facing his cancer with his customary wicked humor and smart style. He started a blog called Peestrong – bladder cancer, so the title of the blog perfectly reflects his smarts – where he details his journey through this debilitating illness. I find myself reading his entries over and over, hoping that I can face my eventual cancer with the same type of thought and graceful wit he has shown me.

Yes, Paul is a force in the online, #trenchHR world that deserves recognition and credit. To me, though, he is much, much more.

Check him out – I know you won’t be sorry.





Your Job Descriptions Are Unhealthy

In my house, the longest ingredient label is on canned dog food.
In my house, the longest ingredient label is on canned dog food.

I am one of those people who block your way in the grocery store aisle while I carefully read the ingredient label on almost everything I take off the shelf.

I do it because I am pretending to be conscience about my health, and part of that awareness,  I’ve been told, is to avoid certain ingredients and additives that are going to kill me quickly.

I have realized lately that this is just so much bullshit, really, because truly healthy eating doesn’t require reading any labels. Not one. Because where is the healthiest food in the grocery store?

It’s in the produce section – where there are no ingredient labels on a bunch of spinach or carrots. Or in the fresh meat, poultry, or seafood section,because a piece of fish doesn’t need any label.  A loaf of bread has a relatively large list of ingredients, but a bag of flour describes just one, like  “unbleached white” or “whole wheat”.

The more over-engineered and over-processed a food item is, the longer the list of ingredients. The longer that list is, the more likely it is that you shouldn’t be eating the food if you are interested in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

The same could be said of that staple of HR practice: the job description.

Read a standard job description from your basic company. It’s full of ingredients, most of which aren’t any more healthy or understandable than “sodium acid pyrophosphate” or “acesulfame potassium”.  It says things like “able to compile and analyze performance data that support decision-making for resource allocation and subsequent campaigns“. Or how about “able to develop a strategic decision-making, prioritization, and governance process“?


Those phrases came from an actual job description – found on the web – for a marketing director. I like this one better, for a similar job, but from a different company: Be an all-around marketing goddess (or god).

Simple. Understandable. Healthy.

Health experts will tell you to avoid eating foods that have more than 5 ingredients in their nutrition label. I have a feeling that most HR pros will argue to the death that there is no way they can limit their job description to 5 qualities or functions. Fair enough.  But if you are an HR pro, look at your job descriptions and ask yourself this:

Can I briefly and succinctly explain what this description/qualification is and why it is essential to this job?

If you can’t, get rid of it. If you can, reduce the qualification/description to less than 10 easy to understand words.

Your job description, and your company, will be healthier.



Does Your HR Policy Really Matter?



It was in August 25 years ago – give or take – when the whole family was preparing to attend the Michigan Renaissance Festival. August in Michigan is pretty hot, and usually pretty humid, so summer clothing was the choice I expected my kids to make when they were getting dressed.

My oldest daughter Amy, about 4 at the time, showed up at the station wagon wearing a typical summer shorts outfit but with a strange footwear choice. She was wearing winter boots.

Not those cute little suede Uggs that celebs and other fashionistas wear today, but kid’s Michigan winter boots – rubber with fake fur linings and toppers, suitable for snow and slush. I think they were pink.

My husband told her to take off the boots and put on more appropriate footwear, like sandals or tennies. She refused. I chimed in and said I didn’t give a damn what she wore on her feet and let’s just leave already, which, of course, caused a massive argument between me and the hubby.

We went to the Festival with my daughter in her winter boots, my husband and I barely speaking.

It didn’t really matter to anyone but my daughter what she wore on her feet, did it?  She wasn’t in danger of injury or illness or inability to perform her duty to enjoy herself. If her feet got too hot or she was embarrassed – it was her problem to learn from, not mine or my husband’s. And she was old enough to learn that lesson if necessary. And having our family “firm” slowed down over the footwear of a 4 year old was, in my opinion, unnecessary and counter-productive.

But many employers  have decided that their business somehow cannot function properly if they don’t tell you what to wear, how to behave, or what kind of pictures you can have on your wall. I once interviewed at a law firm where the lawyer hid his child’s colorful crayon drawings behind a door, so they wouldn’t “offend his partners”. (I didn’t go to work at that law office!)

In other words, employers treat their employees like 4-year-olds – or in ways that parents can treat a 4-year-old, even if they shouldn’t.  And HR is forced to write endless policies trying to control behavior that doesn’t really matter to the successful operation of the business.

Remember the Serenity Prayer?  It was plastered all over dorm walls and offices when I was young:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

HR should go through every single policy and ask, “Does it really matter if employees do or don’t do this?” Then they should look on their wall or divider and recite my version:

God (or whatever works for you) grant me the serenity to accept the behavior that doesn’t matter
The courage to write a simple policy only when it does
And the wisdom to know the difference.

Do you still think I should have made my daughter change her boots?

All of the footpaths at that Festival were wet and muddy, and it turned out that, despite the fine summer weather, she was the only one who came home with clean, dry feet.

Think of that when you analyze whether your policy really matters to the bottom line of your company.



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#SHRMChat – December Recap and January Preview


December Recap


Like many workplaces during the December holidays, SHRMChat was pretty quiet during December. We had the usual gang of suspects, but no newbies or novices. Hopefully we can attract more people from outside of the HR social media bubble in 2013. Tell your friends and acquaintances to join us!

That doesn’t mean that our questions weren’t discussed, because our regulars are never at a loss for words. Here are the questions posed, with a quick summary of the discussion that followed.

  •  Does your chapter or council do anything to recognize December holidays for their members? SHOULD THEY?

There were as many different responses to this question as there were people chatting. Some chapters take the month off, some have special holiday themed events, and some chapters focused on charity events. It was the general opinion of the chatters, though, that December should be a time for board, holiday, or recognition programs and charity-based works. Take the focus off chapter or council events during the holidays.

  •  People in the HR discussion space often call for HR to get out of the party-planning and gift-giving business.  Do you agree? If parties and gifts are not the responsibility of HR, who should be taking care of them?

Participants in the December SHRMChat were almost unanimous in their belief that holiday parties should not be an HR-only function. But they were split almost down the middle into two groups: (1)HR should jettison all parties, or (2) All work groups or departments should contribute in some way to holiday functions. What do you think HR should do – let me know in the comments for a future discussion.

  •  Other than cash or praise, what is the best or worst year-end gift you have ever received from an employer?

The majority of our December attendees didn’t receive any kind of year-end gift, so the best and worst answers were a little sparse. Here were a few of my favorites: Best (1) Getting off work early, and (2) Layoff notice from a hated job. Worst (1) Forced to work through Christmas party, and (2) a cheap plaque.

  •  Do you have a resolution for your chapter/council for 2013? What is the most important thing  your chapter/council should do in 2013?

Mostly our December chatters wanted more and better chapters – more members, a bigger and better conference, greater support to students, and a better system to find/rate speakers. Don’t forget to support the Wisconsin effort to rate speakers here!


January Preview – Thinking Outside of the Lines

Does your chapter or council focus your marketing and program attendance on members or potential members inside of your specific geographical area? Do you, as a SHRM member, confine your program attendance to your own state or local?  The January SHRMChat will discuss the potential benefits of attending and promoting outside of your geographical box or lines. Here are a few questions; feel free to add your own during the chat!

  • Q1. Does your state or local promote your conference or program to those who live outside of your boundaries? Why or why not?
  • Q2. Do you have specific strategies to suggest for promoting your conference to other states without creating internal jealousies or competition concerns?
  • Q3. Have you ever attended a conference outside of your state (not including SHRM national conferences)? Why?
  • Q4. What are the benefits or disadvantages of attending other conferences?
  • Q5. Based on tonight’s discussion, will you do ONE thing you will do to promote your program outside of the state or to change your attendance plans to include another state? Name it.

#SHRMChat is held on Twitter the 2nd Tuesday of every month at 8 pm EST/7pm CST. Join our next chat on January 8th!

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Go Beyond Random Acts in 2013

(I am having some technical problems with my blog, kids, including the inability to insert photos and links. I’m pretty techno-challenged, so please bear with me. I’ll fix it sooner. Or later. Maybe a lot later.)

By now you have probably heard about the 26 Random Acts of Kindness campaign, where people are being encouraged to do 26 acts in honor of the victims of the Newtown/Sandy Hook tragedy.

 Here is a small sampling of acts I found on Twitter, searching  #26acts:

  •  Helped an elderly woman with her luggage.
  • Sent books to troops.
  • Left a 100% tip at a restaurant.
  • Made hot chocolate for my uncle.
  • Donated money to [various causes].
  • Donated blood.
  • Paid the toll for the driver behind me.

While I applaud any kind of kindness done for whatever reason, I can’t help but look at some of these acts and think that they should not be random at all, but should be regular acts that we all perform for each other almost every day. Helping people with their physical burdens, donating blood and money, and supporting our troops should not wait to be done randomly when a national tragedy occurs, but should be woven into the fabric of all of our lives.

 So if you are considering a change in your life, as most of us tend to do at a new year, consider making this your resolution:

 I resolve to be a kinder person and do something every day that helps another.

In other words – ditch the “random”. And while you are making yourself a better person, consider adding one or both of these resolutions:

 Fix a mistake involving another person. 

We all have broken connections with people that we should mend – old friends or relatives that have been distanced by time or circumstances. Earlier this week a friend posted on Facebook that the only thing he wanted for Christmas – which he didn’t get –  was a call from someone from whom he was estranged. Now as never before we have tools to help us rebuild these connections; I search Facebook and other online social groups regularly for people with whom I have lost touch but whose presence would enrich my life if I could get them back. It was a mistake to lose touch in the first place – try hard to fix it. Don’t wait for the other person to come to you. Reach out – again and again if necessary.

 Volunteer your time to the disadvantaged.

Volunteering for professional organizations like SHRM is great, but if you really want to make an impact you should consider helping the truly unfortunate.  Giving money is nice, but giving your time is the most precious donation of all.  There is no shortage of organizations that could use your help – abused women and/or children, literacy programs, homeless advocacy, or animal rescue and foster (my personal passion). It’s unfortunate that our society has this kind of need, but it’s even worse that we all look to everyone else to fix the problem. Start being part of the solution by contributing your time and talent.

Don’t stop helping the elderly with their luggage or the mother struggling with packages and a stroller with the door. That help should become as regular and natural as breathing. And put some real effort into finding the people you have lost and helping those people and creatures that would be lost without you.


What a Tech Guy Said About HR

HR conferences are – or should be – about connecting as well as learning. If you look beyond the person sitting next to you in a session or at the same lunch table, you can find all kinds of people who can give you a different view of things.

During the fall conference season, I had the opportunity to talk to an IT/tech vendor several times when he responded to various issues in the conference venue. I’m not sure if he was hired by the HR group running the conference or by the facility, but it was clear that he had spent a lot of time dealing with the HR community just previous to and during the conference. I won’t tell you which conference, and I’ll just call him Kevin because I don’t want to identify him and possibly get him in trouble. 😉

So I asked him, “What do you think of HR people now that you have worked with them so closely on this conference?”

Do his answers surprise you?

  1.  HR cares only about operations and is unadaptable.  Kevin explained that HR is “all about process”.  HR wants to follow a script, even when it is clear that the script needs to be adjusted or has failed to work in a particular situation.  Thinking strategically and changing things doesn’t happen, even when it is necessary to fix a problem or deal with an unexpected event.
  2. HR doesn’t understand human value or compensate it appropriately. Kevin was stunned by the fact that there were people working during the conference – volunteers – that had paid their full registration fee to attend. “I work a lot of conferences”, he said, “and no one – NO ONE – works at a conference after paying to get in.”
  3.  HR certification is meaningless. It didn’t take long for Kevin to notice that no one was keeping track of attendance and that many people left the sessions long before the end. “How can someone get certification credits for something they left midway through?”

If you follow the online HR chatter even a little bit, you know that many, many HR writers have similar complaints and make similar arguments over and over again.

What no one seems to be able to address, though, is WHY. Why are people still making the same complaints about HR?

Maybe we should ask the IT/Tech department to fix it, because HR isn’t.


SHRMChat – November Recap and December Preview


Our November SHRMChat was all about programs. Here are the questions asked, followed by a brief recap of the discussion.

Q1.How do you determine programming for a year, and how far in advance are programs scheduled?

There was a lively discussion about how far in advance programs are planned, often a year or so before, and the need to be more responsive to current affairs and issues. Sometimes, our chatters thought, programs planned so far in advance become stale. It was then mentioned that people still tend to like old topics, which created a discussion around whether programs should be geared toward what attendees want or what planners think they need.

Q2. Do you pay for speakers, or other parts of your program, such as room rental or food?

The general consensus is that speakers are almost always free, and that other program costs, such as rooms and food, vary. This led to a discussion about the quality of free speakers, invoking the old saying, “you get what you pay for.”

Q3. Where do you find most of your speakers?  Do you actively recruit them?

Chatters stated that it is very hard for chapters and councils to find quality speakers. It has been mentioned before that there should be a database of dates/names/topics that chapters could access, perhaps maintained by SHRM. Matt Stollak, Director of Social Media for Wisconsin, called for a Yelp or Urban Spoon- type list of reviews for speakers. The name “WikiSpeaks” was suggested by a clever chatter. Matt decided to put his money where his mouth is and started a speaker list. You should visit it here and add your thoughts.

Q4. Are there other programs besides a traditional “speaker with power point” that you are doing?

The answer to this was a resounding ‘no”. Participants felt that the need for HRCI credits limited alternative programming.

Q.5. How do you evaluate the success of your programs?

Some groups are using Survey Monkey and some a printed evaluation form or email. Attendance numbers was also cited as a way to determine the success of a program.


December is the month of holiday and year-end celebrations, so SHRMChat will jump on that bandwagon and ride it along. In addition to asking about how your SHRM affiliated chapter or council deals with the holiday, we will talk about parties and celebrations in the broader HR world, too.

  • Q1. Does your chapter or council do anything to recognize December holidays for their members? SHOULD THEY?
  • Q2. People in the HR discussion space often call for HR to get out of the party-planning and gift-giving business.  Do you agree? If parties and gifts are not the responsibility of HR, who should be taking care of them?
  • Q3. Other than cash or praise, what is the best or worst year-end gift you have ever received from an employer?
  • Q4. Do you have a resolution for your chapter/council for 2013? What is the most important thing  your chapter/council should do in 2013?

#SHRMChat is found on Twitter the second Tuesday of every month at 8:00 pm Eastern/7:00 pm Central. Join us on December 11th!




Get Outta’ My Chair (and Off My Toilet)

Botsford Cancer Center (Michigan). Only a teeny tiny sliver of MY chair is visible all the way to the left (behind the counter).


During my first two years of undergrad I lived in a older dormitory, the kind with a bedroom for two people and community bathrooms and showers on each floor for all residents to share.

The bathroom had about 10 individual stalls, but I always – and I do mean always – used the same one. For two years. If my stall was occupied when I entered the bathroom, which rarely happened, I waited if I could, even if all the other stalls were empty.

Goofy, right?

If you think about it, though, you probably do the same. Maybe not with a toilet, but by using the same chair in your dining room, kitchen, or family room.  Jokes abound about people and their demand for their kids or dogs to get out of THEIR chair. Sitting in a nearby chair – even if the view, seat, or ambience is better – makes most people extremely uncomfortable. And really, isn’t sleeping on the same side of the bed every night the same thing?

A friend of mine who is dealing with bladder cancer recently started a blog about his journey. In his blog he mentioned that he had found HIS chair at the chemo center. I get it, bro’, because I visit a chemo center, too, where I receive infusions for chronic iron deficiency anemia. In two different states I have done the same – found a chair I liked and then sat there every single visit.  Unless some moron was in MY chair.  😉

I have no idea why people do this. Even people who are normally adventuresome, eating new foods and trying new things, will still find their way to the same chair (and probably toilet, but no one mentions that part) in their daily routines.

People like me who blog in the HR/talent management/workplace space are often telling people that they should not let the fear of failure prevent them from trying, because lack of trying is failure itself.

But not when it comes to changing your chair or toilet. I’m with all of you who will not ever consider it.


 Are you brave enough to admit your attachment to your seat?