Control Your Career: Make sure you work for you

We Work For Money

Every employment choice you make from your first job through retirement effects your career. Let’s be real: you work for money. When you have money, you work for causes. People who work in lower paying jobs that have more intrinsic value to them make enough money to sustain themselves doing what they want to do. That’s perfectly acceptable–enough money is there to work for that cause.
One of the few site gurus I’ve seen that has something fairly good to say is Susan Heathfield from About.com. Here’s an excerpt from one of her pieces on the subject:

“If you value helping people in need, you can anticipate a particular salary over the course of your career. As long as your values are more important than what you are paid, your choice is fine. But, you cannot set a goal of making a million dollars a year, make a career choice that pays $40,000 per year, and expect to be happy with your career decisions and the money you make over time.”

Now that makes sense, doesn’t it? Most people, however, don’t manage or even start their careers with that concept in mind. We all believe we should be paid enough to become millionaires no matter what we do. Life doesn’t work that way, so career planning is needed.

Take The Time To Plan

Unfortunately, we typically try to maximize value (either compensation or intrinsic) per job change, rather than maximize long term potential. Why? Because career planning takes time we don’t have–or don’t give ourselves. We don’t have time to look at our careers because most of us are working for someone else. Once we realize we need a job change, we try to get as much as we can for something we’re qualified to do because we have to feed the kids or pay the bills. The larger career goal (if there is one) is oftentimes lost in the necessity of making ends meet.

The best career management advisers coach us to have a long term view of our careers, to know where we’re going and how each step helps us get there. If we know the goal, we can always find a step that keeps us on course. If we know we want to work in a field that tends not to compensate well, we may decide to work for a finite period of time in a field that does until we’re ready to jump. Then, it doesn’t matter who we’re working for at any particular time if we pursue a change. We would know our path and know how to achieve our goals.

When you plan your career, no matter what responsibilities you have, you’re always working for yourself.

Career Management Tips

  1. Never be unemployed, even for a day. If you lose your job, volunteer immediately to put your skills back to work, for a friend, for a consultant, in a non-profit agency anywhere. Seek part-time, project, or consulting work as well as full-time employment, because part-time engagements tend to expand and go full time, whether you want them to or not.
  1. Keep your resume ready-to-fire. Last month two senior HR managers received job offers they “couldn’t refuse.” One is now the number two HR executive in a $6 billion manufacturing company, the other will soon build an HR infrastructure to take a fast-growth company public. Both these executives created high-impact resumes months before they needed them.
  1. Find mentors everywhere. As companies reduce headcount, pile on the work, and demand more productivity, the notion of having a mentor—an angel who guides you through your career—may be obsolete. What works now is to develop mentors everywhere. Reach out to anyone who might offer advice or ideas. Have a legal question? Call the lawyer you met in your computer class. Worried about negotiating a raise? Ask a co-worker to describe the approach they took. We are all co-mentors; we need each other. Reach out! Don’t feel you have to go it alone.
  1. Limit your success. Too much success can kill you. I’ve seen driven, type-A managers who can’t take a week off—even with a year’s severance in the bank. How smart is that? Ask yourself if the price you are paying for success is worth the toll on your body, your health, and your personal relationships. If the answer is no, re-evaluate your priorities and make some changes.
  1. A good English class, or advertising copywriting class, could add $20,000-$50,000 to your annual salary. Keep a dictionary and thesaurus near your desk, and keep business writing short—generally, the shorter the better. Cut five-page proposals to one page. Reduce one-page briefings to two paragraphs. Reduce two paragraphs to six high-impact bullet statements. In business, time is precious, so design your communications accordingly.
  1. Think of your career as public relations campaign and try to generate friendships and relationships as much as business results and cash. You have the work (task) and the income (money) and the company (environment)—but that isn’t all. You have your personal career which supersedes your present situation. Don’t get so focused on the present priorities and crises that you forget the bigger picture: chances are, you won’t always be in your present job, and you’ll need friends. One successful jobhunter said, “I create relationships; the relationships create the job offers.”

 

Now, I’m Unemployed…How Do I Get Paid?

If you have been laid off, fired, or downsized from your job, you may be entitled to state unemployment benefits.  The unemployment benefits are actually insurance policies that employers are required to pay for each employee.  Those funds may be released to the employee when they have been terminated depending on how long they have been employed and the reason for their termination.  Each state has different guidelines.  You can click on our link at the bottom to find out your state’s specific guidelines and to actually get information on filing your unemployment claim.  In the meantime, if you fall into one of the categories above, then, the following general tips are for you.

Step 1

Most states allow you to apply for your unemployment benefits via the telephone, the internet, and in person.  The sooner you apply for your benefits the better.  It typically takes 2-4 weeks for unemployment benefits to start and for you to receive your first check.

Step 2

Make sure that you have your employment documentation in order prior to filling your claim, such as employer name and address, dates of employment, and possibly the employer’s telephone number.  If you are unable to provide some of this pertinent information, your claim may be delayed or even denied.

Step 3

Check with your unemployment office to find out how long you will be eligible to receive your unemployment checks.  The average amount of time is for 26 consecutive weeks.  Fortunately, during terrible economic times, (i.e. 2008-2009), the U.S. Federal government sometimes extends the unemployment eligibility period from 26 weeks up to 52 weeks.

Step 4

Once you are approved for unemployment, the unemployment office will require you to file certain paperwork either weekly or bi-weekly, depending on your state, in order to keep your unemployment benefits active.  You can generally file the required information over the telephone or online.  You will also have to report to the state, any earnings you have received.

Step 5

While receiving unemployment benefits, you will have to consistently look for another job.  Most unemployment offices require you to send in some type of proof that you have been actively looking, such as the following:

  1. Name of the employer
  2. Job title
  3. Where you found the job posting
  4. If you applied online, via telephone or fax, or in person
  5. The date you applied for the job

You may, however, decline jobs that you are not qualified for or for which you do not have the required skill set.  There is usually a minimum number of jobs you must apply to each benefit filing period or you may not receive your unemployment check for that period.

Speak Like A Pro

Every time you speak to someone you are being evaluated, conclusions are drawn by the way you articulate yourself. A good vocabulary conveys smarts, success, and competency.

Language and thought are inseparable

You need words to think and to think you need words. If you don’t believe me, try to come up with a solution to a problem without thinking in words. You can’t – it’s just plain impossible. Language is the tool our minds use to think, plan, solve problems, and succeed.

Therefore, it follows that knowing more words gives your mind more ways to think about things and more tools to plan and solve problems. Having a better vocabulary literally improves your ability to think.

Here are our top ten suggestions for ways to build your vocabulary – enjoyably:

  1. Find things you enjoy reading. Read widely, perhaps trying out reading material that is in a different style than you would normally pick. But don’t force yourself to read material that genuinely bores you.
  2. Look out for new words as you read. Make a game of guessing at their meaning, then looking them up to see if you were right. You can learn a lot about a word from the context in which it is used, but it’s important to make sure you get the correct definition as well.
  3. Listen out for new words when people speak. Remember them and look them up later. Or better still, ask when you don’t know what they mean. Most people will love to share their knowledge and will think better of you for wanting to learn than if you just pretend to understand.
  4. Use one of the powerful software products available today to train yourself in important vocabulary power words in a fraction of the time it would take you by more old-fashioned means.
  5. When you learn a new word, find an opportunity to practice it as soon as possible. If you don’t find a conversation to use it in, how about using it in an email to a friend? Or you could even just use it when you talk to yourself!
  6. Circle or highlight words in your dictionary – the next time you happen to visit that page you’ll be unconsciously reviewing the word you learned last time.
  7. Subscribe to a word of the day service – be sure to use your new word the same day. Share it with a friend whenever you can.
  8. Try out new word games, and find friends to play them with regularly.
  9. Be goal oriented – have specific targets to hit as you build your vocabulary, and be sure to reward yourself when you achieve them.
  10. Use your imagination – when you learn a new word, play with it and bring it to life in your mind. This is how children learn and you can do the same. It will help you remember your new words almost effortlessly.

Most importantly, you should pick the methods that YOU enjoy the most, and use them regularly as you take your vocabulary to new levels of success.

Five Must Have’s at a Career Fair

1. Copies of your resume (25 to 40 depending on the event size). Be sure it represents your knowledge, skills, and abilities effectively. It needs to look professional – easy to read format on plain white or cream-colored paper – and be free of typos. If you are looking at several career options, you may want to have two or more targeted resumes with different career objectives!

2. A smile, a strong handshake, and a positive attitude. First impressions are important. Approach an employer, smile, and offer your hand when you introduce yourself.

3. A 30-second “infomercial.” Hand the recruiter a copy of your resume and be prepared to expand on it quickly! Share basic information about yourself and your career interests like this: “Hello, I’m Vicki Jonas. I’m a senior here at Windsor University and I’m an English major. I’m very interested in a marketing career. As you can see on my resume, I just completed an internship in the Marketing Division of the ABC Company in Phoenix. I’ve also taken some courses in business marketing. I’m very interested in talking with you about marketing opportunities with your organization.”

4. Information about the organizations that will be attending. Gather information as you would for a job interview. To maximize the brief time you have with each employer, you need to know how your skills and interests match their needs. And don’t just concentrate on the “big names.” There are often great opportunities with companies with which you are not familiar.

5. Energy! Career fairs require you to be on your feet moving from table to table for an hour or so. Each time you meet someone, be at your best, as refreshed as possible!

How To Start A Business Today

Many people think about starting their own business, however most never do, they become paralyzed with fear at the thought of branching out on their own. Most have become too accustomed to receiving a quote on quote guaranteed paycheck, which is only guaranteed as long as you have a job. Job loss and frustration is usually the wake up call that some people need to finally change direction, and realize a dream they’ve been talking about for far too long.

Bills have to be paid of course; which cause most people to engage in a manic search for a stop gap, anything to get some money coming in. But why take some poorly paying customer service job when you could be calling the shots running your own enterprise and possibly making way more within a year?

Leverage The Support You Need

If you have supportive spouse or partner, one good strategy is to team up and leverage the support you need. The concept is really simple: The person still employed agrees to support the home, pay the bills, and man the fort, while the other undergoes the challenge of a new business with tenacity. In some cases serious sacrifices may have to be made, especially in this economy. In other cases the spouse may make enough where the impact of pinch won’t be felt as intensely.

Planning is essential to the success of any new venture, a timeline and benchmarks need to be clearly set. A timeline of about a year is a good starting point (in other words you have a year to give it your all). Devoid of a clear deadline, the years can fly by and the amount of money pumped into the business can just keep skyrocketing. A year also provides enough time for evaluation to look at milestones and benchmarks, so you can see how well you are doing.

Now if you are flying solo and don’t have a partner who can support you while you launch your idea, there are some other options you should consider. The Rents, that’s right your parents, they may be able help you. If not, you can always get a job and spend time on the new business during your time off.

If you decide on the day job route, here are some rules you need to follow:

Set a clear-cut iron clad schedule to work on the business plan — perhaps 7 pm to 10 pm Monday to Friday and all day Sunday. If you are doing design or development work to launch a new product or service, this kind of schedule will most certainly make sense.

Take a night job or weekend if your business requires meeting clients and prospects during the day otherwise you are going to run into problems that could potentially cripple your new enterprise before it really even takes off.

Be disciplined set strict hours for work, and do not fall into the trap of sleeping in until noon and then trying to take a stab at it. Get up early, get started by 9, no excuses, and put in a full shift just like at the office. Stick to these rules and you’ll make great strides.

When Should a Business Call It Quits?

So how exactly do you know when it’s time to call it quits on your ailing business and file a  Bankruptcy petition?  Unfortunately, there’s no One True Answer to this question.  It’s going to depend on the value and type of the company’s assets, the cooperation (or lack thereof) of company creditors, and the willingness of management to oversee the entire process.

Sometimes, companies go out of business without the need to file for bankruptcy.  They simply liquidate their assets and wind down operations.  But, since creditors have a right to recover claims against the assets of a company, bankruptcy is sometimes necessary.  Of course, that becomes a moot point if the business has no assets.  It’s not very productive to sue a company that has absolutely nothing.

Filing for bankruptcy protection can protect assets from creditor action, freeing the business to use them for the payment of taxes and employees if the company is still viable enough to try and stay afloat.  In that case, filing for Chapter 11 (Reorganization) Bankruptcy is probably the best bet, since it doesn’t require that the company liquidate all of its assets.  Both Chapter 7 and Chapter 7 provide an automatic stay, which forces creditors to cease collection attempts while the case goes through the Bankruptcy Court.

Under Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, the plan must be affirmed by a vote of the creditors, divided into classes based upon the type and amount of their claims.  If the debtor fails to gain enough creditor votes to confirm the reorganization plan, the debtor can try to force the plan on the creditors by meeting specific statutory tests.  Unfortunately, only about 10% of all Chapter 11 reorganizations prove successful.  Businesses who hope to make it to that 10% need to seek out expert legal advice from bankruptcy attorneys, and be completely realistic at every stage of planning the reorganization.

Under chapter 7 Bankruptcy, a Court-appointed trustee liquidates all company assets, then pays all administrative and legal expenses associated with the bankruptcy before paying the remainder to creditors.  Secured creditors will have their collateral returned to them, and are then categorized with the unsecured creditors for any claims above the amount of that collateral.  Bondholders and other unsecured creditors must be notified of the Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, and should file appropriate claims in order to receive payments should there be enough money left over to pay them.  Businesses aren’t required to notify stockholders of the Chapter 7 case since there’s usually not enough left to repay their investment, but if the creditors have actually been paid in full, stockholders will be notified and allowed to file claims for any remaining funds.

Illegal job interview questions

#1: Where were you born?

This question might seem like small talk as you get to know a person, but it could also be used to gather information illegally about the candidate’s national origin. Although it may seem more relevant, you should also avoid asking, “Are you a U.S. citizen?” You can ask whether a candidate is authorized to work in the United States, but avoid asking about citizenship.

#2: What is your native language?

Again, the problem is that this question could be used to determine national origin. You can ask whether the person knows a language if it is required for the job. For example, if job responsibilities include supporting Spanish-speaking customers, it’s fair to ask whether the candidate speaks Spanish.

You sound like you have an accent; where are you from?

Exceptions: Employers are required to hire only those employees who can legally work in the United States. For that reason, employers can ask whether you are eligible to work in the United States.

#3: Are you married?

Here’s another question that would seem innocent in most settings, but definitely not in a job interview. Because you can’t discriminate on the basis of marital status, this question is off limits.

#4: Do you have children?

This might sound like small talk, too — an innocent question in most settings — but not in a job interview. It’s covered by a general prohibition about discrimination over parental status.

#5: Do you plan to get pregnant?

Exceptions: Employers can inquire whether you have ever worked under a different name or whether you have personal responsibilities that could interfere with requirements of the job like travel or overtime hours.

#6: How old are you?

Exceptions: The act does not prohibit interviewers from posing questions about age, but does prohibit discrimination on these grounds unless age directly affects the job. An employer can rightfully inquire whether the candidate meets the minimum federal age requirements for employment (usually 14-17 years old).

#7: Do you observe Ramadan?

You can’t discriminate on the basis of religion, so this question is illegal, as would be asking about Good Friday, Ramadan, or the Solstice. If you’re concerned about the candidate’s availability, you could ask whether he or she can work on holidays and weekends, but not about the observance of particular religious holidays.

#8: Do you have a disability or chronic illness?

This information is not supposed to be used as a factor in hiring, so the questions are illegal. Exceptions: Employers may ask whether you have any conditions that would keep you from performing the specific tasks of the job for which you are applying. They may also require that all candidates for a certain position pass through a medical examination that is relevant to the responsibilities of that job. Employers can subject candidates to illegal drug tests or ask you whether you take illegal drugs.

#9: Are you in the National Guard?

Although some managers may find it disruptive when employees leave for duty, it’s illegal to discriminate against someone because he or she belongs to the National Guard or a reserve unit.

#10: Do you smoke or use alcohol?

In general, you can’t discriminate on the basis of the use of a legal product when the employee is not on the premises and not on the job.

#11. Do you belong to a party?

Political affiliation is also a big no no when it comes to the interview process, in general, you can’t discriminate on the basis of party or non party affiliation.

#12. Are you straight or gay?

A person’s sexual orientation cannot be enquired about by an employer It is illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.

Security Clearance101 – Do I NEED IT?

You don’t have to have Security clearance to work in this industry, we just want to give you some insight as to why you may want to consider it.

The benefits of having a security clearance

  • You will have the option to work on a greater number and variety of technical programs and projects – job opportunities that would otherwise not be available to you due to their sensitive and critical nature;
  • Often times, projects that require cleared professionals involve today’s most cutting-edge solutions and technologies;
  • Having a clearance generally widens and increases your career choices, as well as your chances for career movement and advancement;

Even a security designation that has lapsed is valuable. Companies are more willing to hire individuals who have demonstrated they can pass the background investigation that precedes the clearance. In addition, depending on how long it has been since you last had clearance, the investigation process can take much less time than for people who have never been cleared.

Controlled Unclassified Information

This is not a clearance, but rather a level at which information distribution is controlled. Controlled Unclassified is information that may be illegal to distribute. This information is available when needed by government employees such as Department of Defense (DoD) employees. It should not, however, be redistributed. An example of the type of information that may be controlled at this level is the operational details of a non-critical system.

Confidential

The simplest security clearance to get. This level typically requires a few weeks to a few months of investigation. A Confidential clearance requires a NACLC investigation which dates back 7 years on the person’s record and must be renewed (with another investigation) every 15 years.

Secret

A Secret clearance, also known as Collateral Secret or Ordinary Secret, requires a few months to a year to fully investigate, depending on the individual’s background. Some instances wherein individuals would take longer than normal to be investigated are many past residences, having residences in foreign countries, having relatives outside the United States, or significant ties with non-US citizens. Bankruptcy and unpaid bills as well as criminal charges will more than likely disqualify an applicant for approval. Poor financial history is the number-one cause of rejection, and foreign activities and criminal record are also common causes for disqualification. A Secret clearance requires a National Agency Check, a Local Agency Check, and a Credit investigation; it must also be re-investigated every 10 years.

Top Secret

Top Secret is a more stringent clearance. A Top Secret, or “TS”, clearance, is often given as the result of a Single Scope Background Investigation, or SSBI. Top Secret clearances, in general, afford one access to data that affects national security, counter-terrorism/counterintelligence, or other highly sensitive data. There are far fewer individuals with TS clearances than Secret clearances. A TS clearance can take as few as 3–6 months to obtain, but more often takes 6–18 months, while sometimes taking up to 3 years to obtain. The SSBI must be renewed every 5 years.As with TS clearances, Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) or Special access program (SAP) clearances are assigned only after one has been through the rigors of a Single Scope Background Investigation and a special adjudication process for evaluating the investigation. SCI access, however, is assigned only in “compartments.”  These compartments are necessarily separated from each other with respect to organization, so an individual with access to one compartment will not necessarily have access to another. Each compartment may include its own additional special requirements and clearance process. An individual may be granted access, or ‘read-in’ to a compartment for an extended or only short period of time.A representative list of kinds of information that may require compartmented access, without using specific national terminology, includes:

  • Cryptography
  • Overhead reconnaissance from aircraft, UAVs, or satellites IMINT
  • Communications intelligence, a subset of SIGINT
  • Design or stockpile information about nuclear weapons
  • Nuclear targeting.

The  Process

1. Application
for a security clearance. The amount of information requested in the application depends on the type of cleared designation that is being pursued. Required details may include past and current employment history, locations in which you have lived, the names of roommates and friends, financial history, travel history, groups or affiliations, and more. Also filing for it on your own is very expensive, 30k to 100k depending on the level of clearance, the trick is to the get the company you’re working for or want to work for to file for you.

2. Background investigation
the scope of which varies, based on the level of the clearance being sought. The investigation generally includes:verification of U.S. citizenship; a polygraph; fingerprinting; a test for illegal drugs; credit and records checks; interviews with former and current colleagues, neighbors, friends, professors; a search of investigative files and other records at Federal agencies; a search for criminal records; a personal interview with you; etc.

3. Keeping it Active
it must be kept “active.” This is accomplished by passing a re-investigation, the time frame of which depends on the level of your clearance (Top Secret, re-investigation every five years. Secret, every ten years. Confidential, every fifteen years).

4Can I appeal a clearance denial or revocation?

If you are denied a security clearance, or an assignment to a sensitive position or a position of trust, or your current clearance or access is revoked, you have the right to appeal the adjudicative decision. Under such circumstances you will be provided a statement on the reason(s) why you are ineligible for the clearance and the procedures for filing an appeal. If you believe the information gathered about you during the investigation is misleading or inaccurate, you will be given the opportunity to correct or clarify the situation.

A Stress Survival Guide for HR Managers and HR Professionals

Ten Stressors and Five Management Strategies
In today’s 24/7, constantly changing, merging and consolidating, “do more with less” work environment the letters “HR” could as easily stand for “Hub of Reorganization” as for “Human Resources.” And, in fact, it’s the intersection of these two organizational dynamics – human exchange and systemic change – that accounts for the inherent challenge and performance pressure for the HR Manager and other human resources professionals. When a person, over time, is confronted by high demands along with rapidly changing requirements and responsibilities (especially related to the welfare, safety, rights, etc., of others) and believes he lacks sufficient control, authority or autonomy to deal with such high pitched and fast paced demands the result is predictable: Chronic Stress!
Let’s Begin with a List of HR Related Stressors

1. Availability and Accountability
The stress factor is double-pronged: While HR may be a separate department, it is hardly an island in corporate waters; all company personnel believe they should have some representation through HR. HR should be at the beck and call of all employees. And if the HR professional totally buys into the rescuer role, taking every personnel problem home at night… beware: Burnout is less a sign of failure and more that you gave yourself away.
2. Objectivity
The challenge for an effective and widely accepted HR department is to maintain some functional independence even when part of the management structure. The HR professional must be somewhat detached from yet, also, be an objective and concerned advocate for both management and employees to be a robust problem-solving (not just numbers crunching) force in the organization.
3. Multiple Roles
In light of his or her hub position, not surprisingly, the HR manager/professional often plays many roles – from coach and counselor to cop and confessor. And, if that’s not enough, he or she must be the organizational or interpersonal safety net or back up when there are breakdowns or problems with: a) manager-supervisor-employee relations, b) reorganizational change, such as a downsizing, c) hiring crises, d) outdated or illegal policies, e) prejudicial procedures, etc.
4. Disgruntled Personnel
Clearly, as outlined above, there are HR demands and responsibilities aplenty. The proverbial icing, of course, is having to negotiate problems with people who have a grievance with a supervisor, are upset about pay, performance evaluation or promotion (or termination) issues. Certainly, it can be emotionally and professionally rewarding helping rectify a significant personnel problem. Still, chronically providing service to angry customers can all to easily result in a case of “brain strain.”
5. Transitional Glue
Especially in times of rapid or volatile change – mergers, downsizing or rapid startup or growth – the HR Manager often becomes a company cheerleader (or that stress confessor). He or she often must help folks sustain morale in the face of an uncertain and possibly vulnerable future. The HR goal: not allowing the company’s “esprit de corps” regress into an “esprit de corpse!” The HR Manager may become the messenger helping employees and supervisors interpret reorganizational pronouncements from the management mountaintop. Sometimes the HR leader must assume the Moses mantle while the employee tribes wander for a period in the transitional desert. Anyone for the training class on, “Parting Really Large Bodies of Water?”
6. Crisis Management
When the hub of the wheel, a potential danger is the belief that you are the center of the corporate solar system. All organizational life depends on your energy source. The HR Manager must realize when certain crises are outside his or her sphere of productive “hands on” influence; one must resist the “solo savior syndrome” role. When downsizing trauma started evoking racial tension and threats – the pulling up of a KKK website and public playing of a Louis Farrakhan tape – in a federal government division, HR called for the Stress Doc. As a critical incident specialist my role is clear: to stop the vicious cycle before it turns violent and to lay the groundwork for productive conflict resolution and team building.
7. Privacy Requirements
An ongoing challenge for the HR Professional interfacing with numerous individuals, departments and senior managers is sharing critical information and upholding employees’ privacy rights. Another stressor recently came to my attention: an HR Manager unsure how to respond to a supervisor’s breach of confidentiality. This supervisor unprofessionally (if not, illegally) shared with her employees that a colleague was hospitalized for mental health reasons. Such a breach is like a virus that can contaminate everyone’s operating system and sense of security. The HR Manager’s standing as a leader is on the line, not just the supervisor’s.
8. Ever-changing Technology and Policy
Like other corporate entities, The HR Department must keep up with new software and data processing systems. Increasingly, having an internal website for sharing key information with employees is critical. And invariably, to get up and running technologically takes longer than anticipated. Glitch happens!

And, of course, there are ever-changing policy requirements or cultural diversity/gender issues – whether mandated by Congress or the EPA. Also, let’s not overlook the rapidly changing or constricting dictates from corporate headquarters to field operations. All these systemic forces can undermine a sense of control of everyday HR functioning.
9. Training Demands
The HR Team cannot provide individual handholding with employees for all personnel issues. Depending on company size, HR must have enough time and staff to provide classroom orientation on HR-related matters. An HR manager often needs to delegate the training function to a subordinate. A manager who cannot delegate is a manager who cannot survive. Individuals must be encouraged to do reasonable data gathering or research or else HR will be enabling inefficient, if not dysfunctional, dependence.
10. Office Space-Time
Finally, the HR Manager/Department must discover that elusive balance between reasonable physical access and protected space for productive energy. Feng Shui rules even in Corporate America. (A good friend sent this Encarta definition: FENG SHUI (“fung shway” = wind and water) is the study of environmental balance. The system studies people’s relationships to the environment in which they live, especially their dwelling or workspace, in order to achieve maximum harmony with the spiritual forces believed to influence all places.) A department without some “closed door’ time and a closed meeting space for the HR team invites both productivity and morale problems – from actual privacy violations to free-floating privacy anxieties amongst employees.

Here are Five Survival Strategies

1. Balancing Interdependence and Autonomy
The HR Manager and Department must strive to project both an image of operational objectivity and a defender of privacy while performing an overall management function. Collaborating with department heads is vital, for example, when bringing on new hires. At the same time, the HR professional must also develop a capacity for “detached involvement,” that is, being sensitive to personnel issues and individual employee concerns while resisting the rescuer role. If you’re always taking work home – literally or emotionally – your personal/personnel boundary is starting to erode. See #2.
2. Reaching Out to Specialists and Consultants
Whether taking things too personally, feeling overwhelmed processing a significant downsizing of staff or stressed upgrading a computer system, don’t be that lone Rambo or Rambette. Reach out for expert support. Especially with seriously disgruntled or dysfunctional employees, whenever possible, collaborate with an Employee Assistance Program counselor. And as mentioned, for widespread department tension consider using a corporate change/critical intervention consultant.
3. Balancing Administrative Work and Human Relating
Beware becoming a solitary HR numbers cruncher sequestered in your IT fortress. Don’t lose the human touch. Periodically, walk around your shop. Swap stories with folks on the workfloor. Be the HR bridge between management and employees. And, perhaps most important, rotating different hats will help you follow that Stress Doc maxim: “Fireproof your life with variety!”
4. Encouraging Independence by Setting Boundaries
These three boundary-setting strategies will enable the HR Manager to successfully juggle various roles and responsibilities.
Delegation
Clearly, giving others a chance to demonstrate their skills and expertise while you monitor (not micromanage) their performance is vital. Balancing “The Triple A” – Authority, Autonomy and Accountability – is a critical management and stress management tool.
Education
Another key stress manager is helping others not be so dependent upon your indispensable knowledge. Training for employees and supervisors on HR-related procedures, negotiating information on websites, and encouraging self-initiated employee data gathering, etc., is vital in today’s time- and task-driven environment.
Separation
Finally, generate the space-time dynamics for optimal performance for HR. Balance accessibility and boundaries with “closed door” time; design a form and function layout that allows for vital interdependence between HR and employees. One HR department installed a dartboard on a back wall for stress relieving fun and friendly competition. Model the stress management mantra: “Giving of yourself and giving to yourself!”
5. Maximizing Team Meetings
For the HR Manager and his or her staff, productive team meetings are essential for sharing a logistically and emotionally demanding workload. Meetings need to be more than time- and task-driven staffings; build in a fifteen-minute “wavelength” segment for group brainstorming and venting around emotionally tough personnel issues – dealing with pink slips, reorganizational uncertainty, turf battles with other departments, and cultural diversity tensions, etc. Let a staff member acknowledge sources of work pressure; as a group, assess the strengths and roadblocks affecting solid team coordination and cooperation. Perhaps even rotate the leadership of these meetings amongst your HR staff. Learn to wear both team member and manager hats.

Recognizing the ten stressors and five strategic interventions will lighten your personal load while strengthening your leadership hold. And it will enable you and your entire HR team to… Practice Safe Stress