Australian HR, Leadership

I can’t believe this STILL happens

Last night I caught up with a very good friend after a long day’s work. We’re both in enjoyable but really full-on jobs (his requiring a ridiculous amount of creativity that I can only watch from the sidelines and admire/be envious of).

He told me about something that happened at work – to be clear, it was retold in the context of “wasn’t this so funny – but also, can you believe it???”

He was at work and someone was asked if they knew any jokes, the guy who was asked doesn’t pause a beat and says “Well, three faggots walk into a bar….”. The room of 30 or so went silent. My friend laughs it off.
Laughs off the slur that he’s been called plenty of times, in a room full of people, because he’s at work.

The dynamics are tricky here, it was a client who made the “quip”. Clearly the room was not impressed (a silence came over them all).

The fact this still happens in workplaces in 2021 beggers belief. (Well to be honest, anywhere, but people have to put up with this AT WORK TOO???) Acknowledging the ridiculousness of this, we discussed strategies for dealing with it (‘it’ being racism, homophobia, sexism, the whole gambit). He laughed at this instance – it was a client after all – but said normally his instinctive response is to laugh, agree and double down sarcastically. I shared my strategy has always been asking for more details/not understanding, i.e. “wait? Why’s that funny? “I don’t get it, can you explain why it’s funny that they’re gay?” “How is it funnier if you’re using a slur?”

So my first reaction is personal – yuk! This is unbelievable! I can’t believe people still have to navigate this at work in 2021! My second? Liability for the employer.

If you’re the employer (manager, owner, HR) whose staff are exposed to this type of abhorrent behaviour, take this as notice. If you know about it, and don’t do anything, you’re a part of the problem. If you know about it, and don’t do anything, you’re reinforcing that this is ok. If you know about it, and don’t do anything about it, you’re opening yourself & your company to a huge amount of legal risk (although I’d hope that you’d do something just because you think it’s repulsive behavour).

30% of LGBTIQ+ employees, and 29% of workers who have a disability, say they do not feel able to speak up openly at work without fear of criticism [source]. These figures are unacceptable, and particularly sobering when you consider that in situations like the above you might never be made aware if you’re not present to witness it yourself.

So what can you do? The most obvious is to call this behaviour out if you see it, make it clear that it’s not a standard that you will accept by walking past and letting it slide. But you also need to create an environment where people feel comfortable raising these issues with you, and for that, your employees & leaders need to “own” diversity & inclusion initiatives – not just your HR team.

Hahaha, I’m not suggesting reducing your D&I team if you’re lucky/smart enough to have one in the first place, but I am a firm believer in ensuring that your employees and leaders are fundamentally driving this work. If you don’t have a team (particularly if you don’t have the funds to create it), it doesn’t have to be an HR function! Initiatives can be led by voluntary working groups, as long as you ensure that you’ve got good support for the team through external mentoring/support. I highly recommend encouraging a few senior managers/execs to be involved so initiatives can be supported as they need and systematic issues are raised within your C-Suite.

personal

A goodbye to John

On St. Patrick’s Day 2021, my beautiful, brave, funny, kind Stepdad John passed away after a valiant, relentlessly positive battle with brain cancer.

John was your textbook fabulous Dad – we all were so lucky to have him model what a great parent, and a good person, is. He was supportive, he was kind and generous and always saw the good in people. A card I received in the days following his death, summed it up perfectly: “He was the Dad we all wanted to have”, too true.

In the midst of the grief and pain of his final few days, my brother and I could not join the rest of our family in NZ due to the border restrictions that were in place due to COVID19. Like many other families, those living in separate states and countries have been kept apart, not just for happy occasions, but also being unable to work through the grieving process as we know it.

John “being cool”, finding a way to enjoy Melbourne and have the “best holiday ever” while undergoing treatment for brain cancer. Ever the optimist.

During those days, our family spent a lot of time talking about what John has taught us, how he has influenced our lives, and was one of the best role models. John was always doing good – through teaching, being a good friend, a good father, a good grandfather, a good husband.

Everyone’s ‘doing good’ is different, and it’s too easy to compare ourselves to others. John never boasted, he didn’t showcase, he was always modest. Even the things he was the best at (creating, designing – anything really, even down to a handmade Fender guitar) he would never show them off in a way that could make anyone else feel less-than.

Over the past 20 months, our family has had a lot of time to reflect, and much of what has driven that has been John’s attitude to life and Mum’s selfless care of him during that time. Grief has a funny way of changing the lens through which you see the world. Doing good – and continually striving to do better – has been the lesson I’ve taken from this.

Of course, reflection is easy, action can be hard, especially when it seems the world is turning upside down. During this period of reflection some of the ways we’ve shifted our lives around to honour John by trying to ‘doing more good’ have been:

  • Moving back to the nonprofit space – it’s where my heart is and while I don’t have the skills to work on the front lines during the pandemic, the least I can do is use the skills I do have to help those that do (major plug for Life Without Barriers – an incredible organisation filled to the brim with the most wonderful people).
  • Working hard to shift our small business to a social enterprise model (I make jewellery) – this is a big job but we’re almost there!
  • Prioritising time with one of the coolest humans on the planet, our 3 year old ❤️

Arohanui sweet John, forever in our hearts. My hope is that, as Luca says, from your star in the sky, you look down is us all and are proud. That’s really all any of us want.

Career, how to learn, Leadership, personal, Reflective practice, Slow Thinking, Thinking differently

Sit down & chill the hell out (AKA why you should be meditating)

There’s 10,000 reasons to chill the hell out (AKA meditate), but I’m going to lead with what I see as the most topical for right now.

Relaxation.

When was the last time you actually relaxed? Not when was the last time you took a break, or got a workout in, but when did you last relax?

“Relaxation isn’t a luxury. In the world we live in, it’s a necessity. The everyday tension and stress that accompanies life in the 21st century can be debilitating to our mental and physical health. We need something deeper than an occasional treat. We need something that will get to the root of the problem.” – Yael Shy

Do you ever pause? From work, home, doom-scrolling on social media. When do you take time out to just be? 2020 was a year of big learning for me, one of the biggest being that doing the same old thing to de-stress just didn’t seem to work any longer. I’ve got a list (surprise surprise) of things that I need to do when I feel myself getting run down:

  1. Say no to more – works every time
  2. Eat better – works every time
  3. Exercise (for someone who genuinely hated PE at school this one took a long time to get on board with) – much to my disappointment at the work required, works every time
  4. Meditate…

During 2020 I got the list out. I hit everything on there every day, but the shitstorm that was last year just kept coming. On top of the list of things we all had in common, the border restrictions meant that I couldn’t get home to see my family in New Zealand while some pretty major things were happening. Honestly, it was pretty hard.

So I was doing the list.

I’ve been ‘meditating’ on and off for the past 15 years – every health professional, every popular speaker seems to espouse the same advice. Meditation is good for you. And I felt like I was doing it. I had all the apps and ticked every box, but it just didn’t really work for me. I figured it was a slow burn – “they” say that even if you feel like it’s not working, you should stick with it. So I did, to no avail.

Towards the end of 2020 though, something changed, I tried a variety of types of meditation (I know, seems obvious in retrospect) – but low and behold I’ve gotten results.The things I did differently:

  • I set up a space for meditation. This doesn’t need to be 100% dedicated, but I have an old wooden chest I bought secondhand that sits in the corner of our bedroom – it’s decorated with things that make me happy, beautiful candles and incense, a picture from my little boy. It’s a warm spot where I want to spend time – and because I see it every day, I’m being constantly reminded to take 5 minutes.
  • I prioritised myself and didn’t let ‘getting busy’ get in the way of taking some time. There are always jobs to be done – at work and around the house. But you can’t do any of that well if your energy is always depleted. Meditation is one way I can refill my energy reserves.
  • I tried different forms of meditation. That one about the cars or clouds passing me where I’m meant to observe them? That does nothing for me. I’ve been focusing on objects, sound baths, guided meditations from different meditation practitioners. Just because one form of meditation doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t mean others won’t.
  • I listened to podcasts/read books about meditation, the science and different approaches. I like to know why something is working – the most impactful thing I’ve learned? Meditation works differently for everybody, so if you’ve tried and failed – maybe try approaching it differently.

The best resources I’ve found:

  • Podcasts, obviously. Current favs are 10 Percent Happier (Dan Harris) and Wake me Up (Tyler Brown).
  • Apps – Insight Timer is my favorite. There’s a paid version, but the free version has a huge variety of content. This one is fabulous. Spotify is another gem, you can find beautiful soothing music or nature sounds to help you get in the zone.
  • The internet is gold here. There’s a host of resources out there, for a basic introduction on the types of meditation out there, start here https://www.headspace.com/meditation/techniques

You might have sat down & chilled out/meditated before and gotten out of practice – or it might be something you’ve never tried before. I wholeheartedly encourage you to take 10 minutes today for yourself, no matter how well, or terribly your day is going.

Difficult Conversations, Leadership, personal, Thinking differently

It’s OK to not be OK right now

Today I felt really sad.

I’m normally fairly positive in my interactions with people, I’m incredibly fortunate in that I love what I do and I get to spend my days working with people who are absolutely brilliant and incredibly passionate about why they do it. This kind of energy is infectious.

My happy place – coincidently it’s also Vito’s happy place. As long as I’m stuck-throwing 100% of the time we’re there

But ups and downs are normal, especially when you’re living through a f***ing pandemic – there’s no one that’s escaped the impact in some way. I count myself fortunate to live in Victoria Australia – the site of one of the stricter lockdowns, but it meant that for more than the past month, there have been no COVID19 infections in my state.

Something I’ve noticed in my friends, family and colleagues is the way they’ve handled themselves during this insanely difficult time and their ability to get on with it. Lost jobs, supporting others, sickness, death, increased workloads, working while also doing childcare… no one has escaped unscathed.

But we’re people, we can be incredibly resilient, but life’s challenges still impact us.

I’ve got friends who have felt like they’ve failed in some way because they’ve found this hard. They’ve found it hard to cope with the unique combination of circumstances that they’ve been dealt with. They’ve felt guilty because they perceive they’ve “got it better” than someone else. Because they’re seeing others put on a front, keep their ‘work face’ on, an Instagram account that’s full of thanks and joy, carefully curated to give the impression of a perfect and resilient life.

I’ve felt this way – I felt this way today.

Some of the moments that I’ve found to be most impactful over the past year have been when I’ve seen leaders, I respect share the struggles they’ve had. It’s not been easy! And letting people know you have bad days (or weeks, or months) is important. It shatters the illusion that some people have magically got it all together.

You don’t need to be afraid upsetting someone by sharing where you’re at. Real leadership is supporting others where they are. Acknowledging privilege is important – but no one has a monopoly on suffering and pain, uncertainty and anxiety and grief.

So you know what? Today was tough. I cried and then later I put on a face when I was at work (AKA on Zoom).

But that’s ok, it’s normal to find these times tough. Make sure you reach out for help if you need – I’m here, as are many that love you. If you need help, no matter which country you live in, you can find resources here.

You are loved. You are enough. And I promise it’s ok, no one around you really has their shit together either.

Book review, Career, HR for non-HR people, Human Resources, Leadership, SHRM, Thinking differently, Working in People & Culture

HR Rising!! – the book you need

Book review: HR Rising!! by Steve Browne

More and more, we are recognising that HR is a global community that can be a force for change – change that means people’s work is more rewarding, that we can help people be effective and successful at what they do, and that organisations – be they public, private or nonprofit – can benefit from happier, more engaged workforces.

The global coronavirus pandemic adds another layer entirely to this. What’s the most important thing you would look for when looking for your next role? (Other than a paycheck of course – thanks ‘rona for the recession…) It’s an organisation that puts its people first, that has shown they do that through challenging circumstances. They are the orgs we all want to be a part of, the ones that walk the talk, they have great leaders and that translates into their employees feeling valued, respected and engaged.

I’ll let you in on a secret – none of that happens without great HR. Not good HR – good HR is a team that doesn’t screw up your pay, your benefits. Great HR (or as they’re more commonly known here in Australia – People & Culture) are about creating workplaces where good leadership is rewarded, people are trusted to do their best and given the tools to do so. They’re not obsessed with the dress code, or clocking in on the dot of 8am – they contribute to the creation of a culture where outcomes are what matters, and you’re more than an employee – you’re a person!

If this is the type of HR you want to practice, or encourage in your organisation, you need to know Steve. He has a talent for breaking down complex issues into an easy to read, enjoyable format, he tackles leaders with no substance, HR’s penchant for vagueness, the need for “messy and wonderful” at work while dismissing a whole bunch of unhelpful stereotypes.

Leadership is much more than the proverbial seat at the table, and Steve manages to deliver a message as relevant for senior leadership as it is for someone just starting out in their HR Career. He advocates that working in HR should not be an exercise in mediocrity or a burden (and if it is, he tells you to get out!) – but a profession you should be proud of, and find a real sense of joy in working in. Steve’s book is a vital ingredient to finding the joy you’re missing in HR.

On a personal note, Steve is someone I look up to, as a multiplier, someone whose passion is to make things better for others. It’s not just his penchant for the exclamation mark that I adore – although obviously we’re kindred spirits here, he is the kind of person that inspires you to do better, to be better, and I think we all need a little bit of that right now.

HR Rising!!’ is an absolute must-read – and not just because I’m quoted inside the front cover! Go get yourself a copy now!!

how to learn, Reflective practice, Thinking differently, Uncategorized

How to learn when: Confronted with people who have passionately different views to your own

Learning isn’t something that necesarily happens magically as an adult. You have to work at it.

Approaching a potentially uncomfortable, or emotive topic from a place of learning is your best chance of both finding common ground, having constructive conversations and evoling and learning something new.

As I see my friends and people I admire and respect shout loudly that black lives matter (because they do) I similtaniously see others retreat. Speaking with them, their reasons are varied. Concerned about saying the wrong thing. Concerned about entering into a conversation that they don’t feel equipped to undertake. Afraid of conflict, afraid of being labelled, afraid of accidently offending.

If this sounds like you, I challenge you take some time to learn more about others’ perspectives that challenge your view of the world. Come at it from a place of learning, and try to understand where others are coming from. Not to argue, not to ‘win’ a debate or force someone to hear your opinion. Just to learn.

The goal isn’t to change someone else’s mind. The goal is to grow your own.

Places you can start:

  • Have you ever tested yourself for your unconsious biases? You can do that online in a tool developed by Harvard University.
  • Understand that different country’s histories mean that the context for #blacklivesmatter may be different where you live. I grew up in New Zealand, live in Australia and many of my friends and family live in the United States. These countries are not the same, nor are their histories of colonisation. Learn your history. Not the highlights, not the easy-to-digest stuff. The stuff that makes you uncomfortable. The fact that genocide occured in Australia up until the 1950s/60s. That while Maori in New Zealand make up 14% of the population, they make up 53% of the prison population.
  • The conversation about racism is not inherently political – it’s not about who you vote for. Yes – some politicians are more/less racist/antiracist than others. That doesn’t mean that your politics define your attitude on human rights.
  • Read read read! Here are some starting points:
    • SWAAY resources
    • Learn about the movement from people involved – not just the news channel or newspaper you normally get your news from. #blacklivesmatter
    • And a personal favourite? Trevor Noah, he’s is absolute gold. His instragram account is well worth looking at.

Finally – and this is probably the most important: remember that not everyone has the bandwidth to help you learn.

It’s not fair to assume that anyone wants to discuss this with you, or has the emotional reserves to do so. Think of it like asking a random woman invasive questions about rape – chances are she, or someone close to her has been raped. She may not want to discuss rape in depth with you at all. She may just not want to discuss it with you today.

So at the point someone raises this with you? It’s ok to ask questions and learn – as long as its ok with them. Again – like any other situation where you want to learn – ask questions, dont’ disagree or argue – just learn.

This post isn’t meant to lecture – I acknowledge that everyone comes from a different background, has different experiences and I think it’s important not to presume you know why someone has the opinion that they do.

There’s nothing wrong with learning and growing and changing your opinion about big subjects.

Uncategorized

What better time to… leave my job?

Well, 2020 has been just a little insane so far.

I have been incredibly fortunate to be with an employer, and working for a leadership team, that has displayed person-centered decision making in a time of crisis. The role of People & Culture has never been harder, or more critical than it has been in recent times, and I think we’ve all seen companies and their leaders show their true colours.

Next time you are approached about a role, or are looking for one, getting a good understanding of how an organisation has dealt with COVID-19 would be one of the best tests of what they really stand for and who their leaders really are.

So in saying all that – I’m doing something many people have responded with “but, are you sure…?” when I’ve told them the news. I’m leaving my incredibly safe, close-knit P&C team, with a fantastic Executive and Leadership Team, to return to the nonprofit world as a result of a dream gig appearing in front of me, in the middle of a pandemic.

Sure… starting a new role completely remotely will be challenging, and I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that I’m a tiny bit nervous for a career-shift right now. But something that I’ve been reflecting on a lot over the past year, ever since our family had a life-changing diagnosis, is what I truly value in life. For me, this means returning to a learning and organisational development-focused position, rejoining the nonprofit sector and enrolling in further post-grad studies in digital adult education.

So it’s goodbye to bloom hearing specialists, and hello to Life Without Barriers, I’m excited for the next adventure!

Leadership, personal

The whole world turned upside down: brain cancer & awesome workplaces

In June this year my life took an unexpected turn. I had my parents (John & Jenny) visit from New Zealand, they said it was to visit Sam and I (but I knew the truth, my 2-year-old was the main attraction).

After an action-packed week of Aquarium and Zoo visits, and tramming their way all over Melbourne they were ready to go home.

One day before they were due to leave, Mum and I took John, my wonderful, kind, generous Stepdad, to the hospital after some headaches and confusion.

The outcome of that long ED visit was a Stage 4 GBM (brain cancer), brain surgery, chemo and radiation. Their short stay, arranged during school holidays, was then extended indefinitely as we fought this. They ended up staying with us an additional 9 weeks.

I cannot help but look at the past couple of months and see some of the best lessons of my life playing out.

The biggest part of that lesson for me was a personal one. Despite his diagnosis, despite the uncertainty and surgery and tears from us all, John has been unashamedly positive.

* Positive because of the incredible care he received at the Royal Melbourne.

* Positive because of the doctors, nurses and staff who took the time to care for him.

* Positive because, despite the circumstances, we had unexpected bonus-time as a family together, with my brothers and sister visiting from NZ and America.

* Positive because of the outpouring of love from family, friends, colleagues, strangers, and ex-students of my parents who sent messages of aroha and support from near and far.

* Positive in continually repeating that he’s lucky, he’s got a great life, and wife(!) and wonderful kids, it could all be so much worse.

John manages to find good in everything, and everyone. (after you meet his Mum, Nana Jean, you know where this comes from). The one nurse who during his time in hospital was a little short, hungover and on her phone? He refused to complain, because “you don’t know what’s going on in someone’s life, she might be having a really hard time”. John is the definition of positivity and love. I’m so fortunate that he came into our lives when I was a kid.

The second biggest lesson was what I experienced, along with each member of my family during a really tough time. My parent’s employers (Devon Intermediate, and Frankley School in NZ) were both amazing. They made organising time off easy and they sent messages full of love and hope. They sent tins of tea and flowers and fruit. They contacted us and asked what would help and listened.

My work (bloom hearing specialists), and, in particular my direct manager, have been nothing but incredible. While I’ve been on the HR-end of many crises, that’s not the same of the overwhelming sense of thankfulness you get when your manager makes it clear that there’s nothing that matters more than being there with your family. When your colleagues forgive your absentmindedness and don’t mention your horrendous eyebags/unkempt hair after another sleepless night. When you are encouraged to do what is right for you and your family, knowing it really is OK.

This post is part thanks, and part encouragement. Encouragement to do what you know is right, and treat others with empathy and love. At the time you might not consider it something monumental, especially when you know someone is going through *big* things. But every message, every small gesture meant an incredible amount to us as we grappled with all we had to deal with during this time, and it won’t be forgotten.

* John & Jenny have now returned to New Zealand, leaving our two-bedroom house very quiet.

#SHRM19, Human Resources, SHRM

#SHRM19 Q&A: Howard Wallack on Global Leadership Development

When I saw the opportunity to speak to Howard ahead of #SHRM19 I jumped at the chance. Howard is a former employee of SHRM (who seem to have an impressive ability to hire some absolutely brilliant people – just check out the social media team!) and the Deputy Chief HR & Administrative Officer at Jhpiego – a non-profit affiliate of The John Hopkins University. Jhpiego operates in 40 countries with 3,900 employees – so long story short, Howard knows global HR.

HR-across-borders is absolutely a favourite topic of mine, as an international member of SHRM who makes the trek each year for this conference, there’s nothing more exciting than having the opportunity to learn from the people who make workplaces the best. If I’m going to get really specific, I’m interested in global leadership development – and that’s what Howard is speaking about at SHRM19! (Along with HR and Business Challenges in International Nonprofits.)

Tell me more about why you wanted to speak about managing a global/virtual leadership development program?

I wanted to speak on the JLDP because of its diversity, pulling in participants from different countries, different functions, and different career paths, with it responding to their needs to improve managerial and leadership capacity. Like many other organizations operating across many borders, working in a global matrixed company with nearly 4,000 employees in 30+ countries we’ve had a challenge building consistent internal organizational culture, solid supervisory skills across locations and functions, and promoting a continuous learning environment, all of which we trust serve to reinforce employee engagement and productivity.

The Jhpiego Leadership Development Program (JLDP) is just one element among many that moves us in that direction, building on our other efforts of standardized onboarding, roll-out of a global learning management system (LMS), design of an internal supervisory curriculum, and career pathing.

What has been your most valuable lesson professionally so far?

Know your own moral and ethical “north star” and don’t be pressured by others to ever let your own personal compass deviate from it.

What is your favourite part of attending SHRM?

My favorite part of attending the SHRM Annual Conference is the energy and networking of being in a place with fellow HR practitioners from all around the world, from different sized-organizations, with different backgrounds and journeys that led us all into HR. I learn as much from fellow attendees as I do from the presenters!

What do you think attendees will be most interested in in your session?

I anticipate questions will come up about how we’ve managed as a non-profit entity to design, budget for, and finance a global leadership development initiative.

Any sessions that you’re excited about attending yourself?

Among many others, I’m looking forward to hearing Lisbeth Claus (#ZigZag HR), Stuart Chittenden (Transforming HR with Design Thinking), and Jonathan Smilansky (Building Management Teams in International Businesses).

What do you do when you’re not at work?

Swim, kayak, hike and occasionally bike; spend time with family and friends. For the past 7 years I’ve volunteered time as a board member of Cultural Vistas, a non-profit that works to promote global understanding and collaboration among individuals and institutions through international exchange programs and professional internships.

What’s the most important lesson you want attendees to your session to walk away with?

I have two:

(1) Build choice into a curated leadership development program, because it gives decision-making agency to learners and their commitment to the effort goes up.

(2) Linking leadership development with solid mentorship makes for a potent combination.

Make sure you follow Howard on Twitter at @How_Globalist

#SHRM19

#SHRM19 Q&A: Jonathan Segal on HR & Sexual Harassment

#SHRM19 is just around the corner, and one of the speakers I always make time to see is Jonathan Segal. This isn’t just because he is a genuinely delightful human being who also is a champion for animal rights. It’s also due to his exemplary knowledge and wisdom in the field of gender bias and sexual harassment and his ability to clarify complex issues for an HR audience.

I spoke to Jonathan recently to hear more about his session Sexual Harassment Case Studies.

Tell me more about why you wanted to speak about sexual harassment case studies?

We all know now that harassing conduct is both severe and pervasive. No industry is immune. Responsible employers have done even more to prevent and remedy harassing conduct since the “great awakening” in 2017. This includes strengthening policies, complaint procedures, training, etc.

Now, however, I fear that HR may have some #metoo fatigue. After all, it has been the topic de jure for more than a year. While #metoo is not the only issue for HR, it must remain top of mind. This means focusing not only on compliance but also on culture.

This program will provide guidance to HR to assist other leaders navigate the gray, receive complaints, respond to potentially harassing behavior, avoid retaliatory conduct, etc.

What motivated you to get started in law?

I grew up in a family where social justice was very important. Dr. King remains my hero. I became interested in how law could increase equality.

When I went to law school, I became particularly interested in employment law. Originally, I had considered being a plaintiffs’ lawyer. But, for many reasons, I decided I wanted to try to make a difference by working within the system, that is, for employers. A recovering litigator, I focus entirely on maximizing compliance and managing risk with an eye toward culture. I love what I do. I am quite fortunate.

What has been your most valuable lesson professionally so far?

There is no such thing as risk avoidance. In HR, it’s all about managing risk.

Avoid risk by hiring a questionable applicant? You may have a riskier termination if things do not work out. Avoid risk by not terminating an employee who should be separated? You may be creating a bad “comparator” when you terminate someone else for same or similar reasons. Plus, what damage can the employee cause while remaining employed?

Somethings are legally mandated or prohibited. But where there is legal risk rather than illegality, we must get comfortable with the gray. Afterall, sometimes the greatest risk of all is to take no risk at all.

What is your favorite part of attending SHRM?

I love the short and not-so-short conversations with HR professionals, scheduled or impromptu. I like listening to what issues HR people face day to day. I think I am a better business partner as a result.

But it goes beyond the professional. Annual is a great opportunity to meet up with people I don’t see often live but really like. It is also an opportunity to meet people I “know” from social media and get to know them the old fashion way.

What do you think attendees will be most interested in in your session?

I suspect people will be interested in how to respond “in the moment” to harassing and other unacceptable conduct, even if no complaint. This is so important and so much room for error.

I anticipate there may be questions on navigating the gray. I never expected that a large part of my counseling practice would be the “when and how” of hugs and compliments.

What sessions are you most excited about attending yourself?

So many great sessions but here are but 5 (in alpha order):

1. Steve Brown, HR Rising! From Ownership to Leadership

2. Sol Adrianna Echeverría, Doing Business Globally with Multicultural Teams: Strategies to Manage Integration

3. David Edelman, The Emotional Connection Between Your Brand and Employees

4. Jim Reidy, When Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: Legal Issues and Hiring Strategies in Era of Legalized Marijuana

5. Allison West, He Said, She Said- Now What? Tips for Effectively Assessing Credibility

What do you do when you’re not at work?

My passion outside of work is animal rescue. I have been a hands-on volunteer virtually every week for more than a dozen years. Thank you Montgomery County SPCA. In the interest of full disclosure, I am now a Board member, too.

No feeling is better than getting a shelter cat or dog adopted. I have a soft spot for the older animals, so I push a bit harder for them and, by a bit, I mean a lot. We cannot save every animal. But we save a universe with every animal we save.

To quote Anatole France: “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” In addition to the shelter animals, Scotty, Finny and Larry awaken my soul every day.

What’s the most important lesson you want attendees to your session to walk away with?

That the problem of harassment remains, and that HR plays a critical role in ensuring that our workplaces are respectful, safe and productive.

We can make a difference. We must! I hope to support HR by sharing some practical tools to make this happen.