Author Archives: Norma Shirk

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of HR, see my weekly blog HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which publishes every Wednesday morning. To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

We’re Better Together

On Saturday, July 14th, about one billion people watched France win the FIFA World Cup.  No other sport draws as big an audience and only the marriage of British royals can draw a similar global audience.  July 14th is also Bastille Day, a celebration of the French Revolution when France transformed from a monarchy to a democracy.

Both events demonstrate the benefits of globalization. Football (soccer to Americans) is the most popular sport in the world. Players leave their country of origin to compete in the top leagues in the world which makes them better players when they represent their country at the World Cup.

The winning French squad included individuals who play their club football in Spain, Germany, and England. Croatia, their opponent, has stars that play in Italy, Spain and England. The English Premier League is expected to suffer a loss of top talent after Brexit due to immigration barriers and the loss of passport-free movement around Europe.

The U.S. also benefits from this international trade. Several of our top players are honing their skills in European leagues against the top players in the world. Our domestic league, Major League Soccer, has many stars who are national team players in their countries of origin.  (The same is true for our national women’s team and league.)

The other big French event, Bastille Day, symbolizes the globalization of democracy.  The French revolutionary ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity flowed across Europe with their armies and eventually around the world.  The concepts inspired popular uprisings in 1830 and 1848 as oppressed Europeans fought to overthrow oppressive governments.

The “losers” of these European revolutions fled to the U.S. where they became soldiers in the Civil War, homesteaders, business owners and politicians.  They helped build the U.S. into a world economic and political power.

After World War II, the U.S. used its economic and political power to create a global system anchored by democracy.   Political stability is maintained through the United Nations and similar international organizations. Economic stability is supported through the World Trade Organization and multilateral trade agreements.

Unfortunately, the benefits of globalization are being undermined by populists.  Like the royalist forces in 1789, 1830 and 1848, they believe in an illusory past glory when they were the “winners” and the condition of others was irrelevant.  If the populists succeed, I expect to pay more money to see a lousier game of football.

 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of HR, see my weekly blog HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which publishes every Wednesday morning. To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please….. Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

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Filed under Fun Savvy, History

Have We Ever Been So Divided?

 

These days, our country seems hopelessly split in half politically. The only issue that most people agree on is that our country has never been so divided before.   Actually, it has.

The colonial population was split on whether to rebel against England. Northern states were in competition with English businesses and so they favored rebellion. But the Southern plantation owners depended on English businesses that loaned them money to grow cotton which was later sold to English textile mills.  Rebellion meant insolvency for Southerners so they opposed it.

One of the ugly facts erased from American history books is that as much as one quarter of the population were “loyalists”, people who remained loyal to and often fought with the British. These individuals were chased from the colonies by mobs of their neighbors in an 18th century version of ethnic cleansing.

The divisions remained after the U.S. became a country.  The founders argued about whether to abolish slavery, allow new immigrants, and whether to have an economy based on agriculture or manufacturing.  Southern states wanted an agricultural economy which supported their economic system of slavery.  Northern states were insolvent due to devastation caused by the American Revolution and wanted to rebuild quickly through an industrial economy.

The U.S. could easily have become a failed state. But it didn’t because of a blend of pragmatism and idealism epitomized by the Constitution. The idealism is reflected in the complicated structure of three co-equal branches of government which created strong institutions that could withstand corruption and tyranny.  The pragmatism is reflected in the tacit bargain that allowed the South to keep slavery in exchange for accepting a strong federal government that mutualized northern debts allowing for an economic recovery.  It was far from an ideal bargain but it saved the country.

Our political history is full of such compromises, most notably the Great Compromise of 1850 which delayed the Civil War for ten years.  But in the 1850’s, everyone lost their idealism and their pragmatism.  The North/South divisions ran so deep that voters elected only those politicians who pledged to never compromise on the key issues of the day: immigration and slavery.

Today our country is as divided as it was in the Federalist period and in the 1850’s. My hope is that we will follow the Federalist example. It’s the only way our country can remain strong.

 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of HR, see my weekly blog HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which publishes every Wednesday morning. To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please….. Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

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Filed under History, Self Savvy

Lessons Learned from Blogging

As a small business owner who blogs weekly, I field plenty of questions about my experience. Most of the questions are from other small business owners who are thinking about blogging to market their business. The most difficult conversations are with entrepreneurial sorts who are just starting their business and are looking for a quick way to generate revenue.

I know how they feel. When I started my human resources consulting business, I was transitioning from a career giving legal advice. I had no clients and a small network of contacts.  I began blogging when other methods of increasing my client base seemed to have failed. But after almost five years of blogging, I can’t tie a single dollar of revenue directly to my blog.

So my biggest lesson in blogging is that it won’t jumpstart the revenue stream of a business. What it has done is establish my company’s digital presence so potential clients know we exist and it keeps me in front of potential referral sources who are also loyal readers. That’s a return on investment that money can’t buy.

I continue writing my blog because I enjoy it.  It’s a wonderful way for me to demonstrate the scope of my knowledge on human resources and employee issues. It’s also a fabulous way to examine how humans work together in groups. Our relationships with our co-workers are the longest term relationships we ever develop outside our families. That means drama.

Drama can take many paths from bitchiness to physical violence. That brings me to my next lesson in blogging. Some drama is simply too controversial to cover in my blog.  Drama related to race, religion or politics is so polarizing that any conversation is immediately short circuited by the reader’s existing beliefs.

My readers reflect the diversity of our country.  If they want polarizing arguments, there are plenty of other bloggers who would love to have them as readers. But who wants an HR expert who causes workplace drama?

So I touch on these subjects very carefully while leaving the controversy to others. I prefer to look at topics that illustrate the absurdity of human behavior in common workplace settings.  I would never mock anyone’s behavior because that’s cruel and petty. But we’ve all seen (and will sometimes even admit to) creating workplace drama.  In hindsight, it’s often funny.

That’s the other big lesson of my blog. I want it to be enjoyable. HR is so boring if we only look at the rules and what is prohibited. If my blog is full of pontificating pettifoggery, no serious small business owner will want to hire my company to help with their problems.  But if the business owner has a chuckle about a situation she or he faces every day, they can face the day with a smile.

 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of HR, see my weekly blog HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which publishes every Wednesday morning.

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please….. Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

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You Are Being Watched

 

A now cancelled TV series began with a voice saying, “You are being watched”. The series was about a small shadowy group that used technology to achieve social justice. The final two seasons of the series were scary and depressing as another shadowy group built a supercomputer program that undermined our democracy.  The bad guys’ supercomputer system eventually destroyed the good guys’ supercomputer system.

The scary part was that we are under constant surveillance. We’re told that it’s for our own good.  Security cameras in buildings help catch trespassers. Cameras at intersections catch dangerous drivers.  Blinking blue lights in high crime areas tell the bad guys that their future criminal trials will feature photos or video showing them in the act.

We accept these invasions of our privacy because we trust the self-proclaimed good intentions of the private companies and government entities who invade our space.  Are we wise to be so trusting?

Consider Fitbit and similar devices which allow us to track our personal health. What if a health insurer uses that information to decide who is an acceptable risk worthy of their insurance coverage?  Who trusts Facebook after they proved that their profits are more important than the privacy of one billion daily users? Technology companies share our personal information with the government with or without a warrant signed by a federal judge.

The militarization of our society and its vocabulary means that everyone, including employers, wants to “surveille” and to gather “intel”.  Employers introduce wellness programs that help employees to live healthier lives; but really it’s about reducing employer losses due to low productivity caused by sick employees.

Employers also say they want to help employees work more efficiently in order to increase productivity and profits. That’s understandable; a lack of success means a lack of jobs. But how is technology being used to increase productivity? The newest tech toy for employers is described in the March 3, 2018 edition of The Economist.

Amazon has just obtained a patent for a wristband that would allow the company to track detailed information about each employee’s location and movement.  Amazon says this gizmo is intended to nudge employees into performing their jobs more efficiently.  Amazon is not using their new gizmo yet.

But what if employers treated their employees as the real assets that make the company a success?  What if employers rewarded employees for their productivity gains with better pay and benefits rather than blowing the gains on stock buybacks and pay raises for overpaid senior managers with golden parachutes?

Employers who trust and value the contribution of every employee don’t need to spy on them to nudge performance improvements.  Or to put it another way, just because technology exists doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to use it.

 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of HR, see my weekly blog HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which publishes every Wednesday morning.

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please….. Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

 

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Filed under Business Savvy

Building the Boat While Sailing It

When I began my human resources consulting business in 2011, I had limited experience running a business.  I am a lawyer so naturally I believed that I could become competent if I just did sufficient research. Research meant reading a lot of business books, a category I normally ignore on my to the history (specifically military history) section.

I knew I needed help after doing countless coffee meetings but closing few deals. So I began reading books about sales and marketing.  Two of my favorites in this category are Integrity Selling in the 21st Century, by Ron Willingham and Getting Naked, by Patrick Lencioni.  The gist of these books is that fairness matters and it’s important to focus on what the client needs.

That sounds obvious, doesn’t it?   A few months ago, I went to a meeting expecting to talk about how we could do referrals to our respective businesses. Instead, the other guy and his boss ran through a PowerPoint of their company’s brilliant services. They never asked about my priorities. They insisted on doing the presentation as they’d rehearsed it.  I’m still annoyed at them for wasting my time.

My biggest business challenge has revolved around money.  I witnessed incredibly poor money management skills while growing up. I was also raised in a conservative Christian community where money was denigrated as the root of all evil.  In a nutshell, I have lots of misconceptions and phobias about money.

To overcome this handicap, I read Drive, by Daniel Pink which explains that higher skilled workers value autonomy more than actual pay. I also read You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life, by Jen Sincero. Her book is hilarious, scatological and blunt. I’ve re-read her chapter on money phobias several times.   I found it more helpful than Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill.

At the moment, I’m reading Good to Great, by Jim Collins with my savvy women friends. The book explains the importance of getting the right people in the right seats on the bus so that a company can evolve into being great.  I enjoy our weekly discussions of each chapter because we are a diverse group with varying perspectives. It inspires me to become more creative solving challenges with my company.

I’m also reading Traction, by Gino Wickham, which I consider a companion piece to Collins’ book. Traction provides step-by-step instructions in honing a company’s vision, marketing strategies, and administrative processes so that it can become successful. I had a lot of the pieces discussed in Wickham’s book. Now I’m organizing them into a coherent format that can be understood by the rest of my team.

The learning curve in business ownership was steeper than I realized but I wouldn’t trade this journey for anything.  I’ll admit, though, that sometimes it feels like I’m building the boat while trying to sail it.

 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers create human resources policies for their employees and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to have structure without bureaucracy.

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please….. Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

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Filed under Business Savvy

Road Rage in the Age of Victimhood

Recently I was involved in a road rage incident while on my way home. It all began, as so often happens, with a passive aggressive driver who would speed up every time someone tried to pass him. Eventually he was stuck behind a plumber’s truck and a line of vehicles blew by him of which I was driving the last.

Apparently the driver was so enraged that he followed me into a nearby grocery store. If I had known a nut was chasing me I would have swung by the local police precinct instead. I became aware of him when he tried to block me against a deli case so that he could spew a stream of profanity-laced filth, wrapping up by calling me a fat c—t and a lesbian. (Why is it that inadequate frustrated men always call women lesbians?)

I have lots of friends in the gay community so being called a lesbian isn’t particularly insulting. I’ve also been called many vulgar names while doing collections work and I worked a factory job long ago where I learned to out-cuss a drunken sailor. This guy was a comparative amateur. I couldn’t help myself. I smiled; almost laughed.

That set him off again and he followed me for several minutes through the store spewing comments about my putative lesbian love life.  He didn’t scare me at the time. There were plenty of people around and it was obvious that the tubby little man wasn’t going to get physically violent. When I left the store, he didn’t follow me.

Later I couldn’t help thinking about the guy. In my experience, that kind of rage boils up from months, even years of frustrated ambitions and blighted expectations. In other words, the guy felt like a victim and he needed a target for his victimhood.

We live in an era of victimhood.  There are economic victims of globalization, job automation, and the financial industry meltdown caused by blatant greed of the global elite. There are racial victims, ethnic victims, sexual harassment victims, and religious intolerance victims.  All victims have suffered a grievance based on a valid and real injustice.

But populist politicians who lack any sense of morality and decency are cynically exploiting the sense of victimhood by promising that the perpetrators will pay.  The perpetrators are some hazy “other” group that is racially, ethnically, and religiously different from the victim.  For an alarmingly large number of men, who feel their status has comparatively dropped, the perpetrators are females.

Populist politicians use inflammatory language that encourages their audience to take action against the alleged perpetrators.  We’ve seen it in the rise of hate crimes.  It also might explain why an angry, chubby, balding man followed a woman into a grocery store to spew hate.  That’s when I started feeling scared. Thank God he didn’t have a gun.

 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers create human resources policies for their employees and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to have structure without bureaucracy.

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please….. Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

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Filed under Self Savvy

Kitchen Kitsch

I love to cook so I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. My cooking is pretty basic; I don’t use exotic ingredients and I have a battered set of pots and pans.  I grew up poor and learned to use what was available and in my price range.

These days I have more income but I stick by my old habits.  I buy in bulk and I look for what is on sale and then build recipes around those items.  Recently I realized that I was spending a lot of time in the kitchen slicing, dicing and chopping vegetables. I actually enjoy the process because it allows me to think about the various combinations of food, spices, oils, or whatever I need for the finished dish.

Kitchen time fills more than just the need to prepare my next meal. Kitchen time also allows me to reflect on ideas or issues that are important to me. I could get the same benefit from a long walk but at this time of year I’m doing my exercising indoors on a treadmill facing the TV.

Because I spend so much time in my kitchen, I began posting important messages for myself.  I always find it ironic when gifted, educated and powerful women say they struggle or have struggled with their sense of self. I’ve spent a lifetime struggling to think of myself in those terms, despite every accomplishment and achievement in my life.  So my refrigerator and kitchen walls are covered with inspirational notes to remind me of what I am; not what I used to think I was.

When I was a child, I was taught to cook because it was considered a “womanly” skill. Despite that handicap, I still enjoy cooking. Only now my kitchen time is usually spent thinking about reinforcing my self-image and building a stronger, successful business.

As a small business owner, I’m constantly thinking about where that next client will come from or the best (meaning most effective) method for prospecting for new clients or what tasks I should delegate to others.  Sure, I could sit down at a desk and cogitate on all these points. But it seems to flow more naturally when I’m doing other things, like chopping vegetables to make a stew.

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers create human resources policies for their employees and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to have structure without bureaucracy. My company works primarily with employers that have up to 50 employees.

Like what you’ve read?  Feel free to share, but please…Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

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Enjoy Your Holiday!

 

 

 

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Thanksgiving in America

In two days, Americans will gather for the annual Thanksgiving feast.  Thanksgiving is a very American holiday because it is associated with the best and worst of our society.

The first Thanksgiving was held before the U.S. actually existed as a country.  In 1621, the Pilgrims celebrated with the Wampanoag Indians. The Pilgrims were English settlers who fled Europe in search of religious freedom.  They were saved from starving by the local Wampanoag tribe who helped them adapt to their new neighborhood.

What happened next? The Pilgrims discriminated against anyone who was not a Protestant in the Puritan image. That meant English Quakers had a rough time in New England. The Pilgrims also rid their new neighborhood of the “heathen” Indians using methods that today would be designated as ethnic cleansing.

Thanksgiving was designated a national holiday in 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln. Why did he decide to create a national holiday? By 1863, the American Civil War had dragged on for three years. The south was losing the war but the north wasn’t clearly winning.

Lincoln needed a win and Thanksgiving was a symbolic victory. It also allowed him to reiterate his message of binding the country together by using the day to “heal the wounds of a nation.”  His aspiration was never fully realized as we see with today’s political divisions on issues of race, gender equality, religion and immigration.

In 1939, Thanksgiving was moved to the fourth Thursday in November by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Why the fourth Thursday of the month?  The Great Depression was grinding on and FDR hoped to increase retail sales by creating more shopping days before Christmas. Today, early sales begin on Thursday and end with the Internet-crashing sales on cyber-Monday. American capitalism is obscuring the purpose of the holiday.

But in spite of the rampant commercialism and the ugly elements engaged in race-baiting, gender bashing, and anti-immigrant claptrap, Thanksgiving shines through.  In two days, people will gather to eat turkey, ham, stuffing, potatoes, cranberries, fish tacos, burritos, turnip greens, cornbread, fry bread, sushi, ramen noodles, curries, or hotdogs and hamburgers. Whether kosher or halal or nothing in particular, we’ll all enjoy the feast.

Our annual feast has evolved as our society has evolved. That’s the best tradition for an American holiday.   Happy Thanksgiving!

 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers create human resources policies for their employees and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to have structure without bureaucracy.

 

Like what you’ve read?  Feel free to share, but please…Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

 

 

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Ever Felt Like a Misfit?

It’s Halloween, the only celebration when misfits are the “in” crowd.  After all, Halloween is about misfits like witches and warlocks.  But you don’t have to be a witch or warlock to feel like a misfit.

I’ve often felt like a misfit.  My family moved often which meant my siblings and I were the new kids on the block at a lot of schools.  New kids at school are automatically misfits because they don’t have common experiences with the other kids in the class. In college being a misfit didn’t matter quite as much because I wasn’t the only misfit wandering around campus.

In my last year of law school, I went to see the career placement ladies about helping me to find a job after I graduated. The ladies in the career placement office told me that my GPA was so lousy that I would probably never be able to get a job as a lawyer.  What did I say in response?

I reminded the ladies that George B. McClellan graduated at the top of his West Point class and he couldn’t win a battle. On the other hand, Ulysses S. Grant almost flunked out of West Point and he won the war. Who would you rather have working for you, I asked? Clearly the ladies were not history majors or Civil War buffs because they weren’t persuaded by my argument. I found a lawyer job without their help.

In my career, I’ve also gone to work for a few companies that left me feeling like a misfit.  I remember one company where I spent the first year hoping I’d fit in with my colleagues. I spent my second year wondering why I wasn’t fitting in. By my third year, I just wanted to get the heck out of there.  I found another job after a short search.

What have I learned from my experiences as a misfit?

  1. Never keep a job just for the paycheck. If you’re miserable because you don’t fit into the corporate culture or your co-workers are obnoxious to you, go find another place to be successful.
  2. I learned new skills at each job that helped me get the next job. So learn what you can and then move on if the environment makes you feel like a misfit.
  3. No one is really a misfit. We simply haven’t found the place where we fit in.

 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers with up to 50 employees to create human resources policies for their employees and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the company’s size and budget. The goal is to have structure without the annoying bureaucracy.

Like what you see? Feel free to share, but please……give Her Savvy credit. Thanks!

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