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).

How Not to Handle an Equal Pay Claim

 

The U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) is in a tailspin at the moment due to self-inflicted wounds. These self-inflicted wounds are just the latest PR disaster in their handling of the lawsuit filed by players on the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) demanding equal pay.

The Equal Pay Act dates to 1963 so the USSF can’t claim they were blind-sided by a new federal law.  The law prohibits disparity in pay between men and women doing the same job.  It was bolstered in 1972 with Title IX of the Education Amendments which prohibited sex discrimination in education and forced schools at all levels to create women’s sports programs.

Since then the USWNT has won the World Cup four times and Olympic gold medals 4 or 5 times.  They are the global standard for women’s professional soccer that all other nations strive to match.  Meanwhile, our men’s team has had trouble recently qualifying for the Olympics and has never made it past the Elimination Round of the World Cup.

That brings us back to the USSF’s bumbling response to the equal pay lawsuit.  Instead of admitting the women might have a point, the USSF has argued that the women’s game is inferior to the men’s game.

On March 9th, the USSF filed its latest pleading which argues that the US Men’s National Team players are paid more than the world-topping women’s players because the men’s game requires more skill, is more physically demanding, and involves more responsibility.   That’s a PR own goal coming from the organization responsible for promoting both national teams.

The USSF has also tried to argue that the men’s game generates more revenue which justifies the pay disparity.  In depositions, the women have pointed out that the USSF spends a lot more money and resources promoting the men’s team than the women’s.  Besides, recently the women have generated higher revenue per game than the men’s team.

The immediate outrage sparked by the USSF’s blatantly sexist pleading was so overwhelming that Carlos Cordeiro resigned as its president before the week ended. But Mr. Cordeiro didn’t operate in a vacuum. The board set the strategy and approved his handling of the lawsuit. They should also resign.

Meanwhile, the USSF has appointed Cindy Parlow Cone, a former USWNT player, as the president while they search for a permanent replacement.  Ms. Cone has been given the thankless task of cleaning up the mess left by the men and trying to salvage USSF’s brand.  Wish her luck.

 

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 human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

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Filed under Business Savvy, Fun Savvy, History

Defining Beauty

Standards of beauty have changed radically over the centuries and say more about our cultural values than anyone’s actual physical beauty.  Attaining the appropriate standard of beauty depends almost entirely on a person’s socio-economic status.

During the Renaissance, a bit of plumpness meant your family was wealthy enough to eat more than one meal a day, unlike poorer people who mostly starved.  That’s why Titian’s female models are, to say it politely, fat by modern standards.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, wealthy people wanted to be pale to separate themselves from the ruddy-cheeked people who did manual labor.  Upper class women regularly ingested small doses of arsenic because it gave their skin a pale, pearly sheen.  They also wore clothes of velvet, linen and other expensive cloth as a visible symbol of their wealth.

One reason for the sartorial splendor was that people rarely bathed.  Bathing only became fashionable for aristocrats and socialites in the early 1800’s when they learned that Beau Brummell bathed every day.  Brummell was the Kardashian of his day, famous for being famous.  He also started the tuxedo tradition in which every sharp dressed man wears a white shirt with a black coat and pants.

By the middle of the 19th century, women’s beauty was defined by an hourglass figure. The ideal woman had an 18-inch waist and couldn’t take a deep breath.  Women wore corsets so tight that it reshaped their internal organs, often leading to complications during childbirth.

In the 1920’s, liberated women rebelled against their corsets and opted for a new flat-chested look, wearing dresses that fit like flour sacks.  They also continued using arsenic to whiten their skin and then slathered on mascara, rouge and other beauty products.

In the 1960’s, we finally awoke to the fact that women of color face a host of beauty questions that white women don’t.  Consider the great debate about hair; about whether to go “natural” or use a relaxer to straighten their hair.

Today’s beauty standard dictates that we must be wrinkle-free and maintain a “healthy” weight.  Higher income people can afford the Botox and cosmetic surgery to look young. They also have the income to pay for a healthier diet and to regularly work out at the gym.  Meanwhile, poorer people have wrinkles, eat a less healthy diet and don’t have the time or money to go to the gym on a regular basis.

For those of us who don’t meet the current standards, I suggest a different approach to the question of beauty.  Buy some champagne.   After a couple of glasses, you won’t care.

 

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 human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). 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

A Ray of Sunlight Through the Smoke

The images from Australia are truly shocking. Much of New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria states have been reduced to cinders.  Volunteer firemen and others have succumbed to smoke and flames.  Many people have lost their homes; entire towns have burned to the ground.

As bad as the situation is for humans, it’s worse for plants and animals. Animals who survive their burns and loss of habitat face death by starvation as their food sources are temporarily wiped out.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Scott Morrison is a climate change denier.  He appears to argue that climate change doesn’t exist because it’s not the sole cause of the fires.   I’m not sneering at Mr. Morrison.  The U.S. has politicians just as breathtakingly stubborn about denying climate change.

The American west faces a fire threat of Australian proportions thanks to climate deniers. Beginning with Ronald Reagan’s administration, our government has persistently underfunded the controlled burn program in the American west, meaning that our “fire season” is now longer and more devastating.

The underfunding meant much of Yellowstone National Park burned to the ground in 1988.  It’s only gotten worse as weather patterns have changed in recent years.  Yet like their Australian mates, U.S. climate change deniers insist that since it’s not the sole cause of western wildfires, climate change must be a myth.

But amid all the willfully ignorant blather from politicians, there is a ray of sunshine. Ordinary people understand what is at stake and are taking action. Volunteer firemen across southern Australia have put their lives and livelihoods in jeopardy to fight the fires and save lives.

Craft guilds around the world support local Australian guilds that are knitting, crocheting and sewing pouches for injured animals. Orphaned baby bats, koalas, and kangaroos (and many other species) have a chance at life thanks to the surrogate pouches and the volunteers nursing them back to health.

Ordinary people also understand that there are few sole causes to any natural or human-made disaster. They understand that it’s about admitting that our activities affect our world and its natural resources including the climate.

 

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 human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). 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 Business Savvy, History

Hidden History

 

Long ago, a very obnoxious history teacher of mine insisted that we should look beyond the words on the page at the author.  Every author’s writing is based on the biases formed by the author’s social position, political beliefs and so on.  That was my introduction to hidden history.

History is the written record of human life and activities.  Of course, a nanosecond after writing was invented, people had to decide what was worthy of being recorded.  History is not a record of everything that people do; only what is deemed important to the people of the day.

In ancient Mesopotamia (modern Iraq and Syria), cuneiform tablets contain lists of livestock and grain that were bought and sold in an ancient version of our commodities markets.  A cuneiform tablet also contains the oldest known warranty by a jeweler to his customer, promising to repair a ring if it should break.

In medieval Europe, ordinary people had few legal rights or protections so their lives weren’t considered worthy by the few literate people.  That’s why Froissart’s account of the Hundred Years war recorded only what happened to kings and queens and the aristocracy.  About 500 years later after the creation of academic disciplines like sociology and psychology, Eileen Power’s Medieval People finally gave us the story of Bodo the Peasant.

The historical record also skimps on the lives of women and minorities. Margery Kempe dictated her autobiography in the 1430’s but it was never published and was eventually forgotten.   In 1934, the manuscript was discovered in an English country house by a researcher looking for unrelated materials.  Thanks to this accident, we can laugh at Margery’s adventures in Memoirs of a Medieval Woman, edited by Louise Collis.

Of course, memoirs may contain information that contradicts accepted wisdom, like the de la Pena diary which surfaced in the 1950’s.  Jose Enrique de la Pena was an officer in the Mexican Army that attacked the Alamo in 1836.  His diary says that David Crockett surrendered and was then shot.  Needless to say, the Texas version of the Alamo (a “shrine to Texas Independence”) story is that all the heroes died on the barricades.  Bitter fights continue around the efforts to authenticate the diary.

My old history teacher may have been obnoxious but I still remember his advice.  Look beyond the surface of the author’s words and find the hidden history.

 

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 human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). 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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A Thoroughly American Feast

Next week we will celebrate Thanksgiving, an annual food fest for family and friends.  The cuisine reflects our diverse culture. Most of us will eat New World foods like turkey, squash and cranberries.  These foods and the rest of the feast will be prepared from recipes handed down the generations.

The food may vary from kosher to halal; from tacos and burritos to pickled red beets and pumpkin pie; from sweet and sour pork to chutneys and curries. My family traditionally had ham with Pennsylvania Dutch delicacies like mashed potatoes doused in browned butter; shoo fly pie (like a chess pie made with molasses instead of sugar) and deep dish apple pie.

Thanksgiving is also a holiday of giving. Many people deliver Meals on Wheels to the elderly or serve meals at homeless shelters.  Each year there seem to be new opportunities to help others who are facing adversity.

All of these activities follow traditions established at the first Thanksgiving. According to tradition, the first Thanksgiving was held in 1621 when the Pilgrims sat down to a feast with Squanto and the Wampanoag Indian tribe. The meal was a celebration of surviving a hard year for the Pilgrims and recognition that they couldn’t have done it without the help of the Wampanoag.

Thanksgiving is the most “American” holiday we celebrate.  It was multi-cultural from the beginning. It combines old and new foods that are prepared using both traditional and new fusion cuisine methods.   It reminds us that family means more than just our blood relatives.

Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving!

 

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 human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). 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 family, History

Waste

Navigating through Nashville is difficult these days with all the construction projects in various stages of completion. The skyline of downtown Nashville is dotted with more than a dozen giant construction cranes.  New hotels, businesses, apartments and condos are opening on a daily basis.

Growth is good. But there’s one thing the city’s cheerleaders aren’t talking about. Waste disposal.

New construction projects must include some infrastructure, such as waste water lines that tie into the sewerage system.  But the city’s sewerage system is outdated. Ancient water mains collapse with depressing regularity.  More pipes will collapse by next spring as the soil contracts over winter and expands with the spring thaw.

During the Great Flood of 2010, only one water treatment plant remained functional.  Since then, the city’s population has increased by tens of thousands of people.  With all that growth, the city should have built more treatment plants but hasn’t.  Meanwhile, thousands of new residential properties and hotels are tying into our decaying system.  Usage is expanding but the system isn’t.

I was reminded of these depressing facts of life recently when I received a notice from Metro Water Services saying that they would be asking for a rate increase.  As someone who grew up in rural areas where cesspits and outhouses were the only options, I place a high value on flushing toilets and safe drinking water.  This is one time I don’t think I’ll protest paying higher taxes.

 

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 human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). 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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No Going Back

I’m a news junkie and an avid historian so I feel compelled to read the news. I read a variety of sources in print and on-line to get different viewpoints.  Recently, I realized that the headlines are uniformly depressing.

Hate crimes are on the rise.  White supremacists continue their terrorist attacks on women, Jews, immigrants, blacks, school children, and any politician who denounces their racist beliefs.  Democratic governments are under threat around the world as their apathetic voters fail to vote and their elected leaders undermine their own governments for personal gain or to save their political lives.   International alliances are being sabotaged by politicians with dubious agendas, breaking down the support system that has saved us for 70 years from another world war.

But then I saw a news story that broke through the gloom.  Three cities just elected black mayors: Montgomery, Alabama, Danville, Virginia, and Richmond, Virginia.  What’s the significance?

All three cities were capitals of the Confederate States of America.   The CSA was formed to defend “states’ rights”, meaning the right to continue enslaving black people. White supremacists often wave Confederate flags to show their desire to return to a mythical past unsullied by multiculturalism.

White supremacists, corrupt politicians and haters have always been a part of history.  But on some level they know they can’t win.  Corrupt politicians are always replaced by reformers who strengthen democratic institutions.  The CSA lost the war in 1865 and the white supremacists have been losing the battle against equality since the 1950’s.  Violence is all they have left.

Then I thought of the scene in Stars Wars when Peter Cushing’s character refuses to leave the Death Star.  “Evacuate in our moment of triumph”, he asks a few moments before the Death Star explodes.

The headline stories about terrorism, failing democracies, and hate are like the Death Star just before it explodes.  Behind those grim headlines are a fresh batch of Luke Skywalkers, taking aim at government corruption, terrorist massacres, and the haters.  They are the types of people who just elected black mayors in three cities that were a symbol of a dead past.

There’s no going back.

 

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 human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). 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

Kitchen Kitsch

This is a reposting of a blog from about a year ago.

 

 

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 (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 human resources, see HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my new history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). 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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Stop Saying These Words

 

 

We need to stop saying these words now!

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of…”   It’s cynical and hypocritical coming from the mouths of our politicians and community leaders who shrug their shoulders and say they can do nothing about the mass murders happening across our country.

If their thoughts and prayers were really with the families of the victims, they’d take steps to prevent more mass murders.  But they don’t.  They’d rather deny all responsibility with a meaningless phrase and bogus arguments like these.

Bogus argument #1: The gunman was mentally ill.

Each mass murder is followed by the NRA and their political puppets mouthing nonsense about the gunman being mentally ill.  If the NRA and their enablers at all levels of government truly believed this was true, they would expand funding for mental health coverage and treatment.  But they don’t.

Bogus argument #2: We’re protecting the 2nd Amendment

The 2nd Amendment says every citizen has the right to “bear arms”.  It doesn’t say that every citizen has the right to own an assault rifle that kills 9 and wounds 25 people in less than a minute.  It doesn’t say that we are prohibited from requiring waiting periods and background checks or banning some types of quasi-military rifles.

A recent survey showed 67% of Americans support banning assault rifles like those used in the recent mass murders. So it’s time to stop accepting the hypocrisy of every irresponsible politician and take action.

  1. Vote for candidates at every level of government who support laws that allow gun ownership while also protecting all of us. We need laws that require waiting periods and background checks.  Federal and local law enforcement databases need to be connected to make the checks meaningful.
  2. End gerrymandering. Our country is gridlocked due to “safe” seats at all levels of government. This undemocratic practice hands victory to politicians  of both major parties who are owned by special interests, like the NRA, which fund their election campaigns.  These politicians don’t represent or respect what most voters want.
  3. Reform our campaign finance laws. We need a public registry identifying every donor who contributes a minimum $100 to any political party, PAC, or candidate in any election.  If the donor is a business or special interest group, then we should know the names of their officers and largest shareholders/donors.  We (the voters) have a right to know who is contributing to the campaigns of politicians who mouth hypocritical, cynical nothings while shrugging their shoulders and voting for loose gun laws that enable mass murders.

If we don’t act now, the next meaningless phrase could be mouthed to our families.

 

 

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 human resources, see HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my  history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). 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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Catching Up to Myself

The change was so gradual I didn’t see it happening. I’m still not sure that I believe the changes are real and will last.

For the past eight years I’ve been on a journey learning how to be a successful business owner.  The journey has been an emotional rollercoaster because I had no formal business training or sales and marketing experience. All I had was a desire to help others become successful. I chose to fulfill that desire by helping small businesses resolve their employee and human resources problems.

But there’s a vast difference between being an in-house lawyer explaining employment laws to senior managers and being a business consultant explaining employment laws to small business owners. Lawyers are trained to parse the details and focus on nuances in the law. Small business owners couldn’t care less. They want to know what’s in it for them and how much it’ll cost to comply with the law.  After years of practice, I’ve honed my client-centric approach to explaining things.

In the early years, every day was an exercise in overcoming fear of failure as I struggled to find paying clients before the money ran out.  To spread the word about my business on my shoestring budget, I began blogging.  I’ve been blogging weekly since 2014 and last year I converted some of my material into a book.

As my profile inched up, I was invited to do educational presentations. Although I was terrified of public speaking, I knew that recognition as a subject matter expert would be a great marketing tool for my business.  So I began presenting on human resources and employment law issues.  Later, I added history presentations. For the past couple of years, I’ve been averaging a presentation a month, including several television interviews on a local business program.  I still get stage fright but it seems easier to manage.

Recently, I was reminded that I am a successful lawyer, business owner, and author. Eight years ago, I could not have imagined being where I am today.  It’s been a long grind and I still obsess over real and perceived failures. The recent reminder of my achievements helped me understand that I’m struggling to catch up to my own success.

 

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 human resources, see HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my new history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). 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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