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).

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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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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The Stupidity of Unintended Consequences

I recently saw a news article about a federal criminal prosecution in Arizona that reminded me of an unwritten law which should be called The Stupidity of Unintended Consequences. Or to put it another way, short term thinking will rise up and bite you.

In the Arizona case, Scott Warren was accused of conspiring to harbor and transport illegal aliens, a crime carrying a 20-year prison sentence.  Mr. Warren spends a lot of time hiking in the Arizona desert. During his backcountry hikes, he has buried the bodies of individuals, most likely illegal aliens, who died in the desert from dehydration or starvation after becoming lost.  He was prosecuted for helping a couple of illegal aliens avoid that fate.

The case is currently in limbo after the jury was unable to reach a verdict.  The prosecutors must decide soon whether to start over with a new trial.  They have already watched their case boondoggle once due to the Stupidity of Unintended Consequences.

The unintended consequences began back in 1993 with a federal law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).  This law was originally intended to carve out a narrow religious exemption to federal drug laws that would allow the Native American Church to use peyote during their services.   The RFRA prohibits the federal government from creating a substantial burden on an individual’s religious freedom unless the government has a compelling interest to do so.

In 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court said the RFRA applied to the states. The states began passing their own unique versions of the federal law based on the culture wars.  Most of the state versions of the RFRA allow conservative Christians (and so far only Christians) to ignore or break anti-discrimination laws they don’t like in the name of religious freedom.

In Mr. Warren’s case, his supporters argued that the RFRA protected him from prosecution because he followed his conscience and a higher authority in giving aid and comfort to the illegal aliens.  Although unsuccessful, the argument was apparently sufficient to cause the trial to end in a hung jury.

The irony is extraordinary.  A law intended to reduce discrimination is now the basis upon which a segment of the population is authorized to discriminate.  Liberals are now embracing a law they once loathed in order to support Mr. Warren.  And Mr. Warren would probably be a convicted criminal today if the religious right had thought about the long-term consequences of ignoring Jesus’ commandment to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

That’s the Stupidity of Unintended Consequences.

 

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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The Power of False Doctrines

 

The earth does not revolve around the sun, proclaimed the Catholic Church leaders in the 1633 trial of Galileo Galilei.  Galileo was on trial for heresy, accused of reinterpreting the Bible which was forbidden. If convicted he would be executed.

Galileo had scientific proof that the earth revolved around the sun. The Church leaders had their own experts who cited the Bible and Church doctrine to support their earth-centric theory.  Why did the Church leaders cling to their false doctrine long after it was proven to be false?

The Catholic Church faced an existential threat in the 17th century on two fronts. On the scientific front, experiments conducted by European scholars were exposing fallacies in Church doctrines.  Meanwhile, the Protestant Reformation challenged the religious authority of the Catholic Church by exposing the Church’s corruption.

If the Catholic Church admitted that Protestants were right about corruption and Galileo was right about the earth’s orbit, what else was it getting wrong?

The Catholic Church leaders reacted as anyone would who faces a loss of prestige and therefore power.  They ordered Galileo to stop experimenting and to not talk about his discoveries on pain of death. Protestants were tortured and murdered in a forlorn effort to stop the spread of their teachings. The Church clung to its discredited doctrines in hopes of preserving its power, only to find its power and authority permanently diminished.

Now let’s fast forward to today’s debate about climate change.

The climate change deniers have staked their personal and professional reputations on the idea that climate change is a hoax. Over the years, several administrations and Congress have ordered government agencies to stop collecting and publishing data that might undermine their arguments denying climate change. They intimidate their opponents by withholding government research dollars.

Climate deniers face the same existential threat that the Catholic Church faced less than 400 years ago. If they are wrong about climate change, what else are they getting wrong?  Since the climate change debate is now inextricably entwined into our political debates, climate deniers fear an irreversible decline in power and authority.

The fear of lost prestige and power keeps doctrines alive long after they are proven to be false.

 

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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