Who said HR was boring? Sex, drugs, and more drugs…

Washington or BUST(ed)!

Sex and Drugs, give the people what they want! Joanne Deshenaux, Legal Advisor for SHRM, posts an article this month regarding some of the juicier topics facing voters next week. All told, voters in 38 states will consider 174 different state measures on Nov. 6, 2012. The potential impact to the workplace and/or the individual AT the workplace should be evident:

Questions appear on the ballots in more than one state concerning:

*Medical marijuana use. New employee question: What’s the co-pay on Panama Red or BioDiesel? ~ Currently, 17 (did you realize it was that many?) states allow for use of medicinal marijuana. Two more states, Arkansas and Massachusetts, are putting the issue to voters this year while a third state, Montana, seeks to modify & expand its current program. Corporate drug testing policies and procedures, benefit plans, and even corporate culture will all be impacted should the new law come to fruition.

*Legalization of marijuana for recreational use. ~ Why not push “all in?” That seems to be the case in Colorado (shocker), Washington, and Oregon, who will all ask voters to decide if small amounts of legalized marijuana should be legally sold and utilized. If you’ll remember, California tried this a few years back and was denied, but the cause is obviously still gaining momentum. This could add an entirely new feature to the smoking area at work.

*Same-sex marriage. ~ Six states + Washington, DC have legalized same-sex marriage; up for consideration this year, Maine, Maryland (ironic, right? COME ON, who’s with me??) and Washington will have initiatives up for voter consideration. In another twist, Minnesotans will be considering an amendment to ban same-sex marriage. Withholding determinations, insurance coverage, and an increasingly lively water cooler should all be bi-products of these initiatives.

Human Resources obviously has a stake in the game should these initiatives pass (or fail, in some cases.) Be aware, be prepared, and be alert to the possibility that questions will be forthcoming. It’s our job to navigate change, maintain a bipartisan attitude, and have a plan when called upon.

One addendum: Washington State – already legalizes medical marijuana use, is proposing recreational use, is proposing same-sex marriage….Party On Wayne!

John “Whit” Whitaker is the Founder and Managing Partner of HR Hardball™, and by no means is he endorsing or recommending a vacation to Washington. To send Mr. Knows-it-All an email, or to submit your own thoughts for publishing on this site:





Vigilance is part of the job

“What is THAT?”

An interesting article caught my eye while browsing current events…“Wisconsin company announces layoffs ahead of Biden arrival.” The gist of the story is this; Oshkosh Corp., a major trucking manufacturer in (you guessed it) Oshkosh, WI, has made the decision to layoff 450 employees to respond to expected revenue losses. Layoffs are a part of the industry life for an HR professional, so it behooves us to learn from the circumstances and/or mistakes of companies who are forced to take adverse action with their employee base. For a company like Oshkosh, this represents a 12% reduction in the workforce, a significant cut for any company.

The reaction is to respond to expected losses due to government spending reductions in 2013, as proposed reductions in defense spending take effect.

The interesting facet of the decision is the timing of the announcement which was announced just hours before Laughing Joe Biden was set to arrive in the local community. Both presidential candidates and their respective #2’s are busy making the final push for support in the key swing states for the 2012 election. Certainly a link will be established between the Democrat’s plan to reduce defense spending and the impact to the local community.

What does this mean to the HR professional? Well, it means your responsibilities include awareness of the internal and external landscape that surround you. What is the segmentation of your revenue base? What contingency planning is in effect should a major client or business channel be eliminated or reduced? What legal or political decisions loom in the short & long-term, and what impact will those decisions have on your employee population?

These are the actions of a “business partner.” These are the conversations you pursue with your internal clients, and these are the articles that should catch your eye.


John “Whit” Whitaker is the Founder and Managing Partner of HR Hardball™! To send Mr. Knows-it-All an email, or to submit your own thoughts for publishing on this site:



Good Hiring Practices? It’s Debatable…

“So, did you see the debate?”

“…your guy spits when he talks.”

“Did you see __________ roll his eyes/shift his weight/shake his head/mop his brow/hem & haw/etc., etc., etc!”

How many times did a conversation very much like the one described above  happen earlier this week? How many times do you think the conversation ended poorly?

Nixon and Kennedy did this to us, you realize that, right? Fifty-two years ago, these two debated on live television, and politics changed forever.

Without getting into partisan politics, I think its fair to compare our internal hiring practices to our voting habits, and I don’t mean that in a complimentary way. Here are 5 reasons why:

  1. Look the part ~ Hiring managers will admit that in many cases they make a snap judgment based on appearance within the first 10 seconds of the interview. We like people who look like the people we want leading us, following us, or surrounding us. Kennedy, Clinton, Reagan ~ these guys looked like a President. Similarly, check out the recent hiring history of any Pharmaceutical Sales division.
  2. We like ourselves ~ It’s no secret that we tend to like people who are like us…despite our inner critic, we really do love us some us. Politicians know this, which is why they spend considerable time describing their respective opponent as “out of touch” with the American public. Job candidates know this, too, which is why they fawn all over your stuffed Bass display even if they wouldn’t know a Gitzit from a Curly Tail Grub.
  3. “Undecided” is a myth ~ Everybody has an opinion (there’s a joke I’m omitting here), right? During the hiring and/or election process, “undecided,” actually masks a person’s true affiliation. Why the ruse? Dumb, scared, or starved for attention. And these are the people polled after debates, just as they are the people we beg for support in the hiring process.
  4. Lying is accepted ~ During the debates, the feed below the screen is littered with fact-checking updates to alert you to a candidate’s “mis-remembering” of factual data, and the points of inaccuracy are pounded into our heads for days afterward. But no one cares. We expect politicians to lie. Statistics will also tell you that over half those interviewed admit to fudging some part of their resume. Over 70% of college students admit they would lie on their resume to get a job. References are rarely checked completely, we just want the basic information. We expect a few lies and that’s okay.
  5. We get attached ~ “Our guy” is our guy. We don’t like “your guy,” we can’t be convinced to like your guy, so quit talking about your guy! Really, you’re pissing us off, and if you can’t see the difference between “yours” and “ours,” we would just appreciate you shutting the hell up!

That’s probably #6, we get way too emotional about these things.

John “Whit” Whitaker is the Founder and Managing Partner of HR Hardball™, and he refuses to allow political talk to ruin his Fall. To send Uncle Sam an email, or to submit your own thoughts for publishing on this site:



What are you fighting for?

If you look hard enough, each day can provide an epiphany. Today, mine came via my Coach, Mark [yes, Coaches have Coaches]. We were talking about the passion I have for Human Resources, something I try to communicate in my blog and in my conversations with anyone who will listen. I liken myself to Underdog™, fighting the good fight for injustices real and perceived. Then Mark hit me with the question, “You like to fight, but what are you fighting for?”

Despite my efforts to deflect the question with a snarky answer (“truth, justice, and the American way”), I was gobsmacked. That’s a question where the response should be rote. So my assignment? Figure out what (or who) the heck I’m fighting for:

  1. Communicators ~ Real communicators within the organization, no matter the title or level. Those who challenge “group-think,” ask questions, avoid catch-phrases, and give honest feedback. I fight for them.
  2. Risk-takers ~ The innovators, trail-blazers, mavericks, and visionaries that exist in your company. Finding them, engaging them, and allowing them the environment to blossom. I fight for them, too.
  3. Transparency ~ Challenges exist. Some may lead to problems, some may cause awkward and uncomfortable conversations; good. It’s worth fighting for.
  4. lion-cowardly-courage

    Courage ~ This may be the root cause of all that precede it. Not specifically relegated to Human Resources, but certainly an opportunity for us to distinguish ourselves. It’s our job to fight for the best interest of the employees (and that includes the leaders of the company) as a whole.

  5. Fairness ~ Don’t we all want an equal shot? Companies are a microcosm of our society, so inequities in pay, stature, status, title, etc., are all a part of the dynamic. The difference? In a company, you may actually be able to impact the situation directly.

Even that seems a little “listy” for something that is a burning ember in my soul. Lists are more methodically composed, so maybe this will help me narrow my fight down to one root cause. I’m working on it, so should you.