The HR Veterinarian and “People” People

Anyone paying attention knows I love telling a story…so why not start Monday with a quickie? A kid (that includes all humans under age 30) asked me about a career in Human Resources because she “loves working with people.” Instead of the usual boring conversation, I had an epiphany to help describe the specific challenge about a career in HR, especially for someone who “loves” people. Here’s our brief exchange:

Me – “Do you love animals?

Her – “Absolutely!

Me – “So, if one of them was suffering, could you put it down?

Could you?

Her – “Never!

Me – “Then you shouldn’t be a veterinarian, and you probably should think twice about a career in HR.

Harsh? Maybe. But any veteran of Human Resources can tell you the difficulty of separating empathy from duty. It’s not an easy job, and it can put you in more than a few uncomfortable situations where the “job” trumps your feelings about a specific person. It sucks, but sometimes euthanasia is the only option, and you’re the one holding the needle.

If you’ll excuse me, I’m now going to hug my doggie.

John “Whit” Whitaker is Founder and OH (Original Hardballer) and a devout animal lover; like this post? Try this one, this one, or even this one….



Dead Armadillos (and Human Resources)

human-resources…that’s what you find in the middle of the road. Too indecisive, too slow, and eventually too flat.

Jim Hightower, former Texas Railroad Commissioner & lifetime rabble-rouser, is the owner of the quote, “The middle of the road is for yellow lines and dead armadillos.” Filed at the top of the “Wish I Said That First” list, I’ve used this quote in conversation more times than I can count, as Mr. Hightower offers a humorous but decidedly pointed message about picking sides.

What brought this particular quote to mind today is this article by Seth Fiegerman of

It appears that despite the public outrage created by Marissa Mayer’s swift kick to the corporate pants of Yahoo!, employee satisfaction rates are at a 5-year high. How can that be? I’m sure anyone in Human Resources can quickly recant some of the more prevalent arguments that surfaced after Meyer’s decision to yank telecommuting privileges (not “rights”) from Yahoo’s extensive virtual workforce: discriminatory to working women, damaging to employee engagement, crippling to work-life balance, her decision was even described as “anti-family.”

True, there was an autocratic message being sent by Mayer; there was no vote, it was simply implemented, and you can be sure it was done so without regard for popular support. The implication was clear; virtual workers aren’t being productive… Mayer looked at the VPN logs, saw enough to convince her of that fact [Wired, 6.27.13], and initiated the kibosh.

What critics failed to consider is the possibility that employees may have actually wanted these changes. Anonymous comments captured in the (Glassdoor) survey are remarkable considering the volatility of the initial decision [Mayer] “restores vision” and a “sense of urgency” to a workplace described by some as “stagnant.” Considering that two of her recent predecessors had sat scores less than half of those Mayer achieved, it’s not unreasonable to assume that many Yahoo! Employees were actually craving a different brand of leadership.

The simple fact of the matter is this: Mayer is the boss; she wants her employees in the office; life isn’t fair. She had/has a business to lead, and it seems her employees are endorsing her decisiveness.

Leading people will require decisions… some will be right, some will be wrong, but the biggest mess is in the middle of the road.

That’s just gross.


John “Whit” Whitaker is Founder and OH (Original Hardballer); like this post? Try this one, this one, or even this one….go ahead, don’t be a weenie.


This post originally seen on Fistful of Talent, July 15th, 2013 ~



Simplicity isn’t Easy

Addition is the exercise of fools. Subtraction is the exercise of genius.” – Tom Peters


I’m a big fan of the “less is more” movement; in our lives of continual overload, we’ve become captive to our own over-committed, over-prioritized, decentralized way of life. There are some brilliant books available on the subject; “Laws of Subtraction” (May, 2013), “16X” (Koch, 2006), and the inspiring Tim Ferris tome, “The 4-Hour Workweek” are but a few of the plethora (“…oh yes, you have a plethora…”) of relevant and timely readings you can enjoy in your quest to go “simple.”

There’s no doubt about it – we have too much clutter in our homes, our offices, our minds, and our lives in general…time lost, productivity lost, quality lost – does anyone think we have a shortage of priorities that monopolize our day? But instead of eliminating, reducing, deferring, delegating, or dismissing non-value activities, we just add more to our current pile.

I think I know why that is.

Because it’s really, really, freaking hard.

So, in the spirit of the Bob Wiley, I’m baby-stepping my way to a simpler, more efficient existence. Here’s my first (baby)step:

1. The 20-minute egg ~ Not sure if I’ve ever been diagnosed as having ADD, but I feel pretty comfortable in a self-diagnosis of “scatter-brained.” On any given day at the office, I’m working on business development, blogging, correspondence, presentation development, research, and “maintenance” of the social network morass I’ve created. Every “ding” brings immediate attention; my days are/were a constant stop & start exercise to the point of annoying myself. So my rather simple attempt at a solution? My iPhone timer. From the time I arrive in the morning until the time I finish in the evening, my timer goes off every 20 minutes. Why does that help?

  • I can alternate tasks instead of multi-task. Don’t be fooled into thinking multi-tasking is a strength; it’s a cleverly disguised black hole of time-suck. I have my “things to do”, and for 20 full minutes, I’m focusing on one thing.
  • If I’m “blocked,” it’s only for 20 minutes. Anyone familiar with the creative process knows how frustrating it is to have Jack squat on the brain when you need it most. When I hit the wall, it’s only for 20 minutes.
  • I “allow myself” to focus. It’s only 20 minutes for cryin’ out loud. Emails, texts, calls – I’ll get to them during their respective “slot” on my 20-minute rotation.
  • I’m not eliminating the task, but I am minimizing the distractions.

Like I said, I’m baby-stepping. For me, this remedial, egg-timer approach to simplicity has already worked wonders for me in terms of productivity. I can imagine a time when I can start eliminating entire 20-minute chunks; but thinking of that gives me “dizzy spells, nausea, cold sweats, hot sweats, fever blisters, difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing, blurred vision, involuntary trembling, dead hands, numb lips, fingernail sensitivity, and pelvic discomfort.”

If you haven’t seen the movie, I don’t even know who you are….

John “Whit” Whitaker is Founder and OH (Original Hardballer); HR Hardball™ is a blunt, self-aware, and sometimes snarky perspective of Human Resources. 


Intentional Walk – Karen Resendez

Every couple of weeks, I thought it might be nice to dig a little deeper into the mindset of one of our HR colleagues. With scary possibilities aplenty, this savvy journalist now interviews our resident Labor expert, colleague and fellow HR Hardball™ member Karen Resendez:

  1. A brand-new college grad comes to you for career advice ~ he/she is interested in Human Resources; what sage advice do you offer?

“HR” is a very broad field since it encompasses so many different disciplines. I’d first ask which HR discipline they have an interest in and why.  To be an excellent HR Practitioner, a newbie should explore all areas to see where their interests take them and where they best fit.  Labor Relations, for instance, isn’t for everyone.  I firmly believe that you have to start at the ground level in the basics of the organization to understand the why of it – why HR does what it does.  It’s hard to get a foot in the HR door, no matter how big your feet are, so I would tell the newbie to get on LinkedIn, make professional connections, seek an internship, attend HR meetings like SHRM or read HR blogs to get in the know and stay informed.  They should also look into measuring the thickness of their skin.

       2.  Looking at the future of Human Resources, what keeps you up at night?

I often worry about what I don’t know and whether what I do know is enough to get me through the latest pressing issue.  There are new regulations, updates to those regulations and legal outcomes every day that affect how we do business.  It’s an ever-changing world and there is never a dull moment.

        3.   If LinkedIn had the ability to play a theme song whenever someone viewed your profile, what song would we hear when accessing yours?

If you asked some of my former colleagues, they’d say it’s the Imperial March, (Editors Note* – there has got to be a story there somewhere) but I prefer to think of myself as more upbeat and determined, a hard-worker, so my LinkedIn page would play the Rocky Balboa theme song.  It has nothing to do with the fact that sometimes labor relations practitioners feel like they’re in a boxing match!

        4.   49 seats, 50 states – which state is left without a chair when the music stops?

I hate to say it, but I’d channel The Donald and tell my home state of California – “Your Fired!”   Cali has a pretty unfriendly business climate which breeds litigation.  Job security for HR professionals for sure, but there are so many hurdles that some gifted practitioners have gotten out of the field entirely, leaving it to the legal professionals.  I think the current leadership in California is too busy riding around on its fantasy high-speed choo choo to notice how difficult the business climate in Cali has become.   Um, Whit? Can you help me down from my soapbox?

This one?
This one?

If someone wants to connect with you, contact you, or ask what you know about Jimmy Hoffa’s final resting place, how do they do it?


Website: (Still getting started, please bear with me!)

Connect with me on LinkedIn:

Some Offers, You CAN Refuse

“Don’t sell yourself short Judge…you’re a tremendous slouch.” – Ty Webb

Do you have a good idea of your true “worth” in the job market? Gainfully employed or between gigs, it’s a critical nugget of information to have before the time comes when you are asked.

In your professional lifetime, if you work for someone else (i.e., 99% of us), the occasions where you have negotiating leverage are few and far between. One of these rare instances is when you are being actively pursued by another employer. You’re setting the table for a (hopefully) successful career in a new place of business; as exciting and intoxicating as it is to be “wanted,” make sure the buzz doesn’t numb you. Are you ready?

  • Do your homework ~ Online resources like GlassDoor,, etc., make salary information fairly accessible; what you’re looking for is benchmark data: 
    • Average pay at other companies in their industry
    • Average pay for professionals with your level of experience and education
    • Average pay for professionals in your field in their area of the country
  • “Ask for stuff” ~ Simple but powerful advice from Kris Dunn; we generally hate rejection, so the thought of asking for something and getting “No!” in return can be inhibiting. You may not get what you ask for, but I can guarantee you won’t get it if you don’t ask for it. Telecommuting, vacation time, incentives, benefits, etc. – ask now or forever hold your peace.
Example of ineffective negotiation
Example of ineffective negotiation


  • “We can re-evaluate” is still “no.” ~ Make no mistake, once you’re on-board, you have announced to the world that you are pleased with the offer you accepted. Any soft promises lobbed at you during the interview process (i.e., “we don’t have budget for that now, but we can re-evaluate your salary in 6 months”) are farts in the wind.
  • Titles DO matter ~ Until the day comes where titles and salary grades are disconnected, can we all agree that titles matter? Salary, incentives, stock options, benefits, and other privileges are tied to titles. We are a “title” society. You know it, the recruiter knows, the hiring manager knows it.
  • You can say “no,” too ~ It seems like the right job, the right place, the right time, except….you don’t feel that the offer is commensurate with your skill set. Do you settle? Remember, once you accept, the employer (rightfully) expects an enthused and engaged employee. If doubts linger, you may need to walk away. Saying “no” may actually make you a more attractive candidate in some situations – we are a funny bunch of animals, and we want what we can’t have.

We bloggers are a transparent bunch, yes? Obvious examples of personal experiences shaped into words of advice; basically the same concept which parents use.

Good luck to all of you in pursuit of new employment and/or new employers; starting a new job can & should be an exciting time in your life, don’t sell yourself short.


…and be home by 11.

John “Whit” Whitaker is Founder and OH (Original Hardballer); HR Hardball™ is a blunt, self-aware, and sometimes snarky perspective of Human Resources

Hot Potato with Human Resources

So, back to our conversation….who wants the Hot Potato called turnover?

that is one HOT potato
that is one HOT potato

What if HR was responsible for attrition? No qualifiers, no carve-outs of accountability, all turnover falls in the lap of Human Resources – it’s our baby. “The hell you say?”

Yes sir, give us all of it – the terminations, the resignations, the layoffs, the retirements – we want it all.

This is the Human Resources model of the future. Human Resources desires a seat at the big boy table; we want to be a business partner, or, more specifically, we want to be a strategic business partner. The challenge, of course, is providing metrics that speak to our business colleagues. The hole in the HR resume is value. How to prove it; how to measure it; and how to sell it.

I’m proposing a mind-blower, man ~ HR needs to do more than manage the life-cycle of the human “assets” of the company; we need to own it.

When you own the asset, you become vested in the success of the company. Instead of using backward metrics (“cost avoidance” as one example), put the onus on the front-end of the situation. When was the last seismic shift in Human Resources? Ulrich? The business partner is dead – bring on the business owner.

How important would it be to you, as the owner, to assess the inner workings of each and every potential hire? How critical would it be to create efficient and productive teams? Properly engage and incentivize employees?

Create value on the front end, maintain and enhance the investment, assume responsibility for the loss, exchange, or replacement of the investment. It’s time to assume responsibility for the life cycle – ownership vs. a rental agreement. Time to saddle up.

Who’s in?

The problem is never how to get new, innovative thoughts into your mind, but how to get old ones out.” – Dee Hock, Creator of Visa.

Motivation vs. Innovation

had an interesting and important epiphany while preparing for an upcoming speaking engagement.

In our last conversation, the client mentioned the term “motivational speaker” when discussing the gig – this phrasing gave me an immediate shudder, as it brings to mind the exact antithesis of what I believe I offer as a resource.


This is not to discount or disparage the Carnegies or Robbinses of the world – there is most definitely an audience for a motivational message. I just don’t believe it’s my audience, and here’s a quick explanation why:

  • “Feeling” vs. “Thinking” ~ A motivational speaker wants to touch your heart by stirring your emotions. I’m not going to do that. I’d much rather you find some sort of immediate relevance that you can apply to your professional life, whether or not you feel like having a good cry.
  • Limited Resources ~ There’s a reason professional coaches (NFL and MLB, not the ICF) don’t rely on the “pep talk” on too many occasions ~ you can only go to the well so often when it comes to emotion. Emotional spikes can perform short bursts of brilliant performance, but that reservoir is easily tapped.
  • Internal vs. External ~ Teams needing motivational speeches are at a point of crisis, to the point they need an external shot of “drive” administered. That doesn’t change the power of the engine under the hood. I’m sure there’s a Fast and Furious parallel just begging to be made, but I just can’t go there.

This is the conversation I had with the client; it can be a tricky distinction, since I am, in effect, an external resource (see bullet-point above.) The client obviously knows his team better than I do, so maybe a quick dose of adrenaline is what is needed ~ but for the long term success of the manager and his team, the motivation needs to come from the inside. My hope is to provide a method, a technique, or an idea that helps channel the talent already in the room.

“Innovation” beats “motivation” every time.

John “Whit” Whitaker is Founder and OH (Original Hardballer); HR Hardball™ is a blunt, self-aware, and sometimes snarky perspective of Human Resources. 

You Can’t Coach Stupid…

What a bad couple of months for the University of Florida football program, huh? First, Aaron Hernandez confuses Goodfellas with his life story, and now Riley Cooper’s ridiculous outburst delivers another black eye (no pun intended) to the legacy of Urban Meyer’s Gator football program. Actually, this should be no real surprise – 41 of the 121 players Meyer coached on his 2008 Nat’l Championship roster have been arrested (NY Times). That’s a lot of stupid on one team.


Ironic that a team featuring Tim Tebow will be remembered as a gang of outlaws.

Then you have my man, Johnny Manziel. As a Texas A&M grad myself, I can’t tell you the pride we (Aggies are always “we”) felt when that kid took the college football world by storm. Now, if we could just lock him in solitary until the season starts, we just might make it through another glorious season – even if the odds of that happening aren’t looking good.

Manti Teo? Fake girlfriend, established “catfishing” as a real threat in today’s world.

Terrelle Pryor? Tatoo-gate.

Ryan Braun, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens? Cheaters, drug-users, liars and frauds.

The point? We hire people every day ~ we see extraordinary talent, unlimited potential, incredible skill-sets….and maybe a red flag or two (or three, but who’s counting?) Go into the process with eyes wide open at the deal you are signing with the Debbil (apologies to Bobby Boucher) – you may get some shining moments from these folks, but at some point “stupid” overcomes everything else.

Add the prospect of “stupid” having Twitter & Facebook access, and you exponentially increase your odds of being attached to the person and the behavior. Ask Urban Meyer.

Don’t be stupid.

John “Whit” Whitaker is Founder and OH (Original Hardballer); HR Hardball™ is a blunt, self-aware, and sometimes snarky perspective of Human Resources.