Friday, October 25, 2013

Quest For The Cup

Hello, Faithful Friends.

I honestly didn't expect to be writing here again so soon but what can I say; some people like retail therapy and some people prefer writing therapy.

We're in an employer's market right now so articles about how aspiring job candidates can excel during interviews, make a good impression on the job, distinguish themselves from their peers and increase their work-place value are commonplace. Unfortunately, given our current economic climate, you really don't see a lot of write-ups that put the onus on the other side of the desk.  

So, you know me, wherever I see a glaring deficit I'm there to help.  As such, here's:

  1. "What Is Your Greatest Weakness" Is A Dumb-Assed Question Seriously, most behavioral interviews are ridiculous and waste gobs of time for employer and employee alike. Instead of asking about goofy, theoretical shit, take this opportunity to really dig into the applicant's resume. If the required duties and responsibilities for the position have been discussed and you've asked the applicant about relevant work experience and/or training, then their suitability (or lack thereof) should be blatantly obvious to the both of you. Now, I'm not saying that you need to grill the candidate like Claus von Bülow but if the interview is finished in the same time it takes to nuke a Hot Pocket or the interviewee tries to dis-spell a protracted moment of awkward silence with random questions about the weather, then may want to revise you interviewing technique.   
  2. "Expectations" Are Called "Expectations" For A Reason The interview process is the perfect chance to clearly delineate the tasks you're hiring for. If the candidate has to come back to you days later in order to clarify a bunch of basic stuff, then you've missed your opportunity. If you insist on putting people through an interview process with more stages then a NASA training program, then at least have the decency to serve up all the shit-flavored hors d'oeuvres on your first date. Stop me if you've heard this one: you apply for a low-paying but spiritually-rewarding not-for-profit job. After two rigorous, stressful bouts of cross-examination, you're brought back for what you hope is your final interview. Then, just seconds before they offer you the job, they decide that now's the perfect time to tack on a few riders. Turns out they've recently "restructured the position" and in addition to your forty-hour work week and extensive travel time you're now required to "come back to the office at the end of each day" and "take care of any unfinished admin stuff that needs to be done" before you can go home. Please note that if you still have the cajones to reach across the desk, offer your open hand and and say "Welcome aboard!" after doing this then you risk being beaten to death with an industrial tape dispenser.
  3. The Only Good Surprise Is A Paid Lunch Even more heinous then the scenario detailed above is troweling extra duties onto people before the ink on their contract dries. This can sometimes happen if you f#@ked up the aforementioned interview or someone else quit (probably for good reason). Now you're left in the lurch and instead of hiring someone else you start dumping extra tasks and responsibilities onto the heads of people who either didn't agree to this or aren't qualified to do them. Take note, kiddies, if you opt to go this route then you're essentially asking people to humiliate themselves for money like a bunch of dancing monkeys. For example, I did administrative troubleshooting and back-end customer service inquiries at a previous job. After another department folded, the high-profile / hot-potato duty of keying rush orders fell into my unsuspecting lap. Did this time-sensitive, high-stress responsibility come with higher pay? Nope. Would accepting this duty put a positive spin on my next review? Nuh-uh. No, it was just an unexpected and unwelcome dollop of poo that got ladled onto my crown just because I made the mistake of exhibiting competence and attention to detail. Word to all wannabe decent bosses out there: there's no quicker, more efficient way to turn a positive, energetic go-getter into a bitter, negative, underachiever. 
  4. Don't Stick Their Nose In It As the former online retail manager, I used to be responsible for as many as one-hundred staff during the busy Holiday season. I've seen a lot, and I mean a lot, of employees do some supremely stupid things, some of which was willful and some of which was unintentional. Regardless, I never, ever chewed anybody out in front of their peers, co-workers or friends. For example, we had a strict "no eating at your station" policy so if a new hire f#@ked up and whipped out a sandwich at their desk, I'd carefully take them aside and politely remind them that they couldn't do that. Even if they tried to eat friggin' snow crab and ribs at their desk, I still wouldn't embarrass them in front of others. Remember what Yoda said: "Accusations lead to Embarrassment, Embarrassment leads to Resentment, Resentment leads to Hatred, Hatred leads to Rage-Quitting."  Or something like that...
  5. Step Down From the Ivory Tower  If things get busy or hectic, don't just sit there and stare at your minions as they rush around like decapitated chickens. Even as managers at Sears, we'd often jump on the phones and take customer inquiries when things got hectic. At the very least you should walk around, check on your people, do what you can to help. Don't just sit there, lording your autonomy over everyone. Remember, these are your customers too. And just like in the military, nothing is more impressive to boots on the ground then someone who leads by example.
  6. Being In Charge Means (Occasionally) Having To Say You're Sorry  In much the same way that employees screw up from time to time, you're bound to goof up as well. So, instead of trying to save face like a disgraced samurai, suck it up and apologize. In much the same way that most disgruntled customers are just looking for a simple apology, your chagrined staff will often be pacified by a straightforward "sorry". In a healthy work environment, offering up the occasional act of contrition shouldn't be a threat to your authoritah. And if it is then seek help 'cuz you prolly got ninety-nine problems and a few simple words shouldn't be one.       
  7. Don't Poison The Well   It only takes one bad apple to poison an entire work environment so I'm here to tell ya, folks: festering rancor is the dry-rot of the modern workplace. As the boss, you need root that shit out before it takes hold. That means clearing the air, not just with the person you wronged but sometimes with the entire staff. Let me give you an example: a worker of mine named Thelma tells me well in advance that she can't work at an outlying location this weekend because her car's in the shop and buses don't run after midnight. After acknowledging this I make an honest mistake and schedule Thelma to work there by mistake. This prompts Thelma to point out my oversight, so I apologize and then tell her that I'm going to fix it. After many days of scrambling, I finally manage to convince another employee, let's call her Louise, to scrap her plans for Saturday night and cover it. In order to generate sympathy for my plight I'm forced to tell Louise that Thelma is a "diva" who was "too cheap to pay for a cab". Louise works the shift, but spends the entire eight evening wishing that something heavy would fall on Thelma, perhaps a piano or a safe. Sure you don't look bad in this Machiavellian scenario, but how long do you think it'll take before Thelma and Louise threaten drive your working environment's good vibes off of a cliff?   
  8. Give Them The Benefit Of The Doubt  If you did a thorough enough job during the hiring process then you should know your staff well enough to let them be. Even if they screw up a couple of minor things, just chalk it up to nerves and move on. Now, if you haven't done a very good job during the interview process, you may be forced to accept the very real possibility that you've unwittingly allowed a super-strong, deranged, synthetic replicant android to infiltrate the workplace. See how important those Voight-Comp tests are now? 
  9. Rise 'Em Up  As a corollary, if you see your peeps take the initiative or go above and beyond the call of duty, then it's time to make with the good karma, man. Now's not the time to be shy; open up yer word hole and say "Thanks!" or "Good Job!" or "Hey, Thelma, Nice Use Of Krav Maga There To Take Down That Shoplifter!"  Bonus points for doing this within earshot of as many other people as possible.
  10. A Home Away From Home If your work environment is reasonably happy, harmonious and healthy, you'll end up reaping some pretty serious dividends. You'll won't need to urge your staff to "choose their attitude" because happiness will be their default setting. They won't mind staying a few extra hours, coming in on their day off or sticking around after work. Hell, if you follow my advice, your employees will become better ad agents for your business then Don friggin' Draper. 
Please note that all of this needs to be tempered should your hideously-inept interview process result in the retention of a chronically-late, narcoleptic, incompetent, kleptomaniacal, sass-machine. In that case start compiling the evidence for the prosecution, fire that mofo post haste and then, most importantly, learn from your mistakes.

EPIC  More sage advice.    

FAIL More stupid interview questions.

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