Salvation Theme

by Matthew Stollak on Thursday, May 19, 2011

A running theme over the past few months has been Zombie HR.  Ben Eubanks has written "10 Reasons to Hire Zombies."  Doug Shaw made his own contribution with "Zombie HR." Jay Kuhns wrote last week that "Service Zombies are not World Class."  Today, Dwane Lay staked his claim with "The CDC and the Zombie Apocolypse."

Coincidentally, the University of California-Santa Barbara has taken a new approach to the zombie discussion:

About 800 students showed up to The Hub at 8 p.m. for the second annual Zombie Debate hosted by Associated Students’ Program Board to hear six professors argue why their area of study would be most valuable in surviving a zombie attack.
This year, the participants were Walid Afifi of Communication, Rusty Busto of Religious Studies, Tamsin German of Psychology, Glenn Beltz of Engineering, Candace Waid of English and Comparative Literature, and the newest champion, John Latto of Biology, whose prize was bragging rights.
Each professor used a different tactic to sway audience members, ranging from Afifi’s use of digital maps to show where zombies had attacked and Twitter feeds to get updates on what was going on, to Busto surprising the audience by pulling out a chainsaw to prove his point that the Religious Studies Department employs the necessary tools.
Missing from the debate was the perspective of a professor of human resource management were invited to the debate.  So, why might HR be uniquely suited to handle a zombie attack?

  1. Experience  - HR professionals have spent many years dealing with employees whose dedication and passion have long since disappeared.
  2. Knowledge - Given the private discussions they have with many employees, they know where those bodies are buried and can act accordingly.
  3. Being a Credible Activist - By delivering results with integrity and sharing information, they can build relationships of trust with our new zombie overlords.
So, have at it folks...why would studying HR provide you with an advantage in dealing with a zombie attack?

The Beach

by Matthew Stollak on Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Last January, I discussed the detailed tenure and promotion process most academicians go through to move up the limited career ladder.  I was being sly (and somewhat disingenuous) in my discussion as I was going through that very process.  On January 31, I submitted my application for Associate Professor with a 46 page essay (which you can read here if you are incredibly bored or are looking for a sleep aid) along with supporting material.  After 3 (!!) long months, I learned last Friday that my application was supported and I will start the 2011-2012 year as an Associate Professor.

The first emotion I felt when I opened the letter informing me of the news was not joy, but immense relief.  The waiting and waiting for the decision had certainly taken its toll, as I grew frustrated by the lack of news.  But relief sooned turned to thoughts of "what now?" 
  •  Should I rest on my laurels? That'd be very easy to do...and I wouldn't be the first.
  • Can I be content at the rank I have achieved, knowing the difficult road that lies ahead if I choose to pursue the next level?
  • What will it eventually take to reach the pinnacle of any academic career - the rank of Professor?  
  • What will it take to demonstrate "sustained competence over time," given application to that rank is at least 5 years away?  
  • I have yet to start a family.  Can I maintain the energy and devotion needed to continue growth and prominence in my chosen field, particularly if a child enters the picture?
With finals coming to close, and a couple research projects in the mix, it will be a summer of both satisfaction of what I have accomplished, and contemplation of the future.

Blue Monday

by Matthew Stollak on Monday, May 9, 2011

As mentioned before, Laurie Ruettimann and I presented on "Pop Culture, Politics, and HR" at last weekend's HREvolution Conference.

One of the questions that we posed to the audience was, "what would you do if you learned your employee is a birther?"  The tilt of the question was to see whether political, let alone radical, views would affect your perception of the employee's ability to get things done.  Would you trust him or her to handle a crucial negotiation or sale based on this initial fact?  The general consensus by the audience was that if the employee demonstrated an ability to defend a position with reason, and they have shown a history of good judgment otherwise, they would trust him or her to handle their business.   Also impacting the decision was an employee's sales record.

So, with that as prologue, is there a fact you could learn about an employee or colleague that would cause you to pull a 180 on your perception of him or her?  Member of the John Birch Society?  KKK?  Loves the song "Cotton Eyed Joe" or Rick Astley?

What have you?


by Matthew Stollak on Monday, May 2, 2011

As mentioned, Laurie Ruettimann and I presented on "Pop Culture, Politics, and HR" this past weekend at HREvolution.   I imagine that the presentation would have been vastly different if the Obama news came out Friday night instead of Sunday night (in fact, Laurie's blog this morning would have most likely been a centerpoint of the discussion).  In any case, given that there were so many good sessions competing with our own, here are the questions we were prepared to ask the audience in our session (of which, many were brought up):

  1. What do you want your workplace to be like?
  2. What do I want from work and the workplace besides money?  
  3. Is it simply a paycheck?
  4. What do I want/need from my supervisors/employers/colleagues?
  5. Is there a social component?
  6. Why do we worry about survivors during a layoff, if work is not social?  
  7. Why does morale go down during a layoff?  
  8. Ulrich indicates in "The Why of Work," that we seek a sense of purpose, meaning, value, and contribution.  What contributes to that sense of purpose?
  9. Does pop culture help contribute to that sense of meaning or purpose?
  10. What relationships do or should exist between the workplace and the rest of my life/family/religion/community/nation?
  11. Is it a personal and/or social "good" to be a "workaholic?"
  12. How would I know if I was a workaholic?
  13. How do examples from and familiarity with popular culture illuminate and contribute to answering the above questions?
  14. What is the vocation of HR?
  15. What is HR's calling?
  16. What do we want our role to be in human resources?
  17. Is HR corporate lackeys merely enforcing the organization's restrictive and punitive rules?
  18. Is HR creating a workplace where workers can share ideas and feel welcoming?  
  19. Does making workers feel welcoming matter?
  20. What is pop culture?
  21. Is it a failure of American society that many of us default to pop culture because we have no other basis to form a community upon?
  22. Are politics considered pop culture?
  23. Are sports considered pop culture?
  24. What about Obama's youth movement and Shepard Fairey posters? 
  25. Is it art?
  26. Should those posters be allowed in the office?
  27. What is the relationship between pop culture, HR, and the workplace?
  28. Do we believe that the outside world of life/entertainment/art has a place at work?
  29. Do we need external topics to talk about at work because our actual jobs are so suffocating?
  30. Who is participating in the discussion of pop culture items?
  31. Is it the engaged?
  32. The disengaged?
  33. Those that are outright sabotaging the workplace (and is pop culture the manifestation of it)?
  34. What role does pop culture play in the socialization process?
  35. Does pop culture bind us together or separate us?
  36. Does pop culture serve to exclude some as well?
  37. Do employees feel left out if they didn't watch the latest episode of "Desperate Housewives" or "American Idol?"
  38. What are the expectations, if any, of employees with regard to pop culture understanding?
  39. Do I feel compelled to read a particular book (i.e., Bridges of Madison County) or watch a TV show to fit in?
  40. Does pop culture begin to feel like homework?
  41. Is there peer pressure to participate (like learning the electric slide for a company function)?
  42. What if I don't care about the Royal Wedding?
  43. Is pop culture ephemeral?
  44. Can we even create a common bond with one another with friends, at work, or at home?
  45. What is the impact of community at work?
  46. Does work no longer fulfill that need for purpose, meaning, value, and contribution if I am able to find my niche or subculture online?
  47. Do I need to come to work to discuss the latest twists and turns on "The Killing" or "Fringe" when I can go to online message boards to get an immediate reaction?
  48. Is there a stigma associated with popular culture?
  49. How does one react when you hear someone went to ComicCon? Positive? Negative?
  50. Is being a fan of the Grateful Dead or Phish something to be embraced, or are you viewed as a directionless, drug-addled nomad with no link to reality?
  51. Do you read comic books?
  52. Do you listen to country music?
  53. Do you read People?
  54. Do you read US Weekly?
  55. Do you read comic books? 
  56. Do you read Romance novels?
  57. What is the divided line between those cult classics and guilty pleasures, and those items to truly be avoided?
  58. Can you dress up as Dr. Frank N Furter for the midnight showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show on weekends and still become CEO?
  59. Is pop culture just high class gossip?
  60. How many check out
  61. How many check out Perez Hilton?
  62. How many check out Egotastic?
  63. How many spent at least some time in the past month talking about Charlie Sheen?
  64. Do we view the gossiper in the organization positively or negatively?
  65. Do we view the gossiper as having power in the organization, given the info he/she possesses?
  66. Do we view gossip as small or petty?
  67. Does pop culture carry the same weight in the organization as gossip?
  68. Do we view the pop culture "expert" with respect or disdain?
  69. Are we impressed when he or she can rattle off inane facts, or obscure quotes from movies?
  70. Does it signal the person as "unserious" and unworthy of being promoted within the organization?


by Matthew Stollak on Sunday, May 1, 2011

Back from Atlanta and the 3rd Annual HREvolution Conference.  While there will likely to be about 74 of these, give or take in the next 48 hours, here are my quick impressions:

The Conference Committee Rocked It Again  - This was the 3rd time I had the opportunity to attend HREvolution, and it once again delivered in spades.  Kudos have to be given to the Conference Committee of Steve Boese, Ben Eubanks, Trish McFarlane, and Crystal Peterson for the fine job on the facilities, food, content, and atmosphere.  Fanatstic job!

People Like Each Other - Given the significant connections that were made prior to the event, you can definitely see the passion for each other shine through in person...from long-time vets to first-time attendees.   You had nearly 60 people show up before the event even started to get together and chat.   You had 30 people head to Flip Burger for dinner Saturday night.  You had 35+ at breakfast the next morning.  There is a kinship about the experience that was mutually shared....just follow the #HREvolution on Twitter to see.

Our Session Went Well - I was blessed to have the inestimable Laurie Ruettimann be my co-pilot for our session on "Pop Culture, Politics, and HR."  It was that, and so much more.  We discussed:

  • What is pop culture?
  • What is the relationship between pop culture, HR and the workplace?
  • Does pop culture bind us together or separate us?
  • Is pop culture ephemeral?
  • Is pop culture just high class gossip?
  • What do you do if your employee is a birther?
  • But, given the format of the conference, the audience took us in a lot of different and unexpected directions - how to deal with employees who are a**holes, scientology, religion, gay vegans, news v. opinion
We both had an interesting and good time presenting it, and we had a great audience who pushed, prodded and poked the discussion, as they should.

Get Over the Format - I thought too much breath was wasted on the discussion by some on whether it was a "conference" or "unconference."   Was the content good?  Were you able to connect with others?  Get over the label.

Other Thoughts
*Atlanta - not a big Coca-Cola town
*The Meet Meme trading cards were a hit....would love to have them for our own state SHRM conference.
*As it demonstrated yet again, it was not your father's HR conference - I was 4 for 4 in hearing the "F-word" in each of my sessions.  I'm tempted to start another blog titled "Profane HR."
*The unintended effect of the flat taxi rate to/from the airport - the driver of the taxi Joan Ginsberg and I shared decided in the middle of the trip to pull over at a gas station to use the restroom.  Wonder if that would have happened if the meter was running.
*Looking forward to HREvolution 4 in Las Vegas October 2.  Heard a rumor that might be a new member of the planning team....