2012 Pop Culture Year In Review #pophr #HRMusicShare

by Matthew Stollak on Thursday, December 20, 2012

With 2012 coming to a close, its time to look back on the year in movies, TV, books, music, videogames, and food.  Over the course of the year, I viewed 107 movies, read 55 books, watched countless hours of TV, played countless hours of Angry Birds, listened to a lot of music, and ate a lot of food.  So, what tops the list in 2012?


The Best Things I Saw In 2012

  1. Sherlock: Season 2, Episode 1 - A Scandal in Belgravia - The most exhilarating hour and a half of viewing this year.  Well-acted, great script.  Well-worth your time
  2. Key & Peele: East/West College Bowl - I've seen it well over 30 times and it never fails to make me laugh out loud each time.
  3. Bill Clinton, Democratic National Convention - One of the best speeches I have ever seen.
The Best Movies I Saw In 2012
  1. Argo - Excellent effort from Ben Affleck
  2. Moonrise Kingdom - A return to form from Wes Anderson
  3. Cabin in the Woods - Forget "The Avengers," this was the better Joss Whedon film
The Best TV Shows of 2012 
  1. Sherlock Season 2
  2. Justified
  3. Louie
  4. Breaking Bad
  5. Parks and Recreation
  6. Mad Men
  7. Boardwalk Empire
  8. Game of Thrones
The Best Books I Read in 2012
  1. Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn - Page turner featuring two despicable people at odds in their marriage
  2. Ready Player One - Ernest Cline - Science Fiction/Quest novel based on video games (like Zork) and nostalgia for all things pop culture in the 1980s.  
  3. Back in Blood - Tom Wolfe - A bounce back from the disappointing " I Am Charlotte Simmons"

My Favorite Songs from 2012
  1. Bad Girls - M.I.A. - the best hook from 2012
  2. Bad Religion - Frank Ocean -  his performance on Jimmy Fallon was amazing
  3. Under the Westway - Blur
  4. Speed the Collapse - Metric
  5. Distractions - Orbital
  6. Pyramids  - Frank Ocean
  7. Beezledub - Orbital
  8. Flesh and Bone - The Killers
  9. Popular - Saint Etienne

My Favorite Albums/CDs of 2012
The Best Thing I Ate in 2012 
  1. Charburger with Cheese at Edzos in Evanston, IL
  2. Wiseguy Pizza at Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix, AZ
  3. Cheeseburger at Redamak's in New Buffalo, MI
That's it for me in 2012.   Here's to a happy holiday season and an even better 2013 in movies, TV, music, and food.

The Connecticut Conversation We're Not Having

by Matthew Stollak on Monday, December 17, 2012

Like most, I've been ruminating over the weekend over Friday's tragedy in Connecticut, and watching the various pundits pontificate on the various issues (gun control, mental illness, violent videogames and movies) and potential solutions, many of which I mentioned in yesterday's post.

However, a crucial conversation has been missing.  

Much of the discussion has been about gun rights to the point where gun rights advocates feel they are victims as well.  However, what is being ignored is while we have a 2nd Amendment right to bear arms, why do so many choose to exercise it?

The purpose of gun ownership, as far as I can tell, is two-fold:
1.  For hunting and sport
2.  For protection

We have a strong police force that supposedly serve to protect us.
We have significant laws that supposedly serve as a deterrent to crime.

We have an insurance system that most of us pay a significant amount of money to supposedly protect us in case of loss.
Many communities have adopted neighborhood watch programs to look out for one another.

In other words, we have a strong web of support in the community that should mitigate our need for gun ownership.

Yet, estimates indicate that U.S. citizens own nearly 270 million guns, most of which, I would guess, are NOT typically used for hunting or sport.

So what is driving this passionate need to own a gun?  What are we needing protection from?  What is driving our fear?

For example, a portrait of Nancy Lanza, the mother of the Connecticut shooter Adam Lanza, is coming to light:

Last night it also emerged Nancy was a member of the Doomsday Preppers movement, which believes people should prepare for end of the world. 
Her former sister-in-law Marsha said she had turned her home ‘into a fortress’. She added: ‘Nancy had a survivalist philosophy which is why she was stockpiling guns. She had them for defense.
‘She was stockpiling food. She grew up on a farm in New Hampshire. She was skilled with guns. We talked about preppers and preparing for the economy collapsing.’

Obviously, this is an extreme example.  But, we are still going through a lost decade of economic growth.  Millions of Americans have been added to food stamp rolls.  Thousands upon thousands found their homes were foreclosed or their mortgages were underwater.   For most, pensions and retirement plans have stagnated, been reduced, or eliminated altogether.  Wages remain stagnant as well.    Meanwhile, health care costs continue to rise and, if provided by the employer, employees are expected to carry a greater share of that burden.

Nationally, we are continually in crisis mode.  A SHRM e-mail arrived in my mailbox this morning (cue the scary music) with the subject heading "The Fiscal Cliff is Looming."  If its not handled soon, the debt ceiling will need to be raised and the nation's full faith and credit will be threatened.  Social Security will go bankrupt in 20 years if we don't do anything NOW!!!!!

Yet, no one over the course of the past three days has talked about the role economic insecurity as well as the marketing of fear has played.

On Arming Teachers

by Matthew Stollak on Sunday, December 16, 2012

I come from a family of educators.  One uncle was a math teacher for 35+ years with Milwaukee Public Schools.  My cousin teaches AP Chemistry in Green Bay.  My wife is a school psychologist.  My mom taught choir at the K-12 and college level.  My dad was a Psychology professor for 40+ years at Michigan State.  I've been teaching for 18 years.

The curriculum in which I was trained was focused on Labor Economics and Human Resource Management theory and practice.  It did not prepare me for the event when a pregnant student's water breaking in the middle of class discussion.  It did not prepare me for attending the funeral of a student who died in an automobile accident. 
Even with my dad's background, it did not prepare him for when a mentally ill student attacked him in his office for some supposed transgression by throwing eggs at him.  And, it certainly didn't prepare any teacher, even with drills, for the horror that occurred in Connecticut last Friday.

Sadly, my reaction was not of anger or sadness, but numbness, with the only surprise that it doesn't happen more often.  Columbine, Paducah, Bart, and Jonesboro.  It was not "a" school shooting.  It was "another" school shooting.  ANOTHER.  Yet, the news seems to treat such an event like a hurricane or earthquake, as if nothing can be done.  It's all too depressingly normal

There has been a lot of discussion about what to do...more extensive background checks, banning certain types of firearms, increasing waiting periods, increased public health funding, particular in mental health.

However, the most ludicrous proposal I've seen is the suggestion that we need more arms, more guns....that teachers should be armed.  Why?

1.  I'm sure the belief is that an armed gunman or gunmen will enter a classroom guns ablazing, and the heroic teacher will have a gun at her ready and fire accurately to take him/them down, saving ALL the children.  U.S. House of Representatives member Louie Gohmert stated this very point on Sunday talking to Chris Wallace on Fox:  "Chris, I wish to God she had had an M-4 in her office, locked up so when she heard gunfire, she pulls it out and she didn’t have to lunge heroically with nothing in her hands and takes him out and takes his head off before he can kill those precious kids. [...]"

That is delusion of the highest order.  It is fantasy that even J.R.R. Tolkien would reject.

  • It assumes the teacher will have firepower sufficient to take that individual or group of individuals down
  • It assumes that the gun is quickly and readily available at the teacher's side instead of being locked away in a desk or closet that might take some time to access when the assailant enters
  • It assumes the teacher will be able to accurately identify whether the person entering is a threat or simply another student or colleague.
  • It assumes that even if the teacher was able to access the weapon quickly enough, and make the correct identification, she will be able to act both quickly and accurately enough to get off shots that will not only disarm/diable/kill the assailants, but conveniently does not hit one child.

Instead, as I have noted on the blog before, performance under stress is very difficult.  "In the typical fight-or-flight scenario, scary high-pressure moment X assaults the senses and is routed to the amygdala, aka the unconscious fear center.  For well-trained athletes, that's not a problem: A field goal kick, golf swing or free throw is for them an ingrained action stored in the striatum, the brain's autopilot.  The prefrontal cortex, our analytical thinker, doesn't even need to show up.  But, under the gun, that super-smart part of the brain think's its so great and tries to butt in."  Basically, no amount of drills will prepare a teacher for a scenario where he or she is trying to protect a class full of children, and taking out an assailant, while attempting to be accurate.  It will not happen in most occasions.

Further, peer reviewed research indicates that having that weapon will increase the risk to the students and the teacher.  Its better to NOT have the gun, than to try to be John McClane.

Finally, the scene is more likely to resemble the bank robbery shootout from "Heat" than a peaceful face-off.  As a parent, do you want to have your child in a classroom such as this?

2.  Its not been a good couple of years to be in the education business.  In Wisconsin and Illinois this fall, and Michigan this past week, teachers have been portrayed as union thugs who are parasites on the taxpayers and are indoctrinating students in communism or atheism.  They cannot be trusted to fairly evaluate themselves, students, or their colleagues. They cannot be trusted to have collective bargaining rights, and they unfairly force its members to pay dues into the union.

But, you trust them to pack heat in the classroom?

3.  We've just seen right to work legislation passed in Michigan that no longer "forces" bargaining unit members to pay dues that were negotiated for and accepted by a majority of the union members.  Yet, who will pay for the firearms (the gun that Gohmert describes costs at least $800) that teachers are supposed to carry?  The schools?  With Wisconsin cutting nearly $800 million from the education budget, where will the funding for this come from?  Are teachers going to be forced to pay for guns they will be expected to carry as a condition of employment?

4.  What is the insurance liability going to be for the school and/or teacher?  What's going to be the reaction when a teacher mistakenly identifies a child as an intruder?  Will the NRA come running to protect that teacher?

5.  Will arms training now be part of a college or technical school curriculum?  There are many things a teacher recognizes will be part of his or her job...teaching, wiping a student's nose, cleaning up after a young student if he or she soils him/herself or vomits, discipline, hours spent outside of school prepping and grading for classes, even, as we saw, serving as human shields for them....all for very little pay (Substitute teacher Lauren Rousseau, one of the victims, earned $75 a day, or less than $10/hr).  

Gohmert assumes many of the teachers will go on willy-nilly with his scenario.  However, I think a requirement to carry a weapon would cross a line for many teachers, both current and prospective.
As Dave Brockington writes, I have the right to concentrate on excellence in pedagogy and not in SWAT tactics.  I have the right as a university professor to assume that when the door to my lecture hall opens, as it does five times per hour, it's another late student, and not my long awaited chance to unholster the Glock I'm packing in order to pop off a couple untrained rounds in playing hero." 

Teaching is my passion, but I would quit my job before being expected to carry a gun as part of my job. I imagine many of my colleagues would as well.  Similarly, I would expect that the attractiveness of become an education major would decline as well.  As noted above, you vilify us, cut our salary and budgets significantly, and now you want us to take on this added, significantly dangerous, requirement?  I don't think so.   

The result?  A potential nationwide shortage of teachers.  And, as the law of supply and demand indicates, the cost to hire teachers rises.  Prepare to pay.

6.  Then again, it may be mitigated by the decreased number of students.  How many parents will be willing to send a child to a classroom where the potential for gun violence has skyrocketed with the presence of potentially accessible weapons?  

And there is your challenge, HR.  How are you going to handle the demand for greater work/life flexibility as many parents request more time off to homeschool their children?

Surprising Answers to Simple Questions

by Matthew Stollak on Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Growing up, it is not uncommon for many of your childhood friends to be the children of your parents' friends.  The parents would get together for dinner and drinks and, inevitably, the kids would be thrown into the mix.

A couple of years ago, we had a holiday gathering with some of those long-time family friends.  We were reminiscing on the many memories we shared, and the question arose from one of our parents, "What do you feel was the worst thing we did as parents?"  The grown-up kids went around the room sharing what they felt was the biggest transgression they experienced.  Looking around the room, jaws were agape, as the parents were not expecting the answer that was given.

So, we turned it around and put the burden on the parents; "What do you feel most guilty about as a parent?"  Again, stories were told, and, much to their dismay, we had little no recollection of the things that haunted them. 

With that in mind, you may want to ask your employees or boss similar questions.  You just might be as surprised as we were with the answer you get.

Say "Seat At The Table," Pay @shrmfoundation $100

by Matthew Stollak on Thursday, December 6, 2012

As I have written several times on this blog and elsewhere, I appreciate the SHRM Foundation.  Their products and work are outstanding.  

One of the videos from the SHRM Foundation I used to show in my HR class was entitled "HR Heroes: What it means to be a Strategic HR Leader in the 21st Century" (later renamed HR Role Models) It featured Libby Sartain and others discussing, as the title suggests, strategic leadership at both high-tech and low-tech companies.  The SHRM Foundation even produced a nice little discussion guide with it which you can see here.

The introduction to the guide contains the following gem:
There is a lot of talk about HR being a strategic partner/leader today.  Yet in most organizations HR is not part of the executive team.  So, what is required to be a strategic HR leader?  And what must HR do when it has a "seat at the table?

Seems reasonable, particularly to someone new to the HR field.  So, why have I stopped showing it?  

It was created in 2003.   

The role of the strategic HR leader has changed...yet, in 2012, there is still conversation about that piece of furniture.

At the 2012 Leadership Conference in November, Jose Berrios, Chair of the SHRM Board of Directors, mentioned "seat at the table" in his opening remarks.

Yesterday at the HR Fishbowl, guest blogger Christopher de Mers used that same phrase in an excellent piece. 

Nearly 10 years later, we are still having that same conversation.

So, how do we change it?  How do we get rid of that dreaded phrase?

Do we go all Samuel Jackson - Snakes on a Plane-style "Enough is Enough, I've had it with this M@#&$%F*#*ing seat at this M@#&$%F*#*ing table?!?!?

Here is what I propose...treat the phrase like a swear jar you had as a kid.

If you hear a HR talk where that four word phrase is uttered, groan loudly and say to that person that he or she MUST donate $100 to the SHRM Foundation (here's the donation link).  End of story.

Similarly, call the person out on Twitter with the hashtag #SHRMFound100:  "At today's #SHRM luncheon, John Jorgensen used the dreaded phrase, "seat at the table."  $100 to the @shrmfoundation #SHRMFound100"

It is hoped that such an approach will not only banish the phrase from the HR profession, but it will raise some money toward a good cause.  And, who knows, perhaps the SHRM Foundation could use the funds to make an updated DVD!