HR Lessons from Driver’s Ed

I was zipping around in my sweet little hatchback today, thinking about work while picking up my favorite Mexican food. My dad’s lectures on driving ran through my head and I was struck by how some of his one-liners fit the situations I was thinking through.

  • Watch the rearview. You need to be aware of what’s behind you and what’s coming up around you. For me, I like to understand the past of an organization to try to avoid landmines or historical issues sneaking up on me. I also like to keep an eye out for competition coming for us. If I keep an eye on my surroundings, I can avoid some issues and stay ahead of things without having to be reactionary at the last minute.
  • Some times you have to speed up to avoid the accident. I didn’t totally buy this as a teenager – it seemed scary. Sure enough, there have been a number of times where I saw things playing out next to me on the road, floored it and was able to get around an accident before it happened. Slamming the brakes would have put me in the middle of it all. If you are in a situation at work where you sense things are sneaking up on you, it’s time to floor it to get around the chaos. That may mean expediting some changes, rolling out a system, or addressing an issue head on. Slowing things down isn’t the right play in some situations.
  • Signal your intent. This one’s pretty obvious and I imagine we all heard it from our parents. If the people around you know what you are going to do, it makes it much easier for them to react appropriately. I struggled a bit with this in People Ops earlier in my career. I liked to just get things done and out there fast without communicating the big picture and giving people around me a chance to process and react. Now I try to be more transparent, run pilots for feedback and to start to signal my intent earlier and earlier where I can.
  • Find a rabbit. My dad likes to drive fast and not get caught. “If you are going to speed, make sure there is a car going faster than you so the cops get them first.” I’m not sure my mom knew about that advice, but it stuck. In People Ops, sometimes that means drafting behind a faster car and following a company that’s doing exactly what you want to do, and learning from it as they go so you aren’t the one learning lessons the hard way. If they slow down or switch lanes, you do so well before you are in a trouble zone.

So thank you, dad. Your advice has allowed me to avoid accidents and the police for two decades. Okay, there was the one speeding ticket I got out of … and the collision in the high school parking lot that wasn’t totally my fault. As a bonus, though, your advice has actually helped me get better at my career.

Do you have any dumb driving lessons applicable to your career?


Glassdoor Giveth … and Glassdoor Taketh Away

I’m a big believer in transparency. I think it’s a good thing that people (myself included) get a chance to look behind the curtains before joining a company and come into a situation educated. And it’s really great when you have a sparkling reputation online that’ll get you a chance with candidates you’d otherwise have a hard time recruiting. It’s definitively less pleasant when you get rocked by a bad or inaccurate review.

Dealing with it from the other side has been a learning experience. When your reviews are rougher than deserved, inaccurate, or take pot shots at executives for making decisions for the business … what do you do without exacerbating the situation by coming off defensive online? Here are some tips:

  • Be reflective. Take it in and realize that there is likely something you can learn from the review. Look for trends in the response – even if you think they are inaccurate. What opportunities for improvement do you see? Are there echoes of things you are hearing in exit interviews or internal engagement checks? Start asking your culture ambassadors their thoughts on what’s coming up on Glassdoor and if there are things you can do to address them.
  • Be honest. If there are nuggets of truth in there, don’t run from them. Acknowledge that you can see where the perception is coming from and talk about what you are doing to address them. You don’t need to dignify the exaggerations with acknowledgements, but if you want to address them, do so carefully. Instead of stating their review is inaccurate, consider talking about what your intent was behind the policy or action they are contesting. If you’ve had other people receive it the way it was intended, or have seen a positive impact from it, it’s ok to say so.
  • Have others review your response. Be aware that neutral candidates – and even your current employees – aren’t going to be reading with full context and will read their own tone into your response. Channel your inner diplomat and remove emotions from your response. You don’t want to come across as defensive, rigid, aggressive, irritated, etc. Pick people you know have the guts to give you honest feedback on tone and content. If you can’t remove the emotion, consider skipping out on a response or waiting until it clears before responding.
  • Do something about it. Put yourself in the driver’s seat. There is one really, really good way to change the tone on Glassdoor and improve your chances at recruiting the best talent: be a great place to work. It takes an openness to hear about the warts and start to address them. Then it takes a consistent and good faith effort to fix the things that are driving people away. It’s not easy, but it’s doable to turn the tide. Commit to and deliver a great experience.

There are some definitive don’ts as well. Don’t pressure others to write inaccurate or glowing reviews. It’s going to backfire. Don’t get into the specifics surrounding the presumed poster’s departure. Perhaps they were fired for cause and a terrible culture fit, but there is really no upside to bringing that up online. Most readers take highly negative reviews with a grain of salt and are more curious to see how companies address it. Plus, you don’t want to open yourself up to any liability.

All in all, I’m still learning and would love any helpful tips you have, but I think if you are open, honest and try to take the high road, you are in a good position.