I Am Part of the Problem

This was shared with me recently. Given …life, I thought it was worth sharing with others in the HR community, especially as we head into the week of #SHRM16. – Michael

Several events in the past couple of weeks have led me to turn inward. I’m debating job change with the sub-debate of whether I want to return to HR and Employee Relations. There are things I am very good at within that sphere. I enjoy being a part of creating solutions to damaged work environments and relationships. Two things this week have led me to second-guess my role in the passive advancement of misogyny in the workplace.

A little over a week ago, the victim of a terrifying rape released her victim’s statement to the predator who raped her unconscious body but got a scarily lenient sentence. Shortly thereafter, a terrorist attacked The Pulse, a gay club in Orlando, killing dozens of innocent men and women. While the two are not at all similar, the combination of events made me question the role I have played in investigation and analysis of harassment and unwelcome behavior of any kind in the workplace.

I work in an environment that is primarily male, primarily Christian, and primarily conservative. I have turned away or kept my thoughts to myself when jokes about the LGBT community are voiced, I have held my tongue when their rights are questioned. I have committed the crime of inaction and not speaking when I felt it would be damaging for my esteem or when I was unsure of if my speaking out would be supported. I’ve heard our CEO talk about the micro-aggressions women and minorities in the workplace hear day in and day out – and believe me, I have kept micro- and macro- aggressions based on my gender to myself more than I’d like to admit – but I don’t think he really knows what that feels like or what falls outside his filter. The crime here is passive, one of ignorance and carelessness. We continue to ostracize the LGBT community and all of its members by not being openly welcoming; by not broadcasting an open and protected environment, by not addressing their safety and protection when in the public, and by not recruiting within the community. Of course, our workplace probably isn’t the most open or protective, — and because our state is not protective, there is no financial incentive for us to change. But my voice does not have be silent.

I have also misapplied my voice in another area, and this is one that I see common across HR and legal departments. I cannot tell you the defensive, adrenaline-based glee an HR or legal department will take when a woman files a complaint (either within the “system” or within company-reporting mechanisms) of sex harassment. I cannot tell you the number of mindless emails I have read between said complainant and everyone else in the world to find a reason her complaint would not be valid. Of course, protecting the company is paramount, but what if we’re protecting the wrong thing? What if all of those stacks of performance reviews that show less than rock star performance or the flirtatious emails with another coworker mean absolutely nothing? What if by investigating that way, we create an environment when victims don’t come forward because they don’t want their lives examined piece by piece? Are we really victim blaming when an employee complains? I like to think of several investigations I have done where this was not the case, — where I looked at the situation in isolation and showed the appropriate compassion for the complainant. But, I know I have also fallen prey to the Eureka! moment when I find something unsavory to use against a plaintiff prior to the Company’s response or a deposition.

It hit me like a ton of bricks when I thought of it that way. Men that know this is the approach a company takes feel free to treat women as sexual objects in the workplace, they feel freer to make sexist comments, they feel okay to show the power they have over women. They know the burden of proof is on the complainant, and that everyone knows she doesn’t have a squeaky clean slate (because who does, right?). And so many women will not share what it is really like day to day. I have tried to capture for myself what it is really like to be a woman in the workplace, — but can’t believe the words I’ve written myself. Why is the bright-line test creating doubt about the employee’s record or behavior instead of finding irrefutable proof from the accused? This is a watered-down version of what defense attorneys do with rape survivors, re-victimizing them in public and on-record. I wholeheartedly believe the accused are innocent until proven guilty, — but defendants in public trial have to at least show their whereabouts and records along with the record and whereabouts of the plaintiffs. Why don’t we look at it the same way? Is it because our competitive nature kicks in when a claim is filed, getting our adrenaline running to play defense? Is it because we never liked her anyway? Is it because we’ve put up with a lot worse and never complained? Is it because we second-guess our own worth in the workplace?

I don’t have answers. I do have resolve – to give a voice to those not at the table (or those at the table but afraid), to give compassion to complaints because I know how hard it is to report, and to resist the urge to get amped up for the hunt if one falls onto my desk. Today, I am sad. For the families and community with hurt rippling from a popular club in Orlando. For a hurting rape victim working to rebuild her life with the knowledge that her strong stance has helped so many others. For women worried about reporting inappropriate sexualization of the workplace because they really just need their job. For any part I may have had in allowing these broken parts of our society to find a home in our workplace.

Shameless Self Promotion and Some Career Advice for the Semi-retired

Returning to Work After You Retire

I was recently asked to provide a career tip for retired workers returning to the job market.  Here’s what I had to say:

Try Something New

HR Practitioner Michael VanDervort has created thriving workplaces for the past 25 years. VanDervort directs the non-profit organization CUE Inc, which assists companies in making positive work environments where people thrive.

If you’re still deciding on a job to apply for, VanDervort suggests trying something new.

Michael-VanDervortView the opportunity as a chance to experiment again. Remember that this is a great time to try something new for you, and chance to share your knowledge and experience with others. It can be a double win.

What are you passionate about? Think of a way you can turn your hobbies and interests into a career, or take a job that gives back by working with a non-profit or community service organization.

Workforce Issues 2016: A Perfect Storm? Webinar on 3/29

Avoid the perfect storm of labor and workforce issues in 2016  


I have worked with TDn2k for several years now on raising awareness of labor issues confronting the restaurant industry.  Since 2012, there has been a significant escalation of  labor activity focusing on the food services industry.  The most well-known of these efforts is the Fight for $15,but there are several more, including boycotts and corporate campaigns.  These are just a few of the challenges  facing service industry employers in 2016.

When you combine these issues with the rule changes issued by the NLRB, the joint employer issues, and the new FLSA overtime rules.  the industry faces challenging times for any employer.  Indeed, the food and hospitality industries could be facing a perfect storm that will alter their business model dramatically.  That’s why I’m partnering with TDn2K this week to offer some advice on how employers can best respond to these issues.

Many of these issues including rising turnover, wage increases in other service sectors, and shifting demographics are colliding now to create many potential problems for employers.   I’m proud to announce that CUE and TDn2K are partnering to offer a webinar focusing on these issues and what employers can do to cope.

There’s a Webinar For That

TDn2K CEO Joni Thomas Doolin will lead a discussion on the current labor market and best practices with Jill Van Pelt, SVP and CPO of Denny’s Corporation and I will present an update on the most current developments in labor relations.  Join us on MArch 29th at 2 PM ET for Workforce Issues 2016: A Perfect Storm?  This seminar will highlight key strategies for recruiting and retaining workers in today’s complex political environment. You will hear how purpose, community involvement and sustainable business practices have contributed to successful recruiting and retention strategies.

Today Is Giving Tuesday. Please give for #NoKidHungry


Today Is Giving Tuesday

Organizations like No Kid Hungry use the funds we donate and put it to work in the community, thereby continuing to pay forward.  On Giving Tuesday, if you make a donation, that donation will be matched.

#GivingTuesday for #NoKidHungry

At No Kid Hungry, our support helped launch school breakfast programs, recruit summer meals sites, and empower families to shop for and prepare healthy meals. It also provides grants to the most effective hunger-fighting organizations across the country to help them end child hunger in their communities. We’re seeing incredible results from these investments. In many places, just $1 can provide a child with up 10 meals.

There’s Black Friday & Cyber Monday, now it’s #GivingTuesday! Help me make #NoKidHungry a reality this holiday season by donating to @NoKidHungry & all gifts will be matched by @HickoryFarms and @KettleBrandChips up to $100K! Double your impact today: nokidhungry.org/givingtuesday

Full disclosure:  I’m a Social Media Board Member for No Kid Hungry and will be fundraising on my personal social media accounts today.

Thank you so much for using your super powers to help any charity you might deem worthy on this this Giving Tuesday!

I’m a Poet, but didn’t know it. #SHRM15

I’m a poet?

Over the last four years at the SHRM National Conference it’s become a tradition for a group of HR professionals from across the country to gather and hold a fundraising event for Share Our Stength and their No Kid Hungry campaign.  In previous years, we’ve played street hockey, kickball and gone bowling.  This year’s event was a poetry slam.  Several of us stood up and read poems to about 50 other HR professionals and three judges.

I wrote my poem during the event, and read it with humorous intent.  It was a good enough presentation to get me into the competition for the top spot.  You may not be able to tell that from the posting which follows, but maybe you’ll take pity on me and make a small donation to #NKH.

I’ll post a link to the video when it becomes available.  Meanwhile, here’s my poem – composed of actual texts off my phone and some personal side notes.

Texts from my phone (with side notes)

The House stopped Fast Track but didn’t kill the zombie fast track trade bill. It’s back in the Senate + worse than before. tell your Senator to ‘vote no’. Kevin, AFL-CIO

30 min til Fisher & Phillips Reception Hyde Bellagio  RSVP required.

(Oh shit I forgot about that one) not very inclusive

30 min til LGBT Happy Hour AquaKnox at the Venetian. 7PM-?. No registration required. (Inclusive  and Could be fun especially this week)

On the 1st Day of Christmas, Mercedes gave to me…an employee handbook that isn’t guaranteed

For those in southwest Florida, join us for a spirited protest at the grand re-opening of the Publix on Longboat Key

Volume issues in the global supply chain session are causing problem for auto companies. U could be laid off.

No problem. Just double checking to be sure I didn’t miss anything.

Planning on looking for some local resources tomorrow.

Breaking news: President Barack Obama will this week release a long-awaited overtime rule aimed at raising wages for 5 million people as soon as 2016, according to sources familiar with the plans.

Are u in the bar?

is Lauritsen with you?

Sorry, over slept- too much celebration.   Be down about 9.

We don’t have a guest for Drive Thru.  Should we call Robin Schooling?

I’m missing u this week. Will be glad when you get home.

Hey! It’s Sam with No Kid Hungry. Today’s our Summer Action Day – take action to make sure no kid goes hungry this summer #nokidhungry

Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

Approach Matters

Looking at how your business approaches internal decision-making can tell you a lot about how healthy your culture is, and how engaged you can expect your employees to feel.

Someone recently asked me a question about implementing a 24/7 continuous work week. They were looking for examples from other employers so that they could understand best practices and potential pitfalls that might trip up their own efforts.

I’ve implemented these types of work schedules several times, and each time the implementation process was different. The very first time was at a high-tech union-free employer in Dallas where we moved carefully and methodically, taking into account the needs of the affected employees as much as possible. every step of the way.

The second program was implemented quickly with very little regard to employee concerns, largely driven by a significant jump in orders from a client which we needed to produce quickly.  The compressed work week solution was the quickest way to up production without having to hire and train new crews.  We just posted the new jobs and shift and forced employees to bid for those jobs with only two weeks notice.  People got angry. Productivity lagged, and the increased orders only lasted about eight weeks before dropping off, at which point we had to unravel the entire thing, angering employees further.

My third implementation took place in a union shop and required a mid-term negotiation over hours, schedules, wages and other terms and conditions of employment. In that case, we wound up with a schedule and wage package that looked almost identical to the one we implemented at the high-tech union free employer. It just took us a little longer to get there because of the need to negotiate and the internal politics that the union leadership need to navigate before final ratification of a mid-term contractual amendment.

Bench-marking Helps

My discussion with that colleague led to some networking on the topic of  implementing 24/7 schedules through our network, asking a simple question.

Does your company have 24/7 operations? If so, how are you staffing that operation with F/T employees?

Numerous members responded, offering valuable insights into implementation issues, compensation, employee concerns they experienced, and resources to aid with implementation.

Company 1: “We ran 24/7 locations with different shifts. 6 hour shifts –4 per day on certain equipment. 8 hour shifts – 3 per day. We did not allow OT in most positions.  Only allowed it at crunch time for certain advanced roles.”

Company 2: “We have a number of sites with 24/7 schedules, details are complicated.  Would take a phone call with the local HR Manager that I could arrange for you.”

Company 3: “We have different 24/7 schedules. We use a consultant specializing in transitioning to these types of schedules who educates our workforce on the benefits of such schedules, how we can balance the needs of the employees with the needs of the business, reviews various schedules and nuances of each, conducts an employee survey, then comes back with 3-4 versions that meet the majority of employee wants/needs as determined by the survey. Employees appreciate that we brought someone in from outside to explain rationale for schedule selected. Not all are happy with the schedule we end up with, but they all know that we didn’t just “cram a schedule down their throats.”

Gaining this kind of real-time openly shared information through an informal network is one of the major benefits of a CUE Inc. membership. We help employers keep their cultures healthy and vibrant.

It’s never too late. It just takes the will..

CUE Inc. has gone social

It may also need an editorial calendar.

I don’t have that yet, but we’re getting there. A new-look website and consistent branding is coming soon!

This is a post that used to come out a lot circa 2009, but there’s no reason not to drop a classic just because it been done before.

Here’s the big drop.

My new organization, CUE Inc. now has social media accounts on the big three of social media. You can check out our information on labor relations news, along with informative news on labor relations, leadership, employee engagement and positive employee relations practices.  You can find us at the following links:

We’ll be featuring great content on the sites like this one from China Gorman who will be a keynote speaker at our Spring 2015 CUE Conference in Louisville, Kentucky on April 26-28th.

I hope that you will follow all three accounts so that CUE can become your go-to source for great links covering developing labor relations issues and positive employee relations resources for business.


This is not your typical HR lady SHRM conference.

It’s Off to the Races for Positive Employee Relations

Who knew that I would wind up doing this positive employee relations stuff for a living?

Part of my new job is planning and producing two conferences every year for CUE Inc. – the foremost global organization for positive employee relations. The CUE events are small, intimate events that focus on building positive employee relations in the workplace.  We offer very specific learning and fantastic networking for those who are closely involved in the field of labor and employee relations.  A majority of our attendees are senior leaders and they are there to learn about the bleeding edge of employee relations.


This is not your typical “HR Lady” SHRM conference.  We’ll be talking NLRB rule changes, influence in the workplace, and the latest research from the Great Place to Work Institute.

Our next event is coming up in April 2015 in Louisville Kentucky. Click through the link if you would like to learn more. Hit me up if you would like to learn more about how CUE Inc. could help your organization with your labor and employee relations.



How One CEO Used Social Media to Tackle a Major Labor Problem

 Speaking Directly to Employees

This is an interesting use of social media by a CEO.  Confronted by a difficult collective bargaining situation that is severe enough that Secretary of Labor Tom Perez is now involved, James McKenna, President & CEO of the Pacific Maritime Assocation utilizes YouTube to release a public statement regarding the state of contract negotiations. The messaging in this video speaks directly to his employees, striving to deliver a message that counters what they may be hearing from their union representatives.



The World of HR in the words of Aaron Sorkin

This is a high concept post. That means I barely wrote any of it. Go me!



“I have to do two things- I have to write a huge check to Sloan Kettering, and I have to break up with you.”
— Will McAvoy

Is it possible I’m not as big a TV star as I thought? – Will McAvoy

You met me at a very strange time in my life. – somebody from the show

“I work 30 feet from the life I could have had if I hadn’t been so stupid.”
— MacKenzie McHale McAvoy (really? Mac mac mac!)

“But there’s another part of the story that Don’s going tell you about that strongly suggests it was him, and not me, that precipitated the death of our very close friend and leader…Do you wanna hear Don tell you that part of the story?”
— Sloan Sabbith

That’s because you live in the time of King Arthur with Don, Will, and Charlie.
— Maggie Jordon

“And if you ask Sloan between me & her job, you wouldn’t be able to get that sentence out before she says her job. And I really like her and I’m trying to be good enough.”
— Don Keefer talking to the HR guy on the Newroom

You will resign when I fire you out of petty malice and not before.
— Leona Lansing