HR Executive

HR Executive


Seattle, WA

Female, 39

I'm the head of HR for a leading digital media company. I'm responsible for making my company an amazing place to work - or at least I'll go down trying! In short, I set the strategic direction for the HR function of the organization. I wear many hats: member of the executive team, confidant and advisor to my peers regarding people matters, as well as an advocate for all people that work hard to make our products great. People are what make organizations tick, and my job is to empower them all.

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50 Questions


Last Answer on January 11, 2015

Best Rated

I was laid off because the economy sucked and our practice was hurting, but in my meeting they tried to dress it up as performance-based. I don't understand why they couldn't have just said "listen, we think you're a good employee but we're not doing well and can't afford to keep you around. " Are there legal consequences to a company characterizing a layoff as performance-based vs. economic?

Asked by Precious almost 6 years ago

I'm sorry - that sounds like a terrible experience. It's adding insult to injury. I hope they gave you a decent severance package, at least. In general, when doing layoffs, you do need to be able to legally justify who you selected for layoff as opposed to who you didn't. This decision making process defines the factors taken into account when selecting who is impacted, and usually includes one or more of: skill set, location, time in job and / or performance. While this process needs to be defined, it doesn't need to be communicated to impacted individuals during the layoff process. I don't know if your performance truly was an issue, but it sounds as if they wanted to communicate that it was and it was how they make their decision. When you say "our practice", I am assuming you worked at a law firm. Being a bunch of lawyers, my guess is that they were trying to cover their rear ends by providing you a 'defensible reason' for choosing you to lay off. That's sort of crummy, especially when you consider if they offered you severance, it came with a release from claims. If you sign that, you can't come back and sue them - so no need to worry about providing a reason at the beginning of the process.

While looking for jobs, I've often heard companies using the term "hiring freeze". Is this usually b.s.?

Asked by spivey almost 6 years ago

It is a highly overused term. Without knowing all the details, I would guess that you are applying for roles that are not central to what an organization does. For example, as a tech company, I will always be hiring developers. But, that isn't true in other areas such as Marketing, Legal or Finance. Because these are considered 'support' functions, headcount is very closely managed in these areas. It may be possible that you are applying at organizations that are truly in a freeze - but in my experience this is quite rare. It usually happens in organizations that are super small, in severe financial distress or a business in which labor is the largest cost and managed down to the very minutes employees work (like a call center, for example.)

Is dating an HR person riskier than the usual workplace dating?

Asked by curiousgeorge almost 6 years ago

You might want to ask this of some of my ex-boyfriends. I thought it was fine, but to be honest, I think it was a little like Hot for Teacher. There certainly was an added edge of excitement, if you know what I mean. That being said, the risk likely is more to the HR person than the other employee, unless that person is the boss. Who wouldn't question what the HR person and their significant other talk about away from the workplace? It potentially ruins the credibility of the HR person, and could make the other person untrustworthy in the eyes of their peers. And, if there is favoritism involved, the HR person can be sued. You think I would have learned this lesson the first time. Happily, the third time was the charm!

I was convicted of a major felony about 12 years ago. Since that time, I have earned my bachelors Magna Cum Laude, and am considering getting an MBA. I still can't get a job. Will the MBA help? Is there any real hope for executive level career?

Asked by brad white almost 6 years ago

I am sorry you are having such a hard time. It is clear that you have worked hard to overcome your past, but are still facing some challenges. Fortunately, just a few months ago, there has been an update in this area that may be helpful to you as you move forward in your career. Recently, the EEOC issued guidelines that outline when employers can take into account the criminal history of a job applicant or employee. In the past, employers typically had a policy of not hiring individuals who had felony convictions, regardless of the details of that conviction. This no longer is permissible, and each situation must be considered individually. The EEOC cites the most important considerations as: (1) the nature and gravity of the offense (2) the time that has lapsed since the offense and (3) the nature of the job. To learn more, I recommend you check out the details at the EEOC's website at The information is long, but it will help you understand how this new approach works and can give you some specific steps you can take to address the situation. Good luck! I wish you much success and continued achievement.

Why doesn't Human Resources get more respect?

Asked by Meaghan000 almost 6 years ago

I can't get no respect! Can you hear Rodney Dangerfield in your head? Overall, I haven't ever felt I was treated without respect or appreciation. But I do think that HR as a profession can sometimes carry a negative connotation for people, and I chalk it up to two factors: 1. HR used to be "Personnel" - the place where you filled out a lot of paperwork, were told the rules and received your safety training. You also were taken there when you broke some rules, and got in trouble. Fortunately, with the advent of computers, all that paperwork crap is gone. And none too soon, I have terrible handwriting. As for getting in trouble... well, if you are always in trouble, you likely won't like HR no matter what. 2. Like many professions where you spend at least part of your time solving other people's problems, drama-prone people can be drawn to HR. It's the "I need to feel needed to feel OK" orientation - and HR seems to draw a higher percentage of individuals than, say, software development. I interviewed someone not too long ago who said she wanted to be in HR because she loved spending a lot of time talking to people about their feelings. Oy. All it takes is for one or two run-ins with someone like that, and it's no wonder that people shy away from HR. All that said, there are many more kick ass people in HR who have earned the respect and admiration of the people they work with.

Whose "side" is HR on? If an employee complains about a supervisor in such a way that could be harmful to the company, is HR's job to help the employee or defend the company?

Asked by employee2218 almost 6 years ago

I think it really comes down to the company you work for, and how they treat employees in general. HR has a legal obligation to create a workplace that is compliant with a variety of laws, many that have to do with our rights as employees. It's how this obligation is interpreted and enacted that makes the difference. You can have a workplace that is completely compliant with the law, but makes employees feel disrespected and scared to express concerns. I know, as I've unfortunately worked at places like that. It really sucked - and I got the heck outta dodge. Good HR people understand that taking care of your employees is the best way to ultimately take care of the company itself. It shouldn't be an either / or, it should be recognized that when employees win, the company wins. If an employee brings forward a complaint about their supervisor, it should be taken seriously, professionally, and handled in a way that is respectful and discrete for all parties involved. And once resolution is reached, HR should help everyone move on in a positive direction.

I took a job recently, somewhat out of desperation. I learned pretty quickly after starting that I'm getting WAY underpaid relative to others at the same level. Is there anything I can do to correct the salary imbalance?

Asked by duped84 almost 6 years ago

Well, you can address this - and you can do it in a way that is professional, positive and can hopefully lead to a good result. But in order to change things at your current company, you will need to ask for a change. The company was aware of the difference in pay when they made you the offer, and didn't correct it at the time. The ball is in your court. I would start by doing more homework. Write down what you know about your coworkers - also known as 'internal market data'. Then, I would check out some additional external sources, which will provide additional back up. I recommend and Sometimes, job posting sites such as or have salary information, but it is hit or miss. One note: many companies hate it that employees talk to each other about pay. However, this is your right - and the right of your coworkers. I would just be careful, as pay can be a very private subject for people. In other words, don't antagonize / piss off your coworkers asking them for pay information. That won't go over well, and disrupting the workplace can get you in trouble. Take all of this information and consolidate it down to some bullet points of what you have learned. I suggest also printing out the job descriptions and pay information from the websites you looked at. This demonstrates that you are looking at comparable jobs and not making stuff up. I would not, however, be very specific about who you spoke with internally. Again, people get uncomfortable with their own pay. I'd leave it fairly general, similar to how you've written it above. Then, prepare to talk. How you approach your boss is as important as the information you provide. In some cases, it might be a good idea to send an email before meeting face to face. This gives your manager time to do some homework. In terms of what to say, I recommend something along the following lines: * I'm enjoying my new role here as XXX. Hopefully you have found my contributions to date to be valuable to you and the team. (Fill in more appropriate 'I'm happy here, and I hope you are happy with me too' stuff as necessary.) * I do have a concern that I would like to discuss with you. Specifically, upon reflection, I feel that in negotiating my starting salary with you, I undervalued my skills and have done myself a disservice. * I've learned more about what my role is typically compensated at, both internal and external to the company. In both cases, the average is about XXXXX more than my pay. * I would like to discuss with you steps that can potentially be taken to remedy this. I'm open to finding a creative solution that works for both of us. * I've set time on our calendars on (fill in day here) for us to follow up. The second to last bullet point is an important one. Companies can be quite flexible when it comes to pay. Some may offer you a raise on the spot. Others might offer to revisit your salary after 3-6 months on the job. If that is the case, I would be very clear on what their expectations are of you so you can kill it. Some get super creative - how about a 4 day / 36 hour work week instead? Bottom line, the more flexible you are, the more likely you are to ultimately get what you want from this company in the long term. They can also say no. Or, they can say they will revisit it in a timeline that is not in line with yours. If that is the case, you could resume your job search on the side. It's not ideal, but at the same time, you have expressed what you need to be happy and your employer has decided to not to work with you to reach that happy place. I wouldn't advertise it, and I suggest being very thoughtful and picky now that you have a source of steady income. The end goal should be to find an employer who values you and your skills fairly.