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 over 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 over 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.)

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 over 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.

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

Asked by curiousgeorge over 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!

Why doesn't Human Resources get more respect?

Asked by Meaghan000 over 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 over 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 used to work for a film studio that would not let us leave for lunch, even though it was my legal right to do so. But if I complained, they would've found someone else to do the job who wouldn't complain. How can employees raise LEGITIMATE concerns without feeling like they'll be on the chopping block?

Asked by NED over 6 years ago

Sad, but true- there are workplaces that exist that are not respectful or observant of employee rights. First, know that you do have legal recourse if you want to pursue that avenue. Assuming that you worked in California (film studio reference), the state is very strict in what employers need to do to be compliant with state laws, and have agencies dedicated to enforcement of these laws. You can always make a complaint to an agency, who then would investigate the situation. If found guilty, the company would be responsible for paying significant penalties and demonstrate a change in policies to be compliant. That being said, many people choose to not pursue this avenue, as it can be costly to them personally. Many people work in small industries and are concerned that if they take action that will cause the company trouble, they will suffer consequences. I've worked in HR long enough to know that this happens, and that while in the long term justice may prevail, the employees in the situation are usually who suffers the most - financially, emotionally and from a career progression point of view. If that is your situation (and it unfortunately sounds like it) I suggest that you start small. For example - do you even know who your HR resources are? Perhaps get to know them through other HR subjects such as benefits or payroll questions, and establish a relationship with them. Learn what the company's grievance process is - some include an anonymous complaint line directly into the legal team, who have an obligation to follow up on the call. Or, if you belong to a union, that would be a good resource for you as well. Unions exist to protect employees and their rights. I'd do everything I can to educate myself on what my internal resources were, and to establish a relationship with the people in those roles. Sometimes just knowing what exists outside of your direct reporting relationship can provide avenues towards issue resolution.