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.

SubscribeGet emails when new questions are answered. Ask Me Anything!Show Bio +


Ask me anything!

Submit Your Question

50 Questions


Last Answer on January 11, 2015

Best Rated

What was the worst reaction you've ever had from an employee you laid off or fired?

Asked by SeverenceIsBliss almost 12 years ago

This is hard to answer - there have been some very interesting reactions! Plus, it's hard to define worst. In the context of this answer, I will define worst as the most unprofessional / what I recommend least when being fired for inappropriate behavior. Here's some pointers: * Don't have your mom call me after you have been fired for repeated inappropriate behavior. I swear it won't make a difference. * Yelling "you are a big chicken" to your (now former) manager isn't going to help your networking, no matter how much better it makes you feel in the moment. * Running away from the office before you are fired doesn't mean you can avoid it. * Finally, it's all about timing - you are likely to be 0-for-2 if you ask me out on a date two minutes after I have told you that you are fired. Awkward... Lastly, with regards to layoffs - those are the hardest conversations ever. 99% of the time the employee has done nothing to deserve the termination, and I usually have a long term relationship with them. I can only hope that I handle it with enough grace so that the employee retains their dignity and is given enough support to transition well.

How do you feel about employees working remotely?

Asked by Tasmeen almost 12 years ago

Huge fan - we currently offer this benefit to all of our employees, and find that it is a morale booster. For it to work, however, there are certain conditions that need to be in place. First, the job needs to be one that can be done effectively remotely. For example, it's hard to be a retail cashier from your living room (unless you are selling something I don't want to know about.) There need to be ground rules in place regarding core hours, communication, and team availability. Team members get incredibly frustrated if they have a question and their coworker isn't responding - they develop a perception that perhaps someone is off playing video games somewhere. And, finally, demonstrated productivity is key to showing the value of the benefit. When lobbying for it, showing the direct benefit the company receives is the strongest argument that can be made to management.

I've been considering HR as a career move, but there's one problem: I could never fire anyone. Are there any HR positions where firing employees is NOT part of the job?

Asked by Inga almost 12 years ago

Yes - lots! And they are super interesting, intellectually challenging, and pay well. As with most professions, HR has several specialty areas - and these can many times be somewhat in the background, so people aren't aware of them. Some typical ones that come to mind, along with what they are similar to: * Recruiting - finding and hiring great people. Much of recruiting involves selling, and many successful sales people transition well into this area. * Compensation - this is the science of HR. People who like math, analysis, and understanding complex laws and regulations do well in Comp. The best comp people are able to devise elegant solutions to difficult challenges. * Benefits - this is a fairly broad area, but on that can be very rewarding. In a benefits role, you would be designing health and welfare programs to support the well being of employees. This can be everything from health plans, 401k plan, helping people with benefit issues, process claims and making sure the bills get paid. Some benefit administrators work all day long with employees to help make their lives better. * Training and Development - Teaching in the workplace. Many large organizations have internal training programs who are responsible for everything from new hire orientation, practical hands-on job training, leadership development, and general workplace skills. Some focus solely on senior leadership development plans. Overall, this specialty focuses on helping people develop to their full potential. To learn more about these, and many other specialties, I recommend checking out, and clicking on "HR Disciplines". SHRM - also known as the Society for Human Resource Management - is the largest HR organization in the US. They are a wealth of information, and can help you get started in a career in HR. Good luck!!

Do foosball tables, free t-shirts, "bagel Fridays", and other non-cash perks really boost employee morale, or are they seen as just gimmicks used instead of what everyone really wants (AKA more money?)

Asked by Genooooooo almost 12 years ago

Let's set the record straight about money - it only gets an employer into the game. To compete with other companies, in terms of being the choice place to work, you have to pay enough so that employees perceive you are in the same league. (And, that doesn't mean you have to be exactly the same, btw.) Once you have put a price out there that is comparable to other employers, the game has just begun. The most important factor in job satisfaction is the experience people have day in and day out - and this primarily is the work you are doing and who you are working with. Ping pong and beer Fridays are all fun and good, but don't count for much when your boss is a complete moron and you are working on the world's most mind-numbing project. It also doesn't make up for verbal abuse or the stress of working 18+ hours a day. Once you have fair pay, interesting work and great people, then the benefits and perks come into play. A company's attitude and approach to the workplace provides insight into both their values and how they approach day to day work. A great employer will seek to understand what their employees value in terms of benefits and work environment, and strive to create a workplace that meets these needs. And this can make a difference between good and great employee morale.

Do most people have a good idea they're about to be let go when they walk into your office, or are they typically blindsided?

Asked by coco almost 12 years ago

It depends on why the employee is being fired. If it is for cause (i.e. the person isn't meeting job expectations, has poor attendance or is a major jerk), they typically have had a few conversations where they have been told their performance / behavior needs to change, else they will be let go. In those situations, the final straw is usually another incident of the behavior that needs to change. If the employee is surprised in that case, well, they maybe aren't paying attention. When laying off employees, it is usually 50/50, and mostly depends on how much employees pay attention to what is going on with the company. They are also generally more aware when the rumor mill is hopping. When you know the company is struggling, rumors are flying, and HR seems to be very busy behind closed doors... generally not good signs, and changes are to be expected.

If I politely ask a co-worker out on a date, is that grounds for harassment? I've heard that asking once is not, but asking again could be.

Asked by anonymous almost 12 years ago

Ah, like all things in HR, the answer is somewhat situational. If you are your co-worker's boss (or in anyway senior and influential over her job), the best advice I can give you is to not go there. There are risks - if she says no, and you later have discipline problems, she can claim retaliation. If she says yes, you can only win if you stay in happy bliss and, likely, change the nature of the reporting relationship. You also open yourself up to favoritism allegations from employees you are not dating. This answer, of course, assumes you are only dating one employee at a time. I strongly advise against dating two or more at a time, even if you aren't the boss. If you are peers, it's less of an issue. In fact, a high percentage of spouses meet in the workplace. In general, harassment occurs when someone's behavior creates a hostile environment. Typically, this means if you ask someone out once, and then keep all other interactions professional and consistent with other coworkers (unless you are a jerk), if she says no you are likely OK. Same holds for dating and breaking up - keep it professional. If you are going to date someone at work, I recommend agreeing ahead of time on some ground rules for how you will interact in the workplace, both for when dating and if you break up. You should also check and see what your company's policy is on dating - some prohibit it, some require you to inform HR about it.

Are there any "legendary" figures in the world of HR? Like, someone who led the charge in turning company morale around at a massive company that was nosediving?

Asked by Anonymous almost 12 years ago

Dave Ulrich is the man! And now all of you are asking, "Who???" Dave is a professor at Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. His work centers around organizational capacity, and he has done a significant amount of research into the broad topic. His insight is fascinating to an HR geek like myself - his conclusions are spot on, and generally predictive of what HR people will be experiencing in the future. More than simply being academic, he has written over 20 books that take somewhat nebulous concepts and translate them into actionable frameworks and tools. OK, I'll stop geeking out now.