The HR Hitlist #2: Enabling Bad Managers

jasonheadshot-2The time is upon us for human resources to step up as a practice and lead. Never before has the work of HR been so critical to organizational success. To meet this challenge requires that we break some old habits. This is the second in a series of guest posts from thought leader, Jason Lauritsen, called the 2017 HR Hitlist. Each of the five posts will outline one practice or behavior that HR needs to eliminate, and what they should do instead. 

One of my favorite movies is the classic Quentin Tarantino film, Pulp Fiction.

There’s a character in the movie who they refer to as “The Wolf.” He’s a fixer. When someone screws up or makes a serious mess, they call The Wolf. He shows up to save the day by making the problem disappear.  

I think this is how management often thinks of HR—as their own personal version of “The Wolf.” When an uncomfortable conversation is needed or they’ve made a mess with an employee, they call HR. And, since we love to feel needed in HR, we swoop in and handle things. The manager’s problem disappears. Everybody wins, right?


Here’s the problem: “The Wolf” in Pulp Fiction is not a good guy. In fact, he’s a very bad guy who helps other bad guys cover up the bad things they’ve done. He’s an enabler of really bad behavior.

When HR swoops in like The Wolf to take over for a manager in uncomfortable conversations, we enable bad behavior. When we help them cover up that they aren’t managing their employees’ performance diligently, we enable bad behavior.  

When managers don’t feel the consequences of their behavior, there’s no fuel for change. Bad managers continue practicing bad management, HR continues trying to fix it, and employees continue paying the price.  

It’s time to stop enabling bad managers.

We need to own that despite our best intentions, we are part of the problem in HR. We need to stop trying to fix the situation and start coaching the manager.

One of the most important roles that HR should play is to ensure the organization has good people management practices. This may require a shift in your thinking.

Here is what it looks like to fulfill this role.

  1. Clearly outline the role of the manager. This is an often overlooked, yet critically important step. By clearly articulating expectations and the associated accountabilities in detail, you create great clarity for the manager. Reinforce that they are the primary source of communication, feedback and encouragement for the employee. This means they are responsible for both the fun and the not-so-fun parts of the job.
  2. Clearly outline the role of HR in supporting managers. Part of the challenge for HR is that managers aren’t always clear about human resources’ role. Being explicit about what you will and won’t do up front limits the number of “fix it” requests you receive and makes it easier to push back when you do.  
  3. Coach, don’t fix. When a manager asks you to do their job for them, don’t enable them by saying yes. Instead, remind them that it’s their job to coach employees. Start with this: “Tell me how you’d approach the conversation.” Provide them with ideas and suggestions to prepare them for success. Then, make a commitment to follow up after the conversation so you can coach some more. Ask what went well and what they’d do differently next time. Soon, they’ll develop the skills they need so they won’t need to call you in the first place.
  4. Let them clean up their own messes. The pain of consequences is a powerful motivator for change. HR should not try to remove this pain. When a manager fails to confront a performance problem with an employee for months, then suddenly wants to fire that employee, there should be some consequences for that manager. Because despite their desire to fire, they likely need to spend time working with the employee and giving them an opportunity to turn things around. It may also be valuable to involve the manager’s manager to ensure the issue is taken seriously. Once managers learn that you aren’t going to bail them out, they will be more likely to do their job and avoid the consequences of not doing so.  

It’s often said that employees join organizations, but they leave managers. If we are to win the war for talent, we must stop enabling and start coaching for better managers today.  

New in Small Improvements: Request feedback any time (BETA)

Imagine you just finished a project, or you’ve been working with a new skill. You’re curious as to how you did and want some feedback from your peers. But how do you go about getting it?

You might email your colleagues or ask them in person – both approaches have their place, but both lack structure. On top of this, it will be difficult to refer back to your feedback at a later date.

With this in mind, we’re excited to introduce our new Request Feedback feature – a big step towards better helping your employees take ownership of their performance and make continuous improvements. This update allows every employee in your company to request feedback from whomever they want, whenever they want. Not only have we shortened the feedback cycle, but your employees can request feedback as they see fit.

Request Feedback in practice

Let’s say you just organized an event for your company, and want to get some feedback on what your peers thought of it, and how you can improve the next event.
Head over to your dashboard and click on the +Create button in the top right corner. You can read all about the functionalities of this new button on this blogpost. Select “Request Feedback” to reach the feedback form pictured below.


Screen Shot 2016-11-17 at 1.38.38 PM.png

With our flexible options, you can decide who you want reviews from – whether it’s your manager or your best friend in the company who you can always count on for constructive feedback. You can also ask the questions you care about the most. Questions you believe can help you better understand how to enhance future performance. And the best part is, you can keep your reviews private. We created this feature to help employees drive their own feedback cycles and be in charge of their own personal development.

Once a Feedback Request is created, simply sit back and wait for your feedback. The next steps are simple: your chosen reviewers will automatically receive an email invitation with the details of the request and a direct link to provide input. Reviewers will also find the request to give feedback in their dashboard.

Screen Shot 2016-11-17 at 2.05.21 PM.png

Once reviewers provide their feedback and click share, you will receive the input you requested in real time, or on your indicated date. Voilà! Now you can leverage the feedback to better understand how to improve your performance in the future.

Feedback is a personal thing, and employees want to know how they’re performing. Our Request Feedback feature enables employees to kickstart their own 360 degree feedback as they see fit, without needing HR to define the cycle or the prior approval of management. This ensures no employee is overlooked for feedback when they want it and allows for spontaneous touch points with peers. Being able to personalize their own feedback will also allow employees to leverage the most out of peer input to enhance future performance.

But enough of us talking, check out the new feature for yourself!

BETA Access

The feature has been developed in close collaboration with 3 of our major clients. It works as advertised, and they (and we) love it already. But we’re sure there will be more feedback once more organisations use it. Therefore we’re calling it BETA for now.

To test it, just join our BETA community by enabling the BETA flag in your Admin -> Feature Selection dialog, and then upon reload tick the Request Feedback checkbox.

Learn more in our documentation.

Announcing our new HipChat integration

Our Slack integration has been a resounding success, driving up usage and visibilty of praise and objectives within organisations. We’re now starting to integrate with HipChat too. Today’s release promotes public praise and public objectives to HipChat, encouraging a culture of continuous learning and improvement.

How it works

Admins can set up the integration so that each public praise and each public objective get pushed into HipChat channels immediately. You can find all the details in the documentation page. Then, once any SI users praises another one publicly, this praise gets immediately displayed in the channel you chose. The channel could be a new channel, but you could also pick a common channel everyone is already subscribing to, ensuring engagement is even higher.

Here’s a praise inside Small Improvements:


It will show up in HipChat like this:


Private messages, or objectives that are only visible to the manager do not get pushed into HipChat channels of course. Learn more in the documentation.

Next up: Private notifications

Our Slack integration lets a manager know when their team member created a privately shared objective – this is currently not possible in HipChat for technical reasons. We’re considering implementing a workaround which would require clients to create a SI “fake user”, which could then send direct messages on behalf of Small Improvements. We’d love to hear from customers is this sounds like a reasonable plan: Please let us know if you’re interested in joining the beta at

Phasing out our JIRA and Confluence integrations

We believe that the HipChat integration is the perfect way for us to integrate with the Atlassian product suite. We’ll be phasing out our existing JIRA and Confluence integrations, which were built long before HipChat got added to the Atlassian product suite. Learn more here.

We’re phasing out our JIRA and Confluence integrations in February

We integrated Atlassian Confluence and JIRA back in 2011 when we started Small Improvements. We had planned to aggregate dozens of third party systems so that we could display a convenient summary of what a reviewee had been working on.

Despite our best efforts, it turned out that this kind of aggregation was in much lower demand than expected. And unfortunately, even rarely-used integrations constantly incur costs on the development team, and stop us from focusing our full attention on the features that customers really want.

With that in mind, we will stop supporting the Confluence and JIRA integrations on February 1, 2017.

A new hope

Atlasssian Aficionados need not despair though – we’re launching our new HipChat integration today!  Unlike the “passive” integrations with JIRA and Confluence, the HipChat integration will be instant and proactive, we hope it will increase your team’s engagement just as our Slack integration has for those who use it.

Webinar “Human-Friendly Performance Management: Goal Setting and Performance Reviews without the Pain”

Everyone agrees that the traditional annual performance appraisal is ineffective. It produces unreliable performance documentation at best and the humans involved hate the process – employees, managers, and HR alike. There is a better way.

shipit_week_august_2016_img_6179Jason Lauritsen is challenging traditional performance management. “Most employees want to like their jobs. And, most organizations want their employees to be happy with their experience at work. Where is the disconnect?”

Join Jason on his exploratory journey into how to make goal setting and performance reviews an experience that is both effective and feels productive to everyone involved. His fun “relationship test” will highlight how poorly some of our processes and systems are designed and guides us to a more “Human-Friendly” approach.


Register for our 30-minute webinar
December 15th 2016 – 10am PST / 1pm EST / 6pm GMT 

jasonheadshotPresenter: Jason Lauritsen is an employee engagement and workplace culture expert who will challenge you to think differently. A former corporate Human Resources executive, Jason has dedicated his career to helping leaders build organizations that are good for both people and profits.

The 2017 HR Hitlist #1: Saying “No”

jasonheadshot-2The time is upon us for human resources to step up as a practice and lead. Neverbefore has the work of HR been so critical to organizational success. To meet this challenge requires that we break some old habits. This is the first in a series of  guest posts from thought leader, Jason Lauritsen, called the 2017 HR Hitlist. Each of the five posts will outline one practice or behavior that HR needs to eliminate, and what they should do instead.  

If I had one wish I could use to transform the work of human resources, it would be to remove the word “no.”

This tiny word is at the core of why HR is too often viewed as an obstacle to progress rather than a facilitator of results.

  • Want to fire a problem employee? “No, you don’t have enough documentation.”
  • Want to let an employee work from home? “No, you don’t have the authority to make that decision.”  
  • Want to give your star performer a big raise? “No, that goes beyond what our policy allows.”

Managers can feel like “no” is the only thing they hear from HR.   Continue reading

Two Small UI Improvements to spice up the navigation

On Monday, December 5th, we’ll introduce two small changes to the SI user interface. We’re adding a new “create-button” and we’re renaming “Dashboard” to “Home”.

The changes are really small, but in case you’re rolling out SI for the first time next week, then you may want to take these into account for your documentation. Let us know if you’d like early access.

Create content from the menu bar

Small Improvements is more fun when more people contribute. We’re on a mission to make it truly engaging for you to create and share objectives, praise coworkers, and request feedback. Via the new “Create” button in the menu bar, everyone is now able to create content from any screen, anywhere inside Small Improvements.

Have a look at the workflow:


And the best bit about it: once you’re done creating, you can resume your previous task, since you’re not leaving the current screen. You can create objectives while working on a performance review, or praise someone while browsing 360 feedback.

Welcome “Home” – Renaming the “Dashboard” tab

In 2017 we’re planning to deliver more data-driven insights to Team and Company-specific dashboards, which will live elsewhere in Small Improvements. The current Dashboard page will act more as a  “Home” page as an entry point for users – it will look the same to admins and individual contributors alike, focusing entirely on the user’s immediate work and and surrounding activity.

“Home” is the better word for it, and we’ve been using a small home-icon all along. It’s a tiny change, yet we wanted to let you know upfront to avoid surprises in case you’re planning on launching next week.