Let’s Fire You All: Company Overhauls

workplace overhaulSenior management, or those who have seen it all- please feel free to chime in on this one. You may have read in a previous statement I made on this blog, that I am currently working with a company doing a 40% overhaul. This is one of the smaller overhaul’s I have worked with. The largest was 80%. As experienced managers know, this kind of drastic change in a company requires your full attention and you end up working close to-but not quite- around the clock. These are the primary reasons for the current overhaul at a glance:

  1. Embezzlement (yes again)
  2. Highly toxic environment
  3. No moral – poor culture
  4. Poor work performance by majority of employees
  5. Company is facing loss of continued funding
  6. New CEO and CFO

For those of you who may not be familiar, an overhaul does not necessarily refer to large degrees of change management- but rather the restoration and repair of a system, project, or department. This requires intense planning, action plans, group scenario probabilities, fiscal year projections, budget considerations and reports, avoiding legal barriers at all costs, and setting the stage for future legal repercussions. Depending on the issues that endorsed this overhaul – a complete deconstruction of departments, including but not limited to internal auditing and investigations are completed. I understand when an overhaul is announced in a company meeting, that staff hears the word “fire” and think that management has shared a party bag of uppers and is now going crazy firing everyone. I get it- because as front line employees, we’ve all been there. Truth: management has been planning this and has had it in consideration for months, if not a year. It is a delicate task, and requires a tact for restoring integrity, which not everyone – even a CEO, can do. This is why you hear of specialists being hired for this purpose alone. A company may do staff overhauls for integrity and budget reasons- these being some of the most main concerns.

What is ultimately unfortunate is that a mass lay off means many people facing lack of resources for rent and groceries. What does the family do? I am a little bit of a stickler when it comes to marking people’s dismissal papers “lay off” because I want to encourage them to apply for EI, and I want to refer them in the community to any resources that can help them with employment, networking, and maintaining their basic needs. Let’s face it, severance pay is ideal, but it’s not always feasible for the company, so it can be limiting. The newest trend for company overhauls is the IT/Social Media and PR departments. Recently Blackberry, Yahoo, and several Unions undertook this venture. They didn’t complete a staff overhaul, no doubt some people were let go, however the primary focus for them was systems. Has it worked? Well, considering it all took place over the past month, we can’t be too sure. However, an overhaul does present a fresh slate, a new chance, and with the primary goal to restore integrity I would say they are off to a good start. Overhaul’s affect everyone in every corner and nook of the company. It is a chain reaction that overtakes the daily routine, relationships, business ops, and budget. It is necessary for some, but more concerning about who is doing it- and prayer to be whispered that it isn’t for projection reasons.

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The Human Resources Myths

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There is a myth around Human Resources, their need in the office, their role among other workers, where they stand in the hierarchy, and what their job description is. And it seems, politely so, that a surprising amount of HR, don’t even know their political and ethical role.

Human Resources was established for employee counsel, as opposed to everyone going union and using union reps (who are employed by the employee, not the employer), as an alternative as an advocate for the employee with the company’s goals and best interest at heart. It is a balancing act that requires true diplomacy, tact, grace, and a cunning and shrewd business sense. Like hiring an accountant for the company, you do not simply hire someone to figure out the numbers nonsense. You hire an accountant who is knowledgeable about filing, working numbers in the right integrity, ensuring your costs remain low, and seek out options for marginal profit and can balance the books in a such a way it’s not costing unnecessary dollars waving “bye bye” out the window. So with HR, you should be seeking a strategist, not a people pleaser.

Human Resources is not a High School Guidance Counselor. I don’t want to hear about your petty problems with Bill and Sally. Spare me the details. It is your responsibility under the work code of ethics to figure it out until there are irreconcilable differences. If you want someone to be a sounding board, that’s different. In that case, tell me. But don’t stalk me to my office, complain, and then cover it up with how you really like them because they are such nice people. That’s gaslighting. Don’t complain in the first place. Therefore, do not privy me to information as a supposed “leak”, and then say “whoops, please don’t do anything” when really you think this is a sneaky and clever way of getting me to discipline someone. I’ll fire you for breech of trust, misrepresentation, withholding information, ethical slander, fraudulent character, triangling, gaslighting, undermining, contributing to bad moral, and anything else I can sum up. Two words, Be Ethical. HR is not here to do people pleasing, or to solve employee disputes. Solving disputes is a combined effort between the supervisor/manager and HR when it escalates, and not before then. For those of you who may not be aware, HR monitors your behaviour in disputes, handling relations, and conduct. We keep note of anything that is a misrepresentation of character, breech of trust, or violates ES (Employment Standards), LR (Labor Relations), or Company Policy. If you violate enough, you go on the black list. It may be 2 years later, but when push comes to shove, and your behaviour has not changed or showed character growth, technically it doesn’t exist in the books, but it will still go against you.

It’s not all RAGS (Rules and Regulations). Policy is unique and eloquent. That’s why it’s called Policy, not law, not rules, not rights. Policy. HR should be creative with policy and court it with the same enthusiasm as a business relationship would with high profile client. You should know the character of policy (when it is appropriate), its circumstance (how effective in this circumstance), its development (in all circles, such as Trades, Medical, Social Services, Legal, etc), its rulings (how successfully different policies have been implemented for this scenario), and when and WHERE to extend or expand upon it. Policy does not dictate the law, but it does paint the scene and players for which the legal action will be carried out. Make it eloquent, just, and above all: air tight. Everyone in the company should have signed a confidentiality agreement to start, integrity agreement second. Policy should be updated regularly with HR Employment Standards development, legislative changes, and company growth and development. Ten policies that work excellent for a company of 40 employees, may backfire for a company that doubles within a year.

“I don’t want to hear about your hobbies, quirks, or personality traits- you either have the skill set or you don’t.” As quoted from an HR professional here in Vancouver. What? Who decided on this? Is this why employees are suffering each other and everyone hates their job? I can tell you now, if someone has strong pathology, looks like a psychopath, is an outside of work alcoholic, philanderer, has anger issues, or is abusive – I will NOT hire you. For the simple reasons of how you act in your personal life is always a translation of how you will act in your professional life. Morals and Values do not change when you walk in the office door, you take them everywhere. Furthermore, if I find you annoying, I will not hire you based on that you don’t fit in with the culture of the office. Fair is fair. I’m not going to piss my employees off. And that’s not in policy.

Human Resources handles the basic duties of an Office Manager plus benefits and payroll. False! This is one of the most common myths, just add on the high school guidance counselor bit. HR does not manage the office the same way an OM does. Typically, OM (Office Managers) have administrative training, a professional HR should have training in employment law, basic one-to-one counsel, peer support, training and coaching abilities, and be able to provide counsel to senior management, something an OM is not trained to do. So on the Hierarchy scale, the HR doesn’t actually have a “place” as their diplomacy and integrity is supposed to keep them as advocates for the employees, but keeping managers and senior staff on track achieving company goals. It’s a neutral position, that if it has to could be somewhere beside a senior Director- however the HR would most definitely have to be quality and know their stuff.

These are just a few of the myths in HR. You may recognize one, two, or all. But if you are an HR professional, please keep these in mind and make critiques to be the better professional I bet you can be.

The Social Bully of Retention Plans

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A common retention plan for employers is to have staff lunch, dinners, and nights out. Sounds good right? Actually it’s one of the most harmful retention plans. Not because there’s food involved. As an individual who has been having a torrid affair with delicious food for quite some time, I can honestly say that food is not the culprit. The culprit are the front line extroverts planning the event.

Staff lunch’s and dinners are fabulous ideas for stop in, grab a bite, say hi, if you have time to stick around-great, if not- also great, but the there’s “no pressure” and “no shame”. When a vote was taken on favorite holiday, Christmas and Halloween ranked suspiciously even. When asked why, the voters said that those who chose Christmas did so because they simply wanted their family to be involved; those who chose Halloween said they wanted their family, without obligation of religious, social, or institutional “perfection”. Wouldn’t you know it, similar reasons are used with staff dinners and nights out. The extroverts wanted to get to know everyone and have employee bonding time, while the introverts didn’t want to have to conform to extroverted culture and social pressure when getting to know everyone.

Typically, when Bob or Sally never attend a staff lunch, and dodge all staff parties, they are seen as shy, cold, antisocial, dysfunctional, hidden agenda, weird, and other label types. Go Bob and Sally! You rock! Admittedly I am that employee that dodges anything after work hours in a “you must conform environment”, and I’ll tell you exactly why. Those are my boundaries. And just as I respect you for putting on the event, (heck, I’ll even book, plan, and facilitate the first half) respect my decision to politely say “no thank you”. Believe me, it’s nothing personal.

Introverts are 70% of upper management and executive teams. However, the stats flip for anything other than upper management or executive staff, then it’s primarily extroverts. The detailed stats for this are even more interesting. If you read Psychologies UK, or subscribe to employee stats through Government HR websites, then you can begin to link the common themes between extroverted and introverted characters. The reason why upper management, etc, is composed primarily of introverts is because introverts lead different lifestyles that enable them to observe more, read more, take more educational upgrades and specified training (not necessarily attaining a MA or PhD- those stats are surprisingly parallel- however introverts are more likely to specialize), more inclined to critically think over hot topics, thus have a better employment track record, and be more preferred for promotion etc… The truth is, introverts run the world whether anyone likes it or not. Bill Gates, Bill Clinton, Celine Dion, Steve Jobs, Sheryl Sandberg- they are all introverts. This does not mean the extroverted culture is left out- au contraire. The extroverted culture does make up an odd 30%. There is also a false pretense to introverts that they are shy, quiet, bookworms. I am sure that there are people reading this that are thinking, “Bill Clinton? An introvert!? You’ve got to be kidding!” Being shy is a trait that an extrovert can have also. Shy implies you possess some sort of fear or anxiety for crowds. Who’s to say that Obama doesn’t have a fear for crowds and gets nervous, although he may adore the limelight? Being introverted simply means your temperament prefers observation to explosive stimulus, thus you typically recharge when you are not social. And sometimes, people just don’t like other people. I would hardly call that shy.

So when front line extroverts are planning dinners out in swanky restaurants with alcohol, party atmosphere, and BFF attitude, it makes us laugh and cringe. A night out is always nice. Good food is even better. A beer?- don’t mind if I do. But expectation to be Facebook friends and chat it up like we’re some big family…? You’ve got to be kidding. Because believe me if anything, this one thing: the boardroom ain’t no bedroom, and BFF’s don’t run no company; it’s snakes and doves in this game. I have seen in practice that more employees attend outings and dinners when it is a laid back atmosphere, no conformity, no shame, no blame, and honestly-in this setting, you can’t tell the introverts from the extroverts apart if your career depended on it! But when work doesn’t feel like “work”, they are more likely to attend, at least once a year :) Let’s make what could be the world’s best plan, an appeal to everyone please. I promise this year, I’ll drop in and grab a plate to go, at least at one outing!

The “Let’s Catch You” Interview

ImageI had a great learning experience last month I kept on meaning to write about. I was on the other side of the table as the “interviewee”. Not totally foreign territory, especially since I do primarily contract work in change management, system overhaul, risk assessment, and policy development, for anywhere between 2weeks-2years for a single company, nevermind the policy writing and training seminars I hold on the side. However, a lot of my work has me by recommendation so the interview process is very lax and usually involves a CAO/CSO, Director, and possibly a senior management personnel or the former HR (yes, the one who either quit or was let go), and myself having lunch or a brief meeting on what my proposal for the company is, and how we can tailor it specifically for their needs. This interview however was just stellar.

I met with the CAO, and the HR Director. Originally it appeared to be laid back, however the questions were so broad and general, and yet they sought such specific details, it kind of threw me for a loop-but in a good way. The questions were designed to see if you were telling the truth. Bravo! Questions such as, What do you think your day would look like? (as opposed to, list some of your typical tasks) How do you think managing employees would be best here? (as opposed to, what’s you’re management style) What kind of retention programs would you like to implement? (as opposed to, how do you earn the trust and build relationships to keep employees) What do you think it would be like to coach our team of Executives and Floor Manufacturers? (as opposed to, how do you build relationships with people), etc…. And then mid interview they expressed that they would give me an opportunity to ask questions now, but not at the end. Huh. Interesting….. I realized they give no room for error. How great is that! It allows basic human error, as people are supposed to have nervous reactions to stressors, however it makes it much harder to bluff your way through basic tasks and responsibilities that you should already know about. I must say, this is my new favorite interview technique! Good on them!

As it was, congratulations are present, as I was offered the job. After pulling their files on interviews, I have no idea who their former trainer and change manager was, but they were a genius! The questions and programs are a goldmine. I wish more people took this initiative in their career!

What the New Interviews say about You

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In an earlier post, I had discussed psychometrics as a new interview technique. There are more arising, especially as you increase your salary from $70k+. The interviews are not only increasingly complex, but they are designed to reveal true character. Not best character. True character.

While I had coffee with a community network of mine, he expressed to me the importance of character. This, I understand. He began telling me how he asks applicant’s how many books a year they read, what their favorite genre is, how many books they own, what kind of music they like, what their favorite cuisine is, how often do they cook, what languages can they speak, and what ones have they adopted* even if they don’t speak fluently.

“It’s all about being learned. People so often attain a degree and skip the masters only because they can’t see themselves using the masters. Not because it’s not useful- just because they don’t see it in their immediate future. And unless they have a crystal ball- that masters could have landed them a resource and know-how to get the job of their dreams. But they’ll never know.” THIS was in reference to everything- food, languages, books, and so much more. I shared with him how as a BSW, we are trained that you ask someone about where they grew up or how close they are to their immediate family. How people describe their childhood community, and refer to their parents always reveals the truth of their values, character, and relationship skills. For about an hour, we chatted about environments and the new techniques. It was nice to share with someone and learn in return what tactics are being used in the recent search for the $70k jobs. Candidates not only reflect culture, but they need to reflect the ability to learn the culture. Let’s face it, learning one culture could be more difficult than another. It is important to know which ones, and also to know how to be humble and accept the teacher/student cycle.

The final technique? Let me take you out for dinner. A final stage interview has been completed, and the boss asks you to join him for dinner to celebrate before the papers are signed. This seems pretty final right? Wrong. The boss has arranged your dinner to be messed up with the kitchen staff and carefully guages your reaction. How do you handle it? -are you upset, angry, nervous, care free, compassionate, who cares?-I’m willing to try something new, gossipy, vengeful, raging, laugh it off, and so forth. Admittedly after writing this, you can read it and attempt to predetermine your fate by deciding on a course of action now. I will tell you that the real you will reveal itself some way. It’s best to understand why your true character would react this way, and resolve it.

Happy Hunting!

The Recruiters Guide to Being a Good Recruiter

ft_interview_mainThere’s a lot of blogs and articles that focus on recruitment, searching for the right employee, getting to know them, determining if they are a good fit, steering clear of not so kosher applicant’s and so forth… However, very little articles focus on tricks and tips the recruiter can use not only to be a better recruiter, but to actually make informed decisions.

human-resources-by-onurdongelJob recruitment is based on whether or not an applicant can complete the job description. This is determined by 3 things, education, experience, and WHO you have worked for. No doubt, that getting on with Bombardier looks better on your resume than Mom & Pop’s Coffee Shop. So why are there so many dysfunctional employees in an office, why is no work getting done? Because people lie. It’s plain and simple. People have a natural incline to want to be better than what they really are, after all, we are all struggling to get ahead. People lie about their education, work history, job titles, and oh so much more. Well, in an attempt to weed out the liars, psychometric testing was introduced. What a joke that is. It guarantees results with personality testing, education testing, and profile compilation- all by asking some questions on a computer screen. Something about this smells of lazy 4 day old tacos to me. You want a better example?- Check out how accurate eHarmony testing was. Yeah, that’s what I thought. Success rates are almost as high as a spider outrunning liquid chocolate at the factory. So in an attempt to help todays recruiter be a better recruiter, and draw out more information from their candidate than any CPU screen could do, check out these tips:

1) Get Over Yourself. I have met a lot of men and women who think hiring and firing is all about being able to read people and determine whether or not they can do the job. Ultimately I find a lot of recruiters to be stuck up because the truth is, they have a lot of power- being able to determine your employment fate. So as a forewarning from an HR Strategist to the Recruiter, get over yourself. When candidates walk into the office and are more nervous than a shaved terrier, let me remind you that you could be the Hamburglar, and they will still be just as nervous. Employment is nervous for everyone. This is not about you.

2) You Don’t Know Everything- and neither do they. Some recruiters have a misconception that because they may interview high profile candidates that means that they themselves are either high profile, or they have a superpower that allows them to soak up all the knowledge from this individual and whammo-bammo, they are now Executive Directors! Just because you have a list of questions in front of you with four syllable words on the paper, does not mean you know everything about the job. A good recruiter researches the job title in different capacities so they can provoke incorrect answers or detect lies from a fraudulent applicant. You need to know how the Executive Assistant looks, acts, and what the language differences are between one that works in a non-profit office, and one that works in a corporate office. In addition, if the EA has been responsible for community liaising and social networking, don’t be so horrified if on their resume it says, “Melissa Dupree, #awesomechick99 FBMellimelonD, pursuing meaningful career as an EA w/ Global Assistants where I can use my skills to 3xx capability.” Admittedly, it could be seen as a little unprofessional, but check the job history- did this person just rock out on the community service awards and demonstrate incredible ability to build relationships and an agency’s reputation? The culture difference on paper just made sense. So take it for what it’s worth.

ss-recruiting-bootstrapped3) Get to know Transferable Skill Sets. Why? Because silly goose, this makes you money! I once had a recruiter tell me that because I had a Social Work degree, my job was with families, I had no place in the corporate world. Needless to say, I walked out of that interview. Many people don’t know that in your Social Work degree you can specialize in Law and Business Management like I did, where they teach you how to start and run your own business, apply for funding, hire, fire, work with difficult people, know the in’s and out’s and many loopholes of legislation, and develop finely tuned management skills. How do you think the average Social Worker does such difficult work?- they have to know everything there is to know about all the critical stakeholders to their job that includes, municipal/provincial/federal government systems, funding, systems, policy, human rights, networking, business management, people management, conflict resolution, threat analysis, and more. So when someone says I have a degree in PoliSci, don’t just think they’re good for working at City Hall. Remember that they have to learn diplomacy, tact, systems, order, legislation, current affairs = strategy, history, and more. This just made them a prime candidate for working with grants and funding, being a community liaison, technical writing, and other related things. People have potential. Don’t forget it. Please don’t oppress them into one role. Give everyone a chance at greatness.

4) Use Your Body Language to Test their Boundaries. One thing as a war strategist they teach you is terrain. Know what lays ahead of you and test whether it is an illusion by making smoke and watch where your enemy appears. This is metaphorical (Sun Tzu) and can be applied to so many scenarios. This time, we are using it with body language. I once was teamed up with a psychotherapist, during an interview who kicked the applicant under the table  twice, feigning “Whoops!” What was he doing?- he was testing the applicant’s boundaries. How did they respond? Were they even more nervous, did they get angry, did they kick back, did they not even really care, were they put off? So many possibilities. In another interview, I had a colleague come in late to the interview, pull up a chair RIGHT beside the applicant and sit down so close next to them, they were almost on top of them. Again, same questions, how do they respond? Do they politely pull away, offer to make room, get angry, get nervous, what? It doesn’t sound nice to put minor stressors on people applying for jobs- however with the number of people that apply for jobs who are committing fraud- I think it’s fair to employ tactics to soft out the liars. Other tactics include a ridiculously firm handshake, constant unwavering eye contact, give the applicant the wobbly chair, turn up/down the heat in extreme, give them hot water instead of cold water…. there are so many tricks of the trade used when interviewing. Have fun :)timemachine

5) Don’t Judge, Ask Questions. I have an extreme scenario for you, but none the less based off of a true story. I had once interviewed an absolutely lovely applicant, polished, poised, a little over dressed for the job, but who cares- they fit the bill and had amazing potential. My interview companion spits out, “They slept their way to the top, you can totally tell.” Whoa!? Wtf?! I didn’t realize you had a MA in behavioural studies to know that!? Stop being so judgemental! Just because someone is younger than you, has climbed higher than you, and has way more potential than you, does not mean they have gone about it in unscrupulous ways. Put aside your own issues, your own insecurities, and judgements, and be honest. This is why as an interview panel, we ask questions. Don’t assume someone is lying, or playing you. Typically the one’s who boast the expertise are the one’s who are working the hardest to sell you something. Don’t overlook that with your panel, the applicant, or yourself.

6) Trust Your Gut. Too many times there is one person on the interview panel who says, “I don’t know. Something just wasn’t right.” Remember the expression, “One of these things is not like the other.” Chances are, this person has picked up on this. Occasionally you really like someone as a professional, but personally you detect something chilly, creepy, eerie, offputting, foreign, or you just can’t put your finger on it.” I would forewarn you to stay away from these people. Ten years ago the stats for sociopaths was 1/99. Today, the stats are 1/10. Strong pathology alone is a statistical achievement at 1/4. Now, very few people can diagnose a sociopath and other sorts of pathology. It can take up to 20 years to really know if someone is a sociopath. But on that note, be safe, and be careful. You don’t know who you are bringing into the workplace, and you are ethically liable as a recruiter, and as HR.

7) Interview Applicant’s Who’s Name’s You Can’t Pronounce. HR stats show that for every Anglosaxon name on a resume, they receive 1/10 call backs. Every African-American or Latin name is 1/15. Every Arabic, Slavic, and other name is 1/20. Tough crowd. That means that valuable, educated, promising candidates are being overlooked for their name. You may have read the article I wrote previously on this topic exclusively. It’s tough to get a job if your name happens to Ryseai Aminoltajari. It’s surprising to learn on top of this how many applicants have already shortened their name to Rys Amin, and still don’t get a call back. Yet they have ample education from accredited western universities, excellent work experience, stellar references, and a local address so you know they can make it into the job easy- but no. They are still not getting callbacks. This has almost become an untapped hidden source to the job market. As a recruiter, it would be wise to contact these individuals and cash in on this high standing wealth of applicants. Remember you can always google how to say their name, or simply ask them. They will be too thrilled they got a callback to even notice you asked how to pronounce their name.

I hope this helps for now my HR cohorts! Good luck, and Happy Headhunting!

Good Morning Embezzlement!- What Will You Be Drinking Today?

The slap tickle offenses at the office take a back seat when corporate criminal charges are involved. So when I learned an office I had previously worked with through change management had the CAO and minion assistant in bed together with potential embezzlement charges, I was oddly pleased and disgusted.

ImageAfter an 80% overhaul of staff, management, policies, systems, and the monthly coffee subscription- you would have thought positive change was approaching right? No. My recommendation to put the CAO on suspension along with dirty faced said minion was because the two were power mongers, and I could smell trouble but couldn’t put my finger on it. They were too smug, smooth, and what I did find when I audited the assistant’s files, were personal information files on all the employees. No, no, not  employee files. You may have misheard- information files- as in, potential blackmail files. I recommended disciplinary action immediately and to launch an internal investigation. What was interesting, was the CEO felt she was desperate for cash, had huge amounts of compassion for her and instead offered her a few extra vacation days, time off, and benefits. Shoot me now. I do have a love for this particular CEO, as my cohort called him, “the eloquent beast”. He truly is a beast of a man, looking vicious…. sort of like you wouldn’t be surprised to find out if he ate candied hearts for breakfast. You know the sort. But after many years of being my favorite kind of crisis intervention worker, he had grown a tremendous soft spot for people who simply do not know any better. This was his first time as a CEO, and he did indeed want to be fair, diplomatic, and merciful (getting what you don’t deserve). Coupling this with his faith as a man of God- the goodness in his heart truly makes up for other people’s wrong doings. I respect this man, he is one of my mentor’s, and I understand his decision in this matter, however I do not agree with it.

I understand mercy and grace. However, I agree with limitations on it when thousands of dollars are being discovered in embezzlement. Not to mention harsh and unfair treatment of employees, blackmail, and fraud. Sounds to me that some lay off’s are in order. But that’s only because my values tell me not to associate with this kind. What happened to David’s strategies? He acted swiftly, with compassion, and had mercy for the soul of man but it did not stop him from keeping with natural consequences. I suppose I have something to learn here. I will chat more with the CEO after his txt the other day of, “I would welcome your return here!!!” I bet. The truth is, I would love to go back. It was a fabulous office, despite the problems. After doing so much change management, I have learned that every office has problems (I know a lot of you are thinking, what else is knew?). But so many of us associate problems with money, bitchy people, stupid people, office cliques, budget cuts, and so forth. My kind of usual problems are typically fraud, blackmail, embezzlement, theft, sexual harassment, labour disputes, and so forth. It’s just a matter of if you’re comfortable with the toxic tactics your opponent is using. Here, I get it. I know what the problems are, I like the people (even the stupid ones), and I enjoy working with all of them. Heck, the crazy just makes my day a little more interesting and shakes things up a bit.