They Did What? Unbelievable Tales from The Workplace by Cornelia Gamlem and Barbara Mitchell

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They did what is a creative non-fiction book. During their careers as HR professionals and business leaders, Cornelia and Barbara, the book’s authors met a lot of interesting people. When they decided to write this book—they collected stories from their friends and colleagues and used those stories as the basis for this book. However, while many elements of those stories have been fictionalized, the stories you’ll read in this book are based on events that really happened.

In order to preserve the privacy and identity of the individuals involved, including their colleagues and the organizations where they worked, Cornelia and Barbara created a fictitious company and cast of characters as a backdrop against which they tell these tales. The characters portrayed are composites of a large number of professionals across a wide variety of industries and throughout multiple careers.  It is through all these characters that the stories told in the book unfold.

Meet Maryanne Robertson, Chief Human Resources Officer for Kings, a Midwest family restaurant chain, led by CEO Ralph Napoli. Maryanne works closely with Kings’ management team as they address the people challenges that occur in any organization. Some of the members of the leadership team with recurring roles whom you’ll meet include:

  • Valerie London, General Counsel;
  • Judy Marshall, VP of Food and Beverage;
  • Brian Chang, Chief Technology Officer, CTO;
  • Larry Blackstone, Chief Financial Officer, CFO.

You’ll also meet other Kings employees throughout the book, like Tom Horn, Facilities Director, who appears in the first chapter.

Maryanne is supported by a team of talented Human Resources professionals who lead the different HR functions. The ones you’ll meet at various times include:

  • Kyle Greene, Employee Relations;
  • Gloria Lincoln, Employee Benefits;
  • Leslie Hernandez, HR Information Systems & Technology;
  • Noelle Livingston, Training & Development and
  • Ryan Anderson, Administrative Assistant.
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She also has a group of peers outside of Kings who meet regularly to exchange ideas and issues and share advice. Be prepared to meet:

  • David Morgan, Vice President of HR for a technology firm;
  • Stephanie Packard, Director of Compensation & Benefits for a college;
  • Ellen Cooper, Vice President of HR for a retail firm;
  • Jason Edison, executive coach & consultant; and
  • Linda Goodman, executive search.

Since the authors wanted to write compelling and enticing stories, they worked on their storytelling technique. They realized they had to take the stories they had heard, mold them, tweak them, and often combine them to fit the structure of the scenes that they created throughout this book. Cornelia and Barbara took real-life situations and put them into realistic settings. The stories you’ll read in this book represent composites of the stories they were told by their associates and ex-colleagues.

They Did What? depicts the amazingly difficult challenges and complex issues human resource and business leaders encounter, often daily. And, the situations described in these unbelievable tales occur more frequently than many readers might suspect. This book is a glimpse into what happens in organizations—often behind the scenes—and how managers and HR professionals deal with the grey areas of work.

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