Why Does Everybody Hate HR?

Liz Ryan has another great piece.

I became an HR person in 1984. I managed Customer Service and Operations before I was put into my first HR job by my awesome boss, John Brady, who told me when I came back from vacation, “You’re the HR Manager now.” I was like “What?” I was sad to leave my team in the Order Processing department.

We had a fantastic crew and we had fun. I was sad because I thought that being an HR person meant that I wouldn’t be able to talk to our customers or sales reps any more. I loved our customers and our salespeople. We laughed and joked on the phone all day.

John said, “Go ahead and talk to whoever you want.” He got me to see a bigger vision for HR, before I had spent 10 minutes in the HR department. John said, “The purpose of HR is to make this organization an awesome place to work and to make sure we don’t do anything stupid.” I liked that vision. I dug right in.

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Why Do You Strive For Quality? A Let’s Build Essential


At the least place I worked, a senior VP posted on the company intranet, “Lets talk quality.”  Now I came into Big Co, when small Co owned by jackass that I had made the mistake of working for had been purchased by Big Co.  Now from what I saw in Big Co’s products, employee meetings and just in the grape vine, quality was a big issue.  When an engineering team get a technology award for increasing the yield to 85%, quality is a huge issue.  From what I could see, that one laboratory instrument was not an outlier. The general attitude seemed to be that as long as production targets were met and profits looked good, quality was a manufacturing issue and not that important anyway.  Sort of the same attitude that all too many companies had in the 1970’s and the same attitude the Japanese Zaibatsu had per WW2.  Of course one would think that getting your butt kicked one way or another would change things, but while the Japanese did change, Big Co USA is still stuck on stupid.

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It’s Not A Game

I’m not sure what the logic of the set piece job interview is.  If you read between the line it looks more and more like a sick sadistic game intended to put the candidate in his place with very little to do with the actual job.  The thinking seems to that the candidate must be strained to the breaking point because that’s the only way to see if they are a “fit.” Being  a fit is now more important than the actual job.  This is a system that rates conformity above performance and socialization above talent.

The poor job seeker has to go through this thing with no real way to prep and no real way to gauge how well they did.  Interview after interview, the same questions, the questions that never have any relationship to the actual work.  Always with the grading sheet.  Which the poor job seeker never sees. What do they do with them all.  No matter how good you are at the job, no matter how hard you work, it always comes down to the grading sheet.

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How HR Thinks

I thought that this was worth a look since it was written by a senior HR type.  How effective his organization has been might be determined by how well his company is doing.


Which is not so hot. I suspect that he may be needing the advice pretty soon.

Especially considering his age bracket.

Is IBM guilty of age discrimination? — Part one

Is IBM guilty of age discrimination? — Part two

Any way, the questions are the same old same old, with the same pablum.  This post is almost word for word the same as that cheat sheet I found, from 1981.  Just don’t answer them like this. Anyway here’s my commentary

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The Worst Way To Fire Somebody

Or the buck doesn’t seem to stop at the CEO’s desk anymore.  Ran into this on linked in:

Now I am not a heavy Patch user.  It was one of those things that just sort of showed up.  I think that I discovered Patch when the Branford CT contacted me about some pictures I shot of a kid that fallen off some rocks on the trolley trail in Stony Creek.  But I always thought that it was a good thing.  I never thought about the business side.  Well now I know and boy is it a sad story of a big ego that needs to be deflated.  Tim Armstrong is a perfect example of how everything is wrong in business today.  Here’s his speech.


He starts off by saying he takes full responsibility for what happened at patch.  That’s right, he is responsible.  So instead of saying, well I’m turning in this years stock options and taking a huge pay cut he fires his creative director.  Ok maybe there were reasons, but it looked, to everybody in that room as if it was purely spontaneous and just plain nasty.  The fact is that everybody in the call had to know that layoffs were coming.  The worst part is that the reason for the layoffs were not something the overworked, underpaid editors did, but Armstrong’s bad business decisions.


Armstrong is right that there needs to be some sort of calendar, collection of events in places like Riverside.  I live in Southern Ct and I, unless I know its coming, frequently don’t find out about stuff until it’s over.  He should, though, have started small.  Maybe with just Greenwich, Stamford, Darien and Norwalk, say.  Keep the budget small until you have a valid business model. Start making money before making the big bets.  Find out how to incorporate Patch into existing users’ AOL pages.  Develop the business.  Don’t go crazy big with a huge chunk of the stockholder’s money with no idea how to get a return on your investment.  That’s just plain stupid.  I’m not surprised that there was a proxy fight.  The big surprise  is that the stockholders didn’t give Tim the boot.

Another issue is how much goodwill AOL lost over this.   And what will be the long term consequences for AOL.  The patent sale was one shot.  Actually considering the age of most of the patents, Armstrong is incredibly lucky that there was any value to sell.  At best Facebook only bought a year or two before the patents expire and become irrelevant.  So Armstrong got lucky once.  But he’s still creating problems for himself.  AOL needs to build, but how can anybody start to build anything if they know they are one bad quarter from the boot.  How can they be creative and inspired if they know that there’s nobody to back them up.

This isn’t a healthy corporate culture for AOL, or for that matter any company.  With the kind of executive churn that Armstrong is creating there’s never going to any team making.  Everybody is going to be looking at the next guy and saying why should I invest in him or her because the might be gone after the next earnings call.  And each earnings call is only going to increase the tension.  In the end AOL is going to probably be another one of those business cautionary tales, told in MBA classes.

The problem is worse than Armstrong or any other CEO.  It’s as if the entire corporate culture here in the US has lost it’s perspective.  The typical corporation spends far too much time looking at the earnings calls and too little time investing on building the business.  Too many people have forgotten that great businesses take time to build.    Everybody on Wall St is focused on the flash and not waiting for the bang. That’s what happened to Armstrong.  He probably feels as if everything has to happen right now or it won’t happen.  Those big ten money managers aren’t helping.

Patch was good thing.  Had it stayed small until the business model developed it could have been a real asset to the communities in Southern New England.  New businesses need time, time to evolve, time to figure just what the revenue path should be, to develop customer relationships, to fail at things.  That’s crucial to a business’s success.  It’s better to keep things small, so that the consequences of failure don’t soak up a huge amount of resources.

That’s just how things are and by going big so quickly all Armstrong did was waste resources AOL didn’t really have.  It would have been better to start a bunch of smaller apps and see which ones flourished.  I bet that there were a bunch of people with ideas at AOL that didn’t get funded. Maybe his creative director could look for them.  Oh wait, he was fired.  Too bad.

What Happened To Employee Loyalty?

Good question?
Perhaps the better question is how did things go so wrong? Look at my last job, I was very loyal. I put in the effort applied myself, worked killer deadlines and over my pay grade, never asked anything but the respect that any person deserves and the resources to do my job well. Conservatively my efforts put 70 million dollars in the companies revenues in the period since I completed the main project I worked on, For that I was “restructured” because of a quota systems that just treated people like used Kleenex. Essentially I was the perfect sucker.

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