Asininity, Stupidity, and Ridiculousness – Hell from Human Resources

As a human resources professional, I know the ineptitude and despicableness from both sides of the HR desk.  It is time to think, way outside the box, and all I ask is for your consideration of the proposed idea.  I know I am not alone in desiring a better path forward; here is a suggestion.

For my entire career, military and civilian, I have stood for what is right, fair, and equitable.  I hate bullies and detest bureaucrats creating problems to protect their power and ego, especially at the expense of others.  Nothing, absolutely NOTHING, gets my blood boiling faster than to experience “This is the way we do things here” thinking!  Today, I will expose some worms to sunshine and see if we might fry them from the soils of productivity and free the captives.

Two weeks ago, I applied for an internal job posting advertised since April 2020.  Not only am I highly skilled, well qualified, and possess the academic and experiential knowledge for the role, I also have performed this role multiple times.  My supervisor’s boss told me, “Nothing stops you from applying.”  This is the subtle way of saying that you will not be considered for this role because you were hired at a lower pay grade; you are not “humbled enough.”  Today, I was told more information, “You have to pay your dues at this company before we consider you promotable.”

What does “promotable” mean; it is the personal opinion of my supervisor and his boss who have to give their blessing on my knowledge, skills, and abilities.  Essentially I need a gold star in my copybook before they will look favorably upon my promotion.  Please note, I am not trying to weasel a different position; simply be considered honestly for a position I can compete with anyone for and compete well.  Want a kicker?  There are two ways to be considered for promotion:  1. Leave the company and “boomerang” back.  2.  Win approval from your leaders for that gold star and blessing, then compete against external and internal candidates for the position.

Consider this for a moment; enough people have felt punished by HR, their bosses, and the intransigent stupidity in the promotion process and stuck in their roles that they have intentionally left the company, then applied for the job they are qualified for, and won that position.  The company calls these people “boomerangs.”  They treat them as second-class citizens, and promotions are even more challenging for a “boomerang” than they originally left.

Upon higher into my current role, I was told several stories of people who did incredible tasks for the company and were refused promotions they deserved because the leaders never set up a promotion path with HR.  Why did these leaders refuse to set up a promotion growth path; because my department was being right-sized for a technological solution until it was discovered that technology could not replace the people.  Now, everyone is stuck; they cannot promote or afford to quit and return, and the political situation is unbearably ridiculous!

When I write about leadership failures, I write from deep experience in fighting stupidity, asininity, and ridiculousness in human resources.  There is no excuse for a leader to pacify down and plead up to look better for the next promotion.  Yet, today I was told, “you have to pay your dues; working here is ‘humbling.’”  So is joining the military and having Congress halt all promotions in your field because they feel it is a “good path for the military.”  It was stupid then, and it is still stupid now!

Hell from human resources includes some new verbiage gaining traction from the politicians, and frankly, this is a conversation begging to be had.  What are the employees in your organization, valuable, worthwhile, lazy, useless, human infrastructure, or individuals?  Choose your adjective, and I can tell you what type of leader you are.  Worse, I can forecast just how bad your business will treat everyone and how fast your company will die horribly!

A customer of mine told me I was crazy and full of “baked beans.”  They are bankrupt now, their employees all left with a horrible taste in their mouth for authoritarianism, tyranny, and oppression in their employer.  The red tape bureaucracy in human resources was such that to “avoid risk” in human resources (HR), the lawyers convinced the owners to design HR in such a way as to micro-manage to the Nth degree.  Too many HR departments are making the most egregious mistake in treating independent thinking adults like pre-schoolers in pre-K classes.

Unfortunately, the IRS supports the HR departments acting in this manner, and Congress continues to fund and increase the budget of the IRS to exasperate this situation further.  The powers of the IRS have been a recurring topic, and additional insight from those articles can be found in the links provided.

Would you like a solution to the fifth ring of Dante HR insanity?  FIRE Human Resource professionals.  HR is comparable to the man who discovers solutions to problems he creates after demanding everyone adopt the solution.  The fundamental treatise upon which HR justifies their existence is flawed and presume that humans need controlled.  However, if the IRS got out of dictating how to treat employees in the employer/employee relationship, HR would not be required!

Consider the veracity of returning HR to Dante’s fifth ring; every business already possesses human capital, structural capital, and relationship capital as part of its intellectual capital.  Intellectual capital makes your business different from your competition and is central to the knowledge management process.  Please note, HR did not build this for your company; like the government, HR has never been more than a “necessary evil” at best.  Creating processes and procedures that protect officiousness while punishing productivity and talented people.

How much does an open position cost an organization?  The honest and straightforward answer, nobody can quantify this number due to a mixture of variables.  The closest one can get to an estimate is between 3 times and 15 times the annual salary of the open position.  Why is this so difficult to quantify; here are some of the variables in the equation.  Please note that the human potential element, or the individual’s talents occupying the position, can never be quantified.

        • Annual Salary
        • Training
        • Salaries for those doing the job while the position is open
        • Loss of production from the position available and those covering the open role responsibilities
        • Organizational memory loss from the person leaving
        • Onboarding costs (advertising, interviewing, hiring)

Imperative to removing the minions from Dante’s Fifth Ring (HR), the organizational dimension’s seven S’s must be understood.  Leaders must constantly balance strategy, structure, systems, staff, skills, style, and superordinate goals.  When HR is involved, balancing staff, skills, and style is crushed under the bureaucracy and inefficient thinking of bureaucrats who must have a process for everything.  Thus forming the disconnect between humans endeavoring towards an organizational goal (business) and achieving success.

Case in point, let us return to the open positions, the job market where millions of available jobs are stagnating, and people are not going back to work.  The model has failed, and the culprits are HR and the coequally corrupt government institutions on the local, county, state, and federal levels.  Thus, anyone with eyes can see that strategy, structure, and systems have been intentionally destroyed in businesses large and small by those charged with helping understand and support staff, skills, and styles while working to achieve superordinate goals.

Businesses are out of balance; the government built that!  Human resources helped.  America needs to reverse course, and it begins with freeing the employee from the employer/employee relationship.  While some will claim this answer is too simple, how many honestly remember what America was like before the Federal Government mandated how employers could compete for talent?  It is time to discover how small a government can shrink, and while shrinking, take HR with them!

© Copyright 2021 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the images.  Quoted materials remain the property of the original author.

Shifting the Employment Paradigm: Stigmas and Leadership

The traditional employee/employer relationship excludes more than it includes. One of the reasons for exclusion lies in risk avoidance of populations of workers. These avoided populations include the disabled, those with mental health diagnoses, and veterans, to name a few. While laws have worked to diversify the workforce, a lack of understanding of value and understanding of personal stigmas continues to perpetuate even though the actions taken remain at best unethical and at worst illegal.

Consider a recent example: a disabled veteran was hired and provided an ADA work accommodation. The lack of understanding of the ADA law, coupled with the personal stigmas of the mid-level managers and the director, constantly jeopardized the veteran’s employment. The veteran’s director claimed, “Since you have received an accommodation, you do not need another accommodation, ever.” Then the director, refusing to become ADA compliant, proceeded to pressure the veteran to terminate employment. The legal technicalities were satisfied since there had already been an accommodation. The written ADA guidelines reflect that ADA compliance is an ongoing and adaptive process as the needs of the employee changes from the disability suffered. Hence, the personal stigmas of the director, coupled with a lack of understanding, closed out a potentially lucrative employee/employer relationship. Although the director’s actions are technically legal, they are certainly unethical and problematic for the veteran and the veteran’s family, along with setting a negative tone for current and future employee relationships and the business’ culture and reputation.

Corrigan (2007) wrote an exciting article on stigma, what stigma does, and the impact of stigma on society. Employees in a particular business organization form a society where the impact of a single stigma, especially from a leader, produces dramatic negative results creating a biased culture and a hostile work environment. Corrigan (2007) cited other professionals in discussing the problems of stigmas, and the results track national research studies that lead to the conclusion that beliefs produce stigmas, stigmas produce opportunities of change, and the smart business leader will use the power of change to effectively manage personal stigmas while combatting stigma breeding grounds in closed-minded individuals.

Actions indicated for overcoming the stigma problem includes opening new opportunities for classes of people through knowledge vending opportunities, not traditional employee/employer employment. Consider the veteran mentioned above. The veteran has value, has needs, and has a disability. If the risk for continued employment reflects too much risk, why not shift the pattern of thinking, or paradigm, and consider options.

  1. Knowledge vending places the impetus upon the vendor to produce results. Dictation of contractual relationship relates to both accommodation and dictation of productivity while leaving freedom to accommodate in the hands of the vendor.
  2. Knowledge vending places the costs for accommodations upon the vendor, not the employer, and removes both an excuse for not hiring and the inherent risks of workstation adaptability costs from the employment paradigm.
  3. Knowledge vending promotes the person to a position of action outside the normal hierarchy, and the outside/inside influence spurs innovative and entrepreneurial thinking throughout all the remaining employees.
  4. Knowledge vending removes the risk for continuing employment, thus spurring opportunities for the vendor to manage and grow alongside the business organization.

Leading to the question, “Why do American business leaders remain reluctant to employ a vendor relationship model for day-to-day services instead of employment in the traditional employee/employer model?” America lags the rest of the industrialized world in offering variety to the traditional employer/employee model. Entire classifications of people are untapped due to the internal stigmas of the intermediate business leaders, mid-level managers, and hiring decision-makers. Risk avoidance is crippling the disabled and veteran communities like no other plague (Haipeter, 2011; Husted, 2002; and Stone, 2012).

Suggested actions to reverse this trend include:

  1. Open the possibility to current ADA qualified staff members to become a knowledge vendor contracted to your branded organization. Contact your best workers. Offer the opportunity to them to become a knowledge vendor contracted for services to your branded organization. This promotes the entrepreneurial spirit in long-term employees that can change the morale, thinking, and more importantly, the attitude of those with genetic organizational knowledge.
  2. Train interested staff members in operating his or her own business or engage a third-party trainer to aid in the transition. In fact, many in the ADA community already have the resources to obtain training to become their own small business. Advise and support in the transition only if the person is open to transitioning. Do not force adapting to vendor knowledge worker as this creates more detrimental problems for the all parties involved.
  3. Change the organizational structure from one of direct reports to one of sharing information. Think horizontal linear instead of vertical linear organizational charts.
  4. Your vendors, especially the current vendors, have a unique perspective on your organization. Tap the vendors regularly as a valuable resource and use the information gleaned to empower organizational change.
  5. Promote leadership and internal customer service over all other business standards and “flavor-of-the-month” quick-fix ideas. Using knowledge vendors taps into additional potential in all employees, and knowledge vendors’ innovating ideas on processes, procedures, and the daily “how” of work is valuable to the business overall. Be willing to change the organization to meet the demands of vendors and you will be surprised at the results.

As education, experience, and genetic knowledge harbored by older, disabled, or veteran employees increases, so too does the pressure to find and use an alternative solution to tap into these resources. Knowledge vendors as independent contractors remain a viable and cost effective solution to current problems and future needs. Innovative thinking on meeting needs generates opportunities, and the leader, who will succeed in the current business environment, will consider knowledge workers an asset to the current problems thus positioning the business for future growth.

References

Corrigan, P. W. (2007). How clinical diagnosis might exacerbate the stigma of mental illness. Social Work, 52(1), 31-9. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/215269747?accountid=458

Haipeter, T. (2011). ‘Unbound’ employers’ associations and derogations: Erosion and renewal of collective bargaining in the German metalworking industry. Industrial Relations Journal, 42(2), 174-194. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2338.2011.00615.x

Husted, K., & Michailova, S. (2002). Diagnosing and Fighting Knowledge-Sharing Hostility. Organizational Dynamics, 31(1), 60-73.

Stone, K. (2012). The Decline in the Standard Employment Contract: Evidence from Ten Advanced Industrial Countries. UCLA: The Institute for Research on Labor and Employment. Retrieved from: https://escholarship.org/uc/item/1wj7c2tb

© 2016 M. Dave Salisbury

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