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.

Defining Customer Service: Some Examples – Shifting the Paradigms

Gitomer’s, “Customer Service is Worthless: Customer Loyalty is Priceless (1998),” customer service has changed in ways that motivate me to investigate, cheer when found, and when negatives are experienced I want to help fix the problems. Several books and research papers in my library confirm every point Gitomer makes; thus, the following four interactions are compared to Gitomer’s text to supply solutions that can be benchmarked as Gitomer is much easier to read. The intent of this article is to power enthusiasm for change in how customer service is found and improved to inspire customer loyalty.

The Chase bank app delivered an error that made no sense. I called the “Mobile Banking Line,” and then was transferred to another department with “tech-savvy people who could assist me further.” Those representatives were not only unable to aid, but they also could not understand the problem as described, and offered a “local branch.” Upon learning that I lived 264 miles to the nearest Chase bank branch in El Paso, Texas, the representative had no other solution, offered no additional explanation, and for being a senior, tech-savvy representative, was less useful than the first representative I spoke with. Thus, I drove the four hours to El Paso, to be at the Chase Bank branch by opening. Not only was the teller having difficulty performing the transaction, the Chase Bank “Customer Service Star” desktop guide posted where I could see and evaluate performance. I was correctly greeted, in the standard big bank demanded-greeting that means nothing and has no humanity, good-job. Everything after that went downhill. When the teller was told that the El Paso branch is the “local” branch for Albuquerque, NM., there was no response. Eventually, the transaction was finally completed, and I was offered a big corporate bank, no humanity farewell, good-job. For a transaction that I can normally complete on my phone, to take 25-minutes in the branch, after a four-hour drive, you would think the teller would have cared, responded, or simply had humanity.

Gitomer offers several suggestions that a customer needs; I offer the most critical customer need, “Response!” When the customer begins a conversation about having to drive from another state to your location, respond. Show an attitude of gratitude, express amazement, ask about the trip, but to ignore the customer and only focus on the transaction, I could have stayed in Albuquerque and gotten that response from the telephone line. Gitomer claims the best customer variable is loyalty. Washington Mutual was my bank; I was loyal from the first thing in the morning to the last thing at night, I told everyone to change to Washington Mutual. Chase acquired Washington Mutual during the banking crisis, and I have been provided a reason to be loyal to Chase to date. I have not been presented a reason to enjoy banking with Chase. Why; because every transaction is ruled by the corporate thinking and inflexibility of big banks who consider themselves “Too big to fail.” Well, lose some more customers, keep ignoring the customers you still have, and another merger to an even bigger corporate bank will be the future.

AT&T, there are several issues in the following story of recent customer service. Frequent readers of my articles will see a common trend, training. Here is another matter where training wins customers. February, I called AT&T looking for a solution; I got a larger price plan and thought all is well. March, I am introduced to the mouse print and discover that “Unlimited Data” has several limits; who knew, obviously not the AT&T telephone representative, or the online Chat representative, I had to visit a local store for an explanation. April more calls to the telephone line, more guesses to close the call. Another visit to the local store for help. Like the shampoo bottle’s instructions, “Wash, Rinse, Repeat” May, June, July, and August will see me going into the local store again on Monday. I promise, my trips to the store are not because I am finding customer service, especially since I must keep dodging sales to get questions answered. AT&T, what is your company training philosophy, procedures, and strategical and tactical reasons for conducting employee training? The current results are not satisfactory, and that problem is not improving.

Gitomer discusses how converted employees become loyal employees. I was a converted and loyal customer to Cingular Wireless, which was bought by AT&T. I was a converted customer of Alltel, which was merged into Verizon and AT&T. I was converted to these companies for the service, clarity, and the lack of mouse-print conditions that the employees do not even know or can explain. Banking and Cellphones have something in common, the product is remarkably similar, and the service provided by employees is the only separating variable between your company and your competition. Chase, AT&T, where is the employee training on distinguishing service and building customer loyalty?

“#6 WOW! Variable: Truthful – Customers want the truth! The customer will find out eventually, so you may as well start with the truth – [especially] if [the truth] hurts” (Gitomer, 1998, p. 97; emphasis mine). AT&T, please heed! Chase, you might want to have the same conversation in your call center as well. When customers start with the telephone line looking for information and receive a lie, you are building a customer event that will cost your company customers! Lying loses customers; this equation should be the number one discussion with every employee. I have spent hours on the phone receiving one piece of information, only to walk into the AT&T store and get handed more mouse print. Thus, when training, emphasize the need for clear, concise, truth; served openly and with conviction.

Like many US Military Veterans, I am regularly stuck between two bureaucracies in dealing with the Veterans Administration. However, there is nothing more frustrating than getting the same issues in non-government health administrations. Corporate medicine began in the late 1980s in America, and since then community hospitals have become giant behemoths where bureaucracies reign.  These establishments have yet to understand they must pay attention to the customer/patient, not the insurance company, and indeed not the voices in their heads. Hospital directors, leaders, and providers, what do you do when a patient/customer walks in with cash and asks for service? I walked into the University of New Mexico, Orthopedics Department, plopped $2000.00 in cash down and asked for 60-minutes of time with any provider who was available for a letter I need. Records were available, x-rays, MRI’s, and a host of data. The letter would take less than 60-minutes, and I do not know anyone who would turn down cash and a payday of $2000.00 for an hour or less of work. Yet, not only was I turned away by the bureaucracy, I was informed I would have to travel an hour to another location instead of where I was, because I had been treated there two-years prior. But, I would still not be able to obtain the letter I needed as the other department is neurology. To receive treatment at the specialist demanded by the VA bureaucracy, I must first find a primary care provider who would refer me to a specific provider in orthopedics, before I could finally discuss the potential to fill my need.

Gitomer talks about this principle. The customer does not care about your processes, procedures, policies, and propaganda. The customer cares about what they need, what they offer, and how to obtain what they need. When I called AT&T this week, the third person I spoke with started every answer with “I apologize.” The UNM representative did the same thing in refusing my money and their services. The UNM representative also pulled the “Let me check” run out the office, reappear, helpless, act, to attempt actually to be helpful. The same act is done by telephone representatives who place a customer on hold to “check with a supervisor.” The customer knows what you are doing, and I, for one, am not impressed! Gitomer emphasizes on this point, and if the apology does not come with a solution that gets the customer to what they need, the apology is an excuse that is lame, weak, and useless.

03 August 2019 email messages were sent to three Federally elected representatives of New Mexico, Congresswoman Debra Haaland (D), Senator Tom Udall (D), Senator Martin Heinrich (D). I asked them if they were interested or cared about the veterans in their districts and what is occurring in the Albuquerque VA Medical Center. Their silence testifies to their disregard to their constituents. Unfortunately, this treatment or abuse of their constituents is not limited to the few representatives from New Mexico. Friday, I received a boilerplate email response from Senator Tom Udall’s staff, auto signed, with wording that clearly claims, I do not care about you or your issue, leave me alone, and stop bothering me. As the sole respondent in three elected officials, as the customer, voter, and citizen, I am not pleased!

Each of the above situations breeds a question; “Why should I remain a customer, patient, voter?”

The solutions are clear:

  1. Train employees. Encourage employees to walk customers through different solutions using the truth mentally. Apologize only when you have a solution and mean you are sorry. False apologies are as useful as a blunt needle, you might get the job done, but you are going to drive yourself and everyone else crazy doing the job. Show why training is occurring. State the strategy, so the tactical actions requested make sense to those being trained.
  2. Respond to the customer. Active listening is only half the communication effort, forming proper responses means building upon what the customer said with your response. Failure to respond appropriately, and the customer situation is worsened for the next person to communicate with this customer.
  3. Gitomer asks the following question, “What will it take to end measuring ‘[customer] satisfaction’ in your business” (Gitomer, 1998, p. 257)? I guarantee that the answer to this question is going to cause significant angst in why and how you communicate with customers. I am fairly certain, the answer to this question is going to disrupt every communication channel’s operations and daily tactical actions requiring a review of operational strategy. Business leaders, do you dare to ask the question? Are you prepared for the answer?
  4. Gitomer, Chapter 16 (p. 234-248) details change and how to make the change effective in your operations. The 10.5 points are useful, but what comes next is the best plan for moving forward successfully.

Leading to the final question:

“What will you do now?”

 

Reference

Gitomer, J. (1998). Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless: How to Make Customers Love You, Keep Them Coming Back and Tell Everyone They Know. Atlanta, GA: Bard Press.

 

© 2019 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved

The images used herein were obtained in the public domain, this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.