The Semantic Advantage

May 27, 2009

How to embarrass and anger workers: Tips from HR

Filed under: odds and ends — Phil Murray @ 10:24 pm

Every once in a while, people who should know better make it seem that stereotypes are true. This Human Resources expert thought she was helping. But she simply ended up embarrassing all HR people:

What’s in a Name? Strategies for Reviving a Culture During Turbulent Times

…  which recommends that  you can improve  flagging morale in a company by giving people titles like:

Manager of Customer Delight
Chief People Officer
Director of First Impressions

Commenters almost unanimously agreed that this wasn’t just unproductive; it was counter productive.

For example: “Oh gawd no…. treating people like children and giving them stupid titles doesn’t invigorate anyone it only embarrasses them. Hey, why not give them a funny hat with a propeller that they can walk around with showing they they’ve been promoted to “chief dork”. Ever see all the eyes roll and here the groans at team building events when the “fun” activity is really just dumb and childish?  …  Stop giving me candy during meetings whenever I answer one of your questions. I’m not a child and I’m not a dog either.”

Nailed it.

My eyes rolled fully back in my head whenever I heard managers talk about how they wanted to “empower” their workers. I haven’t heard that in a while.

Add the “silly job title” strategy to the long list of things that are sure indicators that a company is about to crumble.

Other telltale tactics and policies:

  • You get 10 times as many trinkets (T-shirts, toys, gadgets) as raises.
  • The Board of Directors insists that you hire a VP from Digital (DEC) or Xerox in order to “take the company to the next level.” (OK, I’m dating myself with that one.)
  • Management announces that they are building (or moving to) a huge, gleaming new site … before they have a major customer.
  • The CTO of your small company insists that it can create a competitive market advantage by building a slightly better product in a market in which such products are, in effect, commodities.
  • The marketing team is based on a different continent.

All of those things — and a few others — happened where I worked a few years ago. And tens of millions of venture capital [predictably] went down the drain.

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