Dale Dauten: Speaker, Author, Innovation Consultant [an error occurred while processing this directive]

What the Human Resources Department Won't Tell You

"Every time I make an appointment,
I create a hundred malcontents and one ingrate."
-- Louis XIV

I don't suppose that Louis the 14th had a human resources department. Then again, I suppose that one good guillotining would do more for productivity than an entire series of Deepak Chopra workshops.

What got me thinking about royal appointments was meeting with a friend who had been passed over for a promotion. This woman is a gem, and overdue for a Big Break. But she got edged out by a relative of the company's owner. In her disappointment, she went to Human Resources and poured out her heart. Together they came up with a plan: work harder.

You can't fault HR for assisting in that conclusion, of course; they are in the loyalty business. And it's a pricey business: a recent study by The Hackett Group consulting firm, found that companies spend an average of $1500 a year per employee on HR, and that doesn't include company logo tee-shirts.

I know what you're thinking: "Fire HR, give me the extra $1500 a year, and watch my morale improve." Well, that fish might feed you for a day, but who will teach you to fish?

All of which brings me to the point: Things they don't tell you down at HR. If you're working for a company that is struggling, or if you are stuck with a boss who isn't allowing your work to blossom, then you need to know two principals of career planning that you won't hear in a corporate seminar (because the seminar people know who pays them)....

  1. The worse the boss, the harder it is to leave. Not only does a bad boss lock up employees with "golden handcuffs," a controlling boss makes looking for a new job almost impossible. The employees have no time and little privacy. They also suspect that nasty consequences await them when they leave, that they will have their reputations smeared or face lawsuits. Further, one of the defining traits of bad bosses is that they hammer down the self-esteem and self-reliance of those who work for them. And the irony is that the two essential traits to undertake a successful job search are self-esteem and self-reliance.

  2. Cowering isn't good for your spine. When employees sense that their jobs are in jeopardy, either due to a lay-off, or a disagreement with management, most devote more energy to their work, hoping to prove that they are indispensable. But, as DeGaulle once said, "The graveyards are full of indispensable men." Instead of "looking around," endangered employees "keep their heads down." Doing so, they run a great personal risk. One study found that 70 percent of those who change jobs involuntarily end up taking a cut in pay. But, on the other side, of those who change jobs voluntarily, 70 percent end up making more.

The upshot is that good people get stuck in bad environments because good people tend to blame themselves for their situations, and refuse to admit failure. They think that if only they are good and patient, they will be rewarded. Shame it doesn't work. And to remind myself of that truth, I wrote this little Zen-style story...

A noble young wolf decides that she is going to befriend a wildcat that lives in the rocks of a nearby mountain. So each afternoon she trots out to the mountain and barks a greeting and stands, wagging her tail. And each afternoon, the wildcat rushes hissing from the bushes and claws the dog across the snout. This goes on for a hundred days. Finally, the noble wolf decides that she will never win the friendship of the wildcat. So one day she trots a different path. Her snout begins to heal. And the wildcat sits and whimpers, missing its new friend.

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