Mummy HR

mummy by publicinsomniac
mummy by publicinsomniac

We’re continuing our series of HR ghosts and ghouls and tonight it’s the turn of the mummy. When I think of mummies I think of them in the classic horror pose, arms oustretched, shambling along bound in tape and bandages. And it’s the tape which binds these soulless creatures that I want to focus on. The bureaucratic tape which binds organisations and lashes them to the stumbling shambling gait of the mummy.

I enjoyed reading a great conversation started by Ben Eubanks over at UpstartHR recently all about whether companies should have a working through lunch policy. Seriously, lunch policy. I recommend you pop over and read the whole piece, to get you started here’s a snippet provided by Steve Browne:

My question is “Why is the HR person looking to add yet another policy?”

If the behavior isn’t working, or if the employee isn’t doing work, then just TALK TO THEM !!

Sorry to yell, but it blows me away that HR has fallen into such a deep hole when it comes to writing policies. We forget that there are many employees who work for us and not just a few. Most policies are written because of the behavior of a few folks.

And what about dress code policy? I was talking about this with a couple of HR practitioners just recently and one of them said “dress code policy is a great way of showing folks that you don’t trust them with even the most basic things”. Unnecessary bureaucracy and more tape round the mummy. I went to agree and before I could do so – the third member of our conversation violently disagreed. “You have to tell people what to wear or they will just wear what they like”. All I could manage was a head slap of disdain. I slapped my own head, not theirs.

Sometimes my work involves carrying out stakeholder engagement audits. As part of these audit my associates and I talk with lots of staff, and the stories they tell us about unnecessary policies written and implemented to “legislate” against things that haven’t happened and in all likelihood won’t, are eye boggling. I can’t go into detail but things like no alcohol and no toasters (yup – no toasters) are often used to bind the policy mummy even tighter. The tighter the policy, the greater the lack of trust, and this lack of trust is a root cause of people feeling disengaged from their employer. It is damaging and unnecessary.

You may think, I can run faster than the mummy, it’ll never catch me. And you forget – the mummy is undead. It will shamble on until you can run no more and then, and only then will it wrap you in its lunch/dress code/alcohol/toaster bandages. And you will suffocate.

Despite my punk roots I’m not advocating anarchy, and I appreciate the requirement for policy. But surely policy should be stuff that enables work, makes things happen, not stuff that binds and chokes the life from the company?

I’d love to hear from you if you have ever seen mummy HR stumbling along your corridors binding folk with its policy bandages.

photo c/o publicinsomniac

What are the dumbest things you do to your colleagues/employees?

Another opportunity to share some learning. I have posed this question on a number of forums, to see if common themes emerge, to see what more we can learn, and to allow people to confess to their dumb things! Here is my dumb things for you to learn from, and it would be great if you can add to this research.

“Hmmmm, confession time eh?

I was asked to create a business to business sales experiment for Dixons in Central London. As part of this I needed to recruit three people to form a sales team plus an administrator. I found an extremely capable administrator and two guys who I thought would make great sales people. I was very comfortable with these three appointments. I couldn’t decide who would fill the fourth seat on this team. I came under some pressure to make a decision and with the worry that if I didn’t fill the post it may get withdrawn, I chose the best of the rest.

Big mistake. This guy wasn’t as good as the others, nowhere near. I won’t bore you with the details but I sacked him a few weeks later. I felt terrible because I had tried to fit a square peg into a round hole. It was my fault for recruiting him in the first place.

The rest of the team were a big success. We worked and sold very well together. With hindsight I believe an empty seat would have been preferable to all of us. Including (maybe even especially), the guy I had to let go.

That was a pretty dumb thing, and I’ve learned to work with some great empty seats since then.”

Doug Shaw

“The dumbest thing corporations do is pretend that “people are our greatest asset” and then abuse the goodwill by cancelling training and development programmes, the second dumbest is to hold meetings from which no actions are taken but to which everyone must attend to hear the new words of wisdom from the newly installed leader of the organisation, and the new strategy.”

Anon – wish I had written it though!