I've been reading some discussions from the Contracting Workforce Forum. As some of you know, I abhor the use of management phrases like "cool kids organizations." What the hell is a "cool kids organization?" Is it an excuse for something? I spent my working career listenting to the latest meaningless phrases like that. I was around when the words Human Capital became popular. The words Human Resource preceded it. If you look at the definition for capital and resource, you will see they are much the same. Perhaps it is my own personal perception but I always hated the thought of being considered an inanimate object by some stiff holding a management position. Why not get rid of the words capital and resource and just treat each other as human?
That leads me to a story about a so-called manager--think Senior Executive Service--who clearly had risen beyond his abilities within an organizaion and one of his unfortunate underlings. The manager wanted to fire the underling because the manager claimed that the underling lacked any initiative. Oh, how things can go so wrong for an incompetent manager.
I remember the manager's face as having a permanent scowl and marching around looking like that. He must have been permanently constipated. No one wanted to work for the manager because he was an asshole and he screamed at people. All I can remember about the underling is that he reminded me of one of the Mario Brothers because of his mustache.
One morning, the underling was standing on a crowded subway platform waiting for a train. The signal showed that the train was approaching the platform when a woman fell onto the track. To save the woman on the track, someone had to quickly jump down onto the track--avoid electrocution by the 3rd rail--and lift the woman to the platform. There was no time to hesitate. Only one person jumped onto the tracks that morning to save the woman. He didn't have time to think about what to do, he didn't have time to change into a Superman outfit, he just did it within seconds. The moment that he saved the woman and climbed back onto the platform, the underling was hailed as a hero. I can still see the newspaper article in my mind describing the hero's actions.
How do you fire a hero because he lacked initiative? You don't. You pull the paperwork that the manager was planning to use to fire the underling and you make sure it never finds the light of day. And, that's what happened. Years later on the day I retired, I remember seeing the hero in the GAO lobby. He still had that mustache. The manager went no futher in GAO and was no longer there.
So what's the moral of this story? Its obvious. You'll figure it out.