Today’s interviewee is Barry Flack who works with businesses of all sizes to help cleanse them of utterly unproductive people and technology practices to make them relevant in today’s world.
What’s the biggest mistake of your career?
I entered the workplace not knowing my arse from my elbow at the end of the 20th century. Getting out of Belfast was my objective as a young 20-something and so I found myself in the low bar to enter HR tribe, learning the dark arts of the trade. That particular trade had by then succumbed to propping up an increasingly robotic, disengaging and at times cruel form of management philosophy on people entering the strange surrounds of a corporate existence.
To my utter shame, I spent too long ensuring that the captains of industry got free rein to run businesses into the ground. Encouraging toxic cultures, the likes of which gave rise to the Financial Services crash and ensuring that any balance in the workplace regarding employee voice or trade union membership was made irrelevant over time.
I started using the word ‘Why’ a long time before management guru pin-up boy, Simon Sinek made it fashionable, however, my version preceded sentences like…” are we doing this to people”? My biggest mistake was taking too damn long to realise that the way we were addicted to running many businesses was based on the premise that these individual caricatures of people we had concocted – the lazy, the thief, the potentially evil, etc. – to a great extent did not exist. There was absolutely no evidence to suggest that we’d built our organisations on the right view of human nature.
Since this clicked in my head I have tried to claw back some satisfaction in realising that we cannot change people, we can only change the system they operate within. People behave like dicks when we set out to reward and cultivate such behaviours in people. Change the system and the behaviour follows.
We are addicted to a whole inventory of management bullshit that has stayed unquestionably longer than it should have – time to cleanse our workplaces and indeed planet of:
- The workplace photos and descriptions that are only suitable for an Instagram post. Nobody comes to work on the back of a ping-pong table on offer or pizza and craft beer.
- Nobody learns everything they need to know about a new job in a one-day classroom training session. Stop it.
- Everyone games compliance training. Those naughty steps are for the infant schools.
- In no walk of life would an appraisal process be an acceptable form of human interaction! You wouldn’t talk to your partner like that so why is it ok in the workplace? And if the answer is the nerdy bloke in Reward needs the ratings then that’s just BS too.
- Nobody reads your 306-page HR handbook and everyone believes your social media policy section was written by someone who lives under a rock in the Hebrides. They ignore it.
- Asking me how I feel about engagement once a year deserves the sort of gamed response I give it. You’ll learn nothing, especially as I hormonally run through every Gen Z to baby boomer trait in a single day.
- You can’t change behaviour with a training course unless you have an IQ of 4 or you’re possibly a child. People are messy. People are complex and full of surprises. Never forget that.
Stop running organisations on the back of these utterly ridiculous, time-wasting beliefs that allow you as an HR professional to die a little each day and create an army of placid, conforming lapdogs in return.
A useful piece of advice
Cleanse your organisation by asking the question ‘why’ you hold so many of these deeply held beliefs. Save your soul by creating more valuable and productive things to do in your business than checking in on the potential evil of men and women. For the love of the next generation please get the message. Stop being a corporate dick.
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