Thursday, March 18, 2010

The worst of all possible worlds!

I have just been contacted by someone who has been the recipient of some "interesting" human resource management practices.

"Edward" (not his real name) applied for a senior position with a national organisation and eventually made the short list. At this point he was asked for referees and supplied the names and contact details of people for whom and with whom he had worked over the past 20 years. Several weeks passed and, at the start of March, he was contacted and offered the position. He was thrilled. He believed the organisation to be very reputable and professional.

"Edward" had been surprised at the extent to which background checking had been made (it was not a security-orientated position) and felt that, as he put it, he had been "laundered and drycleaned". However this very factor was a key one in making him want the position - "any organisation that is that thorough has to be a good one to work for," he told me.

He had no hesitation in accepting the offer and, at that stage, he was told that a contract would be drawn up for him. Last Friday the contract arrived and he got his lawyer to check it. The consultant's covering letter said how pleased everyone was that he had accepted the job and nominated a starting date. His lawyer suggested some minor changes and the contract documents were back to the company by Wednesday.

On Wednesday evening he was contacted by the consultant who was acting for the company and told that the offer had been withdrawn "as it is too complicated to negotiate the contract". "Edward" is devastated and I suspect that his lawyer may now become a little more involved.

"Edward" has been caught up in a very bad manifestation of what is probably Second Generation Leadership and with the antics of a 2G Leader. Clearly this is an organisation that demands conformance but it may have regressed to a First Generation Leadership approach of demanding obedience. Whatever the generational stage, it now appears clear that they never had any intention of negotiating and that, from their side, the contract was offered on a "take it or leave it" basis. The problem is that they never made this clear to "Edward".

There can be little doubt that the company's "red zone" approach has infected "Edward" and has engendered a red zone response ("red zones" are contagious.) Across Australia, he's got a lot of friends, family and contacts - I have little doubt as to whether or not he will share this experience with them. And neither the company nor its consultant are likely to have their reputations enhanced in those discussions! "Edward" now sees both the consultant and the company as being toxic.

Third Generation Leadership and 3G Leaders don't play these sorts of games. They are honest and transparent. If they make a decision then decide that they made a mistake they are open about this: they explain the what and the how: they seek to minimise the impact of their mistake on everyone involved: and then they move on. Because 3G Leaders show respect to those with whom they interact, they receive respect in return. 3G Leaders are never found in toxic organisations.

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