I’m not making this up. Seriously, I’m not. A good friend of my wife told us a story the other night about an “All Employee Call” she participated in a couple of months ago. The call was in the midst of a particularly challenging time for her company. They had just gotten through some noticeable reductions in force (layoffs, yo) and the future didn’t look all that bright. The CEO of this company was trying to soften the tone, show a little personality, and generally calm the nerves of his employees – each with their own concerns about their employment. He wandered off, though, onto some tangent that inexplicably waylays a tale about having to import water to his winter home in Arizona so he could keep their landscaping lush. I kid you not…
What a frackin’ self-centered, out-of-touch, insensitive, son of a beotch!
So here you are sitting on this call hoping and praying for some words of solace, some rallying cry to help you deal with the misfortune of watching your friends and colleagues lose their jobs all around you. Instead you get some good-ole-boy complaining about a desert summer’s scorching of his second home.
Can leadership really be this out of touch?
Was it an innocent oversight? I don’t care. It’s unacceptable. People like this don’t deserve to be at the helm of any organization. They don’t give two ships about their employees. They care about one thing – their personal net worth. They don’t care about what their employees are feeling; they care about what the analysts and their investors are feeling. I understand how important that is, but there’s a time and place for everything. Come on, dummy.
Here’s the problem.
We’re stuck with these guys…at least for a while. They earned their stripes somewhere long ago. They’ve kissed all the right butt, played the game like a pro. They belong to the “right” clubs, went to the “right” schools. Ain’t nothing you’re going to do to change that. Give it another ten years and the old school baby boomer c-suite will be spending more time in their garden than in the board room…thank God. But until then, you (Human Resources) have to figure out a way to keep a muzzle on those clowns.
Let them hang with their blue blood bros on Wall Street, but don’t let them near the peeps. If they have to talk, script them or at least give them a list of things NOT to say. And if you’re not that close to your CEO as an HR pro, find someone who is. Implore them to be transparent, but to keep it short and simple. Ask them to focus only on the relevant stuff and to leave the rest for their cigar smoke filled men’s club.
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