221 Comments
Mar 18Liked by David Farrier

The fact that I snuck this past my boss David Farrier without him suspecting a thing really just proves my point

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author

You infuriate me. Been doing so for decades now. I will have my revenge.

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Mar 19Liked by David Farrier

Lapsing into this kind of movie villain monologue is not going to restore your reputation as a good boss

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Mar 18Liked by David Farrier

He for sure must be a psychopath

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Mar 18Liked by David Farrier

Shhhh he might hear you

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Clinically braindead for sure!

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Mar 18Liked by David Farrier

👀

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Mar 18Liked by David Farrier

I had a manager once who was so bloated by their self-importance and liked to remind us CONSTANTLY they were The Manager. I found a report they wrote to a major government funder in which they described the client group we worked with, mainly homeless and/or with major mental health issues, as 'ostrich-sized by society'. I didn't have the heart to correct them since they were The Manager.

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author

OSTRICH-SIZED

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Mar 19Liked by David Farrier

And the computer didn't auto-cronk because it wasn't spelt wrongly.

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Ostrich-sized! 🦤

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I had to say it out loud :)

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I like that so much that I feel the word ostracized should be retired in it's favour. Ostriches are quite big, implying a big problem

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Most of my managers could spell and use the right words but one on them once told me she’d been ‘done for assault’. Several took credit for my work and the one to rule them all would send back drafts asking for ‘the’ to be replaced by ‘a’. You get the drift.

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Seriously?!

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I'll never forget it!

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Oh my God hahah

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Mar 18·edited Mar 18Liked by David Farrier

Its so accurate.

I am in senior leadership at an IT company in the people space. Ive been working in the team lead/manager and above area for about 7 years, in 4 or 5 different companies.

The lack of not just skill and aptitude in many of my colleagues, but the complete lack of desire to be good at leading has been a driving force in my mahi really. Trying to get that uplift for our employees.

Its pushing shit up hill.

A technical speciality is pretty easy to track someones skill and productivity in- units or pieces of work completed, features delivered etc

But when your job is people its harder. Everyone experience is subjective and often when things are "mostly fine" a shitty posturing boss you can ignore. But covid kind of changed that. When we felt like the world was burning and there was so much sickness and stress, the HUGE gaps in the ability of so many leaders became overwhelmingly stark. Good leaders come into their own during crisis- crap ones take everyone and everything down with them. They almost unanimously lack self awareness or skills in moderating their own behaviour, the opposite of what you need.

And the TRAINING focus does my head in. You cant train new ways of thinking, the servant nature of leadership, self awareness or the value of structure to support peoples growth to managers that believe they are already amazing and who have brains that fundamentally cant prioritise outside of their own motivations and desires.

In my current role, i see a lot of potential and love the challenges these issues present. But its my first role in 5 where i havent felt compelled on a daily basis to run away screaming and flailing my arms in exasperation at the cynical, lazy bullies that are in charge.

So their is hope.

But its a crack of light under a door level at the moment.

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You sound like one of the good ones! I was listening to If Books Could Kill's episode about the book Lean In yesterday, and one of the points they made is that women often have to work much harder to get into positions of power, and so, when they do they are often significantly more prepared and qualified. They also referenced a study on the performance of, I think they said hedge fund companies, and it found that the ones run by women performed better.

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Mar 18Liked by David Farrier

This was one of my favourite episodes in a while. Some good zingers in there. Nothing to add on positions of power as I'm a worker bee/pleb

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Mar 19Liked by David Farrier

I enjoyed the zingers in this episode, too!

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Agree completely about women in leadership. My sister is the first woman captain on the NZ coast. She did training and got, and has kept updated, pilot exemptions for the ports the ship goes into, all under her own steam, and sometimes with determination because the company wasn’t bothered if she did them or not. She was promoted a year ago after being relief captain for some time. She needed time off to go to a family wedding recently. The company she works for panicked because no one behind her is trained up.

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I just listened to that episode too. Great timing for them to do that book because I'd just been complaining about a senior manager's lack of awareness on gender disparity. We went through a big skills assessment where you self assess then review with someone from the assessment company to make sure you properly aligned your skills with their framework. This manager repeatedly brought up that people tend to rate themselves higher than they really are so overall after the review our skills moved down the framework. Completely failed to mention that generally applies to men. Women tend to rate our skills lower. Most of mine moved up a level in the review.

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This totally tracks, and this pattern begins in childhood. There's a two part BBC documentary on youtube about the socialisation of gender, and they ran an experiment with a class of seven year olds to see what effect breaking down gender rolls by doing a number of things that all contribute to the story boys are 'this' and girls are 'that'. It's amazing all the unconscious things we do that contribute to this without even thinking about it. But anyway, they did extensive testing and questionnaires at the beginning to get a base line, and one of the things they found was exactly what you mentioned. Boys rate their ability higher than their actual skill level, and girls typically lower. They also found the boys really struggled with failure, lacked emotional vocabulary, and the emotion they were most comfortable articulating was anger. It was very interesting, but also really sad because it really shows how the socialisation of gender can do such a disservice to everyone.

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Yes! When technical experts are pushed up into people leadership, who have no desire to lead people, then there creates a huge risk - especially with what you raise about lack of self awareness and ability to moderate their own behaviour. But in the system it so often becomes their only path to any sort of career progression. They have no desire to learn and think that soft skills are stupid/crap or at the very least a waste of time. I've seen this play out in the tech space in particular, but it happens everywhere.

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I worked at an IT company, it happened, because I got really annoyed with the boss that I had and applied for a job that I was not qualified for on the surface. It turned out. They were looking for somebody who knew how to deal with people and make the customers happy rather than have all the technical skills. I learnt my People skills from being on the board of trustees for my kids school when they ran an anti-bullying program.

I ended up managing in a very cooperative way, because the team members had the technical skills to solve the technical problems, and I had the skills to manage expectations, and to make sure that people in the team were supported and could do the stuff they were good at .

I got respect for what I did, not from my abilities on technical level, but by being honest and straight , underpromising and overdelivering.

It was hard work as this was during the GFC when companies did not want to spend money on software . The company got sold to a big American conglomerate, it was no longer a nice place to work, and work was much harder to get done.

We were expected to work for a bloke had never run a team in his life. He had no idea how to get us access to the systems procedures and databases we needed to do our jobs.

He complained about me to his boss , who hold me in for a meeting. I explained what we needed and why, the big boss ended up, repeating to my direct report “ that sounds reasonable. Give her what she needs.” Things did get better, but it still wasn’t great. He was still a boss who had been over-promoted.

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⁉️Isn't this the very conundrum that started the trend to have non-specialist people in "management" roles so that the specialists (Drs, scientists, engineers, writers etc. etc.) could do what they do best? Then you have people more interested in accounting than patients running hospitals (but they have a "management degree") and places like Boeing where a deep understanding of the importance of literal nuts and bolts is required - etc. etc. etc.

Perhaps it is the power imbalance between management & those who have the actual skills required to produce what the organisation is about - aircraft, news items, healthy patients ⁉️ I have read about governance Boards with a mix of all the skills, where no one person can make/enforce decisions & all employees are represented - be interesting to know if they are any more successful and/or good to work in day to day 🤔

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I love “the servant nature of leadership”, it’s absolutely what it ought to be! I used to fear the words “to serve” as I conflated them with “be servile”. As an adult I now realise that’s what I love to do - serve my family, job, community etc. You can do that in a leadership context 100%, and you clearly do, how marvellous.

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Mar 18Liked by David Farrier

I'm a manager. My only job is set people up to be excellent. That means I sacrifice my own happiness so others can succeed. Life is miserable so I may as well help other people while I exist.

Yes there are lots of terrible managers out there, but then there are lots of terrible people, so it's hardly surprising that some of them are managers.

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author

Valid, and appreciate you carrying on through Hayden's insults!

On a serious note - thanks for being awesome. Here, and for those you empower.

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Mar 18Liked by David Farrier

I'm instantly wary of any manager or executive who refer to the company as a 'family'. And it makes me wonder how they treat their actual family.

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I had a CEO who referred to all employees as her children and it was expected that she was referred to as Ibu (mother in Indonesian). Absolute meglomaniac and made so many terrible decisions.

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Ew.

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Crime family

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founding

Never work for anyone who describes their workplace as a family (if you have the choice)

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The "family" stuff gives big cult vibes!!

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I always think of THE SOPRANOS when they refer to "family"

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Mar 18Liked by David Farrier

This is way too accurate a summation of corporate life. In a more macro example the current NZ prime minister is a classic example. He thinks the country is a business and acts in the same way as when he was a CEO. Rewarding the wealthy at the top and cutting costs by impacting those people who actually do the work to make the country a productive and positive place to be. The only difference is people don’t have to be nice to him the way you have to be nice to your boss.

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Thanks for this. Question for Paul: has ANYONE ever got a PhD out of writing up what I call the Skipping Stone school of management? It’s the one where the wunderkind arrives in an organisation with dazzling ideas for change, comprehensively fucks things up but has already been promoted elsewhere when the magnitude of his (usually “his”) incompetence becomes apparent.

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author

I like that you have conjured Paul up in the comments as if my magic!

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Mar 18Liked by David Farrier

Not quite the same but there's a bunch of editors in journalism who always seem to run their publications into the ground but constantly get hired because they're well-known and a name people think of when they're hoping to hire an editor. It seems once you're in a particular echelon it's hard to fail your way out

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I don't know about a PhD but the Skipping Stone school of management you describe is actually well-known in the management literature.

It's known as 'seagull management' based on a figure of speech regarding managers who "flew in, made a lot of noise, dumped on everyone from a great height, then flew out again, leaving others to deal with the consequences".

More here: https://simplicable.com/en/seagull-management

This dysfunctional management style was first written by Blanchard and Peale in their 1988 book "The Power of Ethical Management" which is based on the radical business idea that you don't need to cheat to win. Lots of other writers have discussed it since and how morale and value destroying it can be for employees and organisations.

https://www.amazon.com/Power-Ethical-Management-Positive-Business-ebook/dp/B005CNXFYI

I should also note that there are good ethical managers out there (and if you read Webworm you are probably one of them!) but many organisations don't foster and reward servant leadership where your primary job as a manager is to empower and support your team.

In short, doing a technical job, managing people, running a business, and climbing political hierarchies are all different skill sets and being good at one doesn't translate into being good at the others.

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Well said!

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Absolutely true - seen this time & time again. And these people all ‘protect’ each other as they sprinkle their useless fairy dust all over.

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I love the skipping stones analogy! One of my friends called them turtles, because they lay their eggs/ideas on the beach and then fuck off into the ocean expecting someone else will bring it to fruition.

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Mar 18·edited Mar 18

Ha ha! Like the “post turtle” meme that circulated when Trump came to power but could apply to any manager floundering away quietly in the dark. You know he didn’t get there by himself, he has no idea what to do while he’s up there, he’s beyond his ability to function effectively and you have to wonder what sort of idiots put him there in the first place.

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The longest job I ever had was as a sex worker and the mangers in brotels are a whole other type of psychopath, mostly all the same. But then again your not talking about that type of manger so I'll slowly walk away from the keyboard 😂😂😂

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author

I feel the shoe still fits!

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Mar 18Liked by David Farrier

And this is why Office Space is such a cult favorite for us office drones. It came out in 1999, but it’s still relevant today.

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It's time for a rewatch of that film.

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We actually held a baseball bat destruction of an old printer int he parking lot a number of years ago in homage to Office Space, and conveniently named a report so that the acronym would be TPS - most everyone was in on the joke, rather than trying to pass it by someone. (And I'm now low level management in the company, though I wasn't then.)

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That’s awesome!

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Mar 18Liked by David Farrier

1. A couple months ago I googled "best disturbing documentaries" when looking for something to watch and Tickled was on almost every list I looked at. 👍

2. The title of this article immediately caught my attention because not even half an hour ago I was ranting to my mother about this very thing. She was talking about scheduling issues at her job, which are a constant problem there, and I was like, we're in this time rn where so many people are struggling, people with lots of credentials are applying to a hundred jobs and not getting a single response, yet we've got managers at places like my mom's work who are so very clearly incompetent enjoying full employment with zero consequences.

My dad used to frequently cite the Peter Principle, a theory that proposes that people rise to their level of incompetence. The concept was presented as satire, but it turns out to be true all too often. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_principle

3. Yesterday when I let my dog out, I noticed that the big tree in the backyard was in bloom. Never paid attention to that tree before, but I noticed it now because it looked familiar...after a closer look and quick sniff test, I realized that yes, I have one of THOSE damned trees. Thanks to your FB episode on it, I'm now researching ways to get rid of/replace it!

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author

THE CUM TREE! CONGRATULATIONS!

(kill it with fire!)

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Thanks, David. 🙏 This reply is now my lock screen.

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I was coming to see if anyone mentioned the Peter Principle, aka "promoted to their level of incompetence". It fit perfectly with Hayden's statements, and I'm sure the experiences of many. What's even more surprising is the explanation for how it happens, and even knowing that people continue to do it.

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A couple other commenters mentioned it too! Smart buncha worms.

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The Peter Principle also mentions the Dilbert Principle which also seems quite apt.

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👏 I became aware of the "Peter Principle" early in my working life - not sure the circumstances but I have had those sorts of Managers from time to time so may be a sympathetic friend trying to help me understand HOW it could happen 🤷 I often had to resist "rising in the ranks" because I knew I was a do-er & self-manager rather than being reponsible for other people, although have had the "title" of Office Manager several times, but in those cases I only had myself to "manage" 😁 as I was the only office staff!

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I don’t think all managers are mediocre or brain dead, but it also depends upon whether that person is wanting to grow for the betterment of the staff or the company and their place in it. I’m a huge fan of Simon Sinek, and he often tells the story that the number one priority of a manager is the employees, not the customer. That’s my approach to management. Look after those who are doing the job.

But I’ve had my flaws and when I relapsed during the pandemic, my alcoholic thinking led me away from treating the staff fairly to being a self centered prick. I say all that because if a manager really doesn’t care about the staff, that’s where you find those greedy, brain dead assholes. When I was only caring about me, it put everybody in the hot seat to where it wasn’t about them anymore, but about my ability to keep my position so I could keep drinking. It’s one of my biggest regrets yet I take full accountability for it. But sadly, those who are more important and higher up the food chain than I was won’t do the same. Human beings are but canon fodder to afford them the luxury of having a high paid job. Their position makes them feel invincible.

It’s a shame knowing that about Vice as it was one of my personal favorites for years. Watching that downfall was sad. As was Andrew Callahan on Channel 5 on YouTube. Though I think he learned his lesson, it’s still sad to see people act like that.

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And I do think it’s funny fyi. No offense taken.

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author

We have similar sense of humour, I think, so figured you'd be into this :P

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Cum trees and lollipops my friend. I have no idea what I’m saying, but it has a ring to it. And we have a very similar sense of humor.

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Mar 18Liked by David Farrier

IMHO, it all comes down to servant leadership. Too many bosses lose sight what it was like when they weren’t the boss (or they’ve always been the boss, which is even worse).

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Yes!! People seem to forget awfully quickly what it was like to do the job when they become the boss of the people who do the job! They're also the same people who will say, "look, I know what it's like. I used to be in your shoes" before they say something that indicates they do not remember what it was like at all.

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There are lots of leaders who claim to aspire /subscribe to servant leadership but it's just something that they say or like the sound of. Those are the sociopaths

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"The working class can kiss my arse - I've got the foreman's job at last."

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Mar 18Liked by David Farrier

As a slight side-track, HR departments also have a significant role in the existence of idiot managers. These are the people who make appointments without proper checking of CVs, so that in come cases, total frauds with made-up qualifications get appointed to senior positions (does no-one ever think to contact the university they supposedly qualified at?). They have also been know to appoint people who have completely mismanaged other organisations, and whom they have been warned about by those who had the misfortune to work for them. There have been several high-profile instances in NZ, some of them involving hospitals, which really are the places that should be making sure the staff are who they claim to be...

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Mar 18Liked by David Farrier

Side note: I've always thought Human Resources was kind of an oxymoron. If they're humans they're not resources. They're people not a pine forest or a rich seam of coal. Still I guess it is an accurate description of how we're seen in the current economic system

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Mar 18Liked by David Farrier

Here’s an important fact to remember regarding HR’s role at a company: it only exists to protect the company from financial harm, not the employees. So, it’s soulless at its core.

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Mar 18Liked by David Farrier

I remember a manager of a team that sat near my team, he had about six staff and always called his staff "Resource 1", "Resource 2", etc etc.

Sadly he wasn't doing it to try and be funny, that is how he viewed people.

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author

NOOOOOOOOO

That HAD to be a bit. It HAD to be.

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Christ!

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It is interesting how dehumanising a term with the word human in it can feel.

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We used to call it Personnel, which was marginally better.

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Mar 18Liked by David Farrier

I worked in HR for a while in my previous company before moving into other business functions, and I can very confidently say that HR is rarely the problem. HR is usually blamed for the outcomes of poor leaders, or is a convenient scapegoat for decisions made by leaders who want to be liked but need to deliver bad news. The number of times I’ve been in meetings where my boss said ‘HR said we have to reduce headcount/restructure/etc’ and I know damn well HR said no such thing is maddening.

HR is not staffed to serve the employees, that budget was cut many years ago, so it’s usually outsourced to ‘Employee Assistance Programmes’ or there are very very small teams who produce generic guide books around career planning, development etc that people can access for self guided learning, and develop policy and process for how someone with an issue can have that issue addressed. The HR business partner is there to coach the leader (and business) through the process. Nobody is funded by the company to guide the employee through that process or function as an advocate.

Once I left the HR team I was often asked by my fellow team members to help understand process and coach them through. Again though, I almost always heard bullshit stories about ‘HR’ saying/doing something that was 100% a decision made by their leader, and blamed on HR.

All of this to say, HR is rarely the real problem!

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I was going to raise my head up and say something like this. I spent a long time in HR and most of us were there for the right reasons: to help the people we work with. Often having to act to mitigate the damage that people in positions of power were creating.

Executive hiring is frequently outsourced to Exec recruitment companies and even then, HR usually have no influence or decision-making. It's the CEO or other execs

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Totally, and HR does not have the authority to intervene. I knew of so many crap people in the company and when I brought it up with their leader, was always resolutely shut down. HR do not make the hiring and firing decisions, they manage the process.

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founding

In most companies in NZ HR aren’t even “resourced” well enough any more to guide recruitment. I’ve been a manager of people for (gulp) 17 years now and it’s been at least 12 since HR did anything other than post the job ad and issue the contract.

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author
Mar 19·edited Mar 19Author

HR, at Mediaworks during the Mark Weldon era in my world was.... not good.

Thanks for this.

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May be a little unfair to blame HR for that flaming bag of dog turd. Let's just blame Mark Weldon. What industry is he destroying now? Time to fire up the LinkedIn again.

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Mar 18Liked by David Farrier

I need to say this. I’m an ex nurse with a Masters degree. Hospitals were never run by doctors. They were run by nurses.

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author

Amen. If only the pay reflected it.

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Mar 19Liked by David Farrier

👏👏👏

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That’s the one Wendy the Matron and the medical superintendent

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founding

💯

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They were run by doctors and nurses. I’m trying to remember the title that the managing doctor had. I’m talking the 60s and 70s

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You mean the Medical Superintendent?

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Mar 18Liked by David Farrier

I'm getting so many Luxon vibes from all the comments and from Hayden's letter....is this a symptom of too narrow a world I inhabit? Or is our new Prime Minister an example of the Peter Principle at play?

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Let’s not forget some of the team here (I’m writing this on the one Interislander ferry that hasn’t broken down, but is in no danger of being replaced anytime soon thanks to good ol’ Nicola’s determination to be a tough new boss)

Look at all the sacrifices we are told we will have to make in order to satisfy the tobacco lobby and some landlords!

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Absolutely that.

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founding

💯 he’s that incompetent manager you had that no one could understand how he’d got into the job.

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Mar 18·edited Mar 18Liked by David Farrier

I feel like, as a middle-manager (or perhaps a little more senior) that a lot of what Hayden suggests is right, but I also feel that as a lefty, my brain is wired so differently to those who excel, climb the management ladder at the expense of others and have little understanding of the carnage they leave behind.

All my decisions are prefaced and closed with the questions "is this the right thing to do?". It's such a simple philosophy at face value, but requires a bit of a re-wire when considered in the context of modern business ethos (profit at all costs).

Managing business and people with positive, productive goals in mind versus "will this make me look better" or "Can I make more money by shitting on someone else" means we have low staff turnover, an awesome collaborative culture and a workplace where people belong as part of the team, not because they're here solely for their paycheck.

I'm not going to lie, when I arrived here 9 years ago I was a bit of a dick, but the boss saw my abilities, helped me iron out some ignorance, embrace a culture of mutual success and we've grown massively while employing more staff at better rates while running a productive, profitable company in Aotearoa.

End result, when people do ever leave they go off to be the sort of managers you want to work for (with)!

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👏 Sounds like an awesome place to work - personally I have always worked best in a team environment, even though at times having a minor title - I always thought MY job was to ensure the workers were paid promptly what they were entitled to, the inventory/tools they needed were available, that I personally pushed back on gossip & telling tales etc. and that I was just another cog in the wheel that everyone could count on to be honest & ethical.

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founding

That’s the key - being a manager is about being in the team, not separate from it. People need and deserve agency and they grow and learn through opportunity. Just because you’re “the boss” it doesn’t mean you make the decisions. My role as a manager is to get the best from my team for them, not for me or the business.

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