The power of habit and HR policies

January 23, 2017 - by: Katie O'Shea 1 COMMENTS
Katie O'Shea

At the start of a new year, many individuals set goals and resolutions, hoping to change bad habits or form new ones. Exercising, eating healthy, reading more books, learning something new, and spending more time with family or friends are all common resolutions. 

But many of these well-intentioned goals and resolutions fall off days, weeks, or even months after people resolve to stick with them. After about three weeks into the New Year, how are your goals and resolutions coming along?

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To kill Atticus Finch? HR pros aren’t afraid of the truth

August 10, 2015 - by: Matt Gilley 3 COMMENTS
Matt Gilley

It’s been a long time since I, like nearly any person educated in the United States, read Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Now, like many other readers out there, it’s back on my bedside table since Ms. Lee consented to publication of her other manuscript, Go Set a Watchman. I haven’t tackled it yet, but I’m eager to see what’s new from Scout and, of course, Atticus Finch.

The reviews I’ve read, however, let me know that I’m in for a surprise. Everyone recalls the heroic image Ms. Lee painted of Atticus in Mockingbird, where he was the brave and upright defender of a wrongly accused black man in the Jim Crow South. Gregory Peck personified Atticus in Mockingbird’s 1962 film rendition, which solidified Atticus in our minds as one of the better angels of our nature.

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The Devil Wears Prada: Meryl Streep and the Queen Bee myth

Kristin Starnes Gray

You’ve seen her splashed across the big screen, small screen, computer screen, and even your tablet screen, but have you ever actually met the fabled Executive Queen Bee? We’re talking about the stereotypical top female executive who stomps on other women on her way to the top, reveling in her success while ignoring or sabotaging the advancement of other women. According to a recent study by researchers at Columbia Business School and the University of Maryland’s business school, this Executive Queen Bee is a myth.  Queen Bee

A recent Washington Post article spotlighted this intriguing study noting, “One of the most enduring stereotypes in the American workplace is that of the ‘queen bee’: the executive female who, at best, doesn’t help the women below her get ahead and, at worst, actively hinders them.” Meryl Streep (an outspoken activist for wage equality and women’s rights) famously and stylishly portrayed a fictional Queen Bee in The Devil Wears Prada, which is based on a best-selling novel of the same name. In the film and novel, Streep’s character (Miranda Priestly) alternates between coldly ignoring and hotly abusing her female minions. For example, she demands that one of her female assistants acquire the new, unpublished Harry Potter novel with the underlying threat of immediate termination for failure to complete this seemingly impossible task. Such characters clearly make for excellent box office and book sales, but are these Executive Queen Bees a reality of the modern workplace?

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Lies and statistics

July 24, 2014 - by: Matt Gilley 0 COMMENTS
Matt Gilley

I keep coming back to books about baseball, but they’re just too valuable in terms of personnel management. A baseball manager (and his colleagues in the team office) function so much like an HR department. They have to pick the best roster and field the best lineup for the opponent each night. They have to fit payroll in a budget and make tough roster decisions. And, while their forebears in the past managed off instinct,shutterstock_34461571 modern baseball executives employ stats and other metrics to see which players are worth their salaries and their position in the lineup. That brings us to this installment’s book, Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball by George Will. Will, of course, is best known for his syndicated political columns but at heart he is a baseball fanatic. Men at Work devoted special attention to Tony LaRussa (a law school graduate in his own right), at that time the manager for the Oakland A’s. Twenty-five years ago, the A’s were an American League juggernaut that featured a marquee roster with the likes of Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Dave Parker, and Dave Stewart. Will was, of course, impressed with the talent walking around LaRussa’s clubhouse, but he seemed most fascinated with the manager’s command of and use of statistics to arrange his fielders, select pitches, and basically guide most of his decisions. In that era, LaRussa kept enormous binders with pitch charts, statistics of players in particular situations, and any number of other possibilities. He consulted the information constantly throughout each game, and his staff updated the information regularly. The point here is that while most managers were making decisions based on feel or instinct, LaRussa was making them based on data and history. Did Carney Lansford tend to hit this pitcher mainly to left field? If so, then Tony Phillips probably needs to have a bigger lead at second to give him a better chance to score on a single. Does this pitcher stay wild on a 2-1 count? If so, maybe this isn’t the time to put on the hit-and-run. Personnel management can take a page from this book. While courts still do approve of subjective evaluations if employed in the right way, the best practice to defend claims is to be sure that cold, hard facts guide your decisions as much as possible. Has one of your salespeople complained that some unlawful reason led to their exclusion from a key sales pitch? If so, you’re in a much better position if you can show them that they’ve not been successful with this prospective client’s industry in the past. Numbers and data, used well, are your friends. So, ask yourself this question: are you hiring and fielding a team because you think they’re the best ones to compete in the market, or do you know? It’s never 100%; after all, LaRussa didn’t come out on top every year. But he did enter the Hall of Fame with three World Series rings.

Selection show: seeding literature’s worst HR nightmares

March 23, 2014 - by: Matt Gilley 6 COMMENTS
Matt Gilley

March Madness always brings out our need to sort, rank, and compare. Personnel managers need not be any different and, since I’m nominally in charge of bringing literature to the discussion here and since we trace this blog’s heritage to speculating on Michael Scott’s employment law sins in The Office, let’s begin filling a bracket with the worst HR nightmares in literary history.   Brackets

We should have fertile territory. Literature, after all, is nothing but a retelling of human foibles. HR is nothing if not managing human foibles. I defy any of you to convince me that you don’t draw parallels to your coworkers when you’re making your way through a novel on the evenings and weekends.

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Steve Jobs, ‘product guys’ and ‘sales guys,’ and your payroll

January 05, 2014 - by: Matt Gilley 0 COMMENTS
Matt Gilley

I have a complicated relationship with thick biographies. Intellectually, I know I should sit there and wade my way through the thick prose devoted to men and women of great consequence. In a way, it’s like broccoli: “Go on, eat it – it’ll be good for you, and what do you mean, ‘I’m not hungry’?”  Quick fiction is so much more, well … fun. I didn’t have to fight that internal dialogue when I read Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs. I’ve been an Apple consumer for years: My folks bought an Apple II-E in the early ’80s and it stuck with us through thick and thin for the next 15 years. I’m writing this column on a MacBook. Apple fandom, however, is no key to appreciating Isaacson’s masterful treatment of Steve Jobs. Jobs, as you almost certainly know, was a brilliant, complicated, interesting, and often horrifying figure. His polymath and autodidactic approach to life guarantees that just about anyone can take a nugget of something from his biography, and personnel managers are no different. read more…

Categories: Books / Management / Matt Gilley

Arbitration: then (in a Michael Crichton novel) and now

November 01, 2013 - by: Matt Gilley 3 COMMENTS
Matt Gilley

The late Michael Crichton had an interesting contrarian streak for a popular fiction novelist. In one of his last novels, State of Fear, he stuck his thumb in the eye of the global warming/climate change “consensus” (it remains the only novel I remember reading that had footnotes). 

Readers saw his contrarian streak a decade earlier, too, in Disclosure which also became a motion picture featuring Michael Douglas and Demi Moore. Dislosure hit shelves at a time when sexual harassment was taking a prominent place in news media reports about the corporate world but, in a twist, the plot centered on a Machiavellian ploy by a female executive to use harassment allegations to edge out a male counterpart.

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Moneyball tips on letting less productive players go

September 15, 2013 - by: Matt Gilley 0 COMMENTS
Matt Gilley

Part of our mission here is to keep all you bibliophiles out there engaged and entertained. (I happen to be one, so I know we’re a rare breed.) Our book today is Michael Lewis’ Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game. read more…

Workin’ it in the library

July 25, 2013 - by: Jaclyn West 0 COMMENTS
Jaclyn West

It’s summertime, and the reading is easy. (For many, that is. There are some who like to take advantage of long beach days with a tome they otherwise wouldn’t have time to read; to them, we say more power to you!) As a bookworm, I’m always looking for a good read to take with me, whether that’s to the beach or otherwise—although I do prefer the beach. And as a proud employment law geek, I love it when my pleasure reading gives a nod to my chosen profession. So if you, too, like your summer reading to dish out a generous portion of human resources (I can’t be the only one, now, can I?), here are some of my personal favorites.

Fiction
Then We Came to the End: A Novel by Joshua FerrisThen We Came to the End was described to me as “Office Space in book form,” and I have to say, that description is apt. The book chronicles a group of employees in a Chicago advertising firm facing deep staffing cuts. It’s narrated in the first-person plural, which is an interesting, little-used perspective, and as a result, it honestly captures the group dynamics of many offices. This dark comedy manages to be simultaneously sad and funny . . . and anyone who has ever looked with an envious eye at a coworker’s office furniture will blush with recognition.

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