The 5 Biggest Lies In HR… (#2 – We Want All ‘A" Players)

This is a post in a 5-part series targeting the 5 biggest lies in HR.  Lucky you.

That’s right. I’m here today not to give you the normal PR spin about how strategic the HR function can be, but instead to call B.S. on the biggest lies in HR. It’s not that HR people want to lie, it’s just that we’ve created our own prison: urban myths developed over last 20 years as the HR function has matured.

As a result, we’re trapped. We’ve spawned narratives that make the HR function appear like a cross between Mother Teresa and Stuart Smalley, while the team members we serve need more tough love, a cross between Jack Welch and Dennis Miller.

You know, that little thing called the truth, effectively washed down with a bit of leadership, personality and at times, humor.

Here's the second biggest lie in HR:

Lie #2: We only want “A” players. I gave Neutron Jack some love earlier related to work/life balance, so allow me now to take a Tonya Harding-like whack at his kneecaps. Like many of you, I love the sexy GE thought leadership and NetFlix slides that say you’re either up or out, and that our companies should be on a quest to fill our entire ranks with “A” players. There’s just this one little problem with this theory, which I’ll outline next.

The Truth: All “A” players doesn’t work. We can’t find enough of you, and even if we could, the world needs ditchdiggers too. We need steady people who come into the office and crank out a solid day’s work, don’t bitch and don’t act like divas when the company doesn’t stop the operation to thank you personally every Tuesday. Granted, we still have the little issue with 90% of team members thinking they’re “A” players, but that’s an issue to solve another day. For now, we appreciate the fact you get where to put your nose – on the grindstone.

Thank you for being average and just looking not to get whacked in the next reorg.  While we can't tell you that won't happen, your low maintenance vibe certainly is appreciated.  You got 2.8% for a raise this year?  Greaaaaaaat.

Even Jeff Bezos knows that the B team is around, as evidenced by this larget than life B-Team quote:

[After reading a start-of-meeting memo] “This document was clearly written by the B team. Can someone get me the A team document? I don’t want to waste my time with the B team document.”

If you’re a good HR pro and don’t feel like you subscribe to this lie, I’ve got one question for you:

If you don’t actively pitch the lies outlined above, do you actively preach the truth?

If the answer is no, you’ve got work to do before you’re part of the solution.

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