Sunday, September 30, 2007
Yet despite such similarities, the terror-fighting approaches of New York and L.A., like the cities themselves, reflect very different traditions, styles, and, above all, resources. New York, which knows the price of failure and thus has a heightened “threat perception,” sets the gold standard for counterterrorism—and has the funding and manpower to do it. Kelly, 65, views his highest priority as ensuring that al-Qaida doesn’t hit the city again. “When your city has been attacked, the threat is always with you,” he tells me. Deploying its own informants, undercover terror-busters, and a small army of analysts, New York tries to locate and neutralize pockets of militancy even before potentially violent individuals can form radical cells—a “preventive” approach, as Kelly calls it, that is the most effective way that police departments, small or large, can help fight terror.
In L.A., a city that has never been attacked, terrorism is a less pressing concern than gang violence and other crime. Lacking the political incentive, and hence the resources, to wage his own war on terror, Bratton, 59, has instead pooled scarce funds, manpower, and information with federal and other agencies—an approach that federal officials hold up as a model for police departments that can’t afford New York’s investment.
To pay the bills, he churned out more than 40 short stories between 1929 and 1932. He also started work on a potboiler, “the most horrific tale I could imagine.” But his editors recoiled from the early manuscripts for Sanctuary, the story of a gangland rape trial. (“Good God, I can’t publish this,” his publisher told him. “We’d both be in jail.”) So Faulkner took a job as a night watchman at the university power plant. It was there, to the steady drone of the generator, that he wrote his next novel, As I Lay Dying. “Before I ever put pen to paper and set down the first word,” he recalled, “I knew what the last word would be and almost where the last period would fall.”
In 59 monologues from 15 characters, As I Lay Dying tells the story of the Bundren family’s disastrous journey through Yoknapatawpha County to inter their matriarch in her family plot. Published in 1930, the novel ignored most of the conventions of traditional storytelling, such as chronological plotting and an authoritative point of view. It earned favorable reviews but mediocre sales, so Faulkner agreed to revise Sanctuary into publishable form. When it arrived in bookstores in February 1931, Sanctuary finally won him public acclaim. Although reviewers scorned its transparently salacious plot, readers bought 7,000 copies in two months.
How do religious Americans compare to the secular when it comes to happiness? In 2004, the General Social Survey asked a sample of Americans, "Would you say that you are very happy, pretty happy, or not too happy?" Religious people were more than twice as likely as the secular to say they were "very happy" (43% to 21%). Meanwhile, secular people were nearly three times as likely as the religious to say they were not too happy (21% to 8%). In the same survey, religious people were more than a third more likely than the secular to say they were optimistic about the future (34% to 24%).
The happiness gap between religious and secular people is not because of money or other personal characteristics. Imagine two people who are identical in every important way--income, education, age, sex, family status, race and political views. The only difference is that the first person is religious; the second is secular. The religious person will still be 21 percentage points more likely than the secular person to say that he or she is very happy.
Saturday, September 29, 2007
To be a racing driver between 1963 and 1973 was to accept not the possibility, but the probability of death. If an F1 driver was to race for five years or more, he would be more likely to lose his life on the track than to survive and retire.
Read the rest of The Telegraph story of Sir Jackie Stewart, Grand Prix survivor.
Michael J. Totten on the next Iranian revolution.
A customer might be able to set these without reading a twelve page manual. A site devoted to plastic radios. [HT: Tom McMahon ]
Past is prologue? Why women worry so much.
I was feeling this way myself: Missing Moynihan at the United Nations.
Bravo! Oren Harari reviews an old - but very good - set of guidelines on completed staff work.
- An associate has made a formal proposal that you are going to oppose at a committee meeting. The meeting is going to be dedicated to discussing the proposal. You arrive early at the meeting and find your associate has also arrived. Do you: (a) tell your associate that you have some objections to the proposal or (b) say nothing about your opposition and engage in small talk and don't surface your objections until the meeting begins?
- An associate has sent a list of questions about a potential project to you and other team members. Do you: (a) refrain from responding for a week and then only respond in a joint phone call with another team member who opposes the project or (b) promptly respond directly to the associate and ask questions about your concerns?
- You have committed to supporting a course of action but have recently discovered some information that will cause you to change your position. Do you: (a) call the action officer for the project and tell him or her about your change of mind or (b) wait until a group meeting to do so?
- You receive an urgent e-mail from a colleague but you don't have time to provide a substantive response. Do you: (a) immediately respond with a note explaining that you won't be able to give a substantive response until later or (b) wait until you've had a chance to assemble your information and then respond?
- You receive an e-mail from a manager which describes an innovative approach to handling a major project. Do you: (a) respond solely to the manager or (b) respond and copy others on your response?
The best approaches for preserving trust are 1(a); 2(b); 3(a); 4(a); 5(a).
These may seem obvious and yet in the course of a busy workweek it can be extremely easy for otherwise trustworthy people to slip into some of the less admirable choices. While trust can be lost rapidly via a major breach, it can also be eroded through smaller actions.
Friday, September 28, 2007
Nike designers and researchers looked at the feet of more than 200 people from more than 70 tribes nationwide and found that in general, American Indians have a much wider and taller foot than the average shoe accommodates. The average shoe width of men and women measured was three width sizes larger than the standard Nike shoe.
As a result, the Air Native is wider with a larger toe box. The shoe has fewer seams for irritation and a thicker sock liner for comfort.
Enjoy the process of work.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
It's a classic tale of failure and redemption, the kind of story Hollywood loves to tell.
Fresh off his second successful movie, an up-and-coming director takes a chance on a dark tale of a 21st-century cop who hunts humanlike androids. But he runs over budget, and the financiers take control, forcing him to add a ham-fisted voice-over and an absurdly cheery ending. The public doesn't buy it. The director's masterpiece plays to near-empty theaters, ultimately retreating to the art-house circuit as a cult oddity.
That's where we left Ridley Scott's future-noir epic in 1982. But a funny thing happened over the next 25 years. Blade Runner's audience quietly multiplied. An accidental public showing of a rough-cut work print created surprise demand for a re-release, so in 1992 Scott issued his director's cut. He silenced the narration, axed the ending, and added a twist — a dream sequence suggesting that Rick Deckard, the film's protagonist, is an android, just like those he was hired to dispatch.
- You want a known commodity;
- The outsider poses some risk;
- There is little danger of criticism if you select the internal candidate; and/or
- You can cite upward mobility as an added benefit?
Perhaps rather than claiming selections are based on merit, we should state that "The criterion for all selections is the good of the organization."
That may be vague but at least it is far more honest.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Kasparov is forty-four. He was the world chess champion for fifteen years. Until his retirement, two years ago, his dominance was unprecedented. Lasker, Capablanca, Alekhine, Fischer—none came close. Chess has outsized meaning in Russia, and Kasparov at home was a cross between the greatest of athletes and a revered intellectual; with his status came celebrity, foreign investment accounts, summers on the Adriatic, an apartment along the Hudson River, friendships among Western politicians and businessmen, and the attentions of beautiful women. Now he has volunteered for grim and, very likely, futile duty. As the most conspicuous leader of Drugaya Rossiya (the Other Russia), an umbrella group of liberals, neo-Bolsheviks, and just about anyone else wishing to speak ill of Vladimir Putin, he is in nominal charge of opposition politics in a country that, in actuality, has no real politics except for that which takes place in the narrow and inscrutable space between the ears of its President.
It reminded me of the role that design plays in our interactions. Courts are designed to create a sense of majesty. The judge is elevated and lawyers ask permission to approach the bench. Council chambers and similar decision making bodies use the same approach. I think that in many instances, the overall effect is less one of majesty than distance between those who govern and the rest of us. Speaking before the mayor and council begins to resemble a visit to Mussolini.
Sit in the chair of a major decision maker and you can quickly understand how an "Us versus Them" attitude can develop. Everyone else is "out there" and you are surrounded by gadgets and buttons that signal status and power. Push this one and things happen. Push that one and people come running.
We know about fast food restaurants that are designed to discourage lingering. How do you design a meeting room that provides comfort and enhances communication without removing a certain air of majesty and becoming too casual?
- Theodore Roosevelt
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Monday, September 24, 2007
"It was the perfect time to take a break and reassess," says Ms. Angel of Raleigh, N.C. "I walked away from my life for a while." That decision led to a three-month sabbatical, biking alone in China and Southeast Asia. She even studied meditation in a Buddhist monastery in Thailand. "I wouldn't have been able to do that on a normal vacation," she says.
I love the use of real world case examples but, my apologies, I think that the interviewer who automatically ruled out any candidate who, when asked to design a house, immediately drew a square is as limited and dogmatic as an interviewer who would rule out anyone who didn't draw a square. Having seen a lot of employment standards challenged in discrimination cases, I'm as suspicious of the "We're so creative" crowd as I am of the linear thinkers.
Seth Godin is always going to hire the person who immediately takes charge in the "How many gas stations there are in the United States?" exercise?
He may have just hired the biggest conformist in the room. The old anarchist saying of "If they give you lined paper, write against the lines" fails to recognize how quickly writing against the lines becomes the new conformity.
Under Give 1 Get 1, which will run for two weeks starting Nov. 12, U.S. customers will be able to pay $399 to buy two laptops: one for themselves and one to be shipped to a child in one of those four countries. About half of the purchase price will be tax-deductible. Also, starting Sept. 24, people can simply "give" a laptop by making a $200 donation. Those who'd like to participate can sign up for e-mail alerts on the Web site www.XOgiving.org. The machines, which are being built in Taiwan, will begin shipping to U.S. customers in January or February.
Poorly placed visual aids. All should be within easy reach of the speaker.
Extreme temperatures. For some reason, freeze or bake is a frequent problem with conference rooms. If possible, the cooling/heating system should be fixed or another room should be used.
Failure to provide frequent breaks. In general, there should be a short break every hour. Even the most comfortable chairs start to pinch after an hour.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
In one of McNerny’s early senior meetings, he asked the executives to explain the value and benefits of the 787’s new composite technology. The chief technology and engineering people put together a nice Power Point on factors like fatigue life, corrosion, and such,. The manufacturing and financial people put together a nice Power Point on factors like operational and cost efficiencies and such. And McNerny responded in a bizarre way. He said, in effect, that he was aware of all those benefits, but they all were benefits for Boeing. His question was different. What he had meant was: How does the new composite technology benefit Boeing’s customers, in this case the airlines? As you can imagine, the reaction in the room was slack jaws and a “hmmm…”.
But McNerny was not engaging in word play. He was trying to get Boeing's leaders to view the world from the customers’ perspectives, and act accordingly. If the composite technology would have lasting business value, the value should be reflected primarily on behalf of Boeing’s customers, and if it was, then Boeing would benefit with the kinds of customer loyalty, market share, profit margins, and sustained growth that truly delight investors. In fact, it turns out that the composite technology would very much benefit aircraft customers by significantly lowering their maintenance and fuel costs, providing them with much greater flexibility in their routing, increasing their speed to destination, and so on. Unsurprisingly, once all this sank in, Boeing people raced to develop even more customer-pleasing features into the product.
“I had a happy childhood until I went to Groton,” says Auchincloss, “and then I had two years of festering misery.” He knuckled down, studied hard and did well, but 70 years on still finds the experience unresolved. “I don’t know,” he muses, “which did me more harm, doing badly – or doing well.”
The idea that prep school (like public school in Britain) is a mixed blessing – an experience which the rest of one’s life is spent trying to decipher – has been a boon for those who went on to become writers, and a vicarious thrill of loathing and envy for readers.
[HT: Arts & Letters Daily ]
Jeffrey Toobin notes the issuance of a postage stamp honoring jury duty.
M: We turn out a very good product.
Q: Not a great one?
M: I would not go so far as to say that. It's very good but great? I'm not so sure.
Q: Why don't you sell a great product?
M: Well, you know "great" takes a lot of time. We're not overly blessed in that category. We can do "good" and even "very good" but "great" sort of scares me.
M: Because if you're great today, people will expect you to be great tomorrow and the next day. That's asking a lot. We don't want to overpromise. We prefer "pretty good."
Q: But once upon a time, your "pretty good" would have passed for "great" and some pioneers raised the expectations. Why aren't you willing to be a pioneer?
M: That's risky. Pioneers have to ford streams and climb mountains. Besides, I never forget what I heard about pioneers in my business classes.
Q: Oh, really. What's that?
M: They're the ones with the arrows in them.
Saturday, September 22, 2007
Harry Stein likes The Kingdom.
Fast and green: A bio-diesel motorcycle.
Sad news: BusinessPundit is selling his blog.
Say it ain't so. Man dies of Internet usage? [HT: Lou Rodarte]
This proliferation of religion in the workplace is creating new challenges for employers. They increasingly are being inundated with requests for religious accommodations and progressively confronted with unexpected and awkward faith-related situations (i.e., proposals to form affinity groups and prayer breakfasts, employee e-mail sign-offs that quote Scripture, and proselytizing).
The number of religious accommodation requests and religious discrimination charges filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have risen sharply during the last decade, underscoring the growing pressure companies face to accommodate their employees' diverse religious views, practices, and expressions.
In fact, religious discrimination claims currently are the third-fastest growing discrimination claims behind disability-based claims and sexual harassment claims.
Read the rest of Lisa J. Teich's New York Employment Law Letter article on religion on the workplace.
Of course, this statistic might be hiding big differences between people with “good” jobs and those with “bad” jobs. What about the people with low incomes and little education? They must be less satisfied with their jobs than we are, right? Wrong. Precisely the same share of Americans with above-average and below-average incomes are satisfied: 89 percent. Similarly, 88 percent of people without a college education are satisfied, as well as 87 percent of people who specifically call themselves “working class.” What about the middle class, who we hear from television pundits and politicians are so dispirited? Ninety-three percent are satisfied. Also, the proportion is almost exactly the same—around 90 percent—among people working for private companies, for nonprofit organizations, and for governments.
Friday, September 21, 2007
The book has merits--it is blessedly lucid on how the Fed works and how Fed-heads think--but there is within it a great disconnect. I was thinking about this when I got a note from a former U.S. senator who groused about "the phenomena of high-level public officials 'bravely speaking out' after they have left office." He scored Mr. Greenspan as "perfectly free to have spoken out about the need for the President to veto more spending bills on numerous occasions when he was testifying in public." My correspondent says Mr. Greenspan's "total silence" while in office does not exactly qualify as "bravely speaking out."
The former senator has a point. It can be summed up as: Now you tell us? It doesn't take courage to speak clearly when no one can hurt you. It takes guts to be candid when candor can earn powerful enemies.
Then there is China, whose production and acquisition of submarines is now five times that of America’s. Many military analysts feel it is mounting a quantitative advantage in naval technology that could erode our qualitative one. Yet the Chinese have been buying smart rather than across the board.
In addition to submarines, Beijing has focused on naval mines, ballistic missiles that can hit moving objects at sea, and technology that blocks G.P.S. satellites. The goal is “sea denial”: dissuading American carrier strike groups from closing in on the Asian mainland wherever and whenever we like. Such dissuasion is the subtle, high-tech end of military asymmetry, as opposed to the crude, low-tech end that we’ve seen with homemade bombs in Iraq. Whether or not China ever has a motive to challenge America, it will increasingly have the capacity to do so.
[HT: RealClearPolitics ]
No one could say that Susan Sontag didn’t take ideas seriously. Ideas, one might say, were all she knew; it was only reality of which she was ignorant. (Always a tricky business for intellectuals, this matter of reality.) The problem for Susan Sontag was that, in the fullness of time, she changed so many of her ideas: Communism turned out not to be such a hot idea after all, she concluded as late as the 1980s, it was only “fascism with a friendly face” (why “friendly” I have never quite understood; it was grim and monstrous from the git-go). In the end she was no longer even “against interpretation”—the title of the book of essays that launched her career—but came out in favor of the damned thing, interpretation, that is (art apparently needed a hermeneutics, after all, and not, as she originally stipulated, an “erotics”). Nor, she decided upon further reflection, was “the white race … the cancer of human history.” She was even coming around to decide, after her initial pronunciamento to the contrary, that the United States did not bring the Arab terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 on itself. Extreme opinions were her stock in trade, but weakly held.
The idea was that eight people would live in a 3.1-acre glass dome for two years. Their environment would be completely sealed from the outside world, and scientists would use the experiment to develop similar closed systems that could be used on other planets.The dome was built in Oracle, outside Tucson, and funded by Texas billionaire Ed Bass.
The first eight Biosphere 2 residents entered in September 1991. But three weeks in, the seal was opened. A woman had to leave temporarily because she cut her finger. Then came the December revelation that outside air was pumped into the experiment to ward off possibly dangerous levels of carbon dioxide. And that a machine was secretly installed to artificially recycle carbon dioxide. Also, a generator made electricity, not the solar power that the Biosphere 2 was supposed to run on.The project fell into a series of administrative and legal squabbles. A second crew entered in 1994 but left six months later.
The giant glass dome was taken over by scientists from Columbia University who wanted to study how rising carbon dioxide levels would affect plants.
Last year, Bass sold the property to - of course - a home developer. The dome is still open for tours, but it's unclear what will happen once the developer starts building a bunch of smaller habitats for humans.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
You may think the data is yours, but the equipment is theirs, and employers reserve the right to micromanage all the bits and packets on their networks, computers and mobile devices. There’s no such thing as unreasonable search and seizure when it comes to company property, and the surveillance tools used by IT departments are getting stealthier and more powerful—and more heavily funded each year. How do you know if you’re under suspicion? You don’t. If it were your computer Keener was exploring, you’d probably never know.
“Our software agent runs in the background and rarely uses more than 20 percent of the computer’s processing power,” he says. “If you had an iPod or digital camera charging through the USB port, we could browse all the files that were stored onto the device.”
[HT: Instapundit ]
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
The Chung family is sad to announce that they have closed Custom Cleaners dry cleaners due to the revenue losses and emotional toll resulting from the Pearson v. Chung lawsuit. The business has been sold. Having had to now close two of their three dry cleaning stores since the filing of the lawsuit, the Chung family is currently focused only on their Happy Cleaners store. The Chungs hope that a successful Happy Cleaners store will help them someday rebuild their businesses in the aftermath of the lawsuit.
Donald at 2Blowhards weighs in on Time's list of the worst cars.
The boss who decided to rewrite an employee's resignation letter.
Michael Totten reports from Iraq.
A booming business addresses tattoo remorse.
Update: Another great moment in employment law. Dan Rather is suing CBS.
"You asked me earlier, Do I still think of these things? Not a day goes by when I do not! And in a way I do pity those younger people who did not know the camps or live during the war, who have nothing like that to compare [their own hardships] with. . . . Even today, as I lose my sight or with any severe problem or adverse situation, . . . I have only to think for a fraction of a second and I draw a deep breath. What I would have given then if I could have had no greater problem than I face today!"
What is the true position of an organization that is currently making substantial profits, but alienating its customers by the methods it has chosen to do so? What about one that is maximizing short-term gains by mortgaging—or compromising—long-term growth necessities? As the world finally wakes up to the size of the problem of the human impact on the environment, what is the “bottom line” for an organization that relies on old, polluting technologies to make its profits?
The rash of Chinese imports to the USA that break US standards of product safety shouldn’t surprise anyone. All these Chinese companies are doing is copying their Western models by finding ways to maximize short-term profits at the expense of quality and safety standards. The main difference is that they aren’t nearly as practiced at doing it, so they are caught out more easily. Western companies have been sacrificing ethical and environmental standards for over a hundred years in their belief that immedaite financial profitability is the only “bottom line” that matters.
- The danger is real;
- There is greater career damage and risk in delay than in action;
- To take action now is heroic.
If those criteria are not addressed, then the odds of persuasion are remote. After all, things are bad enough.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
It is these rents that affected the Genovese crime family, once the nation's biggest and most lethal Mafia outfit. For it was in the Village, famed for palette and pen, that the mob missed its first heartbeat. The organization flourishes in places where the poor live. In a sense, real estate prices more than the law did in the Mafia—and helped change the character of this part of New York.
Consider the story of mobster Benny Eggs. He was paying $200 a month for his ground-floor clubhouse at 101 Thompson Street. He assumed the landlord was satisfied. The landlord was satisfied—satisfied that one day the cops would catch up with Benny Eggs and the clubhouse would be ready to rent to some scarecrow woman designer from Milan for thousands. Each morning, the landlord thrilled at the headlines in the New York Daily News about Mafia arrests—delight that turned to despair when Benny Eggs was not among them.
Then came the headline he had been dreaming of: BENNY EGGS BUSTED. Soon there was a store on the ground floor of Number 101 that paid $3,500 and sold expensive Italian fashions.
Monday, September 17, 2007
One of the last things Lisa Hammond remembers about being prepped for a rotator-cuff procedure last year was the medical personnel prying a BlackBerry out of her hands.
Hammond, the chief executive of Femail Creations, a Las Vegas-based shopping-catalog company, was on a deadline: She had a date to repair her torn shoulder, but she needed to email approvals for her firm's latest catalog. Hammond says she managed to do both as she was being wheeled on a gurney into the operating room.Click here for more on executives who disobey doctor's orders.
It is odd because the struggle between modernization and globalization, on the one hand, and traditionalism, on the other, is largely a sideshow on the international stage. The future is more likely to be dominated by the struggle among the great powers and between the great ideologies of liberalism and autocracy than by the effort of some radical Islamists to restore an imagined past of piety. But of course that struggle has taken on a new and frightening dimension. Normally, when old and less technologically advanced civilizations have confronted more advanced civilizations, their inadequate weapons have reflected their backwardness. Today, the radical proponents of Islamic traditionalism, though they abhor the modern world, are nevertheless not only using the ancient methods of assassination and suicidal attacks, but also have deployed the weapons of the modern world against it. Modernization and globalization inflamed their rebellion and also armed them for the fight.
It is a lonely and ultimately desperate fight, for in the struggle between tradition and modernization, tradition cannot win — though traditional forces armed with modern technology can put up a good fight. All the world ’s rich and powerful nations have more or less embraced the economic, technological, and even social aspects of modernization and globalization. All have embraced, albeit with varying degrees of complaint and resistance, the free flow of goods, finances, and services, and the intermingling of cultures and lifestyles that characterize the modern world. Increasingly, their people watch the same television shows, listen to the same music, and go to the same movies. And along with this dominant modern culture they have accepted, even as they may also deplore, the essential characteristics of a modern morality and aesthetics: the sexual as well as political and economic liberation of women, the weakening of church authority and the strengthening of secularism, the existence of what used to be called the counterculture, free expression in the arts (if not in politics), which includes the freedom to commit blasphemy and to lampoon symbols of faith, authority, and morality — these and all the countless effects of liberalism and capitalism unleashed and unchecked by the constraining hand of tradition, a powerful church, or a moralistic and domineering government. The Chinese have learned that while it is possible to have capitalism without political liberalization, it is much harder to have capitalism without cultural liberalization.
As this new vision of higher education took hold in America, faculty members ceased to think of themselves as shapers of souls. Today's students are thus denied the opportunity to explore the question of life's meaning in an organized way, under the guidance of teachers who seek to acquaint their students with the answers contained in the rich tradition whose transmission was once the special duty of the humanities.
It has also put the humanities in the shadow of the natural and social sciences. Judged by the standards of these latter disciplines, research in the humanities is bound to seem less conclusive, less accretive, less quantifiable. In philosophy, one can reasonably claim that there has been no meaningful progress since Plato. For a physicist to say the same thing about Newton would be absurd. Teachers of the humanities who judge their work strictly from the standpoint of the research ideal condemn themselves to an inferior position in the hierarchy of academic authority and prestige.
[HT: Arts & Letters Daily ]
Cerberus had been scouting talent even before it acquired Chrysler in May. In March, while it was bidding for the carmaker, its managers were talking to Nardelli, and later had headhunters stocking a pool of hot prospects. They approached Press a few months after. He met with Cerberus founder and CEO Stephen Feinberg over the summer, says a source close to the firm, and Feinberg made an impassioned pitch about joining a patriotic mission to save an American icon. Deborah Wahl Meyer, the former vice-president of marketing for Toyota's Lexus division who became Chrysler's chief marketing officer on Aug. 15, was approached by Heidrick in July, met with Cerberus, and negotiated a deal over two months. She couldn't resist the turnaround bid: "You only get a few chances in your career to do this."
Sunday, September 16, 2007
- Acting like a paralegal for management. The wise HR department will be an honest broker who will admit when management has made a mistake and will lobby to correct poor practices. HR people who become toadies quickly earn contempt.
- Adopting a cynical attitude toward employees and their concerns. As an executive once remarked to me, "We don't have a personnel department. We have an anti-personnel department." Labeling some employees as whiners and troublemakers can result in a failure to listen when those individuals raise valid concerns.
- Failing to keep up with important changes in the law. The HR people need to know when the attorneys are on target or are being overly cautious. There are many legal defense strategies that have terrible management repercussions.
- Being too much of a cop instead of a consultant. There are times, of course, when conflict is appropriate but on most occasions HR should be an ally and not an adversary for the other departments.
- Failing to keep employee confidences. Gossiping should be treated as a cardinal sin in any HR department. One instance of breached confidence can damage an HR department for years.
- Focusing on turf instead of mission. HR departments that actively seek to prevent employees from getting management information from other sources only demonstrate their insecurity and limit the education of their workforce.
Much of the above can be encapsulated in a simple standard: It is more important to do right than be right. HR departments need the guts and insight to maintain that standard even if doing so means being willing to walk away from the job. An HR director who will do anything to hang onto a position has started to walk down a smooth and grassy path that leads to a very unpleasant place.
An excerpt from The New Yorker article on Millard Kaufman:
His alliance with McSweeney’s was a product of circumstance. “My literary agent, who was younger than me, had died suddenly, and I had nobody,” Kaufman said. He is now writing a second novel.
“Years ago, I was working in Italy, and Charlie Chaplin and his family came from Switzerland,” he recalled. “We were at a beach north of Rome, and it was a very foggy day and the beach was lousy. At about three o’clock it cleared up, and Chaplin said, ‘I’m going back to the hotel. Unless I write every day, I don’t feel I deserve my dinner.’ That made an impression on me.”