Sympathetic? Hardly. Image: Shutterstock

Wednesday 2nd March 2016

Too many silverbacks

HR should take a look at itself when it comes to mental illness
HR Wolf

Last time, I wrote about attitudes towards employees with mental illness. Given my role as a FTSE 100 HR Director, I often come up against these attitudes when talking to members of the C-Suite and Executive Committee.

However, this lack of tolerance and – well, plain dumb ignorance – is also alive and well in the HR profession itself.

Some years ago, I was having a 1-2-1 with my boss, a Group HRD. We were discussing someone we both knew who he was thinking of bringing in to run a big change programme.

I was trying to explain my personal experience of this person – gently suggesting she was a bully, someone who usually left a trail of blood and tears in her wake.

But my boss just smiled and said: ‘I’ve got to hire her. I heard she reduced someone to tears in the office once. She won’t take any prisoners. She’s just what we need!’ And yes, we hired her.

I know the person she reduced to tears. It wasn’t me – I’m actually fairly resilient for someone who suffers from anxiety.

But I do believe the Group HRD should not have brought this person in – ever. For me, it was a panic buy. The Group HRD needed this person to bang heads together because he hadn’t faced up to the underlying problem, which was poor organisational design resulting in too many people thinking they were decision-makers.

That’s where the Group HRD should have spent his time: sorting out the OD, not pinning their credibility on a dodgy impulse hire.

Simply adding another dangerous ‘silverback’ into the jungle only cost more time, effort and cash. And you can imagine what it did to strengthen HR’s alleged ‘trusted advisor’ status in the business – nothing at all.

And as for that hire? Well, she bombed. Truly bombed. Thank God.

About the author

HR Wolf

HR Wolf is the HRD of a FTSE 100 company. For obvious reasons, he likes to keep his identity secret.