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Wednesday, November 07, 2007


Ego isn't a problem for those of us in HR. (Vote for me!!!) We are always humble and we carefully think through everything and make the best decision for the business and the people. We never do something to build our own power and we're the first to admit our own mistakes.

Okay, now that you are rolling on the floor laughing and wondering if I need therapy (yes, and you would too after 10 years in HR), I'll get to my real point. I just read a fabulous book, Egonomics by David Marcum and Steven Smith.

If you want to buy Christmas presents for your staff (or your boss, if you are brave) pick up a copy of this book.

Marcum and Smith explore the role of ego in business. Too much and you'll destroy yourself and your business, too little and people will walk all over you.

People tend to gravitate toward HR careers because they view themselves as "people people." (Although once there for a few years you realize that people are basically just lawsuits waiting to happen.) Anyway, our desire to like people causes us to want to be liked. Here's an interesting warning from page 91 (emphasis mine).
Jenny Chatman of the University of California at Berkely's Haas School Business studied 120 Northwestern students interviewing for jobs. Those who told the corporate recruiters what recruiters love to hear, such as "Your company has a reputation for being team-oriented, and that's something I truly value," landed jobs at twice the rate of their more reserved but equally qualified or more qualified peers. While telling interviewers what they want to hear may get us a job, it may also put us in the wrong job. If you're a recruiter influenced by praise, you're likely to hire the wrong person.

Yikes. I think this expands to managers in general. We all know about those brown-nosers that keep getting promoted when they shouldn't. It's letting your ego take over that causes this problem.

HR needs to be aware of ego and learn to manage it correctly. Not so easy, but at least learning to recognize it in ourselves can be the start.

The chapter on being defensive really struck me as a place for HR improvement and help. They write (page 73)
We resist feedback because we want and need to hold a positive image of ourselves. Anything counter to that positive image can be seen as a threat.

Boy, training managers to give feedback and to take feedback is about the toughest thing we do. It's very difficult to overcome that ego that says, "I must be number 1!" and instead say, "what do I need to do to be better?"

So, go read Egonomics (I promise they didn't pay me to endorse them, although they did send me a free book!) and you get to learn about how Mr. Rogers used his ego properly to win over Congress. If that doesn't inspire you, I don't know what else will.

Now, it's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, so go have fun and watch for spiders.


The Happy Employee said...

This book really sounds like an interesting Christmas present.

One of the things I learned about working in HR: if you need to be loved, find another profession.

Otherwise you'll suffer because sometimes you need to be the "bad cop".

Just another HR lady.... said...

Thanks EHRL, I am going to find a copy for myself, sounds interesting.

haha....people who go into HR because they are "people people" true. If you can't develop a thick skin very quickly (because I guarantee right now someone out there hates me), you're going to be very unhappy in your career, or perhaps turn to weekday drinking! :-)

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