70 - WTF is an HRBP, Round 2 with @HRShark

Back by popular demand, Tyson and Alexa are joined by the hilarious and effective Clark, boy genius behind @HRShark, to revisit the discussion around HRBPs and other such silliness. We discuss how to set the bar for talent, how managed performance philosophies affect cultures, the plight of managing poor performers, and Tyson’s continued favorite… the high-performing assh*ole.

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Follow Clark on:

TikTok & IG: @hrshark_

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https://www.peopleproblemspod.com




Release Date: November 2, 2022

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[00:00:00] Automated Voice Message: Warning, this podcast is about the realities of working in people operations. This is not a stuck-up, PC, compliance-based, or employment law podcast about stuffy, outdated HR practices. Shit will get real here and we assume no responsibility.

[00:00:16] Alexa Baggio: Just another day in the office.

[00:00:18] Tyson Mackenzie: There's nothing better than a bunch of people who work in HR getting around a table and sharing these stories. We have this out-of-body experience in HR where you're like, "How did I getting here?" It's not that bad. It's not.

[00:00:29] Alexa: Come hang out with Tyson and I on this podcast. We'll make you laugh.

[00:00:31] Automated Voice Message: This is the People Problems podcast with Alexa Baggio and Tyson Mackenzie.

[00:00:39] Alexa: Tyson, what's up girl?

[00:00:41] Tyson: What is up? Oh my gosh, a lot.

[00:00:44] Alexa: Oh, yes?

[00:00:44] Tyson: First of all, my brain is like-- A lot.

[00:00:48] Alexa: You're back to work. Congratulations. You're back. Tyson is back.

[00:00:52] Tyson: I am back. No time wasted, honestly, just diving head first into all the things. I am wearing my working-from-home office sheet.

[00:01:04] Alexa: Your Elizabeth Holmes outfit.

[00:01:06] Tyson: [laughs]

[00:01:06] Alexa: You look like you're about to try to sell me blood testing materials.

[00:01:10] Tyson: A blood test. [laughs]

[00:01:12] Alexa: Finger prick solutions.

[00:01:15] Tyson: Gosh, I wish. I wish I had such a good idea, but anyways.

[00:01:18] Alexa: It wasn't a good idea. It was a bad idea. She went to prison for fraud, just to be clear.

[00:01:22] Tyson: I know. She got caught. I get it. Things have been really good.

[00:01:28] Alexa: And?

[00:01:29] Tyson: Things have been good.

[00:01:31] Alexa: I need more than it's been good. You've been out of the game for like a year, what's changed?

[00:01:37] Tyson: Nothing's changed but everything's changed. I love HR because you just know that no matter how long of a break you take, when you come back, everything will be the same but everything will also be very different.

[00:01:50] Alexa: People will still be people.

[00:01:52] Tyson: People are still people. The problems are still there. The same conversations are still being had, from how do we get people to be engaged to how do we performance manage, all these things. It's just the same stuff. It's so funny, but it's been good. My head literally feels like it's bursting just getting back into it. You don't realize the strain that work has on your brain, even just sitting in front of a computer all day and that sort of thing. Literally, there's so much pressure. [laughs] I'm going to try to show up and be my best today here, but it's a lot.

[00:02:24] Alexa: All right. We'll forgive you if you're slurring your words a little because there's too much going on.

[00:02:28] Tyson: [laughs]

[00:02:28] Alexa: Maybe I'll take a second to give you a break and make sure to remind everyone that today's episode is brought to you by our community the People Ops Society. Join our community of listeners and People Ops professionals at POPS. You can use the forum for feedback, download awesome resources and templates shared by your peers, and get access to free courses all included. Use the code PEOPLEPROBLEMS at peopleopssociety.com to get 20% off your membership today.

In addition, shameless plug, make sure to follow us on all things social, @PeopleProblemsPod, Tyson @hr.shook, and myself @theinfluenchr. Follow us on YouTube. Obviously, make sure, fun update, to subscribe to our new weekly newsletter, which is also named People Problems, at peopleproblemspod.com. You can subscribe to the newsletter in the footer for weekly fun thoughts and updates about our episodes and happenings in the space. With that said, I have so much more to catch up on with you Tyson, but I am going to move us to our in the news because I really want to get to our guest, speaking of influencers.

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In the news today we are talking about two articles. There's a bunch of articles about this stuff right now, but two that stuck out to us that are worth mentioning because it's a fascinating concept, is, first one, that many Canadians got new jobs during the pandemic and some secretly didn't quit their old ones. Then similar LinkedIn posts from a very popular HR influencer on LinkedIn that said "In 2020 I worked two full-time remote HR director jobs at the same damn time."

Long story short, between these, we'll post them in the notes, but the idea is that actually, and I hate this because this is going to be like the thing everybody says is the reason we can't do remote work anymore, is that people have actually been working two fucking jobs, [chuckles] which is fucking crazy. Puzzle to the max, I love it, but also WTF.

[00:04:18] Tyson: Yes. Honestly, when I saw these articles, I'm like, "This just proves like how naïve that I truly am." I wouldn't have even thought to this extent. Obviously, I get people have their side hustles, they're doing their thing, whatever, maybe little side businesses, but two HR director jobs at once? What? First of all, there are probably a lot of companies where the HR director job is capable of being able to do another job somewhere else because-- [crosstalk]

[00:04:48] Alexa: That's what I mean. Do these people have to quiet quit to do this? You just do the bare minimum-- [crosstalk]

[00:04:55] Tyson: Alexa, I said we are never going to use those words again.

[00:04:58] Alexa: I'm sorry. I do fucking hate those words.

[00:04:59] Tyson: We're never talking about quiet quitting again.

[00:05:00] Alexa: I'm so over quiet quitting. I'm so fucking over it.

[00:05:04] Tyson: Nobody is talking about it anymore. We've got to move on from that.

[00:05:08] Alexa: Oh, amazing.

[00:05:10] Tyson: It's just very interesting that, first of all, people would have the cojones to do this. Like, "Oh my gosh."

[00:05:15] Alexa: It's ballsy. It's fucking ballsy.

[00:05:17] Tyson: It's ballsy.

[00:05:19] Alexa: Which one do you put on your LinkedIn?

[00:05:22] Tyson: Right. Now she's fessing to it. It's like, "Wait a second, can we trust this person?"

[00:05:28] Alexa: I don't know, man. Look, you absolutely will never be trusted by those people again if they ever find out, so that's the risk. At the same time, with this whole conversation, as usual, it's like, "Who fucking cares if you're getting what you need out of that person?" If this person wants to work 21 hours a day, I wouldn't recommend it, but I'm also not their fucking chaperone.

[00:05:47] Tyson: Right. So long as it's not a conflict of interest.

[00:05:51] Alexa: Yes. Exactly.

[00:05:51] Tyson: If it's not a conflict of interest, obviously, whatever the policies are, I'm sure.

[00:05:56] Alexa: Oh, yes. Like, "I know we let you go from this company, I'm going to hire you over here." That would be so fucked. I love that, though.

[00:06:01] Tyson: Oh my God, I didn't even think about that.

[00:06:04] Alexa: I didn't think of the conflict of interest thing.

[00:06:04] Tyson: Could you imagine? Especially in HR. Interesting, for sure.

[00:06:07] Alexa: Yes. That could get really dark real fast. Anyway, I don't know. I just think this also proves that you can try to tell us that people want to chill out, nobody wants to work and everybody wants to live a soft life and all the shit that you read about now and like, "Yes, that's true." Then there are just some fucking gangsters who are working two jobs behind your back and there's nothing you can fucking do about it.

[laughter]

Oh, the spectrum of human ambition is vast, increasingly so.

[00:06:37] Tyson: It always has been. Hey, it always has been. If it wasn't so, we wouldn't be able to function.

[00:06:44] Alexa: Exactly.

[00:06:44] Tyson: We need to have a spectrum of that.

[00:06:46] Alexa: We need to have a spectrum. Speaking of spectrums, I want to introduce our guest because he is bringing serious comedy to the space. I think in some ways that brought in the spectrum of people's understanding of this profession. Our guest today is Clark or better known as HRShark. Clark is an HR leader, career coach, and content creator. He's a small-town boy from the cornfields of Ohio, but don't think that he's chilled out, calm, all the things you think about Ohio. Try to help as many people as possible reach their career goals, he finds humor in HR and doesn't take his extremely stressful job too seriously. Clark, what's up?

[00:07:19] Clark: Hey, how's it going? Happy to be here.

[00:07:21] Alexa: Thanks for being here. We're big fans of your memes and your general humor in this space, so honored to have you.

[00:07:28] Clark: Appreciate it. Thanks for having me.

[00:07:30] Alexa: Tell us a little bit about, just so people know, the HRShark story. How did you get to be HRShark? Tell the good people your origin story.

[00:07:39] Clark: I've been helping family and friends for a long time, just doing anything in terms of HR and my friends always say, "You always put it in a way that's not boring and it's funny. You spin it, use analogies and people can relate with it." I get my friends like, "Hey, I just had this HR presentation today. It was super dry and boring. How do you do this every day?" It's like, "You have to keep it fun. You have to joke around. The stuff that we hear every day, you have to tell jokes." From there just during the pandemic it was born like a lot of businesses were born. Just putting myself out there, just started making little jokes, I think they were funny, and it's just taking off from there.

[00:08:14] Alexa: What's your general role in the space? How did you get into all this?

[00:08:19] Clark: I'm an HR business partner. I've been an HR business partner for seven and a half years.

[00:08:23] Alexa: Why do you like it? Why do you do it?

[00:08:25] Clark: A big thing, it's very cliché. Originally I was a finance guy. Went into undergrad as a finance major. It's really hard to stand out in this very dry industry. I really just took my background in data and I had a really good HR professor who was like, "Hey, you should go into HR. You'd be really good at it. You can actually use your building relationships strength and use that with data and be a really good HR business partner." I was like, "Okay, that sounds interesting."

Actually, understanding what HR is, there's a ton of influence that you could actually make on an organization. That really resonated with me. It was like, "Okay, I can come in here." When you think of HR, I think a lot of people think it's that person behind the scene just pushing paper and onboarding and all those mundane, boring stuff that you do. That's not what I do at all.

[00:09:11] Tyson: Payroll, benefits.

[00:09:13] Clark: Yes.

[00:09:14] Alexa: Compliance.

[00:09:16] Clark: That's why I love my job and just being able to get in there. I just talk business. I'm a business person through and through, I just happen to have the HR hat on as well.

[00:09:26] Tyson: I would say almost if you're talking influence that HR these days is starting to have even more influence than our friends in finance. That's what I'm seeing at least, just because we have the ability to-

[00:09:38] Alexa: Keep telling yourself that.

[00:09:38] Tyson: -think about what's motivating people. No, but this is what's happening.

[00:09:43] Alexa: It's why we're here.

[00:09:44] Tyson: It is why it's here. It's this movement. I'm not saying we're totally there yet, and not every company is like that, but we're starting to see companies being more motivated by what they're putting out into the world and then letting the finance side be like a-- Not a second thought, obviously, because money is what makes the world go round. It's do something well and then the money will come kind of thing. It's the HR team that helps us do something well.

[00:10:11] Alexa: People are the strategy, money is the tool. I think we've for a long time had those switched. Maybe it's because of the zeitgeist of public companies, maybe it's because most people are just fucking terrible with other people. I think this idea that money is the best way to decide your strategy as a business is just broken, especially when people are your most expensive resource, right?

[00:10:32] Tyson: Exactly.

[00:10:33] Alexa: They are 90% of running your company unless you're in a big CapEx, big, heavy, very expensive working capital business. Most of your expense is your people. Why that wouldn't be a strategic function? That's what we talk about on this podcast all day. It's interesting that you use the word influence because that's probably my favorite word in this space. I also am now the influencer, pun intended. I think it's really important because, in my opinion, as the business outsider here, it's not something that I have seen a lot of HR professionals recognize in themselves.

Maybe because their organizations haven't really let them, but two, also something that if you can harness effectively can be a really, really powerful strategic advantage. As an HR business partner, I know we've done our "What the Fuck is an HR Business Partner?" episode already once, but to revisit that, I would love to hear, Clark, maybe what you think in terms of how you can influence an organization effectively and maybe some of your experience with that.

[00:11:32] Clark: Absolutely. I think a good true HR business partner starts with understanding the business. When you have that seat at the table, which, to your point earlier, not a lot of organizations give HR a seat at the table. That's one of the big things in my career, is each role that I've made, I made sure that I'm going to step into a role that HR is valued.

[00:11:50] Alexa: How do you do that? How do you check for that?

[00:11:52] Clark: It's all about the questions you ask. First of all, just looking purely at the website, looking at the board of directors, is the chief HR officer on that page? Are they even getting a shout-out there? Something simple as that. Even listening on quarterly calls. Chief HR officers will chime into those and you'll hear different people's strategies coming out of it. Those are bits and pieces that I've just developed, what to look for and the questions to ask, along the way to really understand that.

You can just tell me, "Okay, HR business partner, you want me to help leaders? What type of work are we working on? What type of strategies are we leaning into here?" We get back to those like, "Oh, we need you to get payroll stuff going." That's not a strategic leader. That's someone that's going to go in a day-to-day type of task.

[00:12:34] Alexa: That's [unintelligible 00:12:34].

[00:12:34] Clark: Exactly. That's where being a strategic leader, understanding the business, how does the business make money, what's the go-to-market strategy. One of the things that I've done in my career that's really helped me stand out is listening in to those quarterly earnings calls and understand how the business makes money. When you're sitting in on LT meetings and they're talking their lingo that is super over your head, you can put the things together and be able to contribute to those conversations because a true HR business partner needs to be able to understand how all the pieces connect together.

[00:13:01] Alexa: Yes. Even if you've never worked for a public company, it is beneficial to listen to an earnings call because, one, they're dry as fuck, and two, [chuckles] it will actually show you the shit that they say to shareholders. It's very eye-opening.

[00:13:15] Tyson: There's a lot of drama that happens there, though.

[00:13:18] Alexa: Yes. A quarterly call, board meeting, whatever.

[00:13:23] Tyson: I've been on some of these calls where some serious drama goes down. Quick little anecdote here, I was on one of these calls where they announced major, major, major cuts to the company. Huge layoffs. I was HR for that company and they hadn't mentioned that at all. We all knew the whisperings in HR, we had heard, but no one else had known. It was being announced on the earnings call and we were all like, "Oh shit, who's listening to this right now? Whoa." We had so much damage control, so very important to listen to those calls.

[00:13:58] Clark: Yes.

[00:13:59] Alexa: It sounds like HR wasn't in that planning meeting. [chuckles]

[00:14:01] Clark: I was going to say. [laughs]

[00:14:03] Tyson: Yes.

[00:14:04] Alexa: Yikes. I think it's very cool that you look for obvious signs that HR is involved and has a voice, that's really helpful. What are some of your experiences in being able to come in and use your business partner position to change some shit?

[00:14:20] Clark: Leading is a people's strategy. Each senior leader that I support throughout my career has their own little different flavor and the vision they want to go for a company. It's what the goals are here. Understanding their talent, that's the big thing, and leading into. Being a strategic partner is like, "Okay, where's the business going? Where's it going next?" Is it a new product, is it a new market that we're exploring, is it an expansion overseas, whatever it may be, understanding and having the right talent in the right places.

What is that skill set? Do we need to go and hire it? Do we need to develop it within, or do we need to move some pieces around, have different types of leaderships? I think the first thing is understanding the overall strategy, the people's strategy within that company, and then being able to, one, develop those relationships with the key people around there, and being able to present, "Okay, here's my strategy, here's my vision. Tell me if I'm off here." Work with that leader as in a one-to-one conversation, "Let's tweak this. This is what I see, what do you see?"

There will be back and forth. Obviously, as an HR person, you're not going to understand every technical detail in those types of roles that you're looking for, but having an open dialogue with a leader and being able to talk their language like I mentioned earlier, is going to go a long way when designing that people's strategy and that work shift as you're going into the future.

[00:15:30] Tyson: Can we get really granular in terms of you keep saying people's strategy, what would that look like in a granular sense? What types of processes, activities? What are you actually talking about with the leader?

[00:15:44] Clark: I'm trying to get not too into the specifics here because it's super confidential.

[00:15:48] Tyson: Even generally. Are you doing talent reviews?

[00:15:52] Clark: Yes, talent review. I can go into that. Talent reviews. I like the tool. I come from a bunch of different organizations that stack rank talent, so what does good look like? Understanding what's your business, describing what good actually looks like, because there's a big thing. It's diving into data and using data to story tell. It's like, "Okay, only 7% of our organization has a low-performing rating." Which is terrible. You're telling me only 7% of this organization is not performing at the level. Going and teaching those managers what good actually looks like. Is that operating in the gray space? Is that operating with a certain type of scope?

Helping those leaders understand what good looks like and starting there is a good first piece. It depends on the type of business that you're in when it comes to productivity. Productivity is healthy as the business goes. During an economic downturn, you're going to look to make cuts. That's where you're going to go first. If you have a good stack ranked list and you do talent management right, you know where to go and make that cut first versus scrambling, everyone freaking out, who's it going to be on that list. The whole business and all the leaders know where to go first in terms of productivity.

[00:16:54] Alexa: How does this go wrong in your experience? Let's be clear, not everyone who listens to this works in HR. Actually, a lot of people who listen to this don't work in HR, but they're curious about how this works and how to navigate it for their own careers. I think there's probably a lot of people who maybe missed our "What the Fuck is an HR VP?" episode a few months ago and are like, "I didn't even know that there was a person talking to my management on a regular basis, potentially." What would you articulate as maybe where some of this gets messy or goes wrong? Then maybe what it's important for people to understand about how this function works.

[00:17:27] Clark: I think where it gets messy, where it goes wrong, is being able to have the tough conversations. Typically, in HR, you run super lean. There's only so many HR business partners to go around. You typically operate at a high level. Once you get lower down to the organizations, you're really relying on leaders to push down that message. If leaders are afraid to have those tough conversations, give that constructive feedback and people are understanding that they're performing at the level they should be when they're actually not.

You continue to have those people operating at a low level and they're just sitting there churning the work, we're still paying them, the expenses are still high and we're not able to get them out, at the end of the day when we're going to need to have these tough conversations in terms of a performance related issue, it's not documented there, that's where I can get into some legal issues, is like, "There's been no documentation of this employee, we can't have a [crosstalk]."

[00:18:12] Alexa: The employee is like, "What do you mean I have a performance issue?"

[00:18:14] Clark: Exactly. Yes.

[00:18:16] Alexa: You're discriminating.

[00:18:18] Clark: Exactly. That's where you can get into trouble. It's really, really important to make sure that message is cascaded down into the organization.

[00:18:25] Alexa: One of the things we talk about quite a bit on this is obviously the importance of HR being strategic but also the importance of HR being more the bridge to better management than the bridge to delivering the bad message. We spend way too much time and energy forcing HR to do dirty work that needs to be done by management and it winds up, to Tyson's point, quite frequently, handicapping management into just being lazy, bad managers. What are some of the things that you've seen be really effective in working with management and people leaders to get them to own this shit?

[00:18:56] Clark: I think holding them accountable on their reviews and to their managers. If they're hiding behind HR or they're hiding behind a message and not holding those, we're going to hold them accountable. Their bonus is going to take a hit. Their rating is going to take a hit. The managers that have the tough conversation, that raise their hand first when something goes wrong and they own it and they step in, those are the leaders that we want to develop and continue rewarding and recognize within the organization versus the leader--

It's like, "Oh, when shit hits the fan, they run and they hide and they're nowhere to be found," versus like, "This is your team. Why aren't you out here saying this is my bad, I'll own it versus finding someone else to blame?" That's the thing. It's extreme ownership, making sure a leader owns it, even if it's not their fault, but if it's on their team, just own it, solve it, let's move on, is one of the biggest things. I love leaders that just own it, own it, own it no matter what.

[00:19:42] Alexa: What do you do with the ones that don't? They're the hard ones to get feedback to.

[00:19:46] Clark: Yes. That's when you put it in their review. If it's really bad, you dock their bonus. Pay talks, right? That's worst-case scenario. If they do it over and over again, that's when you're going to have another tough conversation [unintelligible 00:19:56].

[00:19:56] Alexa: Where you passively, aggressively slide it in a 360? [chuckles]

[00:19:59] Clark: Yes. After a while, after you've been around long enough within an organization, everyone understands who those people are. They're usually only around for a certain reason or not. It's like they start to weed themselves out or they go to a very niche role. It's like a leader that's not a good people's leader, it's like they magically will just start floating towards an IC role over a period of time. They work some things out, but at the same time, that's what HR needs to do well, is make sure that it doesn't last way too long because it impacts people under them.

[00:20:28] Tyson: A thing that really has been fascinating me as of late is the high-performing asshole. I would love to hear your thoughts.

[00:20:34] Alexa: You do love this topic. You do love this.

[00:20:37] Tyson: I'm so fascinated by this topic. Yes, okay, we've probably talked about it before, but I'd love to hear your thoughts on dealing with the high-performing asshole because I think that it's so funny because automatically you think like, "Oh, if like they're an asshole, then we should exit them." Then it's like, "No, they're making a shitload of money for the company. We keep them." What are your thoughts on that?

[00:20:59] Clark: The first thing that pops in my head, I've worked with a lot of people and they come in here with this chip on their shoulder and they think they're just all that. They're assholes. No one likes them, no one wants to be on their team. They're super smart, they're wickedly smart, they know they're smart, so they walk around with that trophy that they didn't even earn. I've always been very direct, I call it out how it is. Someone needs to have a frank conversation with them like, "We know your background, we know you make a bunch of money, but you can only go so far by yourself." I think there's some motto like "Together, we go far."

I don't know if it's a peloton thing or wherever that quote came from. It's like, "You can only go so far by yourself. You need to get people to come with you. That's what a real leader is." If someone makes a ton of money by theirself, they're going to plateau out in their career and they're not going to grow. If you want to continue to grow, you've got to get people along with you.

[00:21:46] Alexa: That's a fascinating way to structure it, which is like, "Cool, you can lone wolf this and you'll get to X, but if you figure out how to work with the rest of us, you might get to X times two or X times three." Getting them to see that.

[00:21:59] Tyson: Yes. You get to a point in your career where you can only go so high up before you have to start delegating out. You can squirrel all the work away to a point, and then eventually you will hit a ceiling because you can't operate at the next level without delegating out work. Now, I know we all know these micromanagers, but really truly to elevate your yourself, you need to be able to delegate out. If you don't have that team of solid people underneath you because they haven't respected you or they don't want to work for you, then it's really hard. Like you said, you do reach a point where you can't go any further.

[00:22:34] Alexa: The other side of that is the people who over delegate, which is just like, "Oh, they're just managing up, so we have to do fucking everything for them?" Those people don't last very long either, although they manage up usually very well. Their teams usually don't like them, but they do okay.

[00:22:49] Clark: I've had a leader in one of my previous organizations that was over delegated. They're really well liked, really personable, but they always had a team with them. Every meeting they would go to with high-level executives, they would always have their team with them so that the team would insight. Then once it started coming down to it and one of the people left, all of a sudden it was like shit hit the fan.

Then they pulled them into meetings like, "Hey, I need to bring my team." They're like, "No, no, just bring yourself." The person went to the meeting and had no idea, the granular details that were important to what they were actually specifically talking about. That's a great example of what your point is, over delegating. It happens.

[00:23:25] Alexa: Yes. It happens on both sides. People are tough, man. People are hard to work with. It sounds like you've worked in some maybe high pressure, high-intensity industries, but to ask the cultural question that Tyson just asked, so not from just what do you do with them and how do you see them, but from a larger team perspective, what's your perspective on maybe toxic performers or attitudes? As someone who has to keep the flock aligned or aid in that process, what are your thought processes on just cultural fits and shit?

[00:23:57] Clark: It's a great question. That, when you come down to it, as much as HR would like to have the power to just to pick people and be like, "You're gone, you're gone," it obviously comes down to leadership at the end of the day. It's really understanding that leader's perspective and they'll be like, "Okay, he's a valuable person." It gets into politics. There's a bunch of different organizations, not the ones I've been at specifically, but stories I've heard is these BS politics that go on around us. It's like, "This person doesn't do anything but they're best friends with the leader."

HR you see that you just cringe. You hate to say it, but there's not really much you can do about it other than coach and guide and give all those things to the leader. At the end of the day, that's all you can do from an advisory perspective.

[00:24:41] Tyson: You end up coaching on how to work around those people too. On other people like, "Okay, how do we work around?" This person is not going anywhere, so this is what we've got to do.

[00:24:52] Alexa: That's really important. I don't know that people would give HR any credit for that shit. That's really important. If you're like, "Well, this fucking manager will not let go of this person," or I can't convince them to see that this is a major chink in the chain, my job is actually to strategically coach them to rely less on that person as a team. That's some fucking next-level sorcery shit. That's important. That's the dark matter that I think HR can be that nobody recognizes, is like someone is over there pushing one of these leaders, these managers, to rely less on the weak link because they won't own that it's a weak link.

It's the same thing as when you've got teams of people that are skirting around a CEO or a C-suite executive who's like a hot trigger or a certain personality they don't want to deal with that's tough. It's like, "Okay, now you've got to just figure out how to work with the team you've got." There's a lot of work I think on the "work with the team you've got" front that gets pushed under the rug as not maybe in HR's camp, when it's like, "Actually, you're a lot more involved than people realize." In a good way. Just the Lord knows what would happen if we just left it up to some managers.

[00:25:54] Clark: I think it really depends on the overall talent philosophy of the organization. For example, Amazon is very cutthroat. You have, of course, distribution. If you're not making that cut, you're going to be on a PIP and you're going to find X in the organization. There are other organizations that are more like you have a lot of hanging fruit just sitting around and more of your tenured type of industries. Those people, to your point, they work around you instead of getting you out.

That's why you see those hyper-growth companies that continue to obsess with that talent bar, it's because it ultimately pushes forward versus you have these other industries that are-- I'm not advocating for one or another. I'm just saying that's how the tech uses it. It's you're either performing or you get out.

[00:26:32] Alexa: Let me force you to advocate for one or the other. Do you in your experience have, after all of your 7-plus years doing this, do you have a philosophy that you've seen that you'd prefer, that you think is more effective?

[00:26:44] Clark: There's two things, let me, put it this way. If you put a force distribution, it creates a culture of looking over your shoulder, right?

[00:26:50] Alexa: Yes. Can you explain to people, just for the layman, what a force distribution is real quick?

[00:26:55] Clark: Yes. It's like a bell curve at the end of the day. You have to have a certain percent of low performers, a certain percent of high performers, and essentially the bell is in the middle, is where the majority would fall. These tech organizations will have literally you go in a room, you lock the door and no one leaves until you're in distribution. It creates this way of let's say all three of us are on the same team and we're being compared against each other. Instead of me going to Tyson saying, "Hey Tyson, have you worked on this project like this before? Will you help me out?" It creates that like, "Well, if I help Clark, he may perform higher than me."

At the end of the day, it creates that very much like, "Are you my friend? Are you not my friend?" It creates, like I was saying earlier, a straight upward trajectory in terms of talent. If you don't continue to develop every single year and not developing in terms of other tools in your tool belt, then you're going to go on a list. The flip side of that, in an organization that doesn't do that, the cultures are typically better and healthier, but you have those low-hanging fruit people that have just been there forever that haven't done anything. They're the Steady Eddies that you call, that are the word that we used earlier, as quiet quitting. Those people are more prevalent in those types of organizations.

In my personal opinion, I like this challenge and to be able to push each other. At the same time, I don't think you should be penalized if someone else on your team is operating at a-- It's a bit of a balance. I think you need to come in force distribution, but at the end of the day, it's not perfectly distributed, in my opinion, but that's okay.

[00:28:19] Alexa: To be fair, it's also very hard. Obviously, we're talking in gross generalizations here. It's very hard in a lot of roles to be like, "What is constant growth in this role look like?" It's just like share prices should always go up or you're fucked. Like, "Okay, well, there's always so much growth and so much value and so many customers you can ever get as a company." They all have a fixed breaking point.

I wonder if there's, and we've talked about this before, about like you need worker bees and you need people that are just complacent and happy doing the shit that nobody wants to do or that's just like, "Yes, I'll clock in, I'll clock out. This doesn't need to be the end all be all of my career. I don't need the promotion." You do need those people, but you need to keep those people to the double Q-word we won't talk about, you need to keep those people at least engaged to the maximum of that potential. You can't let them be a worker bee and be half-assing it.

[00:29:08] Tyson: I think that somewhere in the world it got lost in translation that you can be good at your job without always striving for a promotion. You can do your job really, really, really well.

[00:29:21] Alexa: Sometimes twice on the same day.

[00:29:24] Tyson: Yes. Sometimes you could do two jobs. We have this terminology like Steady Eddy or worker bees and it almost has this like negative context around it, but it's actually really great.

[00:29:33] Alexa: No, I don't think it's negative. I think it's great.

[00:29:35] Tyson: I think that there is this like negative air to it, especially if you're in the tech world. That's why there's all this quiet quitting bullshit. It's like, "No, it's actually okay." I'm finally reading the Radical Candor. They talk about it in that book. Finally, 100 years later, right?

[00:29:50] Alexa: You're only quite a few years late on that book.

[00:29:52] Tyson: I'm like 100 years late, but she did say something, that they refer to those people as rock stars versus the superstars that are trying to get promoted. It's just nicer terminology, I think, that it's actually really good to have the rock stars that are there doing their jobs. I think that, to answer your original question, Alexa, there's definitely a happy medium. You can't be tolerating poor performance, but also, for all the reasons that Clark just mentioned, they're so problematic to be doing this forced distribution, having to get better all the time. There's a lot of problems with that.

[00:30:23] Alexa: I also just think there's a lot of bullshit involved.

[00:30:25] Clark: I was reading an article recently about Google's philosophy in talent. Google to get promoted and to get rewarded is you have to launch a product. All these software engineers would get on these teams and then they build, they would launch the product, and then all of a sudden after they launched they would run into the next project. That project that they launched would then start to fail because they don't have those developers and all these people that want to buy into it, so Google has created this culture, it's like if you're not launching something, you're failing.

To Tyson's point, the Steady Eddies that are just coming, showing up, doing their job and not launching anything are being penalized. It's that culture that's created within Google.

[00:31:01] Alexa: Just to be clear, you don't want everybody to be a fucking CEO or a launcher. That's just chaos. Just like I wouldn't want to date someone like me. We don't all need to be like this.

[00:31:11] Tyson: [laughs] This is so funny for some reason. I don't know why I just thought about this, but for some reason, I was just taken back to when I was in college studying compensation and you have to think about what actually happens when you create comp strategy. There was a factory that said, they were canning veggies or something; it was like canning peas, anytime that you found a bug in the peas, you would have to say that you found a bug and you were getting a financial gain from it.

Basically, the idea was that people were paying attention and actually looking at the peas before they canned it, so if they found a bug, they got a financial gain. What ended up happening was people started putting bugs in the peas.

[00:31:58] Alexa: I knew that was going there.

[00:32:00] Tyson: [laughs] You have this great strategy-- It's a very simplistic example of why you have to think three steps ahead of how this is going to really result and how it's going to play out.

[00:32:12] Alexa: Yes. People are people. We don't fucking change as much as we'd like to think we are. We are all incentivized by the same six things in the universe. I could get real nihilistic here real quickly, but that's one of the things I think gets misconstrued in this industry, especially when people come down with policies, "Oh, we've got to be forced distribution."

They come down with these hard philosophies and it's like, "Wait a minute, let's play this out. Let's test this. Let's do an experiment with this. When we see people all of a sudden on teams not collaborating because they're worried about a ranking, let's adjust for that, or let's think about the implications of saying, okay, all of the little rock stars down here who just do a really good job for what we ask them to do and set a really good example for other people in this organization of a baseline, let's see what happens when we force them to constantly be stressed out about improvement. Maybe there's a downside."

Everything gets so black and white. Even to your point, Clark, there's more ways to do performance management and rankings than just keep everybody or force them all into these rankings. The zeitgeist hasn't really allowed for the profession to say, "Fuck off, everybody. We've done this a few times now, we're going to make some iterations." We wait for researchers, I love Adam Grant and all these guys, but we wait for big monumental like, "Oh, let's change this. Let's do this," or some complete outlier company to be like, "We did something different. Check us out."

Then the whole industry starts to go, "Oh, well, Google did it, and they did some crazy and it was radical and it worked, so we'll go that way." It's like, "Wait, there's a shit ton of experience here." So much data around how people respond to this stuff. Play it out in these scenarios as you're building. I wonder if you have any thoughts around just, as you're building relationships with a business, how you may actually be able to do things in iterations that involve some of this feedback, especially being in a cutthroat industry like banking or tech where it's growth or bust.

[00:34:13] Clark: It's tough. Obviously, it's driven by the economy too. There are some years where everything is great, everyone is happy, but then all of a sudden they start to see an indicator or a forecast that says something otherwise and you tighten the reign. It's like, when everything is okay, "It's all right. We'll continue to coach and develop." All of a sudden it's like, "No, we've got to take out the bottom performers." It creates that different conversation that's going on. It's being around your leaders and making sure your-- Understanding. It's like said earlier, the top and the bottom, and just going off that list from there, if you just willy-nilly it and you just go where the wind blows, you're going to be in terrible position when you have to come down to the economic downturn that could be coming our way soon.

[00:34:54] Alexa: Yes, they are inevitable. They happen no matter what. All right. I hate to do it, but I believe, Elizabeth Holmes, it is time for our People Problem.

[00:35:01] Tyson: [laughs] You've got to stop. That's going to give me a bad rep.

[00:35:05] Alexa: Don't wear black turtlenecks.

[00:35:07] Tyson: Come on. It's cute.

[00:35:08] Alexa: You're also a blonde female. I'm sorry, it's too easy. I'm trying to get more people to watch the YouTube, so I'm talking about your outfit.

[music]

[00:35:28] Tyson: People Problem. This is a good one. How do we rebuild trust with a manager after getting off on the wrong foot?

[00:35:36] Clark: Oh, good one. Love it. I'll go off a personal experience. I'll give you the answer and I'll give you my personal example. I think getting to know them as a real human being. We all have our jobs, we all have our identities when we show up to work every day, but it's getting to understand what makes them tick. Understanding their kids, what they do on the weekends, understanding their hobbies. Getting to know them as a single human being will go a long way because at the end of the day when shit hits the fan, if that person sitting across from you during those tough conversations, it's going to help you get to a good place.

One of my first roles and my example, one of my first roles out of school. I actually worked for a manufacturing company at the time. This goes way back in small-town Ohio. This leader was like, "I hate HR. HR slows me down, doesn't do anything." I was just like, "Fight back." "No, HR just pound my chest." We do all this and this and this. This is what HR does, trying to tell him what I do instead of understanding him as a person. Going back and forth with emails, he stopped responding to me, so I just threw myself at him, go to his office, sit down and just start--

I would look around his desk and see the photos of his children and start asking, "Oh, does your kid play soccer?" From there he would open up like a book and just start talking and talking and talking. Just to understand him and how he ticks, because his kids were his life, that opened him up. It's like, "All right, this is a person I can tell things to. He's not trying to slow me down as an HR person." That's what I would recommend. Don't try to fight back, open up, try to get on their level and understand them as a person before you take the next steps, that would be my recommendation.

[00:37:06] Tyson: I think we've all been victim of the "this is what HR can do" in our baby HR times. We just had an episode about this where we talked about this, trying to shove HR down the person's throat is the last thing you want to do. Just to piggyback off what you've said, even just taking it to understanding them and their position, whether it be, "What was it about your experience with HR that resulted in a negative? How do you expect to work from HR? What are your expectations of HR? How do you think that I can support you? How do you see us partnering together? What are some of your major issues with people? This is how we can work together." Some of that conversation.

The other thing I think that you can focus on is easy wins, so if you're having to rebuild trust after you've already busted trust for some reason, then what are small, easy wins to start regaining your credibility. Whether it's even just responding to an email quickly or being able to pull data for them very quickly and efficiently. Little things like that to slowly regain the trust.

[00:38:07] Alexa: I can't speak from the HR manager perspective obviously, but I can speak from just a manager perspective. I think one of the things, again, we talk about this a lot as something people just don't do, just call it out. Like, "Hey, I realize we got off on the wrong foot here." Be the bigger person. I think small wins are really important, but I think you have to start with like, "Let's start where we can agree. Where are we aligned? It's not on the way you wrote this email or this fucking project over here." It's like, "We're both aligned that we're both trying to get to the next step here," or, "You're trying to get to the next step here and I'm trying to solidify my position as a designer," or whatever the fuck.

Find your common ground, call it out, find the common ground, and then you can focus on quick wins. Obviously, being human is wrapped around everything I just said because if you're trying to interact, regardless of if it's a manager or not, with a person and you don't have any context on what makes that person tick, you are fucked anyway. I just think people don't do this enough because we're so conflict-averse. I think we've also been taught in corporate America that conflict is bad. I call bullshit on that. I have tense conversations with people on my team all the time and they're probably the ones where we grow the most as a team.

Whereas if someone is like, "Whoa, you're coming in real hot right now, can we pause on this and figure out what's going on?" Then it's like, "Yes. Let me tell you about some of the stresses of the business you may not be aware of," or some of the other things I'm dealing with or the goals I'm trying to get us to and the things that are blocking us. When you take that into context, what you just did actually helps or hurts or whatever. I think it creates, to Clark's point, a lot more color that you can paint with that person, but I think we've just got to like, "Hey, we got off on the wrong foot here."

I was actually talking to one of our prior guests recently, she's got a hotshot job and a company that she got acquired. She's like a real hard-headed new CEO, she just sat down with a woman and was like, "Look, I don't know where this came from but we didn't start on good footing, can we just name this and talk about it and have a quasi-awkward, uncomfortable conversation?" Now they have an incredible working relationship. Someone just had to call it, because there were assumptions or miscommunications or something that just happens when relationships are new. Management/managee is a weird relationship, it gets fucked up sometimes. Dynamics are weird.

I think that's all great. I think you've just got to fucking own it. Let's just fucking name this-- [crosstalk]

[00:40:27] Tyson: Generally just owning.

[00:40:28] Alexa: We fucked up, whatever.

[00:40:29] Tyson: Yes.

[00:40:30] Alexa: Somebody fucked up. This got fucked up. I can own my piece of that and I'll give you some feedback on maybe how I got to my piece. That's an invitation for them to own something, which they may or may not do. Then you can secretly hate them, but at least you've tried to swash it.

[00:40:45] Tyson: Drink every time Alexa says the F-bomb. It's our ongoing drinking game-

[00:40:49] Alexa: It's literally a listener's game.

[00:40:51] Tyson: -that we have.

[00:40:54] Alexa: Yes, this episode is packed. Anyway. I've done some traveling recently, so I'm a little more stressed because I'm sleep-deprived. All right, Clark, if people like what you have to say and obviously love your memes, which if they don't follow you, they absolutely should, where can they find you on the interwebs?

[00:41:10] Clark: TikTok, Instagram @hrshark_. DMs are open on Instagram. Feel free to reach out. Like I said, I guess I mentioned earlier, I do career coaching and I have an ebook out there as well. Feel free to reach out.

[00:41:20] Alexa: What's your ebook about?

[00:41:21] Clark: How to land your dream job. Literally every step of the interview process. Everything I've personally used I'd use every single day with my clients. Start to finish of the job search process. How to find a job and negotiate, accepting a job. Cool stuff.

[00:41:33] Alexa: Dope. I love it. I'm definitely going to have to go check that out. Not that I have my dream job but for others. I love it. Thank you for being here, Clark. Stay funny. Keep the humor alive. We'll catch you on the next one.

[00:41:44] Tyson Thank you.

[00:41:44] Clark: Awesome. Thank you.

[music]

[00:41:46] Tyson: Wait a minute. Before you leave, take some time to leave us a five-star rating. We'd really love your feedback. Also, if you'd like to see our lovely faces each week as we're recording these episodes, check us out on our new YouTube channel. Thanks.

[00:41:58] Alexa: This episode was executively produced by me, Alexa Baggio, with audio production by Ellie Brigida of Clear Harmonies. Our intro music was also done by the wonderful Ellie Brigida of Clear Harmonies. You can find more information about us and future episodes at peopleproblemspod.com, or follow us, @PeopleProblemsPod on all--

[00:42:13] [END OF AUDIO]


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