How the evil HR guy is messing with this job market

Aug. 1, 2010 | by Joni Doolin

Gratis to the Workplace Bullying Institute, a vignette from the Evil HR Guy - which is sort of funny except that it illustrates the two things holding back a recovery in this job market: Fear and Greed. Most economists, investors or Warren Buffet will tell you that the financial markets tend to operate in ways that don't always appear to make sense - but you can count on the two human emotions just noted to be the needles in the haystack, just about any time the markets perform "irrationally". We get scared, we panic, we worry, we read the Drudge Report, we listen to a friend who has a friend who knows more than we do, and then we do very irrational and unintelligent things. Like sell on the worst day possible, or buy at the top because we are afraid we are going to be the only one left who didn't make money in the trend du jour. Or conversely, we ignore the "if it is too good to be true...." wisdom we learned in grade school, and become susceptible to turning our heads, as long as we are making money. Bernie Madoff ring a bell?

Well those exact same emotions are holding back any real recovery in the job market. Because we are either afraid of the Evil HR Guy - or more difficult - we are in his position. We have survivor's guilt, and we are very afraid that if we hire some new employees, that we may have to lay people off again - and we just don't want to do that. It is too painful. OR we are slowly clawing our way back to profitability, and cutting wages and benefits, has really helped move us that direction, and the plan looks pretty good, and we have determined that maybe this strategy will work for just a while longer. We are essentially terrified of making hiring mistakes, because the consequences have been so raw and visible. So we procrastinate - recruiters will tell you that time to hire cycles are double and triple what they have been in the not too distant past - and the job markets feel like wading through molasses.

Here is the truth - any hiring manager worth their salt is going to make more mistakes in the years ahead - the trick is the overall batting average - not perfect seasons from now on. More truth, this is a very fragile economy, with stops and starts, and progress and reversals, and it doesn't show any sign of changing soon. So it is possible that we will work in companies where there will be more restructuring, reorganization and yes- job loss. The industrial age is not going out quietly, and we are in the midst of massive shifts as we try to get the right workers with the right skills in the right places - at the right time. Waiting for the perfect time however, is a deeply flawed plan. As we all know in the interim, our existing workers are fried, doing more with less, less engaged and have their eyes on the door. No one needs another survey to get that.

Accelerating the job market recovery will have to start the same place that market recoveries start- in our heads. It doesn't have to be grandiose - or foolish - just a willingness to recognize that the road back to prosperity includes making targeted investments in talent. The wisdom the Oracle of Omaha shared with us almost ten years ago after the World Trade Center fell, is just as valid today. Because as you know:

“Occasional outbreaks of those two super-contagious diseases, fear and greed, will forever occur in the investment community. The timing of these epidemics is equally unpredictable, both as to duration and degree. Therefore we never try to anticipate the arrival or departure of either. We simply attempt to be fearful when others are greedy and to be greedy only when others are fearful.” - Warren Buffett, 2001.

Topics: Business Strategy and Profitability , Hiring and Retention , Human Resources , Staffing & Training

Joni Doolin / Joni Thomas Doolin is the founder and CEO of People Report, an acknowledged leader in providing restaurant executives with financial analysis and insight into the best people practices.
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