elysianhunter’s Guide to HR (Confessions of a Former Manager)

One of the more interesting parts of being a departmental manager is the obligation and necessity to hire and fire your own employees.  When I worked in dealerships the departmental manager was responsible for all the HR duties for his/her department, which was fine with me, since I had to deal with whatever specimens of humanity I hired and/or would potentially need to fire on a daily basis.  I always tried not to hire someone who would either be incompetent or who would get on my nerves.  The bad part about any kind of HR responsibility means that one has to be insanely careful with all the federal and state laws that surround the whole business of hiring, firing, promoting and assigning duties.

Even considering all the legal BS and politically correct hoops one has to jump through when hiring, managing and especially firing, employees (notice I did not say “Team Members,” or “Associates”) it’s a subjective process no matter how much regulation is involved.  Personally I don’t care about any of the stuff the government is so worried about.  I could care less if a person is black, white, green, male, female, straight, gay, bi, furry, or if they are 500 years old, if they can do the job I need done effectively- without me having to micromanage them or worry about whether or not they are going to call off every Monday and Friday because of a brown bottle or white powder problem. I’m into true equal opportunity (NOT “affirmative action”) which is common sense- hire the best person for the job.

I will also say that it’s a lot easier to be a four letter word that starts with the letter “c” when you are dealing with someone you just plain don’t like, and that personalities are also very subjective things.  Some people just plain piss me off.

Since most of the people I hired were either automotive technicians or parts counter people I never paid much attention to resumes.  Most technicians have a rather poor command of written English language and even poorer spelling, so reading their resumes is often painful, even if the resumes are printed out.  Most of the tech resumes I was subjected to would have been far more entertaining had they been scrawled with a crayon on a page of a Hello Kitty coloring book.

I placed a lot more emphasis on the actual interview versus resumes or applications, because a picture says a thousand words.  I didn’t necessarily look for Mr. Clean either.  As much as I am aesthetically opposed to piercings, tattoos, nasty hair, inability to color coordinate, and so forth, there is a lot more to someone than physical appearance.  One’s body language and general demeanor say a lot more than whether or not the pleats in the pants are pressed just so or if the dude is wearing white socks with dress shoes.  One of the best guys I ever hired looked like a balding version of Meatloaf (the singer) and was very much a redneck- but his work ethic and ability far outshined his lack of physical attractiveness.   The look is only part of the picture.  Does the guy sound like he knows what he’s talking about?  Does he have the necessary formal training and certifications to do the job he’s applying for? Does he sound willing and able to go for additional training and education?  Is he reasonably clean, neat and respectable?  I can tolerate earrings or tats or moderately scuztastic hair as long as the dude doesn’t reek and won’t scare customers off.  I never looked for GQ, but some personal hygiene is a must.

If I can smell your BO, given that my sense of smell is pretty much non-existent, you probably need to be Clorox’d and run through the carwash a few times, and it is highly likely that you will not be welcome anywhere other than a hog farm.  I actually inherited a horrifically evil-smelling employee like that (who I would had never hired, and ended up having to fire, surprisingly not because of his odor, but because he did about $1400 in preventable damage to a customer’s car) and I played hell trying to keep enough Febreze in the wash bay so the customer’s cars could be de-skunked after he’d been in them.  I also played hell keeping the other techs from killing him.  In high summer an old-time hog farm would have smelled like ambrosia compared to this dude.   To make it even worse, this guy wasn’t just incredibly, horribly stinky, he was an incredibly, horribly stinky, incompetent asshole – but that is a story all its own.  That’s the kind of guy you don’t even think about hiring.  If you have to Clorox your office after the interview, and clean the shit stain off the seat he sat down in, this is definitely NOT your man, no matter how good he might look on paper.  The guy that did hire him should have had his head examined, but then he was an incompetent asshole too, which is why he got fired and I ended up in his job.

The other part of the hiring process, and likely the defining moment of whether or not I would hire someone was always the references- and not always the ones listed on the application or resume.  Automotive is one big happy inbred family, so everyone knows everyone else.  If the guy is a boozer, has a white powder problem, or has a lot of comebacks, or has a perpetually bad attitude, I knew it already.  Usually I knew at least one person (on a professional basis) who had some knowledge of my applicant and was willing to give me a personal assessment.  Nothing speaks better (or worse) for you than a personal endorsement.  If someone I respect and trust recommends (or condemns) an applicant that recommendation (or condemnation) goes a very long way.

As far as my management style goes, in regard to HR management my thought was always Keep It Simple, Stupid. Another acronym, damn.  I had no use for anyone I had to baby sit or clean up after.  That was one reason why Mr. Stinky had me in such a conundrum.  I wasn’t allowed to single him out and tell him that I was going to have the car wash guys spray him down with Clorox and Massengill and power wash him if he refused to shower on a daily basis.  That would be discrimination.  No, even though only one guy stunk,  I had to have a hygiene lecture with the entire (all dudes, except of course, for me) service staff, letting everyone who had to get in customers’ cars know that the upstairs shower facility is equipped with fresh uniforms, plenty of soap, shampoo, fresh towels and spray deodorant.  Most of those guys would be courteous enough to take a mid-day shower and change uniforms in summer when they got gamey.  Not Mr. Stinky.  He couldn’t take the hint.  Either that or he simply revelled in the shock value of his stink, at least until one of the other techs attached a five dollar bill with a rubber band to a bar of LAVA soap and hit him square in the head with it, while exclaiming, “Take an F—ing shower!”

I never used sports analogies to try to motivate my employees.  I had more than one boss use the cliched “team” bullshit on me to convince me to do their work for them.  While some of my former bosses were out with whores getting social diseases and snorting cocaine all day, I was doing their work for them while they got all the credit- and commissions. That really rubbed my ass the wrong way, at least until the bastards got caught- and reported to the health department.  I’d loved to have been a fly on the wall when they had to explain to their wives just why they had to go get tested for STDs and AIDS and go get penicillin shots.

Team, my happy ass.  Tell it like it is.  An employee is employed to do a specific job for a specific amount of pay.  Not a “Team Member” or “Associate” which to me just plain screams “now you are a tool.”  Whenever anyone tells someone to “do it for the team” this is what they really mean.  “There is no ‘I’ in team- but ‘U’ will do it for the ‘team’ while ‘I’ go snort coke and bang hoes, while taking all the credit and pay for your hard work.”  Avoid companies who refer to their employees as anything other than employees, and companies who try to use sports analogies for motivational purposes, like the plague.

My favorite instructor in college taught us the most important thing I ever learned about management:

Motivation comes from within.  All a good manager can do is provide incentives.

My bottom line? Pay me what I’m worth (incentive…) and I will work my ass off for you.   Tell me what you want done, leave me alone to do it, and pay me well at the end of the day.

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