What I’ve found in HR is that most great lessons are taught to you by the Spice Girls.
“If you want my future, forget my past”
So, I’m going to tell you what I want. What I really, really want.
I want you to understand this one little concept – HR has the memory of an elephant! Seriously. If you do something wrong, if you screw up once, don’t think your going to “work through it” and change their mind in the future. It won’t happen. HR loves to label employees. Oh, Steve is our best sales guy – even though he hasn’t closed a deal in 3 years. Mary is a drama queen – because she had drama 18 months ago, but nothing since. Doesn’t matter – HR has you labeled!
So, what should you do?
If you screw up, if you already know you’ve been labeled, if you’ve been talked to more than once about a specific issue – you need to move on with your career to a new organization. Period. Being talked to “more than” once is key. You can live, organizationally, after being talked to once, because it might be forgotten. Once you’re talked to twice, or more, it’s probably documented and thus you’ll have an organizational lifetime label (or OLL as we say in the business!). O.L.L’s happen all the time. Sleep with one subordinate, and now you’ll always be “that” creepy boss who sleeps with their employees. Unless you marry that person – then you’ll be labeled positively as having ‘commitment’. Unless, you then get divorced from that person because you slept with another employees – then you’re back to “creepy boss”.
It works that way on the positive side as well. When I was working for Applebee’s we had a General Manager who had taken a ‘broken’ restaurant and turned it around to be a ‘star’ restaurant. We actually moved this person to two other ‘broken’ restaurants to perform their ‘magic’, but they failed both times. Still that person’s name was brought up every single time a ‘broken’ restaurant was brought up as needing someone to fix it. What really happened was the first restaurant they fixed had more to do with the “team” that was put in place to fix that restaurant than that one person. When that one person was put in other similar circumstances, with different teams, they failed. Yet – the past followed this person around like they were Mr. Broken Restaurant Fixer. You see – it works both ways – but with the same outcome – HR isn’t going to forget your past!
Here’s the real problem with this concept – you won’t find one HR person who will admit to it! That’s why I say – if you really, really wanna zigazig ha – you need to move on.