HR Monday Musical – West Side Story

The HRi has always enjoyed theatre, and can’t watch a stage play or movie without thinking about the HR issues presented. It’s a curse.

Set in New York City, this is the modern (well, modern in the 1950’s) telling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The star-crossed lovers (wait, wouldn’t you think “star-crossing” is some kind of good thing?) are Tony and Maria. Tony is a member of the Jets, whereas Maria is Puerto Rican, and her brother is part of the rival gang, the Sharks. From an HR standpoint, this musical shows prejudice at its worst. While it has nothing to do with getting hired, it has everything to do with working together. It’s not going to happen. Each of the opposing factions wants things their way, with no hint the other group exists.

This post is not about diversity and inclusion, I leave that to the pros. But while I am on this topic, let me tell you how much richness there is in Joe Gerstandt’s blog. You want to read about the way it should be, check it out.

But I digress.

One of the lighter moments in the show involves members of the Jets singing “Gee, Officer Krupke”, where they each offer excuses for why they turned out as they did. This song always reminds me of the first HR manager that I ever reported to.

When I hear the phrase “Firm but Fair”, I think of Bob. He taught me that we can have excuses all day, but in the end what matters is what you do for yourself. In one of the first discipline meetings I ever sat in on, I heard the employee explain all the reasons that she had trouble being on time for work. Bob nodded his had, asked for clarifying detail when she didn’t make sense, and then told her the following: “Wow. Seems like you have a lot of things to fix in your life so you are no longer late for work. Because the next time will be your last.”

I couldn’t help but think he was cold, unfeeling, and not responsive. Then, after the meeting, he showed me his notes from the previous two conversations with the employee. All excuses, no steps taken. I got it. She knew exactly what was getting in her way, she just didn’t choose to do anything about it.

In the song, the Jets explain to a fictional Officer Krupke:

Dear kindly Sergeant Krupke,
You gotta understand,
It’s just our bringin’ up-ke
That gets us out of hand.
Our mothers all are junkies,
Our fathers all are drunks.
Golly Moses, natcherly we’re punks!

So, once you’ve identified what’s getting in your way, what are you doing about it? How much power do you give those excuses to hold you back?

Now leave me alone and get back to work. Or you can drop a comment, if you want.

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