HR Monday Musical – How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying

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.

Even if you pay no attention to Broadway and didn’t watch the Tony Awards last month, you may still know that Daniel Radcliffe is currently starring in a revival of this satirical musical. During my visit to New York last month, I was in the elevator at the Port Authority where other passengers were discussing what they saw that day. “We saw the play with Harry Potter in it” was one rider’s contribution.

This show was first produced in 1961 and is still presented best by remaining in that period. Why?  Because no one has personnel departments filled with mindless drones who just carry out orders without question, right?

The scariest thing about this show is how close to reality it seems at times. I can count dozens of times in my career where I watched someone move up, and I wondered two things: What could the leadership possibly see in that guy and what secret formula is he following to progress so far?

In the musical, J. Pierrepont Finch is simply following the instructions in the book. No one seems to be doing any meaningful work at World Wide Widgets (they were WWW before it was cool), but they do seem to know what each others’ weaknesses are. This show is actually quite close to reality in at least the following ways:

  1. Membership in some club – like a specific alumni group is a plus
  2. People gather information on each other and use it for effective backstabbing
  3. The more sinister characters offer failed ideas to others in hopes to sabotage their careers
  4. Gossip is the norm
  5. Lack of coffee creates chaos in the office

If you are a Netflix subscriber, you might enjoy the 1967 film, which features many of the Broadway production actors. As with many film adaptations, it is missing a few of the songs but the story is enjoyable. It is effective satire in that you say to yourself “Oh, this could never happen” even though you know that in some fashion, it does.

Does your workplace feel like it’s lost in the last century?

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