Physics in HR – Heat

For this final post on the topic of Physics in HR, I thought it would be appropriate to review heat, especially heat transfer.

A few posts back I mentioned that sometimes resistance is good, like when it is used in a toaster to turn electricity into heat to make your toast. Most of our uses of electricity are inefficient, resulting in the desired outcome plus heat. Light bulbs give off light and heat. Computers do the work we need them to, and they generate heat. The same is true of our uses of fossil fuel. The stored energy in gasoline is converted to motion in our vehicles, and heat is generated as a by-product.

One of the things engineers try to do is develop techniques for effective heat transfer. The cooling system in your car is designed to transfer heat away from the engine and into the air. If the engine heat isn’t dissipated, then the engine will not be able to function. Your stove top and cookware are designed to transfer heat from the energy source to the food. Your water heater transfers heat from the source to the water.

Many HR pros are like a good engineer. They look at how effective the power source (a leader) is at transferring heat or energy to the target (employees). Some leaders are not good at this, and employees suffer side effects of their leadership. HR steps in at times and tries to work with the employees to be better conductors of heat, or how to better tolerate the ineffective boss. This is kind of like telling the eggs in your pan that you know your burner isn’t working properly, but if they could just move about the pan on their own, everything will cook right and you will have a delicious omelette.

You have to manage heat at the source. If a leader is not effective, you need to work with that leader to determine the problem and help them become more effective. Sometimes that does entail replacing members of the team that cannot work effectively with that leader. A good HR person will be able to diagnose how much of the problem is with the source, and how much is with the employees.

And, for the record, “heat transfer” does NOT mean you should move a difficult leader to another team. That kind of transfer rarely works.

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