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Diddy or The Donald? What Should One Expect from an Employer (and what should we expect of ourselves?)

We all owe ourselves and all our present and future employees something very important – a commitment to excellence and continuing knowledge development in our chosen fields of endeavor.

31 July 2007
Sean Combs – known to his fan base as Diddy – has taken to You Tube to recruit a new assistant. His last assistant, a gentleman not even allowed to keep his given name for the role, was best known for holding Diddy’s umbrella and primping him for the cameras. Diddy has posted two minutes-long rants online, in which he bellows about the new era we’re in, but fails to describe any of the job responsibilities. In addition to umbrella duty, the last assistant was observed by the press to be involved primarily in menial tasks like running around in Manhattan procuring Diddy’s snack requirements. According to the job posting, only college educated applicants need apply. Apparently, more than 600 applicants have done just that so far.
 
If Diddy isn’t your speed, you could always fantasize about working for The Donald. Now here’s a man that has delivered far more bad performance in business than good, indicating that his success is significantly dependent on the amounts of money he has had available to him since joining his father’s established real estate business after college, combined with his celebrity profile. Most people don’t realize that many of the properties bearing his name are not even owned by him – real estate developers license his name as a marketing device. Nonetheless, he fancies himself a business mogul. What might you expect as a management employee of Donald Trump’s? There’s no doubt a great deal of experience to be gained, as is true with the job as Diddy’s assistant, but what else will be learned? I'd wager very little, and I can't imagine why anyone who aspires to management would set herself up for such a bereft (and likely demeaning) business experience.
 
Maybe I’m giving these guys a bad shake. But it seems to me one should pick a boss with the same caution as one buys a house or invests in a business. One should at least employ as much caution as one uses when hiring an employee! And for those of us who are employers, are we thinking about what a responsibility it is?
 
Employers have a responsibility to thoughtfully employ the functions of management. If you can’t name what the four of them are, you probably are selling your employees short. Employers have a responsibility to have educated, demonstrable skills in the functional areas of their business. Does this mean they have to go to college? There are lots of ways to get an education. While I am a strong advocate of college education, I also recognize that an ambitious and disciplined learner can learn everything they need to know through careful selection and study of references and learning experiences. But there is no excuse for relying on home-grown knowledge. That’s just hubris.
 
Most of all, employers have a responsibility to lead. People require and deserve the stability and direction that comes from true leadership. They have a right to be managed competently and fairly. Many people climbing corporate America’s many ladders are focused on the reward of achieving executive success and the benefits of self-direction and increase in control that go with it. But being an employer is a responsibility more than it is a right, and frequently it’s as much a burden as it is a benefit.
 
There is no dearth of opinion about how to run business or specific functions of business. But barely 50% of new business succeeds for more than 5 years, and established businesses fold and downsize every day. As I write, Intel is laying off another 1,000 employees in New Mexico alone, Johnson & Johnson has announced they will eliminate 4,800 jobs (largely due to patent expirations that were not backed by new innovation), Bristol-Myers Squibb is about to launch another restructuring that will significantly cut jobs, and AstraZeneca will lay off 10% of its workforce – or 7,600 workers – in the next few months.
 
Business isn’t easy, it isn’t intuitive, and it isn’t genetic. Even those who study it carefully regularly make mistakes. But you wouldn’t let an auto detailer repair your timing chain, or a physician’s assistant do your heart surgery, would you?
 
Whether we are an employer already, or aspire to greater levels of management responsibility, we all owe ourselves and all our present and future employees something very important – a commitment to excellence and continuing knowledge development in our chosen fields of endeavor.

 

(c) Andrea M. Hill, 2007

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