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National Association of Counties * Washington, D.C.  Vol. 34, No. 1 * January 14, 2002

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The HR Doctor: The HR Olympics

In honor of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake County, Utah, and in recognition of the olympian feats performed everyday by HR professionals, the HR Doctor proposes a new series of events making up the HR Pentathlon.

The first event is called Jumping to Conclusions. This event features teams of elected and appointed officials in a competition to make decisions before the facts are known and without considering the liabilities or long-range consequences of acting prematurely. The greatest number of points will be awarded to the team which creates the most unfortunate consequences for the community in the shortest amount of time without ever receiving staff recommendations or options.

The second greatest number of points goes to those who have acted after totally ignoring any input!

The second event is the Power Whining competition.Candidates score points based on the volume, intensity and duration of their whining. Extra points are given to the whiner who drains the most energy and takes the most time away from supervisors who have many other, more productive things to do.

Power Whiners may enter from any of a number of categories. These include union representatives, very senior and long-serving employees, and dissatisfied people from anywhere in the organization, including managers or supervisors. Curiously, there are rarely any entries from employees during their probationary periods.

Next comes the Dancing on Thin Ice competition in which teams compete to see which one will be the last to realize that a long-held belief or way of doing business is past its usefulness and needs to be changed or modernized.

Past winners have included the civil service system (see the HR Doctor’s several articles on this subject at and heavy reliance on paperwork-intensive processes rather than "e-HR" systems for greater access and customer convenience.

The world and Olympic record, however, for this event, goes to "hubris" — the unfortunate outcome of officials being too arrogant to change or help when they should.

Fourth comes the event entitled Crawling Over Broken Glass. It will be won by the organization that has the rules, regulations, processes and timeframes that most annoy customers, clients and job applicants!

This is the event which features rules such as "no applications accepted after 2:30 p.m.," as one organization does. It features long lines, no online alternatives, inconvenient hours, one location only and poor customer service.

Participants in this event will take weeks or months to return phone calls, if they ever do. They will make you fill out endless, complex forms and then reject the applications with no explanation. They will be appropriately dressed for the competition by wearing jack boots.

Finally, the competition for Running Marathon Meetings rounds out the HR Pentathlon.The manager who conducts the most and the longest meetings with the least discernible productive purpose will win this competition. This popular category will draw teams from all over the world since so many people spend so much time practicing for the event.

The HR Doctor is excited about being a judge in each of these events and at being present to award the gold, silver and bronze medals. I know teams representing federal agencies will be tough competition, but so will those representing school districts, universities, cities and yes, even counties!

These are the events in which champions are crowned in management avoidance in enabling and tolerating negative role model behavior.

Perhaps there will come a day when public agencies all around America will strengthen their commitments to innovation and to banning the events which make up the HR Pentathlon from the "Public Service Olympics!"

The HR Doctor wishes you a great Olympics!

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