County News Online

National Association of Counties * Washington, D.C.      Vol. 32, No. 22 * December 4, 2000

Previous story | Table of Contents | Next story

The H.R. Doctor Is In

The Lone Ranger

Clayton Moore was not only the great star of The Lone Ranger television program, but he was also a role model for the behavior of many managers. Although the Lone Ranger was a hero who was always successful in fighting evil and escaping unscathed, the reality for the many managers who imitate the Lone Ranger is often more unfortunate.

A big mistake many managers make is to “walk into” a problem, especially one involving human resource situations such as discipline, harassment or violence, and feel that they can and will handle the situation without help or advice.

This feeling that they must act alone stems from several sources including the occasional overdose of testosterone. However, the latter is for the H.R. Endocrinologist to discuss. Often, the source of this Lone Ranger behavior rests with an organizational culture that may not be supportive and in which a manager fears the embarrassment or consequences of failure so much that seeking assistance is thought to be an admission of weakness or incompetence. (See the HR Doctor Article “Supervisor Down… Supervisor Needs Assistance,” on the H.R. Doctor website.)

The Lone Ranger behavior may also stem from arrogance or a desire to control information and hoard it so that others may have to come sheepishly to the manager seeking information they need to do their own jobs successfully. This kind of power-seeking manager assumes an increasing posture of rigidity over time and a sense of infallibility. Unfortunately such managers, unlike the teenagers many parents know and love, find that these characteristics increase rather than fade away with experience. The manager who continues to behave in an arrogant manner is heading for colossal failure at work and in personal life.

Another source of “solo-flying” in administration is not knowing where to turn for help. Every manager needs an understanding of what sources of help are available in the agency and how to access that help. Orientation programs, training programs, and internal resources, such as principally human resources, need to be highlighted and they need to be accessible so that no manager can have the excuse of not knowing who to call for help.

In turn, the H.R. function must not be constantly performing a Rip Van Winkle imitation by being unavailable, inflexible and asleep at the wheel. HR must be a pro-active client server. The role of HR as “coach” needs to be that of an enabler of every manager in the organization to do her job effectively, legally, humanely and with innovation.

Often this requires the HR professional to begin a conversation with mottos such as the one touted by Microsoft ads, “Where do you want to go today?” HR needs to have a clear understanding of the operations of client agencies in order to help them to be at their best.

Having a symbiotic partner in HR is an essential requirement for manager success. There has to be a relationship of respect, mutual knowledge of each others operations, goals and restraints, and a willingness to trust one another.

The manager has to know that HR’s advice comes from a wealth of experience in practical problem solving and an understanding of the manager’s objectives. HR needs to be adept at ensuring that the manager understands her professional accountability for outcomes and is prepared to help ensure her success. The manager has to understand that HR is there to make her successful, not to be an end unto itself. The advice from the HR Coach needs to be respected and honored.

If this kind of relationship is not present between management and HR, between a county attorney and managers, or the county administrator and managers, a serious symptom of trouble in River City will be present and must be addressed quickly or the organization is headed directly for many problems, if not staff turnover.

The HR Doctor reminds his colleagues that every manager, whether in public works, parks, law enforcement, accounting or human services must also be a skilled HR practitioner in order to be successful in the 21st century.

It is important to remember the line from the Beatles song , “I’ll get by with a little help from my friends.” It is also important to recall that even The Lone Ranger traveled with a companion whose advice was sought out and trusted. In that sense, the name Lone Ranger should be replaced by “Team of Two Rangers.” All managers should think about their own relationship with HR and consider taking an HR professional to lunch! The HR Doctor wishes you all the best. Visit “the office” at

(Note: Congratulations to County News’ own HR Doctor, who was quoted recently in a Washington Post article on bonus pay for public officials.)


Previous story | Table of Contents | Next story