I have to admit, I’m damned proud to be a SIOP member today. The president of the organization wrote a letter to President-elect Obama about how people like us can help the economy. If you want to read it, it’s here.
But, this is the part that I really like…
“Arguably one of the administration’s most important challenges is creating a strong organizational culture with a “high purpose” that reigns in selfish motives and fosters organizational citizenship behavior. Such cultures have internal governance and learning systems that enable “truth to speak to power.” SIOP members have completed research and models for corporate culture, decision making, and knowledge transfer, to name a few.”
It’s not often that I get to really explain what I do, or what I want to do in the future. But, that’s the differentiator between “us” and “them.” The “them” are the people who work in HR who just got business degrees. Straight business degrees usually just teach people how to do what’s best for the company in the short term, and usually that just involves dealing with the symptoms of a problem, and not the problem itself. We’re trained to start digging and go after the problem.
To use a medical model, HR people with straight business degrees are like general practitioner doctors. They’re the ones who prescribe something for you when you have a cold or the flu. We’re the surgeons who work to eradicate cancer in a patient.
One really telling experience is when we were in our first year and taking an organizational behavior class with a bunch of MBA students. We were 6 of about 25 or 30 students, so we were totally in the minority. We had to do projects as a team of 3, where we dealt with some sort of organizational problem. The one that my team had was a problem employee on a team. We talked about using methods of communication, conflict resolution, and trying to find out if the employee had a problem that was affecting his work life (since it had been noted that his abrasiveness had increased over the last year). When it came time for Q&A, one of the MBA students lit into me about how “you just can’t deal with people like that,” and that “you just have to fire them and get a new person in there,” and how “all that psychology just takes too much time and money.” When I looked around, a lot of the other MBAs were just nodding their heads in agreement. I really just wanted to hand her a business card and tell her to call me in about 6 years, so that I could buy a new Ferrari on what I’d make off of her screw-ups.
But, that’s the difference. “They” are the people who will ignore your past performance and fire you with a “what have you done for me lately” attitude; we’re the ones who will look deeper to see what lies beneath the surface, because not only is it the ethical thing to do, it’s also best for the company in the long run.