Bruno Mars PT2 – the outcome letter – Uptown Funk

Notice of result of appeal against disciplinary action

Date 30th January 2015

Dear Bruno,

You appealed against the decision of the disciplinary hearing to dismiss you from your employment. This followed a previous attempt to resolve the matter informally, notes of which can be found here.

The appeal meeting was held on 27th January 2015 after several aborted attempts on the 22nd, 23rd, 24th, 25th January when you described yourself as being unavailable due to being in “Harlem, Hollywood, Jackson, Mississippi”. 

We appreciate that this has been a complex case and would like to set out within this letter the clear position of the organisation on several key points that you have raised by letter, telephone conversations and, notably, on 19th January via a megaphone directed at my office, as you poked out of the sunroof of your stretch limo from within the company car park.

  • We are aware that the Learning and Development team have adopted your slogan ‘Don’t believe me just watch’ to use in promotional materials for their ‘working out loud’ initiative. We do not agree with your conclusion that this makes you ‘frickin untouchaballs’
  • We acknowledge that in the incident in October where your access card was deactivated in error that you were frustrated. We do not believe that telling Cynthia Watkins (who was working on reception) that you felt “locked out of heaven” because her “sex takes you to paradise” was an appropriate way to address this issue. You were locked out of the staff canteen, it is an entirely separate issue and in any case your response would not have been proportionate or in keeping with the company values.
  • We have 17 expenses claims submitted for stretch limos. The finance team emailed you on 7 separate occasions to explain this was not in line with company travel policy (mails attached). As a result we will not be honouring these claims.
  • Your team has been underperforming for 18 months, yet we notice on every piece of appraisal paperwork returned to us you wrote the same comment on their work “if perfect is what you’re searching for then just stay the same”. This is a gross dereliction of your duties as a manager and we consider it to be a fundamental breakdown of trust and confidence in the relationship.
  • We believe that telling several married women at the Christmas party that you were looking for something dumb to do so you were going to marry them constituted multiple breaches of the company policy (see enclosed employee handbook) on sexual harassment.
  • Despite your repeated requests we will not republish the notes of all meetings held thus far describing Mark Ronson, who accompanied you, as a ‘featured artist’.

You have now exercised your right of appeal under the Company Disciplinary Procedure and this decision is final. You are dismissed. Don’t believe us just watch.

Yours sincerely

David D’Souza

PS – please note, we’ve already replaced your entire team with one person so there is no need for a handover period.

Thanks to Kate Griffiths-Lambeth for the spot…

L&D, #LT15UK and SuperQuick Thoughts

Yesterday I took a trip to the Learning Technologies show to meet some folk, see some things and have some thoughts. I’m always happy to reveal half formed thoughts so here are some of my takeaways

  • There are a swathe of tools available – not much that is genuinely new – but tools are useless without intent. Listening to Julian Stodd talk for an hour about social leadership would give people more hope for the future than any amount of tech demos. I didn’t agree with everything Julian said – but there is no doubt in the quality of belief or reflection. I wish more people started with reflection on what they are trying to solve rather than seeking ‘solutions’.
  • The willingness of vendors and presenters in the exhibition to communicate ‘innovative ways of learning’ by reading out bullets on Powerpoint slides was almost laughable. I assume it must have been some type of a dare…
  • Gamification was popping up in lots of places. I’m as curious about how leaderboards can drive more collaborative organisations as I am about how predictive analytics can give people a greater sense of autonomy. There seems to be a tension and conflict in some of the ambitions expressed. I am, however, delighted to hear people talking about gamification in a richer way – games afford a wonderful insight into how people interact with environments and each other. If you’d like to learn more it isn’t too late to join Kevin Werbach’s MOOC here 
  • Side conversations are the best conversations – I ran into a number of great people as I ambled about soaking things in. The perspectives and reflections from those sessions gave me plenty to reflect on.
  • There was a beautiful point made by Julie Drybrough after watching a session with Tony Buzan (who seems to like punching himself in the face, check out the gallery, it’s wonderfully consistent) that teaching people constrained techniques for being creative is possibly inherently conflicted. Apparently he also said that in nature there is no such things as straight lines – ladies and gentleman, he has ignored all of these.

  • It is a genuinely exciting time for L&D. I spoke to a number of large businesses on the verge of changing their approaches to helping people learn and all of them seemed to show a far greater appreciation of different methodologies than would have been the case a few years ago. There is a receptiveness and exploratory attitude that can only serve people and organistions well in the coming years.

Final thought (Jerry Springer style)

  • It is a duty incumbent on progressive thinkers, if they wish others to progress, to be patient and welcoming. It was lovely to see so many people that I hold in high regard not interested in scoring points against different methodologies but just keen to see other people exploring, growing and making choices. Which surely is the point. Learning is contagious.

Uptown Funk: The Bruno Mars HR Disciplinary

Notes from informal meeting with Bruno Mars, 22/01/15

Background: Following recent complaints from colleagues a meeting was arranged with Bruno (BM) to discuss his recent conduct, in particular his language regarding women.

Meeting commenced approx 9.30am

HR : Hi, Bruno, please come in and take a seat. Would you like a glass of water?

BM: What’s this about, I’m not really sure why I’m here.

HR: We’ve had some complaints about your language and your attitude towards women, we wanted to speak to you informally to help understand if there is a problem

BM: Um…

HR: For instance – and it would be good to get your take on this – apparently you said “Bitch, say my name you know who I am“?

BM: It wasn’t in work…

HR: Even so, can you understand how some of your colleagues may have found that offensive? And just to clarify, when you say that ‘it wasn’t in work’ I believe you were getting paid a sizeable commission and under supervision from your producer at the time

BM: Well…

HR: Moving on. Could you explain what you mean by “Girls hit your hallelujah“? I was unclear what that meant, but some people have obviously taken some offence to that. Also apparently you continually complain about the air conditioning saying that you are ‘so hot that dragons should retire man’? Do you have a thyroid issue?

BM: It doesn’t mean anything. It’s just, you know, a phrase. It’s a song. It’s not real.

HR: It seems unlikely that you would continue to repeat it whilst making an ‘ooooh’ noise if it didn’t mean anything? Could you tell us what you were thinking when you were urging girls to hit their hallelujah?

BM: Shouldn’t I be allowed a representative or something?

HR: We would rather keep this informal currently, but I’d love for you to put my mind at rest regarding the phrase “If you sexy than flaunt it”. I realise that it is a conditional statement, but I was wondering if you had reflected on how it would make the people in the organisation who aren’t sexy feel? And whether urging people to flaunt it might be encouraging them to break the dress code.

BM: I really hadn’t given it much thought. Is this conversation even legal?

HR: It’s just an informal chat at this time. On a separate note we would like to raise some concerns that have come to light regarding your conduct over the last 18 months that make us concerned about this being a patten of behaviour

BM: Like what

HR: Well, on a day where we believed you to be working you recorded The Lazy Song including the line “I’ll be lounging on the couch, Just chillin’ in my snuggie” which doesn’t incline us to have confidence we can trust you to work remotely. You were also heard to mention the word ‘Grenade’ in an office environment

BM: In fairness I said that I would take a grenade FOR someone, that can’t be seen as a threat

HR: Do you think it was sensible to mention grenades at all?

Bruno Mars stood up and left the room, slamming the door behind him approx 9.45, meeting closed.

Making HR Better (or not making it worse) – HR Carnival

Making HR Better (or not making it worse) – HR Carnival

This is part of the HR Carnival – please check it out and also check out the excellent work of Steve Browne here – nicest guy ever…

I was going to rehash an old post on making HR better, but instead I thought I’d shoot off some quickfire thoughts on people and orgs that new entrants to the profession should be aware of and see what happens…here we go. My only guarantee is that I don’t think anything will make things worse!

How can HR be better?

If you are starting your career in HR and you can juggle the list below then the profession will get better over time – due to you

  • Get really honest feedback from the business you work in, so you can see what needs to be done. Nothing external matters unless you get this bit right
  • Don’t be scared – of mistakes,of speaking up, of being a lone voice, of making hard decisions, of making unpopular decisions, of admitting you don’t know, of the unknown
  • Focus on helping the business grow, not just keeping it out of trouble. You need to do a bit of both – but the first one is the bigger call to arms
  • Don’t get distracted by the noise around data until you REALLY understand how your people and business work. You can pay someone to crunch your data, you can’t pay them to understand the world on your behalf
  • Focus less on perceived shortcomings of the profession and more on making a difference as an individual
  • Never eat yellow snow
  • Don’t expect people just to do things because you tell them or to think your deadlines are important
  • Keep rules to a minimum (but don’t be afraid of guidelines)
  • Learn from others and their mistakes – here are mine, including that time with the Tampax
  • Respect what has gone before, but don’t be constrained by it
  • Don’t use big words to try to impress people – small words that make sense work even better
  • Don’t become obsessed with new things, just fixing the old things will be novel in most organisations
  • Just because it is what Google would do doesn’t mean it is what you should do
  • Use others to help solve problems, but get used to taking the blame yourself
  • Have fun – you don’t get paid any more for frowning
  • Make sure you have the same goals and ambitions as the business, nobody likes you when you are working against it
  • Become one with the business. You are part of the business, you aren’t a weird adjunct, most CEO’s want you there and want you to do a good job
  • Don’t ever forget about about the people. Yes, that person you let go was bad at their job – but they still have a family to feed
  • Don’t ever be paralysed by thinking about the people – yes, that person has a family, but so does everyone else who was working extra hours to pick up the slack
  • Don’t let your organisation continually request extra processes, focus on working with it to help people make better decisions
  • Don’t bother changing the name from HR unless it really makes sense. If you act like the kind of HR department you don’t want to be then a rebrand isn’t going to change that
  • Think about the system, think about what else is going on, keep your world and your thoughts big and rich
  • Be relentlessly pragmatic – if it doesn’t make a difference it doesn’t make a difference.. It doesn’t matter if it was smart on paper
  • Learn from others – you won’t be able to keep up with the changes happening in the different parts of the profession, but the span of your network can
  • Don’t listen to anyone about making HR better that doesn’t work in your organisation. We are all full of wisdom when we don’t have to do the dirty work
  • Always get an external view, it’s invaluable to listen to people outside of your organisation to be able to think broadly
  • Get used to change, it’s the one thing that is certain

The Ocean Spray test – sweet and sour

During the week I spent a fair bit of time talking about HR, metrics and behavioural science. This weekend I slumped down in front of the TV to catch up on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver which, together with The Daily Show, forms part of my regular sanity check on life. Reflecting on the programme has given me another of my strange organisational tests (to add to the Room 101 test and the Beermat Test). This is the Ocean Spray test.

Part of the challenge of dealing with metrics is context and helping people to effectively gauge the comparative size of the problem they are dealing with. If I tell you that a certain action will double your risk of something that immediately sounds like a big impact – particularly if it is health related. If you want to see an example of this effect (e.g. eating x can double your risk) then pick up today’s copy of The Daily Mail. It really doesn’t matter which day you read this post, just pick up the latest Daily Mail and you’ll find something.

Likewise, if you want to make something less accessible you turn it into something that people struggle to relate to. A good example of this is food packaging. Most of the nutritional information in food packaging is in mg – it only makes sense when we have it translated into recommended daily amounts. Most people don’t really now whether 5mg of something is good or bad.

John Oliver focused on sugar being added to products and suggested we would best understand the impact if units offered to consumers were either teaspoons or peanut based sweets. So if you picked up a sweet drink you could immediately see the comparator to something you may normally avoid. That health drink is the same as 5 sweets? I’ll have some water…

I liked the idea of choosing units that we could immediately apprehend. Food manufacturers in the US are campaigning against the changes – you’d be surprised as to how much sugar goes into everyday products. As part of the debate into labelling Ocean Spray have admitted that nobody would drink drink cranberry juice without sweetener as er… cranberry tastes horrible until you add copious amounts of sugar. They would therefore prefer not to change the labelling… They are essentially arguing to keep the number inaccessible in case people make different choices.

So what does this mean for data in the workplace? Well it means that there is power in comparisons. I was speaking to someone from an organisation who put their training budget into this perspective ‘we could buy Abercrombie and Fitch each year’. Actually having checked it out it would be 2 times their budget, but even so… it gave a great sense of scale of a very big number.

We regularly see CEO packages explained in terms of multiples of average wages and I was pondering on whether the average wage might be an effective standard unit for business cases. Give me an idea of how many people I could hire or support for the amount of money that you’d like to invest in your project. Let me understand how much that IT system costs vs. another unit that I could readily understand.

The advent of the infographic means that this is easier to do than ever before – don’t just give me a number, show me a visual.

I saw this recently as a nice example designed to help people convert units. A handbag is a day of care from a cancer nurse. Power stuff.


I wonder how many business cases would have been rejected (or accepted) if something more relatable than ‘almost unimaginably large sum of money’ was the unit of measurement.

So the Ocean Spray test is this. Ask of any business case you are presented with

does the opportunity cost of project, if expressed in terms of an easily understood unit (e.g. average salary multiple, amount of bonuses we won’t be able to pay) warrant the investment?’