Hiring & Psychometric Tests

See also related article on psychometrics:

I’d like to consider hiring as the inclusion of individuals which complement weaknesses and enhance the strengths of the organization. It’s a combination of psychological profiling (attitude), private investigation (background check) and skill fit.

We are also thought that Human Resources should be the strategic partner for each department and possess the know how and execution ability to provide professional career development as well as the creation of an “engaged” workforce. Engaged, as purported in the Gallup Corporation’s Q12 series of questionnaires.

Sadly, I’ve seen many organizations degenerate Human Resources into purely administrative duties that could easily be automated or outsourced away. Simple items like payroll, leaves, recruitment approvals, kpi reporting and training manifests still consume considerable amount of manual processing & tracking. They don’t even know who to promote, what’s the quantum of promotion let alone the skills to differentiate a SAP consultant from an office administrator.

The dumbest thing that I’ve ever heard was during a recent reorganization where HR issued their improvement plans on Recruitment Service Levels (note that previously, we had none):-

“Hiring service level is 6 months; however resignation notification period will still be 3 months”, smugly; as the HR Manager twiddled her pinky figure while adjusting her glasses. The whites of her eyes showing as she struggled to see beyond the horizons of the spectacle’s rim.

Psychological Profile
I guess some of you would have heard of psych profiling tools like Myers-Briggs, PAPI, Enneagram, the Johari window and such. The problem to me is that these tools are used to create prejudices prior to the actual interview.

“Damn, he’s a slacker, look at the score for expediency!” exclaimed the happy recruitment manager. (Till this day, I haven't the faintest idea why people find it amusing to find a slacker through tests that are conducted over a series of inane questions in the league of “what would you do if you see your uncle shagging a sheep?”)

Honestly, I’d recommend that you put aside the assessment results and proceed with an open mind. For the sake of humanity, you should at least greet the person without any predilections as to whether he’ll squeeze your hand, or treat it like a dead fish. It’s like assuming all fat people are lazy and cutting interviews short for ugly people. Seriously! It’s hard enough to cure xenophobia; we don’t need a tool that exacerbates our natural inclination to judge.

A better approach would consist of having the interviewee sit for the test, and hide the results from the interviewer until the interview is over. Go through your own interview questions plus a series of standard ones which walk through the quadrants of the psychometric assessment. Once you’ve gone through the questioning should you then begin to review the actual results for verification; and interview the candidate again for confirmation.

You are not only able to reinforce the line of questioning and gauge whether the guy is a wanker or a whiner (more on that later), you would eventually hone your individual assessment over the assessment provided by the test. Which brings me to the point, its only a machine, formed though statistical correlation of a sizeable interview set and presented to you as mere juxtaposition of the statistical sampling.

One thing that time has thought me about the nature of human character, there’s always exceptions and aberrations, a black swan if you may.

Worst, not only are we not able to feedback whether the coined machine assessment is accurate, some even swears by the tests and target the weak points like an Indonesian wife assaulting her husband over his Chinese mistress. (See what I mean about sounding like a racist)

Then there are the dark organizations that spend an inordinate amount of money on these tools, but fail to train any of the recruiting managers on how to interpret the results. The candidate takes the test, the interviewers look at them, and decide based on a hunch or how good looking and well of a speaker the person is. You staple the results with your assessment and no one gives a hoot about the test in the first place.

Heck, I’d be laughing to the bank if I have HR clients from those companies.
How does this relate to you, a dark manager? Easy, you want a candidate that’s pliable, prone to be stretched beyond his breaking point and brainlessly executing any desire while accepting all the blame for the failures.

A dark manager once told me that, breaking in a new hire is like how mother earth breaks down carbon into diamonds. I don’t know about you, but there’s dumb, and then there’s dark management meeting megalomania -> Disaster waiting to happen.

Death by Meetings

We either have too many meetings, or too few of them. Some may think that quantity means quality but I like to err on the side of succinctness and that less is more. Although meetings are a bane to the proletariat working class, it is the best place for a dark manager to be. It is a communion of thoughts, a socialist movement to delegate work; and ensures the righteous organization moves toward the direction that it intended to.

Typically a meeting has the following items:-

  • Objective - What you want to get out of the meeting.
    In which case, it should be a desired “result”. A problem that needs to be solved etc.
  • Agenda
    Items to be discussed, could be informational, could be status update or it could be action based with an owner.
  • The Next Meeting
    Place, Time, who’s the next minute taker and such

However, within the organization that’s rife with artful managers, the meetings will devolve into the following action items:-

  • Be the first person to scream about a potential problem caused by the success of another manager or department. Whine as bad as you can about the looming catastrophe and gargantuan mistake of deploying that product. Especially if it requires effort from your team.
    • If it eats up bandwidth, over report how loaded the network is right now
    • If it is a recommended upgrade to an existing system that you’re running, under report the daily statistics such that the upgrade is unnecessary.
  • Try not to get to the point; the preamble alone should raise 9 other seemingly related issues that need to be resolved before your issue can be addressed.
  • Focus on gathering status updates that do not bring value. E.g. the project is currently 1.2% complete compared to 1.1% yesterday.
  • Invite every single team member, in the hope that everyone gets updated about the meeting. Somehow the chair person swears against online collaboration portals. Because, he believes that information should be hard to get, the moment its easy, people will ignore it. Alas, hard copy is the way to go.
  • Have each person provide a status update, making sure that its long, detailed and have everyone else wait their turn; even though the first 90 minutes of the meeting do not involve them at all.
  • Complain about the bad grammar of the minutes
  • Complain about why it’s highly important to have a logo and page number for the minutes
  • Have these meetings on a daily basis as it’s the best way to block your calendar from addressing to more pressing issues
  • Invite junior personnel so that you can embarrass them with harsh words and put downs for a small mistake that the guy did. It’s known as a power move and shows off your bravado and insistence on discipline within your team.
  • Last but not least, raise more menial issues that hide major problems, the meeting will not be a dark management success unless you come out of it with 100% more agendas.

2 weeks on the Job, inflicted by Selective Amnesia and the making of a Dark Padawan

40 hours a week, 80 hours into the job; there’s bound to be a management instruction (from you) causing outages or impact to the customer. Compounded by your desire and haste to win brownie points from the CEO and “Platinum Level Customers”, the order was executed without proper change management procedures or fall back plans.

Principles of Selective Amnesia

  • Never leave any written proof of your instructions.
    That means no instructions over email. It should always be verbally communicated. Email and sms is one sure way of being reminded of the instructions which you have conveniently repressed.
  • While explaining the situation. Never provide instruction details
    Keep it high level, with a solid, almost impossible dateline. I want the VP to have the new spanking Outlook/Exchange email by lunch (This is after the team has spent 32 hours hacking the smtp file to setup the exchange server in the first place).
  • When shit happens, start the interrogation first; practice this hard as you need to be an Oscar level actor
    Look at your no.1 guy straight in the eye and ask him calmly.

    “Do you know anything about the exchange server going down during lunch time?”, in which case, the ever zealous newbie will reply,

“yeah… we tried to provide email to the VP …” and your stoic answer would be an almost awed and surprised.

“Oh (eyes wide, mouth opened), I didn’t even know about that, this shall be investigated (squeeze your brows together) and we’ll have to report the person that did this to the CEO”. A short, snappy and stern display of amnesia.

The colour of your staff will turn pale now, and at the slightest hint of indignation or a comeback, quickly exit the conversation. But not before sneaking in

“Prepare a report for me and we’ll see the CEO together”

Here’s the takeaway, your staff will potentially be pretty pissed cause you’re the one that issued the instructions, however, he can’t do anything, as by admitting the act, he’ll stand out as the perpetrator.

The duality of the situation will be so divisive that eventually, the answer in the report will be a story about how the server suddenly reboots itself before the team could even do anything.

Alas, you have created a disciple, truly, one who is capable of beguiling himself and you of the real incident. Indeed, you are one step closer to become a Dark Management Master.

Tai Chi - The Ultimate Master's Weapon

Tai chi focuses on deflecting your opponent’s energy and using it against them. At the same token the Dark Manager must quickly learn the art of deflecting all forms of work that do not directly contribute to his/her KPI or; that which benefits the requestor. More importantly, deflecting all work that will move responsibility for service up time and customer satisfaction to you! (extremely important advice, they'll be another section on risk & customer satisfaction)

Just the other day we had a problem that can only be resolved by 3 parties, the network team, the infrastructure team and the software support team; each of these departments are rife with bureaucracies; the dark master’s ultimate weapon in the event that it falls on your lap. (More on that here)

Anyway, you’re first act as a Dark Master is to quickly take ownership as the person that will report to the CEO and the customer the progress of the assignment. That way, you’ll be able to control all information flow, and use that as a noose for the rest of the team to complete the task. Secondly, all that reporting, takes so much time, you just no longer have the bandwidth to do the actual work (A good excuse). Provided of course, they are responsible enough to do the work as intended. If you’re faced with fellow Dark Managers, you’re up for a challenge of wits, cloak and dagger politics and yes, a session of Tai Chi.

First, you draw clearly defined boxes that specify your area of responsibilities; the goal of tai chi in work assignments is to push the proverbial ball (work), into an area that does not belong to anyone. Excuses that you can use are:-
  • Sorry, that's not my area
    Use this as a last resort, as it does not reflect well upon you. e.g. you're already up the hill, have nothing to lose, and work in an organization that can't fire you.

  • I don’t know how to do it.
    As stupid as this may sound, but most dark managers get away with this. Because the ardent requestor will be so cheezed, he'll end up doing it for you.

  • This is new, my team needs more training (A variant of I do not know how)
    Asking for training is a little bit better, it buys time, and keeps the ball in play longer before you have to kick it. The Tai Chi technique used here, is to ask the requestor to arrange for the proper training, as you can always claim ignorance.

  • Mr. X knows best, although he’s not in my team, he knows how to do it. But my team will be there to support him
    The best approach, ensures that the ball is in another manager’s court, but shows that you are supportive.
Sure enough, the dateline looms and everyone will suddenly scramble as if their life depends on it. The CEO calls for a meeting, and the strategy now turns in Wong Fei Hung’s shadowless kick. All the managers will claim that they’ve done Z amount of effort but to no avail, as there’s so many more dependencies, and best practices to follow before the actual work can be done. Forms needs to be signed, security personnel needs to be involved, if we move without permission, the team will somehow be chastised for not thinking things through. (Hint, dropping a 4th person that has nothing to do with the project is always a good way of stalling and distributing the responsibility further)

Your Best Friend is a Solid Dateline
Secondly, a solid dateline is a Dark Manager's best friend, once you've crossed that boundary the members responsible will immediately switch to this excuse:-

"Oh... it's too dangerous to do anything now, we just need to ride the storm. If we do anything now we risk prolonged downtime that will piss off the customer", this logic is so completely flawed, that it's believable. Trust me on this.

Your buddy Bureaucracy
In the event that it is clearly identified that YOU are responsible, think a little deeper and there’s bound to be bureaucratic stop blocks to ensure that the task gets delayed for at least another 1 or 2 months.

For example, if the request is for an IP Address, make sure you route the requestor to the “Forms Administrator” to issue Form 31A-B, as Form 31A-C is for an external network iP address, not an internal network. Bereuacracy is best when there's no guidelines on which forms to use.

As a Management Committee, your objective as fellow Dark Managers is to ensure mindless compliance to procedures and breaking down of tasks to as many mindless zombies as possible. The mantra is – if ain’t broken, there’s no need to hurry - If it’s broken, it’s not your fault, as it’s not in your court yet -> It’s still the requestor’s problem to answer for it.

Oh by the way, it’s a request for server capacity upgrade for a software application that includes both servers and networks…