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Can You Manage People If You've Never Done Their Job?


Author:   Glenn Shepard
Date:   March 25, 2014
Category:   Management




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Dear Glenn,


I want to ask applicants for their Facebook password so we can log into their profile, and my Office Manager said at a recent HR seminar she attended,  the attorney said you can't do that. She can't  remember why. We don't want to hire a real problem case, but how else are we supposed to find these folks out if we can't do background checks?


- Ray in Peoria, IL


Dear Ray,


I'm not an attorney, so check with your lawyer for the legal answer. The non-legal answer is that several states including California, New Mexico,  Michigan, Utah, Maryland, and Illinois have passed laws prohibiting employers from asking applicants for social media for passwords. More will  follow.

      However, employers looking up public posts on social media sites is quite common. A 2012 survey by found that nearly 40% of hiring managers do this. Nearly 1/3 rejected applicants because of what they found, including:


49% for inappropriate photos or comments


45% for drinking or using drugs


33% for bad mouthing a previous employer


The 40% figure is actually low. As reported in a 2010 issue of this newsletter, a Microsoft survey found that 70% of HR professionals had rejected a job applicant because of what they posted on Facebook.

     I call this "Career Suicide by Social Media".

      Thanks for your question.


- Glenn in Nashville, TN

Click here to submit a question. If yours is selected, you'll win your choice of the "I'm the Boss, Not the Babysitter" or "Work Is Not for Sissies"  coffee mug.

A newly hired manager that attended my seminar in Binghamton, New York, was nervous about whether his new employees would accept him as their manager.


He explained that they're plumbers, but that he had "never unclogged a drain in his life".


The question behind his question was "Is it necessary to have first performed your employees' jobs in order to manage them?”


The answer is "No".


One of the greatest examples of this is Ford.


In 2001, Bill Ford Jr. became the CEO of Ford Motor Company. He’s the great grandson of company founder Henry Ford and grew up in the business.


Yet while he served as CEO, the company's stock price tumbled and Ford continued to lose market share.


In 2006, he stepped down and hired Alan Mulally as his successor. Mulally is an aeronautical engineer who spent his entire career at Boeing and knew little about making cars.


But he led the company to its first profitable quarter in years and guided it to a stunning turnaround by doing bold things such as selling Jaguar, Land Rover, Volvo, and Aston Martin.


So how is it that a man who knew so little about building cars became Ford's savior?


He's a great leader who had a clear vision of where the organization needed to go, and he's a great manager who executed that vision.


Management is a specific discipline that can be learned, just as engineering, medicine, or law.


Mulally obviously understands this because after graduating from the University of Kansas with a bachelor's degree in aeronautical engineering in 1969, he earned a master's degree in management from MIT in 1982.


If you're hired to manage people whose jobs you know little about, they'll be cynical at first.


But once you prove that you’re a good manager (and you do have to prove it), and they see how the organization benefits from it, you'll be as effective as any manager who rose through the ranks.



Glenn Shepard




P.S. Click here for a no-cost report on how employers use Facebook to screen job applicants.





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