Fast Friday with Charlotte Rampling, actress in the Swimming Pool

Posted October 21, 2011 in Latest News & Insights

Recently, someone very close to me started a new job at a company that likes to boast about all their “Best Companies” “Best Places to Work” type awards.  My friend’s first-week orientation program consisted of a 20 minute meeting with their new boss, getting caught in the middle of a spat between the new boss and a retiring employee who was trying to dump work on them, and water cooler talk from another colleague on what a sweatshop the workplace is.  This apparently is what it takes to be a “best place to work” award winner.  Yikes.  Which leads me to this quote from actress Charlotte Rampling in the movie Swimming Pool:

“Awards are like hemorrhoids.  Eventually every arsehole gets one.”

Years ago, I attended a conference where winners of one of those “great places to work” type awards were sharing their strategies.  The big “sell” from the consulting firm that sponsors the award (and do you notice how all awards are “sponsored” by a firm that will invariably benefit from a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch your back” type of arrangement) was the fact that winning an award was a great way to attract talent.  And, what HR person struggling to recruit great talent could resist that pitch?  “Stick our award logo on your job ads and your applicants can double, triple or quadruple!”

Towards the end of the conference, a recently retired VP of HR from a major Canadian retailer got up to share how his company had successfully “won” the award.  In a classic moment that had the conference host squirming in his seat, the VP proceeded to say that winning awards really wasn’t that difficult; that the executive team didn’t really do half the things that they should be doing; and that most of the stuff measured in the survey was irrelevant.  I’ll never forget it. Hilarious.  Oh, and yes… the retailer “happened” to be a large client of the sponsoring firms.

Now, I don’t want to knock everyone who’s won an award out there.  I’m sure there are some legitimate companies on some of these lists who are great places to work; I’m sure that there are some Top 40 Under 40 winners who don’t just happen to work for the “sponsoring” organizations biggest clients; and I’m sure that some of the top leadership award winners aren’t arrogant jerks.  Lots of awards programs are legitimate and do recognize people and organizations that deserve the accolades.  It’s too bad that lots of others don’t.  It takes away from the legitimate winners.  All this makes me think, that as leaders, when it comes to recognition it’s best to be genuine and not political when it comes to handing out your praise.  Everyone can see through political praise and the only one looking like a jerk will be you.

Happy leading!

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