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How to handle working with a personality like Donald Trump

HR News |  01/12/2016
Donald Trump has just been elected the next president of the US, but he did it in controversial fashion. During his campaign, he managed to offend a number of different groups of people on the grounds of religion, race and gender.

He’s not the only person who HR managers might be concerned about, though. Many companies have chief executives or other high-profile officers who make potentially libellous or otherwise damaging statements.

So what are the things HR heads should be aware of when dealing with a colleague or boss in Mr Trump’s mould? Is working with someone like him the ultimate HR challenge?

Recruitment process

One of the biggest challenges of working with a ‘loose cannon’ is the recruitment process. Certain people and the comments they make might garner a great deal of press attention, which means that when their companies begin looking to hire new workers, they may experience difficulties.

The risk of not being able to hire the best people for the job becomes very real when a company is headed by someone that many find disagreeable. Some applicants may apply for a job on the grounds of the description but hesitate when they find out what company it’s for.

This can also be seen in certain industries. Some companies struggle to fill vacancies because of the sectors they operate in. This could be in areas that have fallen out of favour, such as the gambling industry.

However, the right recruiter can ensure that the perfect candidate is placed in the company, even if there are challenges.

What to be aware of

There are managing directors or chief executives who might make a comment that may seem damaging to someone else. When this happens, there are legal aspects to take into account.

HR managers are aware of employment law. There are certain aspects of these laws that they may need to brush up on when dealing with a potentially ‘reckless’ company head.

If the boss in question is known for making discriminatory comments towards certain people, this should be focused on. Everyone around him or her should be made aware of what constitutes unlawful discrimination. And if they are known for engaging in risque behaviour in their private lives, it will pay to look at whether there are any legalities around that.

HR managers should also be aware of how this person’s actions might affect those in the company who deal with customers on a daily basis. For example, contact centre staff may not know the executive personally but clients could demand explanations about their behaviour.

If the boss’ behaviour impacts on staff morale or the company’s reputation in the eyes of customers, this affects the HR manager.

The exodus

There have been notable examples of a new chief coming into a company and seemingly turning it into a ghost town. When a company makes the decision to hire a divisive candidate, there could be casualties in the form of mass resignations.

One of the most significant recent cases was that of Yahoo hiring Marissa Mayer. She had previously worked at Google and had a good reputation. However, when she started at Yahoo, she seemed to change the culture of the company. And a huge number of people were not happy about it, leaving en masse.

Ms Mayer couldn’t keep some of the company’s most important people, including head of HR Jackie Reses. When Ms Reses and other top-level executives departed, Ms Mayer used the press to claim that they had been the result of “careful planning,” adding that her leadership team was “unequivocally the strongest during my tenure”.

However, she was criticised for her comments, with some saying it was a lie.

When someone like Ms Mayer is brought on board, HR managers face a challenge to keep other employees happy. The resulting resignations could negatively impact the company’s image and potentially dent the reliability of the firm going forward. It is something that HR managers will know they have to be careful of.

Are there advantages?

Having a leader like Donald Trump might cause worry amongst the HR department but it is possible that advantages might be gained.

Mr Trump’s businesses have been hugely successful, turning him into a billionaire. So are there advantages of having a boss like Mr Trump who knows what he wants and is not afraid to make that known?

Transparency is one typical advantage of a chief executive who is open about their intentions. There will be few employees or stakeholders who are unaware of what is happening when someone like Mr Trump is at the helm.

When a boss is vocal in their demands, they also tend to get things done. Some of the biggest companies in the world have ‘celebrity bosses’ who are known for their personalities and their often uncompromising methods.

Michael O’Leary, chief executive of low-cost airline Ryanair, has caused controversy with a number of his comments. However, his company has gone from strength to strength - earning €1.2 billion (£1 billion) in 2016 - and this year he joined an exclusive list of Irish billionaires.

So when it comes to working with challenging people, HR managers can certainly face challenges. It is up to them to ensure they are prepared for what it could mean.ADNFCR-1914-ID-801829269-ADNFCR
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