How Much Can We Really Demand of the People We Hire?

A few weeks ago I interviewed for a job there was no way in hell I’d ever get.

Of course, that fact wasn’t apparent to me at first. But by the second interview, it became very clear the CEO and I wouldn’t be charging off into the sunset and living happily ever after.

You see, she wanted a lover, but I’d vowed to remain chaste until I was certain I’d found The One.

Oh well.

The Age of Instant Everything

We live in an age of instant everything, including instant intimacy. Yesterday I had no idea you existed. Today we’re sharing posts on Facebook, or connecting via LinkedIn, or favoring each other’s Tweets on Twitter.

In the non-virtual realm, we have “friends with benefits,” and we “hook up” as the mood strikes. It’s closeness attained quickly and cheaply, and we seem to believe there’s value in it.

If you’re wondering what all this has to do with the workplace, I have a better question …

How could it not?

Work doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Instead, workplace dynamics are a reflection of the larger societal mores.

Should you give unwavering allegiance?

So back to my job interview.

Things were going OK until the CEO began insisting she couldn’t hire anyone who didn’t have an unwavering allegiance to the organization’s mission.

Well that sounds reasonable and perhaps even admirable — until you think about it for a minute.

  • First, let’s be clear. The word “mission” was code for “us and everything we stand for.
  • Second, on the basis of what exactly, should a brand new employee, let alone a damn job candidate, make that pledge?

Now hear me, please. I’m not saying employees shouldn’t professionally — even faithfully — represent their organizations, or that they shouldn’t diligently execute their job duties. In my book, high competence is a non-negotiable work qualification.

But, something was off here.

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We need to get to know each other first

In this CEO’s mind, apparently, it’s not enough for employees to conscientiously lend their skills, talent, time, and energy to the organization’s cause. Instead, and from BEFORE the gate even, workers better have the same motivations she does, or at the very least (and I don’t know what’s worse) they better be gosh darn willing to pretend they do.

(How’s this for irony? During the interview I was asked why I thought the organization was having difficulty finding diverse candidates. Well, duh.)

Here’s the thing: If that CEO wants to make her work her god, that’s her business. Call me crazy, call me naïve, call me whatever you want, but I happen to believe that why I do what I do is my business.

This CEO’s passion might be the mission, mine might be the people who are passionate about the mission. I’m hard pressed to understand why anyone should feel entitled to decide that for me.

But that’s not even my main point. My main point is — why do we have to settle on this today? Why can’t we take our time and get to know each other before declaring our undying love? Where’s the fire?

I gotta be honest. The CEO’s demand felt like a boundary violation. It felt like she wanted something from me she had no right to want. It felt like I was being expected to proffer her instant intimacy, when really, we just didn’t know each other like that.

Relationships need a little time to flourish

Listen, I don’t begrudge the CEO the autonomy to set whatever standard she deems appropriate for new hires. I simply think the standard is stupid and kind of whorish.

Come on Ms. CEO; let’s slow it down a bit. I’m sure that if you’re as wonderful as you say you are, I’ll grow to adore you in time. And make no mistake: If there’s anything relationships need to flourish it’s time.

Because let’s be honest —  instant intimacy has its limits.

Crystal Spraggins, SPHR, is an HR consultant and freelance writer who lives in Philadelphia. She also writes at her blog, HR BlogVOCATE. For the past 15 years, Crystal has focused on building HR departments in small- to mid-sized companies under the philosophy that "HR is not for wimps." She is also the CEO and Founder of Work It Out! and partners with HRCVision, a full-service HR consultant practice specializing in leadership and diversity training. Contact her at crs036@aim.com.

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