Talent Management Gone Wrong: The Rest of the Story

by Carol Anderson, Featured Contributor

IN MAY, I posted a story of a young man who had been identified by a Fortune 100 firm as a high potential and placed into a leadership development program to prepare for the possibility of promotion into the executive ranks.

The story was unfinished, as a month after his Director left the organization and the young man had been appointed as tombstone_message_11293interim Director, the VP told him that they were considering outsourcing the position. The young man was disappointed, but he was determined to show the organization that he could handle the position as interim, on the chance that they decided to keep it in-house.

I described this process as “talent management gone wrong.”

The comments on the post were interesting. Some chastised the young man for thinking that he was a slam dunk for the position. I never said he thought that, but he did have every reason to think his chances were good. Others agreed that the system had failed.

The original story occurred in April and May of this year. It is now early September. In the time between, the organization did decide to post the job, although they never did take outsourcing off the table. The young man posted for the job, and started the interview process. The process, including multiple panel interviews, took three months.

After the interviews were concluded, he was told that they were going to reopen the position to add additional candidates to the process.  They also decided to split the Director position into two positions – one responsible for engineering, and the other responsible for operations.

He went on a planned vacation. On return, he learned that one of his peers had been promoted to Director of Engineering. That was Tuesday. It is Friday. On Tuesday he asked his VP if he could talk with him to understand the decision, and what options there were for him. The VP told him that he would try to find time before he left for out of town. As of midday Friday, there was no conversation.

As a human resource professional, there are several hypotheses I could make.

Perhaps the Director who left was not a high potential, so the young man hitched his horses to the wrong wagon?

Perhaps his work as Interim Director was not what they expected of the new Director?

Perhaps the Director who was promoted was the right person for the job?

Perhaps they just didn’t believe that the young man was ready?

This is a venerated Fortune 100 organization that has received awards as “top 100 companies to work for” and “world’s most admired companies.”  Their website promises trust and reliability, and holding to the highest ethical standards.”

In my May post, I put much of the blame into the system – that it had failed this young man – and I suggested a few concepts that could help ensure something like this didn’t happen in the future.

I’m beyond suggestions right now. The only conclusion I can draw is that the VP is a coward who is too afraid, for whatever reason, to have an open and honest conversation with the young man.

How can an organization as revered as this allow a leader to be so cowardly?  I guess trust and reliability, and ethical standards are simply “words on the wall.”

That’s a shame.  I don’t even have any suggestions. I sense that they would fall on deaf ears.

Hang on…let’s throw out this concept. Teach leaders to lead and hold them accountable for leading. What do you think?

We wonder why employees aren’t engaged? Would it make sense to communicate honestly with them?

Editor’s Note: This Article was originally published on atheintersection and is featured here with permission.


Carol Anderson
Carol Anderson
CAROL is the founder and Principal of Anderson Performance Partners, LLC, a business consultancy focused on bringing together organizational leaders to unite all aspects of the business – CEO, CFO, HR – to build, implement and evaluate a workforce alignment strategy. With over 35 years of executive leadership, she brings a unique lens and proven methodologies to help CEOs demand performance from HR and to develop the capability of HR to deliver business results by aligning the workforce to the strategy. She is the author of Leading an HR Transformation, published by the Society for Human Resource Management in 2018, which provides a practical RoadMap for human resource professionals to lead the process of aligning the workforce to the business strategy, and deliver results, and writes regularly for several business publications.

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  1. This situation is an absolute shame and never should have happened. Where was the TM professional who should have been monitoring this situation and working with the VP to give the high potential individual an honest answer in a timely manner???

  2. Ken, after many, many years in HR, I conclude that it isn’t only at the mega-companies where things like this occur, although I agree that the infrastructure they have to establish to protect themselves actually discourages good leadership. But I’ve seen the loss of truth, honesty, and fair play absent at organizations of all sizes. It’s too bad, because it doesn’t have to be that way.

  3. Carol, I too know of a situation like you describe. It is almost identical.

    In watching this unfold I have come to the conclusion that these mega companies have become so structured, with so many rules about posting and levels of approval, etc that they have lost any concept of truth, honesty, fair play, and other leadership requirements. Executives hide behind HR and rules to protect themselves.

    I once worked for one of these mega companies. I hated it. The political scene ruled. I saw the best talent squashed by people that felt threatened by it. Survival and promotion was largely dominated by who you “kissed up to”.