HR Drinking Games

Andy Porter Andy Porter, Audacious Ideas, HR (& Life!) Advice, Metrics, Performance

This past weekend I did something I haven’t done in a long time— I played a drinking game.  You remember drinking games, right?  It’s when a bunch of twenty-somethings get together and make up ridiculous games with ridiculous rules as a way to make binge drinking seem like it’s okay.  As you would expect, drinking games aren’t kind to guys in their late thirties, and I paid the price for my shenanigans the next day.  But through the haze of reliving my poor choices from the night before, I realized something (aside from I’m too old for this): What if we could use a drinking game to help shape our HR strategy? (further proof I’m too old for this).

My game of choice is Would You Rather.  The game goes something like this (according to Wikipedia):

“Would You Rather” is a game that poses a dilemma in the form of a question beginning with “would you rather.” The dilemma can be between two supposedly good options, such as, “Would you rather have the power of flight or the power of invisibility?”, or it can be between two supposedly bad options, as in, “Would you rather sleep with your best friend’s lover or your lover’s best friend?”  Answering “neither” or “both” is against the rules. This leads the players to debate their rationales.

Let’s play a game of HR Would You Rather!

1. Would you rather promote a technical star who is incredibly productive but is a real jerk and causes people on your team to quit, or fire the average-to-below-average person who is the glue that holds your team culture together?

My Answer:  This game is hard!  I’d have to fire the average-to-below-average person.  Not ideal but at the end of the day it’s about delivering on goals and performing, and the jerk performs so I’ll promote him.  It’s going to make my life more difficult as a manager, but I’ll have to build a team that can work effectively with this guy.

2. Would you rather hit your time-to-hire metric and hire the person who is ready to start work now but only has 50% of what you were initially looking for or blow your time-to-hire stats, wait 3 months and hire a person who has 90% of what you’re looking for?

My Answer:  I’d blow my time-to-hire metrics.  Yes, this might make me look bad, but in the long run it’s better for the organization to wait a little while longer for the right person who has a better chance for long-term success.

3. Would you rather give a large raise to one (very deserving) person on your team at the expense of the rest of the team members getting any raise or split the raise evenly amongst the team and risk losing the star?

My Answer:  I’d give the large raise to one person.  Again, it comes back to performance.  If this person is really deserving and has delivered it should be (hopefully) obvious to everyone else on the team.  They may not like the decision but they should understand the rationale.

4. Would you rather put an employee on a performance improvement plan that had a low probability of success but provided you with documentation for termination or have an honest conversation with them about where they stand and let them go without great documentation?

My Answer:  I’d go the honest conversation route.  Yes, it might be more risky for the organization to terminate someone without documentation, but that feels a lot better to me than giving someone a false sense of hope.

5. Would you rather have a formal time off policy that 99% of the company finds overly administrative but catches the 1% of people who abuse it or a system that 1% of employees abuse and get away with it but the other 99% doesn’t abuse and finds less burdensome?

My Answer:  I’m ok with 1% abusing the system and getting away with it.  My gut tells me that if someone is abusing time off they’re probably not a stellar performer anyway.  We’ll find other ways to deal with this person.

So there you have it.  My answers to the HR version of Would You Rather.  What are your answers?  What questions would you add?

Andy Porter
Andy Porter is Chief People Officer at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge, MA which means he works with some wicked smaaht people. Some days, he indeed does wear short shorts around the office(call it a morale booster) but it really just makes people uncomfortable. Other days, he spits some mad game on cheese. No really – he’s somewhat of a cheese aficionado. But more importantly? At Broad he gets to his small part to help change the world of healthcare.