Alright, you may ask what does being placed at table 19 mean. Well, it is a metaphor taken from the Movie “Table 19”. The table is a place for folks invited to a wedding or any type of celebration, and the hosts don’t know where to place them. Some might even say the folks placed at this table are unwanted guests, who were obligated to be invited and in many cases with the hope they say no.
Today’s quip is that I may have hit a first in the talent space and it relates to a table 19 experience. It is a byproduct of a major corporation screwing up, so just stay with me for a moment….Now we are all accustomed to the automated rejection letters generated to candidates from our ATS systems, but a well-known HR software provider has hit a new low–disinviting me to a workshop/networking event for senior HR executives. This is after they first sent me a solicitation, had a project executive call and chat with me, and finally sent me some electronic collateral on their new products and services.
And then on Thanksgiving eve, I receive the “rejection notification” or dis-invitation to the event.
Here’s a snippet of that email:
As part of our event management process, we always review each registration to ensure that every attendee will find value in the event based on the goals and content we’ll be showcasing. After reviewing your registration, we’ve determined that this specific event does not seem like an appropriate fit for you at the time.
Our goal is to be mindful of your time and ensure we are hosting you at an event that will provide the most value to your needs.
So, as you can read, this talent software provider knows what’s good for me without even asking???
Now I know I am not so important that this sounds monumental, but we have to ask the question: How many folks have they done this to? We also know most folks who get “dissed” just walk away.
For those of you who know me, this was not ignored, and unfortunately, I expressed my disgust, and then reminded them of my background. I went on to point out I am currently working with two of the largest public utilities in the United States, that just might want my perspective on HR software, especially software I have used in the past… and I almost forgot– I then mentioned that I write for some of the most significant talent blogs in the country, this being one of them. Finally, I proceeded to send the response and cc’d their CEO, President, and head of Marketing.
You can imagine the embarrassment on the receiving end of my tongue lashing. Dawn Burke might need to sit me down to reiterate the importance of being nice or not clicking send, however, I was pissed, and the off switch was now broken.
Remember: I am the HR guy with an “attitude” and this was completely on display.
So, within a couple hours, I got the mea culpa email back.
The marketing manager responsible for pulling my invitation took full accountability. However, she made two mistakes that we should all learn from when you own something.
First, she blamed it in part on their automated processes:
I hope you can appreciate that sometimes our automated processes don’t always work out the way we intend and that you are still open to continuing a partnership with [provider name redacted] in the future.
And then she flippantly re-invited me in a backhanded way:
All of this said, I completely understand if you no longer would like to attend the event, but we would be very happy to have you, if you’re still interested.
Being invited to sit at table 19 and being told you are being assigned to that proverbial table is certainly not something any of you would want to happen. Especially when it’s been made clear that’s going to be your seat assignment…
I was actually thinking of still going, if for no other reason than to have a face to face with the software provider’s folks about using AI versus knowing when to have human intervention in communication.
Think about this for a minute, they have taken using AI to a new low. They looked at my background (or maybe they didn’t) and determined I didn’t fit some algorithm used to determine qualified senior-level HR prospects. Their software, which with full disclosure I have used as the head of HR and Talent at Success Academy Charter schools, is actually very good. But we never left it up to the software to make human decisions at my former organization.
What is especially concerning is they determined for me if it was a good fit. SO why did they invite me in the first place? Is their technology flawed, or are they mass mailing and editing out based on their desires? Or maybe they were overbooked and I got the boot like United Airlines used to do before the Chicago incident with the doctor.
Either way, this was a humbling experience for me…and I am sure that well-known software provider will be re-evaluating how they market in the future so maybe something good came of this.
Just not for me.
I hate being the guinea pig, but someone must be–like a drug company trial for talent executives.
For the talent folks reading FOT, this is a real-life lesson in relying too much on your software. Sometimes a little personal involvement is worth it when dealing with real people.
Here is my take:
Never place anyone at table 19. If there unwanted, don’t invite them and if you do, make them feel as important to your reception or meeting as every other guest….maybe that’s why I like buffets with open seating!
Happy Holidays and New Year to all!!!
Mark Fogel is best known for his HR with an Attitude. His background includes almost a decade and a half as CHRO at Leviton Mfg., The Marcum Group, and The Success Academy Charter School Network, as well as co-founding Human Capital 3.0, a boutique HR advisory firm. Mark has been honored by SHRM nationally as their Human Capital Leader of the Year in 2007, and by HR Executive Magazine as an Honor Roll recipient in 2010 and “Best HR Ideas” in 2012. His HR teams have garnished numerous national and local awards for HR innovation, wellness, and employee engagement. Mark speaks regularly at national conferences. He is also an Adjunct Professor at Adelphi’s Graduate School of Business.