Editor's Notebook, The Last Word

Take it Easy on the Boss; There’s a World to Save

Consider that it’s your bosses, not you, who provide half the country with their health care insurance.

HR, I bet you’ve grown weary of people telling you how to do your job.

I’m not talking about your corporate executives, or IT geeks and their annoying heavy sighs or those eternally optimistic yet preachy internal communications people. No, I’m talking about the know-it-all thought leaders and consultants who have written the hundreds of books scattered around my office. You know, evolve or die, understanding EQ, and how much better off you’ll be building a team of teams (yeah, I don’t get that one either).

As I scroll through my 40,000-plus deleted emails there are strategies for networking success, tips on the “new” workplace-training model and dire warnings that your department will combust if you don’t beef up cybersecurity (OK, I made that up, sort of). If I had the patience to scroll past the first 5,000 or so I’d probably come across best practices in building better mousetraps.

And despite being a decade into it, there’s no shortage of millennial management tricks even though these generationally obsessed experts likely couldn’t get their own millennials to clean their bedrooms no matter how much they assure them they are more than just a cog in the housekeeping wheel. Chalk it up to the lack of a fun, employee-centric, team-like environment around the ol’ homestead.

You didn’t ask, HR; you seldom do. Nonetheless, there is more advice, assistance and admonishments available these days than you can shake a carrot and stick at.

So instead of badgering you with more truly meaningless generational cohort banter, let me offer one little sliver of perspective.

Be grateful you aren’t your boss.

Now I realize that bosses also are on the receiving end of a lot of unsolicited advice.

Unlike you in HR, who really must do it all, from stocking the supply room when Post-it notes run low to assessing the latest iteration of performance review forms (should 1 or 5 indicate strongly agree or strongly disagree?), bosses get an entirely different set of uninvited topics dished out for them.

It’s not only on them to change the workplace, bosses are being told that it’s their duty to reshape the world as well. That’s one heavy load to shoulder.

Take health care, for instance. I have no doubt the vast majority of bosses want to provide a plan that takes care of their workers and their families. It’s a big cost — possibly their largest expense, next to that constantly dwindling supply of Post-its. But we’re far enough down this well-traveled roller-coaster ride that is the government-sponsored health care debate to know that healthy employees make better workers.

And that’s precisely why your boss is being tabbed to enter the fray. Time was, health care was your domain. And in many ways it still is.


Oh boss … save our planet, too.

But consider that it’s the bosses, not you, who provide nearly 170 million people with their health care insurance. That’s half the U.S. population! And there are plenty of people harping on your boss to step up and dictate how health care is funded and delivered.

In addition to calls to fix racial tensions, widen organizational diversity and implement pay equality there’s also a groundswell of support for bosses to be the planet’s caretakers. In the wake of President Trump’s eye-rolling move to join such progressive-minded nations as Nicaragua and Syria in rebuffing the Paris Climate Accord, the chorus of “employers must protect the planet!” has escalated from a whisper to a lung-burning scream.

Your boss is no voice in the wilderness, either. Plenty of corporate captains are tackling that task already. Tesla’s Elon Musk, GE’s outgoing chief Jeff Immelt and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein are committed to, as Apple’s Tim Cook wrote in a memo to his employees, “protect the environment.”

I mean, this is heady stuff. We’re not talking about disrupted supply chains and building organizational agility and resilience here. Solve the nation’s health care woes AND be the earth’s savior at the same time? That’ll have your boss pining for the days when busting unions and skirting ethics laws were their biggest challenges.

Look HR, I know you have a lot on your plate. But take it from someone who’s made a living out of telling people that “you should do fill-in-the-blank:” Go easy on your boss. There’s an ailing health care system to cure and a mighty messy environment that needs saving.

And if you want to hand off a less taxing responsibility, let them select whether 5 or 1 means strongly agree. The diversion will do them good.

Rick Bell is Workforce’s editorial director. Comment below or email him at rbell@workforce.com