New Jack HR

I confess. New Jack City is one of my favorite movies. I’ve seen it almost 100 times. I know the characters and dialogue and the dialect of the character’s dialogue. I own the DVD with bonus features … Keep reading and don’t judge me.

When the movie was on network cable a couple of weeks ago, something different struck me about it. Looking at it through my HR eyes, I realized the main character, Nino Brown, was a HORRIBLE LEADER and MANAGER!!!

In case you’ve never seen the movie, here’s a brief summary. Nino and his boys, G-Money and the Duh-Duh Man, are drug dealers in New York in the 90s. As the movie opens, they go from selling cocaine to making/selling crack. Their business booms and, before long, they are making tons of money and pretty much running the city.

In order to expand their drug operation, they take over a city housing project. They just seize the whole high-rise building!! It was a really sophisticated operation, with security and office staff and cashiers and crack-packing production workers. It makes you wonder what Nino and his friends could have done if they’d put their smarts to a good use …

But they didn’t. And eventually their operation is infiltrated by a police informant named Pookie. Unfortunately, Pookie was also a rehabilitated crackhead. Being around all those drugs was just too much for him. Pookie starts using again and, while crack’d out at work, his cover gets blown. Nino’s people kill Pookie and destroy all the incriminating evidence in the building.

Then, the staff has to tell Nino what happened. Here’s a clip of how that goes …

{{warning — there is nudity, violence and adult language}}



Horrible right?!?

  • Nino is menacing and intimidating toward the staff. He looms over them and interrogates them with a hostile tone. When G-Money tries to assert himself and explain what happened, Nino threatens to physically assault him. Respect and fear are NOT the same thing. Good managers know the difference.
  • Nino openly criticizes the staff’s performance. He calls them incapable and ineffective. His attempted “pep talk” to G-Money is not to encourage or empower him — it’s to keep him and the others afraid to make any errors or voice a dissenting opinion. Praise in public, correct in private. Always.
  • Nino is unable to accept feedback. His absence as an active manager of the operation clearly contributed to this breakdown. But he was not trying to hear anything that indicated he had anything to do with the problem. Good managers never pawn off responsibility on others. They seek involvement and accountability.

One would think it goes without saying that you shouldn’t treat people at work this way, but the truth is there are “Nino Browns” in workplaces all across the world! Managers who think belittling, embarrassing and bullying employees is the way to get results. Managers who think it is good and even fun to keep employees in fear for their job. Managers who think sarcasm and threats of termination are the appropriate and only way to give feedback.

Well, it’s not ok. And if that’s how you manage people or how you allow people in your organization to be managed, guess what?? You’re not a “New Jack” — you’re a New Jack-Ass!!

“Keeping it real” or being candid and direct with people does NOT equal menacing or rudeness or being flippant. Quite the opposite, actually. It is about providing productive feedback to help the other person improve in order for everyone to successfully reach a common goal. If your motive is anything else, you’re doing it wrong!

Check yourself. Because Nino Brown’s story doesn’t have a happy ending. And yours won’t either.

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  1. Odd choice. New jack City is one of those movies most would not admit to it being on a list of favorites, but a “must see” when it’s on.
    Your observations are right on again, Buzz. Great job!!

    • Buzz Rooney

      December 19, 2011 at 3:14 AM

      It definitely is a guilty pleasure. However, I think the practical wisdom is there. It’s important to stay grounded and in-tune with your business and the people who run it. If you lose that at work, you’ve lost everything!

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