CategoryWorkplace Bullying

Mean Muggin HR

A few months ago, my staff bought me this coffee mug as a token of appreciation.

I used it with pride and thought it encapsulated my brand of sassy pretty well.

When my son saw it, he asked “Are you going to take that to your new job?”


“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”


“Well, it’s not very nice. People won’t want to play with you if they think you’re a know-it-all. Nobody likes a know-it-all.”


HR has the reputation for being the Know-It-Alls of our organizations. We often make others feel like we’re the only ones who can do stuff right the first time. We second-guess and hyper-criticize the handling of issues. We huff and puff about how things wouldn’t have gotten so messy if we’d handled it from the outset … Sometimes, these things are true and necessary to say.

Other times, we’re just mean muggin.

According to the urban dictionary, “mean muggin” someone is to look at them harshly in effort to make them feel small, stupid and/or intimidated. It is a type of bullying.

And HR is guilty of mean muggin!! (Not to be confused with the Blank Stare, by the way. Read more about that HERE)

Because so many HR pros are not comfortable with their place in the organizational space, they assert and insert themselves into things to try to establish and prove their importance. A lot of organizations and managers fall for it. They let themselves get fooled into thinking HR is the only one who can or should handle things like payroll, benefits, compensation, compliance, training, employee relations and on and on … But in the end, it usually backfires because HR either isn’t properly trained or isn’t properly staffed to handle all of this alone. We end up bogged down in administrivial things (yes, I made that word up) and can’t ever get to the higher level, strategic projects that really add value to our organizations.

Stop the mean muggin HR!!!

HR has to stop being afraid to share our knowledge with others. We are responsible to teach other departments and managers how to handle “stuff” because it all effects the people — and the people belong to everyone, not just HR. We do ourselves, our profession and our organization a great disservice by tricking everyone into thinking they can’t and shouldn’t know or understand this “stuff.”

As for my mean mug, I am still drinking out of it … until Santa brings me a new one. In the meanwhile, I see it as a reminder of the HR lady that I do not want to ever become.

Everything I Know About HR, I Learned From Darth Vader

Anyone who pretends to know anything about Star Wars knows that Darth Vader is the scariest, most powerful and most memorable villain in cinema history! Who else can make his enemies wet their pants at the mere sound of his breathing pattern? Who else can choke the crap of an underperforming employee from another room without physically laying a finger on the dude? Vader is awesome — but more than that, he is a very complex character.

Yes folks, you think you know Darth Vader but you have no idea.

He’s a man looking for love, people! If it’s one thing we’ve learned from the 2nd trilogy in the saga, it’s that everything Vader loved was taken from him — his mom, his lady, his kids and they even tried to withhold that promotion to Jedi-Knight (that really pissed him off). He had some serious work-life balance issues.

Here’s what you can learn from Darth Vader…


  1. Choke employees with your hands — or the force. Violence and murder don’t end well in this galaxy.
  2. Let the distractions of your home and personal life cloud your judgment at work. Just because you’re not happy doesn’t mean you should try to rule over the galaxy — or your employees.
  3. Manage your employees with fear and oppressive tactics. Your team will rebel against you and eventually get your legs and arms chopped off and put on a ventilator  (Seriously folks, all dictators die)



  1. Think strategically and move swiftly. Vader didn’t play around — if someone disobeyed a direct order, he terminated them. Now you should not TERMINATE, terminate them — but sometimes we tend to want to build solid cases before we let an employee go and it just gets to be ridiculous.  If you have an employee that doesn’t do what you need them to do … pull out your light saber.
  2. Be passionate about your cause. You’ve got it to give the man/machine, he believed in his cause and he dedicated most of his life to it.
  3. Let love win. Darth Vader eventually wanted to be loved, and Luke showed him love. HR wants to be loved (appreciated) and often times we’re not. So when you’re at work and you’re in a sour mood, remember to search your feelings and don’t be seduced by the dark side.
  4. Use the force. Now in the movie the force was an ancient religion that allowed the Jedi to do amazing things. Part of using the force is trusting your instincts and believing in your ability. You’ve got this. Nuff said.

Follow these steps and, in the end, you’ll be a bad-ass HR professional that the people will eventually cheer for!


This post was written by Chris Fields. Chris is an HR professional and leadership guy who blogs at Cost of Work.   And he’s been a guest here a couple times before (Read those posts here and here).

Chris is my BFF — blogger friend forever! He is a great sounding-board, constant support and encourager, and all-around ride-or-die dude … I will finally get to meet IRL and hang out with him in 3 weeks at the Illinois SHRM Conference. And that is just another reason the event is going to be epic!

Contact Chris via email at And he’s known on the Twitters as @new_resource.


Don’t miss any of the posts in the “Star Wars” series:

Is It Your Business … Or Your Busy-Ness?

Matt was the new supervisor of the A/P department where Jenna had worked for the last 7 years. He was hired after the former supervisor retired. I always believed Jenna wanted the position — but she didn’t apply when it was posted so she was never considered.

Matt worked hard to try to understand innerworkings of the department and our organization’s culture. To gain more knowledge and understanding of who we were paying, when we were paying and how much we were paying, Matt required his approval on every invoice and every check before it was sent out. He also required auditing of the invoices and checks much more closely and regularly than what had been done by his predecessor.

Jenna didn’t like it. She felt like the approval and audit requirements were slowing everyone down. She brought her concerns to the attention of the Director of Finance, who told her that he would look into it. She said he never followed up with her and the requirements didn’t change, so Jenna brought her concerns to me.

I went to the Director to found out why he didn’t look into Jenna’s concerns. He said that he did. And he said he told Jenna that he’d looked into the issue but did not see the need to make changes. He said the new process slowed things down some but didn’t delay payments going out by more than a couple days. He also said the additional auditing was a good idea that he anticipated would save some money in the long-run. For due diligence, I asked him to walk me through these changes so I could be confident in what was happening and put Jenna’s concerns to rest.

Jenna didn’t feel at rest.

What’s the point in telling anyone about things when they aren’t going to fix it?? I am trying to be a concerned and conscientious employee! No one wants to listen to me! I guess I will just not care like everyone else around here.

Jenna made the classic mistake of confusing business with busy-ness. She thought she was being concerned and conscientious when she was really insolent and meddlesome. Jenna was on the path to becoming insubordinate … unmanageable … and eventually unemployed.

Nowadays, the line between conscientious and insubordination has become thin. The area between encouraging employees to speak candidly versus courting contemptousness has become very grey. I experienced this first hand not long ago (Read about it). It is hard sometimes to know when and how to address this.

  • If the action undermines someone’s authority or the integrity of a process for personal comfort/gain, it is NOT business — it’s busy-ness
  • If the action causes disruption to the flow of work for personal comfort/gain, it is NOT business — it’s busy-ness
  • If the action causes the discomfort of others for personal comfort/gain, it is NOT business — it’s busy-ness.

Work should be about the work. We all show up every day to complete tasks in order to advance the mission, vision, values, goals, strategies, etc of whatever business we serve. Anything that doesn’t seek to advance these things is NOT business — it’s busy-ness!

Busy-ness, gossip, insolence, meddling, negative talk and other kinds of passive-agressive behaviors are insubordinate. They may not be belligerent or flagrant, but they are still insubordinate. In fact, the subtlety makes these MORE dangerous than the blatant kinds of disobedience. We must identify and address these behaviors head on!

Which is exactly what I did with Jenna. I reminded her that addressing and looking into concerns does not equal changing things to be how she wanted. There is more than one way to manage a function — she didn’t need to like it or agree with it to comply. And I let her know that failure to comply or any further disruption could result in disciplinary action against her.

Last I heard, Jenna was still working there and Matt was still her manager. He was no longer approving every invoice and check — but the audits were still in place and had saved the company almost $100,000 total.

Now THAT’S what I call handling your business!

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.

© 2016 The Buzz on HR

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑