Donald Trump in HR? A survey

If you could be the presidential candidate for a day, how would you change your organization’s workplace polices?


Illustration by Jim Reidy

In the first-in-the-nation primary state, Granite Staters have been introduced to many truly interesting people who were seeking their party’s nomination for the highest office in the land. This year is no different, with two fields of very different but each certainly talented and, in their own way, qualified candidates.

One such candidate is New York businessman Donald Trump. Love him or not, The Donald, is a bigger-than-life character.

There is no doubt that Trump is a successful businessperson, a skilled negotiator, self-promoter and strategist. He certainly gets your attention with his sometimes controversial statements. He also has his own way of responding to criticism. He’s adept at the use of traditional and social media. Some say he says what others wish they could say. Still others say he says things to shock people so the cameras stay on him allowing him pursue his agenda. Many secretly envy his swagger, or at least his unabashed damn-the-torpedoes-full-speed-ahead way of getting things done.

But this isn’t a commentary on Trump’s character, policies, past positions, statements or candidacy. Instead, this is an exercise for human resources professionals to project what they would do, in their organizations, if they could be Donald Trump for a day.

The application to HR needs to be explained a bit. It is because people in that position/profession are often constrained by workplace laws, regulations and policies, not to mention the hierarchy above them in their organizations.

Yes, HR professionals are often in a box. They have to create or foster a culture that helps recruit, train, coach and retain employees to be the best they can be while at the same time they also have to create or enforce policies to comply with workplace rules and applicable laws. In short, HR professionals rarely feel like they can speak freely or do what they want to do.

That is why we surveyed several HR groups and asked “If you could be Donald Trump for a day, how would you change HR policies and handle employee issues in your organization? After a promise of anonymity, the floodgates opened up and responses came cascading in. The responses ranged from the serious to the sublime. Here are some of the more noteworthy answers:

 • “I would recognize high performers with something more than a ‘Hey, good job’ (due to current policy everyone gets the same percentage raise each year, whether or not you are a star or just show up from time to time).”

 • “I would simplify performance evaluations and rate employees from: #1. Tremendous, #2 Pretty Amazing, #3 Sort of Terrific, #4 Nice but Kinda Stupid or #5 You’re fired!”

 • “I would put an artisanal coffee shop in the cafeteria; nothing but the best for my people ( plus I need really caffeinated workers).”

 • “I’d be a true equal opportunity employer: amaze me or you’re out!”

 • “I would conduct a bullying class by saying, ‘Do as I say, not as I do … actually don’t do either.’”

 • “I’d eliminate ‘stupid’ policies created by my predecessors and renegotiate new contracts.”

 • “I’d open offices in Russia and China, maybe Mexico, because apparently those people love me.”

 • “I would get rid of anti-nepotism polices because some of my best employees are my relatives.”

 • “I’d respond to employee whining with a squint, a scowl and then shout ‘Go on get outta here!’”

 • “For once I would be brutally honest and tell people what I think (I would also have my resume ready for the next day).”

 • “I would make my company great again!”

 • “Our Handbook would be simple, just one policy: ‘Do your job really, really well and we will take care of you.’”

 • “There would be no more casual Fridays ‘This is a business, dress like you are serious.’”

• “I wouldn’t write anything down so I could change policies as the mood suits me.”

 • “For once I’d have a nice office instead of this crappy cubicle.”

 • “I’d build a wall on the border with Massachusetts to keep those people out. They are horrible drivers, really, horrible….”

Reports in from those who responded to this survey confirm that the participants felt like this exercise was fun and freeing. They also said that while the power and unfettered discretion was appealing, in practice they preferred the safer, more structured and, yes, more civil or gentler existence of an HR professional.

One said, “I’d leave the being Donald Trump to him, he does it best.”

Attorney Jim Reidy is chair of the Labor and Employment Group at Sheehan Phinney, moderator of NHLABORNET, and a guy who secretly would like to appear on “The Apprentice” one day.

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