Anyone that hasn’t yet seen last Sunday’s Game of Thrones won’t want to read any further (because I’m spoiling the heck out of it in this post).
1. In which case I’m questioning how much of this post will be totally lost on you to be quite honest. If, however, you already saw last episode (or don’t care about the show 1) feel free to read on.
As many of you know, Robb Stark (and his mother, wife, unborn child, 2. Ha! bannermen, and presumably hopes of winning the game for the throne 2) were killed off this Sunday due to a treacherous betrayal at the hands of Walder Frey (Tywin Lannister was of course also involved).
The thing is, as I was watching the entire “red wedding” scene unfold I couldn’t help but think of all the blatant disregard for HR best practice that had led to that moment. If Robb had only gotten either a Master of Human Resources and Industrial Relations, PHR, SPHR, or even just spent a few months supporting a unionized workforce before trying to become King of Westeros this would never *ever* have happened.
Allow me to explain three things every HR professional knows that Robb clearly did not (which ultimately led to his untimely demise):
1. Follow the contract!
How much of this could have been avoided if Robb Stark had simply followed through on his agreement to marry Roslin Frey? By not marrying Roslin (instead breaking his oath and marrying another woman), he destroyed an alliance with Lord Walder Frey that was his best chance at winning the war.
Similarly, not following a labor agreement can have disastrous consequences for an HR professional. In addition to costing the company money (contractual violations on the part of employers are almost always overturned upon grievance or arbitration along with some sort of restitution), violations of the labor agreement also damage the relationship with the bargaining unit. If they can’t trust you to stick to a good faith agreement that you swore to abide by then how can they trust you with anything at all?
If you want the latitude to avoid adhering to an untenable contract then make sure you negotiate in a good management rights clause. But for the love of the old gods, don’t sign a contract and then break it the first time you’re faced with a more enticing alternative. Frankly, you should have weighed your options before you signed a binding agreement.
2. Consider the consequences before administering a discipline.
3. In case you’ve forgotten what lead to the unforgettable beheading above, Lord Karstark killed two innocent boys distantly related to Jaime Lannister as revenge for his two son’s deaths . When Robb killed Lord Rickard Karstark for committing treason against him 3 he lost half his army in the process. The Karstark army abandoned Robb for killing their head of house, which forced him into trying to repair his alliance with Lord Walder Frey (whom Robb had earlier offended by breaking his vow to marry one of Frey’s daughters). Frey claimed revenge for that offense by betraying Robb; slaughtering he and his whole clan in a bloody wedding after party.
To this point, a good HR professional knows that sometimes administering a discipline is more trouble than it’s worth. Occasionally, giving a slap on the wrist where a hatchet is warranted may be the best long term move. Picking one’s battles is an essential skill in the HR toolkit.
It doesn’t matter that Robb may have been in the right to execute Lord Karstark for treason – the consequences of that action were too great for him to take it. Karstark’s behavior was inconsequential in the larger scheme of things, and in losing sight of that Robb lost everything.
The only HR mistake worse than the above two errors on Rob’s part was failing to:
3. Recognize a bad candidate / hire.
It wasn’t that hard to tell that Walder Frey was a bad person to get involved with just from looking at him.
With that said, even if one wanted to give him a fair shot and not judge the book by its cover, this is a guy that obviously has trouble with commitment. He has had eight wives, and seems to have a bit of a temper.
Robb’s obvious inability to recognize less than exemplary qualities in a hire (because really, that’s what the arranged marriage between Roslin / Robb and then later Roslin / Edmure was about) is something that any decent HR pro develops the ability to do early in his or her career.
…Of course, Robb can take heart in the fact that even if he hadn’t been killed by Lord Frey, his days were probably numbered anyway.
No one is safe on this show. The actor that plays Robb even said as much.
Ergo, I’m sure other characters that fail to follow HR best practices in their politicking and deal-making will be sharing a similar fate soon enough…
As always, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.
If you have questions about something you’ve read here (or simply want to connect) you can reach me at any of the following addresses:
SomethingDifferentHR@gmail.com OR firstname.lastname@example.org