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  • Writer's picturePaul LaLonde

#HRMixedTape – My Favorite Albums from 2019 Edition

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” ― Plato


Earlier this year, Steve Browne wrote a blog called #HRMixedTape2019 – HR Edition!

In it, he issued a unique challenge. He wanted HR bloggers to post a “mixed tape” of songs that connect to HR concepts.

I thought this was an awesome challenge, so much so that I wrote TWO posts on the topic!!

Music is a huge part of my life. It’s entertained me, inspired me, motivated me, and saved me. Usually, I do a December post on my Facebook page listing my favorite albums from the year. For 2019, I felt inspired to do another #HRMixTape challenge! I took my five favorite albums from 2019 and linked its themes to HR topics and workplace situations.

So, here’s my #HRMixTape for my favorite albums in 2019!

  1. Amon Amarth – Berserker

HR Lesson: Work so HR isn’t seen as the Viking invader sent to set fire to the village!

Amon Amarth are a melodic death metal band from Sweden. They take their name from the Elvish word for Mt. Doom from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. They are obsessed with Vikings! So much so that every album has a Viking theme. From Odin, to Thor, to pillaging, and war, Amon Amarth sing about all the Viking things!!! And their latest album, Berserker, is no different. The Berserkers were fierce warriors from Norway who were legendary for their fear inspiring brutality. The English word berserk is descended from the Berserkers, who cried and screamed and yelled hellishly as they ran into battle! They feared not pain nor death! Much like the Berserker, HR sometimes puts the fear of God in employees. This is unfortunate. HR should be seen as a force for good in the organization, not the force to fear. Ultimately, employees may not scream in fear as HR walks into the room, but many do hush up or quietly change their tone. It cannot be said enough: HR pros need to work harder than other functions at gaining trust and respect in the workplace. I hope you’re up to the challenge!

Also, on a side note, my favorite thing about Amon Amarth live performances is the tradition of the Viking Boat “row pit.” It’s pretty entertaining and takes some fierce diehard fans to start a row pit!

  1. Killswitch Engage – Atonement

HR Lesson: Be relentlessly positive in the face of adversity!

I previously wrote how influential Killswitch Engage has been on my life. They’re my second favorite band following the mighty Metallica!!! I was so pumped when they released Atonement this year – their first album release in three years. It’s an album about relentless positivity. Songs like “The Signal Fire,” “I Am Broken Too,” and “Take Control” help remind the listener that they are stronger than they know and are not alone in their internal struggles. Positivity isn’t about being naïve or ignoring reality. Positivity is about choosing to notice the good and find the good in the perceived bad. HR professionals are like everyone else, in that, many suffer from “imposter syndrome,” anxiety, stress, depression, etc. Remember, always remember, that you are not alone, you are stronger than you know, and you are competent. Find something good in a bad situation to cling to for strength and guidance.

  1. As I Lay Dying – Shaped By Fire

HR Lesson: Our failures don’t define us because we can always choose to acknowledge them, accept them, and act to rebuild!

As I Lay Dying is one of my favorite bands ever, which is why I was devastated to hear the news of their breaking up in 2013 due to the horrific deeds of the band’s front man. Tim Lambesis tried to hire a hitman, who turned out to be an undercover cop, to murder his estranged wife. It was shocking news, as Lambesis was always well thought of. By all accounts, he was a loving, positive, kind person. It seemed that many of his inner demons and the stress they caused him had him snap in a horrific, unacceptable way. Since that time, Lambesis had served a jail term that he claims saved him. He came to accept his disgusting actions, take responsibility, and try to change the world for the better. He’s been on the record for having stated he cannot erase, nor is he trying to, his sins, but he wants to make amends as much as is possible. He’s since become a certified councilor to assist in jail release/transition programs, done work for supporting mental health nonprofits, and been very open and honest about his past transgressions. He isn’t running, or hiding. Since, he made amends with the band, which reunited and released Shaped By Fire late in 2019. The entire theme of the album is how to rebuild, redefine, and move forward after extreme failure in positive ways.

This is a difficult one to write about. How can we celebrate someone who tried to do something so horrific? Yes, his inner demons got the best of him and made him act in ways counter to his nature, or in ways counter to basic human decency, and there have been plenty of people fighting internal battles who never succumbed in the way Lambesis did. It’s understandable why so many people would balk at showing Lambesis forgiveness. And they’d be in their right to do so, and in some ways justified.

I’d ask, though, what does shunning such people accomplish? Should someone be punished in such ways forever? If the answer is yes, then what’s the point of prison? Isn’t prison meant, in some instances, or many instances, to reform offenders so they can again reenter society as a positive addition? The case of Lambesis seems to support this. The system worked in this instance. He served his time, has taken full responsibility, and is trying to make amends for what he did.

Similarly, isn’t this the point of performance management? To help employees through their struggles towards greater success? HR practitioners need to take a more nuanced approach to performance management, especially the dreaded PIP! I’ve heard too many professionals say the PIP is the last resort. It’s punishment for unacceptable performance up to this point. To me, this is just setting the employee up for failure. Instead, maybe use the PIP earlier in the process, not at the end. We should use it as an intentional coaching moment, an intentional coaching process. A PIP should be the time to guide the employee towards better habits, expectations, and outcomes. IN the end, everyone benefits by this viewpoint and effort. Difficult employees shouldn’t’ be written off, ignored, or terminated willy nilly. People are messy. They make mistakes. Sometimes big ones, that deserve termination. That termination can be a kind move by management that sets up the employee for future success. But termination shouldn’t be the default reaction, which unfortunately is sometimes the case. Ultimately, decisions on performance management should me made in the realm of kindness. What is best and most kind? Only the individual situation can determine that. Be kind in all decision making.

  1. Rammstein – Rammstein

HR Lesson: We may speak different languages, but communication is more than that!

It’s been ten years since the German flamethrowers released new music, and the wait didn’t disappoint! The self-titled album is Rammstein at their purest German industrial metal greatness! For those unfamiliar with Rammstein, they are all about the theatrics! Influenced by German history, they take their cues from classic musicians like Wagner and Beethoven and add a modern hard metal edge to their sound. The result is both epic and beautiful (and other times scary and funny!). And they stay true to themselves by keeping all the lyrics in German! To achieve such worldwide success while not producing their work in English is truly magnificent. And as far as HR is concerned, we should remember that everyone in the work place speaks a different language. Maybe not always literally, but always figuratively. HR practitioners need to learn to be linguaphiles, and learn to speak multiple languages – languages each employee “speaks,” meaning learning styles, work styles, leadership styles, etc. By doing so, we make deeper connections with employees, strengthen relationships, and build a more cohesive business. Learning to “understand” the language of others can help us all appreciate the beauty of individual differences and how they make beautiful music!

Fair Warning: Rammstein are, well, uniquely artistic, so take that in mind before (or if) you watch the video. May not be safe for younger viewers!

  1. Metallica – Helping Hands… Live & Acoustic at the Masonic

HR Lesson: Sometimes reinventing the wheel isn’t necessary; just play the same song a little differently!

Those that follow me or this blog just KNEW I had to get in a Metallica paragraph! What does Metallica have left to do? Probably nothing! However, don’t tell them that. Earlier this year, they recorded an all acoustic set of some of their most classic songs (and some original covers). The proceeds from the live show and subsequent record release went to support their “All Within My Hands” charity, which its mission is helping various causes around the California Bay Area. The live recordings are unique takes on some really good music written by the band years prior. I think many times HR professionals try to seek new answers to questions that have already been asked! Sometimes, we need to seek the old answers to these questions. Sometimes, the answer is easier than we make it. Need a new form? Well, ask, do I REALLY need a form? Can this be answered without adding bureaucracy? And if the answer is still “I need a new form,” ask your peers if they’ll share a form with you! Take that form and tweak it so it fits your specific business needs. This is just a small example we’ve all likely done, but a lot of times the music has already been written. It’s up to us to reinterpret and cover it in a different way.

Message from Paul: Thank you for reading! Thoughts, views and opinions on this site are solely my own and do not represent those of my employer or any other entity ​with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated.

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