On Baseball, Long Hair, Married Priests, HR, and the “Department of No”
by Bill Catlette
The sports press was abuzz this week about something that didn’t involve balls, strikes, birdies, or 3-pointers. Rather, it was about hair, specifically the prolific red locks belonging to NY Yankees rookie Center Fielder prospect, Clint Frazier.
Since something like forever, the Yankees have maintained a strict personal appearance policy that prohibits players from wearing long’ish (below the collar) hair or beards. It’s about pride and professionalism, the “Yankee way” as they call it. It seems that, whereas Mr. Frazier had gotten the memo, he hadn’t gotten the message, prompting some ah hem coaching from team owner, Jennifer Steinbrenner, coach, Joe Girardi, even former Hall of Famer, Reggie Jackson, who still works for the team. Message received… According to Mr. Frazier, “Just after thinking to myself and talking to a few people, I finally came to the agreement that it’s time to look like everybody else around here.” Crisis averted, maybe.
A world away, Pope Francis allowed that maybe, just maybe, the Catholic church might be open to ordaining married men as priests. I don’t know whether that’s a white smoke or black smoke signal coming from the Vatican chimney, but I bet it has everything to do with recruiting, and a serious dearth of talent for those who would be priests.
Looking back on my early career as an HR professional, I distinctly recall similar business practices, if not outright policies being rather permanently woven into the fabric of the organizations I was exposed to: We mustn’t hire women drivers, our customer-facing employees cannot wear beards, I won’t even get into the dress codes. Some of this stuff was backed by sound reasoning. Some wasn’t. In retrospect, the thing that I regret is that, in too many cases, with good company I / we failed to ask the question that someone apparently put to the Pope, probably more than once: Why not?
Too often, I’m afraid that we were simply serving as the “Department of No.” There will be no this. There will be no that. At the time, it was deemed the safer alternative. We served as a compliance function before the real compliance pros came along and turned it into an art form. Well intended as we were, I’m rather sure that we weren’t serving the organizations that were paying us all that well. Yeah, we were pretty good prophylactics, but I dare say that what the organizations often needed and wanted more was a curious, knowledgeable, thinking business partner. Today’s organizations are no different. They’re just moving a lot faster, and they need HR professionals and leaders with the courage to sustain valuable elements of corporate culture while, on a regular basis asking, “Why not?”
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