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  • Sonia R Muriel 9:00 am on June 20, 2013 Permalink | Reply
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    Types of toxic bosses (II) 

    Today I’ll continue presenting the types of toxic boss, following on from the first lot I gave yesterday.

    Peter Pan boss: they live in a fantasy world. In the company, full warfare could be going on, but if you ask them how things are going, they’ll say ‘great’.

    Mate boss: Obsessed with getting on well with everyone and inable to make criticism. If they have to evaluate their team, they suffer.

    Reconciling boss: They can’t stand conflicts. They won’t speak poorly of anyone, they just want to live and work in peace and harmony.

    Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde boss: They can seem like the most pleasant boss in the world, worried about the personal life of their employees, and the next, a perverse person who leaves victims along the way, knocked out by the fear of how to talk to them the next time.

    Rambo boss: An expert in guerrilla warfare. They believe that their mission in the company is to win a war and are willing to break their back in the process.

    Couldn’t-care-less boss: They never change, no problem is big enough to not play it down. They’re only worried about their paycheck at the end of the month.

    Hermit boss: They don’t usually leave their office and if there’s no other choice, they look uncomfortable and want to return to their haven.

    Scrooge McDuck boss: only worried about one thing in the company: money.

    Roman emperor boss: exudes arrogance whereever they go and they are the happiest person you’ve ever met.

    Celebrity boss: What they like most in the world is to attend a party. Their main concerns is that their name can be read on the sign, in the caption and in the press release.

    Manic boss: They make employees feel uneasy in the same way as Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde, but the difference is they don’t switch between being a good-natured person or a perverse being, rather between being the happiest on Earth or the most unlucky and negative person ever in the history of the organization.

    Sonia Rodríguez Muriel (@sonia_rmuriel) is passionate about Human Resources. She is HR and Media Director at the Andalusian Agency for Innovation and Development IDEA.


  • Sonia R Muriel 9:00 am on June 19, 2013 Permalink | Reply
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    Types of toxic bosses (I) 

    A strong leader manages and guides their team and manages to develop the natural talent of their subordinates. They seek conversation and value professional polycromy. On the other hand, a boss orders and commands their employees and what is expected is discipline and obedience.

    The perfect leader doesn’t exist because the leader is a human being. In today’s post, with much love and respect, and a degree of humor, I’ll describe some of the types of toxic boss that we all have suffered under, to a greater or lesser degree, during a professional lives.

    Some types of toxic bosses

    Weathercock boss: One who changes decisions depending on the context, the person or the topic in question. It is almost impossible for them to think the same thing if you ask them several times about an issue and they don’t remember what they said in all security.

    Father-figure boss: They treat subordinates like his kids. They have a protective attitude with his team. They are usually well-loved butthey don’t help professional development.

    Fan boss: They have a special, innate skill to disperse responsibilities, problems, and especially, poor resultsto those who surround them. They are an expert in finding a scapegoat when they put their foot in it.

    Parasite boss: They live like a leech on other people’s work. Their working day involves attending meetings mainly, and looking like they are actually working

    Peter Pan boss: They live in a fantasy world. Perhaps a true battle is being fought in the corridors, they don’t say a word, not even to say good morning to the people who work in their team, and sadness and demotivation reigns in the organization, but if you ask them how things are going, they will reply ‘great’.

    Sonia Rodríguez Muriel (@sonia_rmuriel) is passionate about Human Resources. She is HR and Media Director at the Andalusian Agency for Innovation and Development IDEA.

  • Sonia R Muriel 9:00 am on March 20, 2013 Permalink | Reply
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    Chaos is necessary for change in companies 

    Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

    A few weeks ago I was at the presentation of the beautiful collection of poems, Entropía de Voces by Milagrosa Díaz Gálvez. I love the meaning that Mila gives to the word in Spanish “entropía“, entropy as: the concept of chaos or disorder that seeks to reconcile apparently disparate thoughts, Space of voices that is fed back from inside out and vice-versa, and reconciles dissimilar concerns, because life is confusing. Using these meanings for the term, I have decided write about my personal thoughts about the business world, personnel management and entropy.

    Originally the concept of entropy appeared as a word coined from the Greek em (en-en, on, near) and sqopg (move, turn, alternative, change, evolution). Entrophy arose in the field of physics, but nowadays it is applicable to a great many other areas, like information or the economy. In its broadest interpretation, it establishes that in each instant the Universe becomes more disorganized, causing a general, unavoidable deterioration towards chaos.

    I don’t believe in entrophy to mean that everything becomes irreversibly worse. However, I do believe in the need to coordinate heterogeneous thoughts that affect the company and how we understand the function of HR.

    Chaos as the first step towards order

    There are systems in which entrophy is not directly proportional to the disorder, rather to the order, as may be the case in organizations. Entropy can lead to the creation of a new order. As Einstein said, all order is the first step towards a new chaos.

    The crisis doesn’t have to be something bad that happens to companies, because if it is managed well it can be the path towards progress. Creativity arises from imbalance and it is in times of crisis when the best ideas emerge.

    The need of a new business culture

    Technology evolves, society transforms, people adapt, the world diversifies, and organizations must innovate. Everything changes and in the change, we need to find a new balance. This balance requires time, effort, and an alteration in the business culture.

    Change will not be easy nor ordered, but it will be satisfying. Because an organization cannot grow if it does not leave its comfort zone. Chaos is necessary. A chaos that questions the rules that were once valid, the economic principles we have once followed and the policies of Human Resources that have managed personnel for centuries.

    No organization is safe from the entropic process we are experiencing and that will bring us towards a new balance. We are faced with an irreversible process.

    We will reach a better, different situation, but we will only do so by being a transformed, adapted company.

    Taking risks and leaving the comfort zone to evolve

    The labor market, the business network, the economy, and companies are currently experiencing an invariable process that seeks a new balance. I’m talking of a new order from the disorder. Of breaking away from the practices we have known “our whole life” in order to take risks, to encourage tolerance of failure in order to evolve, and to “learn to learn” in a disruptive manner.

    The companies feel a drive to reproduce a previous status, to repeat what was valid in a previous social, economic and political situation. A determination to want to do things like before. But good leadership and proper personnel management has the obligation to fight against this force.

    Entropy always grows; it is inevitable and it always surrounds us. Disorder happens in daily life at any moment, but is this chaos bad? Not at all. I find it to be even beautiful, for the pleasant feeling when you find harmony within the chaos.

    The level of uncertainty generated is positive; there are no longer any clear or structured responses, because we are dealing with new problems that we cannot predict. Now we have to work in order to be prepared for future changes, generate flexible organizations, be aware of the organizational entropy, revive adaptable professionals, and achieve a new leadership. And in that process, the role of Human Resources and the new communication and knowledge flow tools in companies are fundamental in order for that chaos to be understood and have meaning.

    Is your company prepared to face the disorder necessary for change?

    Sonia Rodríguez Muriel (@sonia_rmuriel) is passionate about Human Resources. She is HR and Media Director at the Andalusian Agency for Innovation and Development, IDEA, and writes a personal blog which we at Zyncro highly recommend you read.


  • Sonia R Muriel 9:00 am on November 28, 2012 Permalink | Reply
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    Does anything go in companies? 

    Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

    I like using any “down time” I have to read, update my profile on social networks and reply to the backlog of emails, so I usually carry my iPad around with me. This was my plan when I returned to Seville from Madrid on the AVE last Friday, after attending the #ComunicaME event organized by Zyncro.

    While I was writing emails, out of curiosity I started listening to the film that had just begun and I was hooked, so much so during the first few minutes that I closed my iPad and turned all my attention to the train’s mini-TV screen.

    The film was Margin Call. It recreates the 24 hours prior to the beginning of the financial crisis of 2008 in an anonymous investment bank, which supposedly represents Lehman Brothers.

    The film begins with the aggressiveness of the Human Resources team. The way that they fire various employees within the space of a few moments, the atmosphere they create, and the lack of humanity and empathy is very significant.

    The immediate dismissal, after nineteen years of service to the company, of the Senior Risk Analyst when he’s on the verge of discovering dangerous shortcomings in the investment bank, creates a huge impact. This scene is only the beginning of a succession of ethical and moral conflicts.

    Not only has the film helped me to better understand how the crisis came about, but it has also made me reflect once again on how anything goes for some executives, particularly, behaviour with a lack of personal and professional ethics regarding money and completely forgetting the value of people.

    I find it hard to imagine what would go through the minds of those executives in order to save the company, or at least to assure themselves of a large amount of money. Evidently social responsibility and business ethics weren’t present in those meeting rooms and offices. Proof of this is that the company chose to cheat by selling in 24 hours something they clearly knew had no value.

    This philosophy is summed up very well by the following quote from the CEO at one of the moments of most tension in the film:

    “Be first, be smarter, or cheat.”

    Where’s the CSR, on a USB memory stick?

    Four years have passed since the financial crisis began and instead of progressing in people management, unfortunately a path of involution has commenced.

    I have no idea how many books, articles and blogs have been written, or how many conferences have been organized to remind professionals that they are the pillar on which an organization stands but the reality is what it is: mass dismissals, elimination of budgets for training and talent development, mobbing in the workplace of pregnant women, major discrimination based on gender and disability, abuse of working hours and work loads, and so on.

    A lack of ethics is obviously not the only thing that led us to this crisis, but it is very relevant.

    So, if we are not committed to caring for our most important asset, PEOPLE, and to implementing socially responsible management models, how are we ever going to recover from this situation?

    The role of executives, and in particular those responsible for HR, is to remember that the company is its people, and that dehumanizing organizations will not improve the P&L account or productivity, quite the opposite. Reducing messages of fear, creating a healthy work environment and using direct, transparent and multidirectional communication are essential.

    Now, more than ever, we need to create confidence so as to deserve the commitment of our colleagues and collaborators, and above all it is essential that we never forget that: NOT ANYTHING GOES, EVEN IN COMPANIES.

    “Every aspect of Western culture needs a new code of ethics -a rational ethics- as a precondition of rebirth.”

    Ayn Rand

    Sonia Rodríguez Muriel is passionate about Human Resources. She is HR and Media Director at the Andalusian Agency for Innovation and Development, IDEA, and writes a personal blog which we at Zyncro highly recommend you read.


  • Sonia R Muriel 9:00 am on October 15, 2012 Permalink | Reply
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    Talent archaeology in HR 

    Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

    Talent is become an almost omnipresent topic in any journal, seminar, blog, forum related with HR or business management. The talent war is nothing new, but the economic crisis and the new business context has given a new twist to the concept as it was understood before. Fighting for talent has become an attempt to avoid laying off valuable employees.

    Last week I attended a talk given by great figures of the calibre of Ferran Adrià, Juan Luis Polo, Juan Fernández Aceytuno and Bere Casillas. These forums are a major spotlight for talent, but don’t you think it’s strange that there is valuable talent out there that goes unnoticed or is hidden by the context, environment or capacity? And yet other equally valid ones come to light in a magnificent and almost effortless way?

    An example of this is the case of Alice Springs, the pseudonym of the wife of the famous photographer Helmut Newton, whose talent was hidden in the limelight of her husband. Now there is an exhibition of her work at the Maison Européene de la Photographie, Paris. The reasons why her art went unnoticed for so long are not clear.

    But what does everything I have said have to do with the title of the post? To explain it, I need to retrace the origins of the meaning of talent.

    Talent comes from the Latin talentum and the Greek τάλαντον. In Greece, talanton was a balance and referred to the quantity of precious metal weighed there. Later, talent became the monetary unit of the Hellenic world and the Roman Empire. Although in Roma talent started to take on a new meaning as treasure, it seems that the origin of the evolution in this term towards its current meaning lies with the Parable of the Talents in the Bible. The meaning of talent as intelligence, ability and aptitude derives from the interpretation of this parable.

    The Parable of the Talents tells the story of a man who, just before starting a long journey, called his servants and distributed a different quantity of talents among them. One of the servants received five talents, the second two, and the third one.

    The first started to trade with his and doubled his talents. The second did the same and earned two more, however the third dug a hole and hid his talent in the ground.

    After some time, the man came back and settled the score with his servants. He praised the loyalty and ability of the first two servants. To the third servant, who gave him back the same talent as he received, seeing that he had hidden it in the ground for fear, he scold him for being lazy and a bad servant.

    The most common interpretation of this story is the man knew the skills of his servants well and acted in accordance with them, trusting and investing in those who had more ability. However another reading can be taken from it.

    The distribution of the talents was not equal. The man left less to the servant that he expected less from and gave more to those who he considered more able. Perhaps the servants acted in accordance with the expectations that the man had of them? Perhaps the servant who received less trust and possibilities doubted his own ability? Shouldn’t the man have helped the servant who hid his money for fear to understand that a buried talent couldn’t generate results instead of punishing him?

    Talent in an organization is an uncalculable value. We cannot forget that a company is made up by the people, but… instead of placing so much emphasis (and money) on finding and attracting new professionals, shouldn’t we become talent archaeologists? It is very likely that it is more profitable to invest time and resources in this task.

    The educational system and the labor market often knock the rough edges that make us different off from childhood, trying to mold us into standard students and employees. If the environment where we grow up and/or work is not capable of counteracting this attempt to standardize us, there will be many people who end up burying their talent for fear of breaking away from the mold.

    Ferran Adrià says that in order to innovate and lead the way, we need to build a psychological barrier, because they will dub us as freaks and if we don’t have this barrier, we will end up believing them. As a result, we will bury our talent for fear as the servant in the story did who was branded as disloyal and a bad servant.

    From management, not just from HR, we need to start to design and implement strategies for detecting and retaining internal talent. To do this, we need to accept diversity as something positive. An organization needs the synergy of different skills, competences, intelligences, and abilities in order to innovate, grow and become sustainable.

    If the employee has to come to work each day showered and motivated, it is management’s obligation not to demotivate before motivating. We need to motivate the search for buried talent and retain any talent already found in the organization so that it flourishes, before placing all the emphasis on attracting new talent at any price.

    “There is something more rare, fine and hard to find than talent. It is the talent to recognize the talented.” Elbert Hubbard

    Passionate about HR, Sonia Rodríguez Muriel is HR and media director at Andalusian Agency for Innovation and Development IDEA, and writes a personal blog, which we at Zyncro highly recommend you read.


  • Sonia R Muriel 9:00 am on August 8, 2012 Permalink | Reply
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    Managing fear in companies 

    Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

    Editor’s note: Today at Zyncro, we have the honor of welcoming a new blog contributor, Sonia Rodríguez Muriel. Passionate about HR, she is HR and media director at the Andalusian Agency for Innovation and Development IDEA. Her personal blog, which we highly recommend at Zyncro, is as she says “an open space dedicated to reflection on issues associated with people management, incorrectly called Human Resources.” Thanks for joining Zyncro’s team of bloggers, Sonia. Welcome 😉

    If we think about one of the words we have heard most in recent months, regardless of the context, I’m sure it would be: FEAR.

    People who work in business have many fears, which is nothing strange, especially given the harmful messages that some politicians dish out as if nothing, the headlines and photos that make the front pages on a daily basis or the images that are shown all too often on the TV.

    Fear of losing jobs, fear of downsizing, fear of not getting the next paycheck, fear of a merger, fear of the company’s uncertain future, fear of failure, fear of salary drops, fear of restructurizations… FEAR.

    What attitude does the company’s general management adopt in this situation? Does it add fuel to the fire or does it make an effort to build confidence and trust among its employees when they are afraid?


    Fear has been used as a mechanism for control and social domination for a long time. We have lived so many centuries in a culture of fear and with a system of absolute iron control in companies that now it is hard to break. On some occasions, there isn’t even any intention whatsoever to do away with this obsolete model.

    Fear blocks, paralyzes, rules out creativity, prevents growth in an organization and in professional development. Fear generates insecurity; we see the environment as being more aggressive and causes us to enter into a dangerous dynamic: a downward spiral of fear. Fear builds other new worries and they start to grow indefinitely, leading us away from where we can be constructive and face our own fears and break the spiral. As Sophocles said: “To him who is in fear everything rustles”.

    The figure of the toxic coward in every company is no help either. They are people who find someone to share and reinforce their fears and flee from the optimist, preferring to adopt a critical and/or defeatist attitude, and who need to be surrounded by likeminded people. Unconsciously, they seek out bad news, rumors and new fears. For others, it is easy to be swayed by these negative emotions rather than be affected by someone who sees life with a more positive attitude. The paradoxical situation may even arise where someone who is fearless, proactive and dynamic becomes threatened by the toxic coward. What’s more, if the coward is a director or a middle manager, their harmful influence on the work environment is multiplied by 100.

    If our excuse to allowing ourselves be dominated by fear is that it is impossible to take a different attitude in the current socioeconomic context, I encourage you to seek out experiences where worse situations have been overcome. A good example of this can be seen in “Man’s Search for Meaning”. Viktor Frankl was an Austrian psychiatrist of Jewish origin who had a promising career. When the Nazi threat was more than evident, he obtained a visa to emigrate to the United States with his pregnant wife to continue working there. But Frankl let this visa expire, as he did not want to abandon his parents. Shortly after, the entire family was taken to a concentration camp and among other unpleasant incidents, the manuscript containing his work was destroyed.

    He survived his experience in the concentration camp, overcoming the idea of his own suicide several times to see how pessimism in the other prisoners brought them to self-abandonment and finally death. After feeling defeated on several occasions, he was capable of remembering his work, finding meaning to life, and when he was released, he was able to rebuild his career with much effort, despite the loss of all his loved ones and his traumatic experience.

    For Viktor Frankl, “life deserves to be lived beyond the circumstances and the inability to discover the meaning of our existence is what brings Man to lose inner balance and hence, to bring him to desperation.”

    Returning to the laboral front again, it is evident that we need help in not letting ourselves be overcome by fear and seeing the current situation as an opportunity and not a threat. As Pilar Jerico says in her fantastic book No miedo (NoFear), “only those who have power can generate fear”, so creating an atmosphere of confidence and undoing a management based on fear is the responsibility of the company’s leadership. It is one that should be worked to include emotionally intelligent leaders who make their teams grow and generate confidence and trust, the key to fighting fear.

    Uncertainty can be a danger in a company! Those who believe information is power can cause more harm than good. Organizations are porous so it is unlikely that the information that management doesn’t want to share stays completely within their grasp. The worse thing is when it reaches lower levels in the organization, the message has little to do with the original one and has deteriorated even further.

    The greatest challenge for companies at present is to manage, generating confidence and trust to reduce growing fears, and above all, to not create new ones. To do this, it is essential to develop a corporate culture that doesn’t punish error and encourages employees to innovate, share and take risks, that promotes talent and people on a human and emotional level. To achieve this, it is paramount to find the right motivation for employees and to leave behind management by control mechanisms once and for all, adopting a new model of collaboration.

    Once again internal communication becomes the cornerstone. The language that the company’s management uses when speaking with their employees; a lack of communication, coherence between discourse and behavior, and the insecurity that it generates only feeds fear in the organization and creates new worries.

    Corporate social responsibility, as in vogue as it is in recent years, means the company is responsible for, among other questions, maintaining a healthy, safe working environment and the physical and psychological wellbeing of its workers.

    Management plays a fundamental role and the type of leadership it uses or promotes will depend largely on the work environment .

    But if this argument isn’t convincing enough for some CEOs, maybe we should talk about the financial side of things. The working environment is a factor that has a major effect on productivity in the organization. Employees can’t give their best if they are not committed and without confidence and trust, there cannot be commitment.

    If we want to have employees committed to the organization, we need to establish open, transparent dialog with them to win their credibility. And reinforce that credibility with the rest of the company’s policies.

    Being a good professional is conditioned by the working environment and we are all responsible for generating a positive atmosphere, regardless of what our position is. Our mood infects our colleagues and co-workers, so why not think about what we are really transmitting to others?

    “Under the influence of fear, which always leads men to take a pessimistic view of things, they magnified their enemies resources, and minimized their own.”

    Titus Livius


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