Tag Archives: HR

This is my problem, not yours. Go. (Part 2 of 2)

I must now turn to the painful task of finding a successor. altho you had prepared me for this event, I am as much unprovided as if it were now for the first time mentioned. I see not who is to fill the chasm. but this labour is my lot. be yours that of domestic felicity, of health & long life: and with this wish accept my affectionate salutations & assurances of great & constant esteem & respect.
Thomas Jefferson to Levi Lincoln, December 28, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Departing trusted lieutenants are one of a leader’s greatest challenges.
In the previous post, Thomas Jefferson reluctantly but with understanding accepted the resignation of his Attorney General for family reasons. Filling the vacancy now posed a “painful task.”

In a series of recent posts, the President explained how personnel issues were the most difficult part of his job. Governing was easy. Picking the people who would govern with him was not. Although Jefferson knew this day was coming, he was still unprepared with a successor. No one could “fill the chasm.”

Stoic in this regard, Jefferson acknowledged his job was to deal with it. Lincoln’s was to enjoy family, “health & long life.” Although unspoken, Jefferson must have envied Lincoln’s escaping Washington. It would be four more years before he could enjoy what Lincoln would have immediately.

John Breckenridge and then Caesar Rodney would serve as Attorney General in the President’s second term.

“Not only was the portrayal realistic,
but it was technically and historically accurate.”

Conference Chairman, Nevada Association of Land Surveyors
Patrick Lee will bring the real deal!
Invite Thomas Jefferson to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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Business decisions are easy. Personnel ones are not. (OR: HR sucks. Part 5 of 5)

the transaction of the great interests of our country costs us little trouble or difficulty. there the line is plain to men of some experience. but the task of appointment is a heavy one indeed. he on whom it falls may envy the lot of a Sisyphus or Ixion. their agonies were of the body: this of the mind. yet, like the office of hangman, it must be executed by some one. it has been assigned to me & made my duty. I make up my mind to it therefore, & abandon all regard to consequences.
To Larkin Smith, November 26, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
The hangman has to suck it up and do his job.
The subtitle for these five posts, “HR sucks,” is only an attention-getter, not a disparagement of the important field of human relations. Thomas Jefferson never used those words, but he might have had that thought. This series highlights the hardest part of his job, making decisions that affected people’s lives, their families and finances. He concluded with this summary.
1. Key leadership decisions were not troublesome “to men of some experience.”
2. Appointing people to offices was extremely troublesome.
3. He might envy mythological characters condemned to eternal physical punishment for their choices. His (Jefferson’s) torment was of the mind.
4. Like the hangman, this was his job, and he accepted the responsibility.
5. Having done so, he did it without “regard to the consequences,” i.e. human disappointment or collateral damage.

“Our attendees enjoyed your presentation … very educational, informative,
and the details seemed to come to life …”
Director of Member Services, Association of Louisiana Electric Cooperatives
Watch the real Thomas Jefferson come to life for your audience!
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I make one friend & 10 enemies at the same time. (OR: HR sucks. Part 4 of 5)

… [if] you [had] hundreds to nominate, instead of one, be assured they would not compose for you a bed of roses. you would find yourself in most cases with one loaf & ten wanting bread. nine must be disappointed, perhaps become secret, if not open, enemies.
To Larkin Smith, November 26, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Leaders sometimes must turn friends into detractors.
Five posts from this single letter detail Jefferson’s challenges in the human relations realm. Larkin had written to the President, expressing not only his dismay over losing a federal appointment he thought he had earned but also his annoyance at not receiving personal notification of the loss.

While Larkin had only himself to consider, the President had hundreds! Every federal job opening brought a flood of applicants. Each choice would make one person happy and disappoint all the rest, feed one and send the others away hungry. Some losers would become secret enemies. Some would even turn into public ones.

Instead of “a bed of roses,” with countless ones paying him compliments while seeking his favor, this aspect of his job was more a bed of thorns.

“… I had no idea what to expect.
However, we were delighted to see a very professional and accurate portrayal…”

Executive Director, MO Society of Professional Surveyors
Yes! An accurate, professional and inspiring portrayal awaits your audience!
Invite Thomas Jefferson to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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I respect your principled choice, for or against me. (Or: HR sucks. Part 3 of 5)

you observe that you are, or probably will be, appointed an elector. I have no doubt you will do your duty with a conscientious regard to the public good & to that only. your decision in favor of another would not excite in my mind the slightest dissatisfaction towards you. on the contrary I should honor the integrity of your choice.
To Larkin Smith, November 26, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Secure leaders do not get overly invested in others’ choices.
Larkin had expressed his dismay over not receiving any notification that he had been passed over for what he deemed a well-deserved federal appointment. The President explained why in previous posts.

Larkin concluded his letter with the likelihood he would be chosen as a delegate from Virginia to the Electoral College, where he would certainly cast his vote for Jefferson’s reelection. Was it an honest compliment or blatant flattery … or both? Was he implying: I will have your back. Why couldn’t you have mine?

Jefferson replied he didn’t care who received Larkin’s  vote. He trusted him to vote his conscience and only with “regard to the public good.” He would not mind if Larkin voted for another, nor would it change his attitude toward him.  Rather, if Larkin voted against him, Jefferson would “honor the integrity of your choice.”

This was a common theme for Jefferson, that he didn’t let others’ political choices affect their personal relationships, unless they first withdrew from him.

“… your presentation for the New Mexico FEB [Federal Executive Board]
marks the fourth FEB you have addressed.
We can understand why and would highly recommend your presentation to others.”

Executive Director, New Mexico FEB
Mr. Jefferson makes a very good impression!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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Consider yourself fully employed!

Have bin down to Richmond to se if I could ingage a job of work before I movd my tools, but have bin unsucsesful in the trip … I moast seriously regret being out of imployment, for it is my wish never to Spend time in indelence whilst am able to earn a shilling in an honest way.
James Oldham to Thomas Jefferson, October 7, 1804

[I] am sorry for your disappointment at Richmond … [will] the work [described herein] give you an opportunity of shewing there your stile of working, and give you time to get into imployment? … [I] shall consider your wages going on till you have a reasonable time to get into employ.
To James Oldham, October 11, 1804

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Appreciative leaders step up for former employees.
A recent post was a strong recommendation for Oldham, a skilled joiner (woodworker) at Monticello, to a friend of Jefferson’s in Richmond. Oldham did not find employment and wrote to his old boss of his dilemma.

Jefferson immediately stepped up on behalf of his former employee, sending a list of joinery projects. He suggested Oldham complete the work in Richmond and then transport the finished goods to Monticello. Doing so would allow Oldham to showcase the quality of his work to prospective employers.

Jefferson valued always being productive. Not only was he impressed by Oldham’s skill but by his desire, “never to spend time in indelence.”  Jefferson told Oldham he was still on the payroll and would remain there until he could find other work.

“Your presentation was an excellent blend of history, education and inspiration …”
Deputy Director, Washington Association of County Officials
Invite Thomas Jefferson to speak!
Call 573-657-2739
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I need another set of eyes on this!

Reynolds, collector of York, is dead, and Wm. Carey of that place is recommended very strongly by mr Shields. tho’ I have great confidence in mr Shields’s recommendation, yet as the best men some times see characters thro’ the false medium of friendship I pray you to make what enquiry you can in Richmond & communicate it to me.
To Governor James Monroe, September 3, 1802

Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Careful leaders seek more than just a single recommendation.
William Reynolds, recently deceased, had held the position of Collector of Revenue at Yorktown since 1794. Samuel Sheilds wrote a glowing recommendation on behalf of William Carey to succeed Reynolds.

While affirming his confidence in Mr. Sheilds, Jefferson wanted other perspectives on this potential appointee. He needed assurance that Sheilds’ recommendation wasn’t affected by the “false medium of friendship.” Thus, the President sought input from another trusted source, Virginia’s governor.

Carey was appointed, but for some reason, resigned the position within a month.

“All were delighted with your well-chosen words of wisdom …
We heard nothing but praise from the audience members.”
Policy Director/Conference Coordinator, Washington State Association of Counties
Mr. Jefferson is most interested in sharing his wisdom with your audience!
Invite him to speak. Call 573-657-2739
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