Tag Archives: Human Relations

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!
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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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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
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