Managing, American Idol Style

by Evil HR Lady on January 17, 2007

I’ve seen maybe 2 episodes of American Idol, so I’m definitely not in the “fan” category, although considering its popularity I’m probably one of the few. I believe part of its appeal is how mean the judges are. The Washington Post’s Lisa de Moraes reviews the early auditions and quotes many a rude and condescending statement from the judges, but she also (perhaps inadvertantly) says something about workers in general by giving the singers’ responses. Note this interchange between Simon and an Idol hopeful:

“I don’t want to patronize you but it’s never gonna work for you, darling,” Simon sneers.

“I’m sorry but we’re trying to find the best, and that was so far away from it.”

“Oh my God!” Rhode wails.

“No way. Please no, please!” she begs.

“The good news is today you found out you’re not going to be [a singer] so you can just — move on,” Simon says therapeutically while she weeps.

Rhode seeks comfort from her family outside. “I really thought I had it. I thought I was ready. They said I’m not even a good singer,” she sobs.

Simon is rude. That’s part of the charm of the show. But, this is also where I wish managers would be a little bit more like him.

He tells her the “good news”–she’s not a singer. The implication is she’s never going to be a singer and so she should just move on. Do you know how rare it is for managers to divulge that piece of information? Please note that the singer had no idea she was a bad singer.

I once had an accountant share with me how excited he was to have finally passed the CPA exam–after only taking it yearly for 10 years! Someone should have said after the 3rd failure, “The good thing is, you weren’t meant to be a CPA, now you can move on.”

I once dealt with a salesman who was part of a downsizing–but he was specifically selected because he had such poor sales results. Obviously, he knew his own results, but he was convinced he wanted to be a salesman. Several years later he contacted me again–he’d just left another job in sales because the management was “so mean” and wanted to know if he could work for my company again. Ummmm, no? He wouldn’t have applied but he’d contacted his former boss for a reference who had said, “Oh, I wish I had an opening for you, but I don’t.”

Granted, the boss was trying to be nice, but instead he prolonged this guy’s opinion that sales was the right area for him. It wasn’t. He needed to know the truth and move on.

Truth can really hurt. It’s unpleasant to say mean things, but remember it is also “mean” to not say what you “mean.” The former boss meant, “I can’t rehire you because you’re a horrible salesman” but the employee heard, “I would hire you if I could and I wish I had an opening for you.”

It’s not the employee’s fault. The manager said what the employee heard, it’s just not what he meant.

So mean what you say–even if it causes you to be a little mean. You can be nice in your meanness, just don’t cloud the meaning.

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TabithaRuth January 17, 2007 at 8:51 pm

I read an article on American Idol which had the theory that most of the auditioners had had so much “you can do anything, you’re wonderful” self-esteem lessons that it was truly a shock to hear they stunk. So the public loves Simon for telling the unvarnished truth because no one else will.

I’ve never seen Idol though because the whole idea makes me squirm in agony for the people on the show.

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