As with any summer, movies make a splash. And this one was a banner year (pun intended). Avengers: Endgame became the highest grossing movie ever. A bunch of ill-prepared, uncouth and selfish superheroes battle to restore half of the Earth’s population that disappeared five years earlier. And if I am ruining the movie for you, too bad. Where have you been?
The cruel logic of Thanos is frighteningly coherent. It’s flawed and devoid of heart, but he sees it as mercy. Ultimately, he realizes a very important truth:
“I thought by eliminating half of life, the other half would thrive, but you have shown me... that's impossible. As long as there are those that remember what was, there will always be those, that are unable to accept what can be. They will resist.”
The memory of what was will be a beacon calling to those who remain. They won’t rest until what was lost is returned. The Avengers assemble one last time (or is it?) to fight for restoration. And while you may want to tout the plot holes and unanswered questions from the movie, ultimately, the passion lies in fighting to make things as they once were, which is enough for an audience to buy.
Thanos is an HR Director. Harsh? Think about it. He attempts to change a perspective, an approach, a reality for many people. He only rallies those around him who think like he does. He is immovable in his approach. He puts the plan into action causing casualties all around him. He doesn’t mind that some of his own team are part of the death toll. This change will happen and everyone else will just learn to accept it. One day, they will be grateful.
How often have you watched, or worse participated in, this scene? For some reason, a massive change must be made. The reasons may very well be necessary – cost-cutting, market shift, operational efficiencies, etc. A communication strategy perhaps based upon a heartless logic, even if peppered with emotionally-laden verbiage, is distributed. Staff experience anxiety, fear and anger. There’s a lack of willingness to move forward as the company had hoped. Timelines are extended, but deadlines are still missed. Culture is affected; retention strategies begin to crack. Thanos has snapped and people are gone.
And don’t think that it’s only the big M&A deals that cause this effect. People tend to struggle with change, and they struggle even more with poorly done change, regardless of company size. The HR professional that sits with leadership and develops a plan for change, whatever it may be, with little to no transparency with those to be affected is a setup for failure, even if the plan is good. I once had an employee tell me, “It’s no secret that our organization conducts the survey with no real intention of putting any collaborative effort into the results.” Wow. Leaders might read the results, nod in understanding, agree that there’s no budget and file those results under “One Day, Baby.” The flawed linear, unexplained thinking is not a business help, especially in the current work environment.
Tension of this sort is not a business driver. Don’t misunderstand. Tension in some circumstances refines people and processes; the friction causes edges to smooth. Yet, when it’s setup from a purely top-down edict, tension is a chokehold. People disconnect, product suffers and innovation stifles.
Do you need to put that Infinity Stone glove back on? Good. Just be careful with how much snapping you do.