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What can we learn from TV’s Top Boy?

Blair McPherson - former Director, Author and Blogger

What have the antics of a drug dealing gang leader on an east London housing estate got to do with HR managers in your average organisation?

Top Boy is a television series (Netflix) set in the world of drug dealing but it’s not about drugs it’s about loyalty, money, power, rivalry, betrayal. Which if you ask me is what HR is about in your average organisation. And the top boy well that’s the chief executive.

Whilst most organisations are about money that is balancing the budget or making a profit they are also about power, who decides the strategy, loyalty, who is trusted to deliver the strategy, rivalry, who wants to take the leaders place, betrayal who will change their allegiance to further their own career.
This isn’t just about board room politics this is about how HR are asked to step in at a team level because a manager is experiencing difficulty with a team member, a team member has a grievance against their manager, a personality conflict between two team members is upsetting the whole team or a dysfunctional team is disrupting the service. At their root these situations are about power, loyalty, rivalry and betrayal.
A member of the team thinks the manager isn’t up to the job, questions every decision, undermines the manager both inside and outside the team. They think they would do a better job of being leader. A member of the team complaints they are being bullied , saying  they are criticised in front of the rest of the team, given the work no one else wants to do and given unrealistic time scales and performance targets. The manager is accused by team members of closing down discussion, discouraging debate and treating any questioning or dissent as personal disloyalty. The manager feels certain team members don’t recognise or respect their authority and wants to take disciplinary action.
In the world of Top Boy and in the absence of an impartial HR the solutions are discussed with the trusted lieutenant  and are often violent. In the average organisation asking HR for advice often resolves the conflict informally, provided the advice is followed.

Failing that there is always the formal procedures.

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