Here’s the unlikely appeal of the outsider candidate
It’s staffing with the enemy.
Some President Trump hires can seem diametrically at odds with the agencies they’re tasked to represent: He announced Thursday that he’d nominate Dana Baiocco, a corporate lawyer with experience defending companies against allegations of unsafe products, to head the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Trump’s earlier nomination of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt — a climate-change denier with a history of suing the EPA — drew comparisons by environmental groups to “an arsonist (put) in charge of fighting fires” and “the fox guarding the henhouse.”
But sometimes there’s upside to instating an outsider candidate — especially one who undermined the goals of his new employer at a previous gig. (Though, as HR expert Suzanne Lucas says, “no one’s job is to undermine another company — their job is to make their current company the best,” even if that means pointing out the other company’s flaws.)
First off, Trump has a vastly different agenda than his predecessor, Lucas said — so it makes total sense that he’d hire people who would implement change. You might follow the same path in business for similar reasons, Lucas told Moneyish in an email: Though you likely couldn’t bring in the head of Coca-Cola to lead PepsiCo due to legal obstacles, “you can hire someone with a completely different outlook on your business.” “Sometimes it makes sense to bring in a lawyer to run a company that has been traditionally run by MBAs, or vice versa,” she said.
“People are often upset when a new boss comes in and changes everything, especially when they thought the old way was right,” Lucas added. “But they need to take into consideration that perhaps the new boss is doing precisely what she was hired to do — change things.”
Though you generally want to hire a person with relevant experience and a proven track record for the job, an adversarial presence could offer insight from understanding the industry from the inside, HR consultant Jennine Leale told Moneyish. Leale cites examples of an oil company employee who crossed over to lobby against big oil companies, and a pharmaceutical worker heading to an organization that fights the industry.
“They learn the industries from the inside, and then they can be a lot better at understanding what makes them tick and where they need to be fixed,” Leale said.
An organization likely won’t spring for an outsider if it’s looking to maintain a status quo, Adelphi University professor of management MaryAnne Hyland told Moneyish — but in challenging times, a company might look outside the box to someone who works for a competitor or in a totally different industry. “It’s that different perspective,” she said. “They’ve seen things from the other side.”
Hiring for senior-level executive positions across industries is fairly common, Hyland added, where a person may have a completely different background but still boasts leadership experience: Kraft Heinz CEO Bernardo Vieira Hees came from being CEO of the Burger King Corporation, and previously served as CEO of América Latina Logística, a Brazilian railroad and logistics company. And Hewlett Packard Enterprise CEO Meg Whitman previously held executive-level gigs at the Walt Disney Company, Procter & Gamble and eBay.
Poaching from a rival firm, meanwhile, could be an unexpected boon: A 2016 study published in the Academy of Management Journal analyzed data on National Hockey League competitiveness — and found athletes played even harder against their former teams. “Individuals strengthen their identification with the new organization and deidentify with the former by competing harder against the former organization,” the study authors wrote.
Most workers “easily switch alliances to whatever company writes their paychecks,” Lucas said. A downside to hiring outsiders could be any “emotional alliances” they might have with another company, she added — but “if their last job was just a job and not a crusade, it will probably be fine.”
“Think of it as hiring an attorney,” she said. “You don’t generally worry about his last case. His job is to argue your case.”
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