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Meghan Markle: HR nightmare

As we forget the reasons why we have been locked up for the past 12 months, people are getting increasingly fed up of their new, enforced work/life balance.

So God bless the British Royal Family. 

In times of despair, they can always be relied on to provide their subjects (including the Commonwealth) and the rest of the world, with some much-needed entertainment. 

So, having previously given us the Crown, on Netflix, the world’s second most famous dysfunctional family (after the Simpsons) came to our rescue once again, with a thoroughly enjoyable interview given to Oprah Winfrey, by Harry and Meghan, previous employees of the Firm, or the Institution, as they refer to it.

It was televised in 70 countries.

It might not be standard for a company to have a 94-year-old CEO, who is going to be succeeded on their death by their eldest son, but Rupert Murdoch, owner of News Corp, has just had his 90th birthday and will pass it on to one of his children, so perhaps it is not that unusual in business after all.

Primogeniture aside, in many ways the Royal Family is very much a business and a business that needs to keep up with the times in order to remain relevant.

And with Meghan Markle accusing the Palace of ignoring her pleas for mental health support when she was feeling suicidal while pregnant, plus claims of racism, all on International Women’s Day, she represented a human resource manager’s biggest nightmare and, furthermore, it was all watched by over 50 million people.

The Firm has given two responses to the interview; the first was pre-emptive, accusing Meghan Markle of bullying her staff; the second was a short press release from the Queen, saying people’s recollections about events vary and that there is really nothing to see here.

No normal company could get away with a defence this pathetic and two questions arise; could a company survive this sort of bad publicity and can the monarchy?

If two of its best-paid employees can’t stand working for the Firm, it is doubtful anyone would currently apply for a top position and as most of the support staff are paid less than minimum wage and are treated like servants (because that’s what they are), it is doubtful anyone would want to work there, if it weren’t for the associated glamour.

The Queen, it is widely accepted, has been a good CEO. In fact, her real role is to be a non-political head of state, a position most companies have little need of. 

The Royal Family, like other businesses, occasionally try to update themselves and the Queen  first tried this in 1969, when a camera crew was allowed into the palace to film ‘normal’ family picnics and barbecues, showing the young royals as ‘ordinary’ people, who would soon be taking up their public duties (jobs) in a royal collective enterprise. 

However, the Queen did not like the resulting film, which showed the family to be far from relatable, and has ensured it has never been seen again.

All subsequent attempts at shedding light onto the magic have been an unmitigated disaster for the Firm. 

Americans view the job of monarch as like a president, but being fourth, fifth or sixth in line to the throne is a pointless job, and the Royal Family have tried to harness the power of celebrity to enhance its constitutional status; which has been a big error. 

In reality, Britain is a republic pretending to be a monarchy and that is why the Firm has to maintain its own pretence, to remain aloof and relevant. Hereditary succession makes sense in a democracy, only if it retains public support, which leaves it at the mercy of the media. 

Being a ‘minor royal’ is unfair; no matter how well you do your job, you will not get a promotion and you will not be able to live a normal life, like members of European royal families are able to. 

Prince Charles wants a ‘slimmed down’ royal family. In fact, he should abolish it and set his descendants free. William is his son and heir and after he has been King, that should be it, the Firm is closed and everyone has lost their job and are free to do whatever they want. The only alternative is to keep their heads down and be as boring as possible. 

Meghan shows what happens when Millennials, or Gen Z’rs are at odds with the culture of senior management. The Firm refused to change, but normal companies need to be more flexible and amenable. 

Meghan isn’t too different from a lot of today’s thrusting young professionals, whose expectations need to be managed. These expectations may be around race and gender inequalities and workplace inclusivity.

These younger workers might have a different value orientation to their older colleagues; they may care more about paid sabbaticals, autonomy and flexible working hours than big salaries and cars.

They live in a world of financial insecurity, promotions to leadership positions seem unattainable, or too slow. They have no clear career advancement paths and this will lead to fragile loyalties. But it is quite possible that traditional firms need these digitally intuitive agile thinkers more than they need them. So it is a good idea to accommodate them, to listen to their insecurities and empower them.  

For them, personal branding and growth are more important and it is quite likely younger employees will take to social media if they think they have unresolved grievances to air.

The bottom line is: don’t let your staff talk to Oprah, don’t employ a princess and if you have to, consider extensive use of NDAs.

 

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