This article was sourced from April’s edition of HR Future and written by Yusuf Mohamedy.  “Crush the Crushing Messages” focuses on the messages sometimes conveyed by senior / long standing staff members to new recruits and how these messages often drive new talent to leaving your organisation.

“I had just completed another HR workshop and as I packed away my laptop, one of the participants, a seasoned HR project manager at a petroleum company, lamented the loss of talent in her business unit. Without any prompting from me, she spoke about the “crushing message”; that unlocked the winning cage for this column. It was not the first time that I had come across the crushing message.” “In some organisations, you are guaranteed that the crushing message will faithfully rise each day, just like the sun, to drain the energy of their workforce. You are likely to have heard the crushing message at least once in the past month. Or worse, delivered it to others. The words may vary, but the crushing message is unchanged:

I have worked here for a long time.

I have done “IT”, this way for a long time.

“IT” works.

I won’t change “IT”. Go away.

Let us unpack the crushing message.


I find that Baby Boomers and to a lesser extent, Generation Xers, consider their tenure in the organisation to confer unspoken privileges above others. For a Baby Boomer that joined your organisation in 1980, the 30-year-long service award, is filled with memories of their life in your business. They feel that they know your business and job, as well as they know themselves and family. Even the Generation Xer with five to 10 years of service, counts on their in-depth understanding of your business. To succeed in the 21st century, strip away the unspoken privileges. When discussing a new idea, banish statements about tenure and past service. Remind these individuals that their past understanding of your business; won’t carry them safely into the future.


There is a dangerous assumption here – by virtue of having served time on the job, the individual has valuable experience and knows what they are doing. But as business evolves at a faster rate, you need to revisit “IT” frequently, together with the accumulated experience of the individual. It is impossible, even for the expert to know everything about “IT”. Get rid of the inflated egos in the hierarchy and focus on effective ways of accomplishing “IT”.  “IT” WORKSUnless your business still operates exactly in the same way as it did in 1950, with perfect results, there is always room for improvement. When new ideas are presented, those individuals that cling to their “tried and tested” methods, are slamming the door to future improvements. In other situations, “IT” clearly does not work and the individual has a vested interest in crushing the solution. HR should tackle the real issues at stake for the individual, such as job security, incompetence or past blunders.


When I meet bearers of the crushing message, I find that they are confident of maintaining the status quo. They won’t change, today or tomorrow. Based upon their past experience, they know that the odds are firmly in their favour, having watched so many talented individuals go away. They are counting on you to (1) forfeit the change and (2) leave the organisation. The role of HR as a change agent; should not be underestimated in weeding out these individuals. Left unchecked, the individuals behind the crushing message will drive talent away and drive your business into the ground . No time to lose in crushing this.”