The Lobotomizer

“If I show up at your door, chances are you did something to bring me there.” – Martin Blank, Grosse Pointe Blank.

A recent article got me thinking a bit.

Jeff has often told me that I have a habit of “empire building” wherever I go.

I land somewhere, I take the lay of the land, see what kinds of positions need to be filled…and then start reaching back through my network to grab people to fill those roles.

I don’t go overboard playing favorites – yes, the people I know and trust are absolutely going to get a shot at filling those roles, and so are others, but if it comes down to two people of equal skills and abilities, then naturally I’m going to go with the person I know, have worked with before, and can rely on.

After all, that’s networking 101, right?


Well, HP just fired a warning shot across the bow of every boat that people who follow that same philosophy are riding in, and I’m none too amused…

To bring you up to speed on the events leading up to this article

– GM spun off EDS.

– HP bought EDS.

– HP started laying off a lot of EDS people.

– GM announced that they’re bringing everything in-house, with two new focal points in Austin, TX and Warren, MI.

Now’s where the real fun begins.

GM’s new CIO?  HP’s former CIO.

So is it any surprise…and I mean like any surprise at all…that with HP running large swaths of GM’s infrastructure…and HP’s CIO jumping over to GM…that there would be some other HP people looking to make that same transition?

Seems pretty logical, yes?

But HP has now filed a lawsuit against GM seeking to…oh, let me quote to make sure I put this right: “to prevent them from recruiting more workers and leveraging information they learned at HP to benefit GM

Now, I don’t know the specifics here.  I can’t tell you one way or another if Randy Mott (that former HP and now GM CIO) reached back through his network to talk with two HP IT Directors about coming on board, or if they approached him, or if it’s all just happenstance and coincidence.

I also can’t tell you if the 16 other people, all from those same IT groups at HP, also were reached out to, or reached out on their own, or, again, if it’s all just purely coincidental.

And yes, I realize how ludicrous that all sounds even as I’m writing it.  Several voices in my head are screaming “OH FOR THE LOVE OF GOD COME ON…YOU CAN’T POSSIBLY BELIEVE THAT…

Look…if there’s one thing I’ve learned when it comes to legal matters, it’s not what you know, it’s what you can prove.  And yes, on a circumstantial basis, it would be laughable to think that it wasn’t at least semi-orchestrated among the various people leaving…

…but that’s still just circumstantial and not necessarily factual.  It’s also irrelevant to my main point here.

My main point here is…why is HP whining like a little child with a skinned knee instead of focusing on why the people left in the first place?

I mean, this isn’t any breaking news or anything…but I get reached out to on a semi-regular basis about new job opportunities.   But I’m still where I’ve been for the past 6+ years.  Why?  Because I’m happy where I am.  I’m content.  I trust the people with whom I work.  I feel I’m fairly compensated for what I do.  I feel appreciated and listened to on a day to day basis.

In short, I don’t feel like I need to be looking around or finding something new right now.

Oh sure, if someone came along and said “Hey Dave, here’s your dream job and a doubling of your salary and you get to hire whoever you want and do whatever you want” I’d be a damned fool to not listen…

…but that particular scenario hasn’t played out yet, and so I remain where I am.

“Thank you for giving us two weeks’ notice…now if you’ll just lay here and hold still for a moment…” – Every non-compete agreement

But if I do decide one day that the time has come to leave, I also feel pretty confident that no matter what happened, where I went, or what I wound up doing, my current employer wouldn’t come after me demanding that I have a lobotomy.

I mean, I guess they could if they really wanted to, but I’d like to think that the relationships we’ve built over the nearly fifteen years we’ve known each other and worked together would trump that.

Because that’s basically what a non-compete agreement is – a document that says you agree that you, or they, or a random third party, will go ahead and shove an ice pick up your nose, swirl and swizzle it around a little so that you forget everything you ever learned during your course of employment.  You won’t remember the skills you acquired.  You won’t remember any of the contacts you’ve made.  You won’t remember…

…well, you won’t remember anything that probably made you attractive to another employer in the first place.

What the hell?

That’s like an ex getting all pissed off and demanding that you put back on the forty pounds you lost that made you attractive to someone else who started paying attention to you and made you realize that maybe the recliner you were in wasn’t the best place to be.

Because yeah, sure, like that’s going to happen.

Instead of focusing so hard on who I’m with after we’re not together any more, maybe you should have taken a fraction of that energy you’re now burning back when we were still together and looked at ways to keep me around in the first place.

If I’m an HP employee, and I’m looking at the facts falling down from the sky around me:

– HP laying off people left and right

– GM announcing that their business with HP will be on the decline…which is almost certainly going to lead to more layoffs

Then you’d better bet I’m nervous and twitchy and looking to make a move.

So did HP do anything proactively to try and reassure these people?  Did they give them incentives to stay, or were they just sitting back and thinking all was well, and believing that nobody would be leaving?

Et tu, HP?

Were they, in fact, the recliner?

(sidenote: If you’ve never read The Recliner Principle, you should.  It’s over at, and it’s a pretty good analogy for the rut we all find ourselves in sometimes, and why you need to be aware of your environment job-wise at all times)

Isn’t that the very essence of a free agent market?

If someone is willing to compensate you at a higher rate, or with better perks, or even with something as simplistic as a more stable outlook from a job security standpoint…why shouldn’t you be allowed to go?

Can you imagine a professional athlete being told they can’t leave the team they’re currently on, no matter how bad the team is, how terrible their current contract was, how much money someone else is willing to pay them, etc., because they’d be competing against their current employer?  Or if they were told they had to forget everything the batting coach had taught them, or the tips and tricks the other guys on that team had shared, or that they had to sit out a year or two before they were allowed to start playing for that other team?

Ridiculous, right?  Right.

Never happen in a million years, right? Right.

So why do we tolerate it in the information technology industry where, let’s be realistic, we’re all free agents?!

After all, it’s not like anyone still believes in the concept of “one company for life” any more, do they?  I think it’s been proven in spades time and again that such a concept fell by the wayside a long time ago.  Pensions, gold watches, big celebrations of your thirty years of service…all gone.

All replaced by the requirement of a lobotomy.

Don’t Be That Guy, HP.  Or anyone else for that matter.  Focus on retaining your talent instead of trying to throw a legal temper tantrum after they leave, and I think you’ll find yourself much better served in the long run.

That’s all for this time.  Go check out one of our other Don’t Be That Guy entries at, The Dating Corollary articles over at, or just start with the latest blog entries at and start working your way back.