5 HR Best Practice Lessons From “Breaking Bad”

Breaking Bad can offer HR professionals some ironic insights into HR best practices, by highlighting both good and bad examples of employee management.

The series Breaking Bad may be over, but few of us will soon forget the misadventures of Walter White, the chemistry teacher turned drug kingpin who kept us in his thrall for over five television seasons. For those who can’t get the series out of their minds, here is some weekday reading you can justify as work-related. We offer five lessons that HR pros can take away from Breaking Bad, to think about how it applies in your own workplace.

1. Especially if you’re involved in a merger or acquisition, recruit your key employees only from trusted sources.

During their startup phase, Jesse Pinkman recruits his meth buddies, Badger and Skinny Pete, who are consistently trustworthy and loyal. Later when Gus and Walter merge their operations, Walter must deal with co-chemist Gayle, who though he admires Walt is still beholden only to Gus. This doesn’t work out well for Walt and Jesse. And in the last season, Walt severely regrets recruiting the Aryans to do his dirty work since they trigger the ultimate loss of everything he holds dear.

2. Conduct Fair Performance Reviews; Don’t Mis-Assign Blame

When Skinny Pete gets robbed of his sales product, Jesse doesn’t blame or penalize him even when Walt gets livid and demands he fire Pete. Pete remains a loyal employee to the end, even helping out Walter with one final task on his last day.

3. Have a Good Leave Policy, And Watch for Employee Burnout

Employees working under high-stress conditions often do burn out, as happened to Jesse when he tried numerous times to quit the operation. If Walt had given him some mental health leave time instead of the constant pressure to keep cooking meth, he might not have started using drugs again. The DEA would also have been well advised to allow Hank some leave time to address his PTSD following the exploding tortoise incident in El Paso.

4. Encourage Employees to Maintain HSAs and Supplemental Coverage

Both Walter and Hank are denied coverage by their health insurers for the treatments that really offer them any hope, and in both cases it ends up being drug money that pays for their care. Help employees plan for the worst by encouraging them to start health savings accounts, offering the best coverage you can afford, and providing them options for supplemental or umbrella coverage for accidents and injuries.

5. Keep Your Termination and Off-Boarding Fair and Consistent

Needless to say, this never happened on Breaking Bad. We recommend having a consistent and fair termination and off-boarding process that doesn’t leave the departing employee feeling disgruntled, unfairly treated, or dead from a gunshot wound.
GeniusHR gives you automated solutions for many of these knotty problems, such as termination and offboarding. Visit www.geniushr.com to learn more.

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