If you ever needed proof that human resources is an incredibly important function that transcends every organization and workplace, this is it.
This week, New York magazine’s Daily Intelligencer blog points to an Associated Press story as proof that even the world’s most infamous terrorist organization has to cope with mundane, people management problems.
Yes, even Al Qaeda needs some help with HR.
As the Daily Intelligencer puts it:
Al Qaeda’s mission may be “overthrowing godless regimes” and replacing them with Islamic ones, according to its handbook, but … just like any corporation, Al Qaeda has to deal with personnel problems. (Last week), the Associated Press told the story of the group’s biggest human resources headache yet, in the form of Moktar Belmoktar, an ambitious regional commander in Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb who bridled under the group’s strict structure and, after AQIM sent him a letter detailing his shortcomings, split off to form his own organization.
That scolding letter, which sounds remarkably like a corporate communique rebuking an out-of-line middle manager, was Belmoktar’s last straw.”
Basic people management problems
Every organization, it seems, no matter its goals and business model, has to cope with talent management issues. And just what were the issues that Al Qaeda leadership had with Moktar Belmoktar?
- He was difficult for others to work with, showing an arrogant and insolent attitude as he refused to follow orders from senior leadership
- He squandered resources he was given to work with and deviated from the organization’s business model .
- He was insubordinate and blew off meetings.
- He complained about the organization on social media.
- He failed to meet previously agreed-upon performance goals.
I don’t know about you, but this sounds like some people I’ve worked with over the years, and it just goes to show you, EVERY organization needs a strong human resources department to handle sticky talent management issues no matter what line of work they’re in.
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Dealing with performance issues
Here’s a little more that gives you some insight into how Al Qaeda management tried to deal with this issue, from The Associated Press story:
After years of trying to discipline him, the leaders of al-Qaida’s North African branch sent one final letter to their most difficult employee. In page after scathing page, they described how he didn’t answer his phone when they called, failed to turn in his expense reports, ignored meetings and refused time and again to carry out orders.
Most of all, they claimed he had failed to carry out a single spectacular operation, despite the resources at his disposal.
The employee, international terrorist Moktar Belmoktar, responded the way talented employees with bruised egos have in corporations the world over: He quit and formed his own competing group. And within months, he carried out two lethal operations that killed 101 people in all: one of the largest hostage-takings in history at a BP-operated gas plant in Algeria in January, and simultaneous bombings at a military base and a French uranium mine in Niger…”
Yes, everyone needs HR help
The letter to Moktar Belmoktar was found in a building in Mali formerly occupied by Al Qaeda fighters and was eventually passed along to the AP.
This makes me wonder: is there a SHRM chapter in Al Qaeda’s future? I ask because it seems to me from reading the AP story that they have just as many pressing HR issues as they do in someplace like Cuba, where then-SHRM chair Jose Berrios led a delegation not too long ago.
All of this highlights something that many have missed: Everyone needs helps with people management and HR, whether it be a struggling business, longstanding communist regime, or even an infamous global terrorist organization.