Everything I Know About HR, I Learned from Adam Chandler & Palmer Cortlandt

This month, The Buzz on HR is giving a salute and farewell to the daytime series All My Children, which will air its final episode on September 23rd. Posts this month will share practical lessons I’ve learned after watching the show and its demise for years. Part 1 shared lessons from the one and only Erica Kane.

Part 2 is taking lessons from Pine Valley business tycoon’s Adam Chandler and Palmer Cortlandt.

Palmer Cortlandt was born Pete Cooney in Pigeon Hollow, West Virginia. He left home, changed his name and founded Cortlandt Electronics. He arrived on the scene in Pine Valley in 1979 and quickly established himself as a force to be reckoned with. At the time, Palmer was a single dad to his daughter, Nina, and had a maid named Myra who helped him to raise her. He’d told Nina that her mother died but the truth was Palmer had caught her mother, Daisy, cheating and kicked her out. Myra was actually Daisy’s mother but agreed to act as Palmer’s maid in order to help raise Nina.

In 1984, Adam Chandler established Chandler Enterprises offices in Pine Valley with his nephew, Ross. Adam was also a native of Pigeon Hollow, WV and knew Palmer very well. They basically grew up together. They instantly sought to destroy each other in business and in their personal lives. Everyone assumed their unhealthy competition stemmed from schoolyard angst that spilled over into the boardroom. The truth was Palmer had romanced Adam’s younger sister, Charlotte “Lottie” Chandler, when they were teenagers, gotten her pregnant and left her! Adam stepped in to help his sister and act as surrogate father to Lottie and Palmer’s son — Ross! Palmer actually had no idea about his son because he left Lottie to go to war and she never told him about the child. The truth eventually came out and Palmer welcomed Ross into his life, family and his business.

That wasn’t the end of Adam and Palmer’s fighting though. They remained fr-enemies until Adam’s character left the show and Palmer’s character passed away in 2010.

So what can HR learn from these two?

1) Don’t be afraid to start over or try something different. Palmer went bankrupt twice — and after his first bankruptcy, he managed a fast food restaurant called “The Chicken Shack” which he turned into a successful chain. Adam acquired a movie studio, a magazine, a publishing company and a television station along the way; he used his basic understanding for business to turn these ventures into success. HR is HR is HR, no matter what the industry. Don’t be afraid to try out your skills in an unfamiliar industry or capacity.

2) Remember what is important and keep that as the focus. Adam and Palmer never had any problems looking out for themselves. They were brazen and unapologetic in the preservation of the things they held dear — specifically, their business and their family. HR often gets so busy trying to fit in and prove the value of their function that we lose our focus. We compromise to get along and sacrifice the integrity of what our profession is supposed to be about in the process. Don’t do it! No other department or function apologizes for looking out for its interests or pushing its agenda in the organization — HR shouldn’t do it either! Focus on creating HR-related programs, processes and practices that connect to the goals, mission and values — and never waver from it.

3) Business is always personal. Adam and Palmer’s problems with each other didn’t stem from competing companies, it stemmed from childhood hurts. When they tried to get at each other, they usually attacked from a personal angle, not a business one. Adam and his twin brother Stuart tried to kill Palmer for the pain he caused their sister, Lottie, and abandoning their nephew, Ross. Palmer ruined Adam’s relationship with Erica Kane — years later, Adam retaliated by marrying Palmer’s niece, Dixie. But Palmer turned the tables by using Dixie to steal information on Adam’s business and then bought controlling interest in the company, which caused Adam to have a stroke. Literally … And as much as we like to pretend our conflicts don’t have a personal impact on us, they do. We spend 8 or more hours each day, 5 or more days each week for 40 or more weeks each year at work. We develop relationships with the people around us, sometimes good and sometimes bad. Often the things that rub us the wrong way about our workplace fr-enemies are the qualities we dislike in ourselves. If HR wants to be effective in helping manage conflict and provide solutions, we have to acknowledge and embrace this about ourselves and others, and use it to our advantage.

Farewell, Adam Chandler! Rest in peace, Palmer “Pete Cooney” Cortlandt. May your legacy live on through your children (there were many for both, although I don’t talk about them here) and your bad-assness live on in syndication!

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