The Liberal Arts CEO and Shakespeare

A while ago, I mentioned to you about how I have a daughter who studies philosophy and literature in college. We’ve discussed multiple different ways her world of arts and my world of business coincide and have even produced a blog from one of those very discussions. This time we have a series of blogs set up for you, this being the first. This day is a day we take some advice from the greatest playwright of our time and apply it to the business world, because what Shakespeare taught us about love and war, he can also teach us about business. Today’s topic: Hamlet.

If you are unfamiliar with the plot of the play, here is a very brief summary: A ghost has been haunting Elsinore castle, bearing an amazing resemblance to a recently deceased King Hamlet. The Prince, son of the king, also named Hamlet, learns from this ghost that his father was murdered by a man named Claudius. The play is about Hamlet’s decisions in relations to his father’s death and whether or not to take revenge on Claudius.

 There are three lessons we can learn from this play that apply in the business world, and they are…

  1. Nothing is certain.  We must always be prepared for the worst. In Hamlet’s case, it’s making sure that there aren’t men waiting to kill him behind every curtain. In our case, it is about properly taking care of our employees and ourselves in order to keep everyone happy (and healthy). We can never be certain that a plan will work out so we must exhaust all options to ensure that it does. If we have a business meeting coming up, we should consult multiple people in order to make the best plan of order, just like Hamlet consults with multiple people to help solidify what he plans on doing.
  2. When is the right time to act, and when isn’t. In the play, Hamlet goes to great extent to find out the truth about whether Claudius is truly guilty for his father’s death. He does not instantly assume that the ghostly apparition that spoke to him is right. In the business world, it is a daunting task to keep track of the truth, but it is a necessary one. Before taking action, always take everything in to consideration. If you hear something unpleasant about one of your employees that could bring shame to your company, find out the truth first. Talk to the employee themselves, ask around. If you do this before making any rash decisions, you may save yourself a lot of trouble. At the very least, unlike Hamlet, you will not have to worry about any goblets filled with poison.
  3. Revenge doesn’t help anyone. When it comes to conflict in the office, it is always good to let yourself cool down and assess the situation before striking out. In Hamlet’s case, a swift set of vengeful actions results in nearly everyone’s demise. This is a bit extreme in comparison to conflicts in the office, but the idea is still the same: stay calm, think first.

The point of these blogs is to remind you that the best ways to handle your business and lessons to learn these things by can be found just about anywhere and the sooner you start looking, the more you will find in places you would never expect. To stay at the edge of issues on HR and staffing, be sure to subscribe to the Human Capital Supply Chain Blog.

Views: 30

Comment by Recruiting Animal on March 10, 2011 at 12:12pm
Dude, Shakespeare is not the greatest playwright of our time. You can't even understand him without a glossary.
Comment by Recruiting Animal on March 10, 2011 at 12:15pm
Hamlet is famous for dithering - as you pointed out in #2. How can you then accuse him of swift vengeful actions?
Comment by Recruiting Animal on March 10, 2011 at 12:17pm
Feel free to hate me, Tim, but if you would have just stated your points on their own without the reference to Hamlet it would have made your essay shorter and better. Feel free to come on my show and disagree with me.


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