I'm in charge of educating our trainees. In Germany, this is formalized, it takes three years for the job they are trained in. I'm working in a large logistics company that has a lot of unionized workers. We have a worker's council that is very focussed on the logistics part of the company, while I'm working in the IT part.

The job we are hiring trainees for is very sought after and we have about 20-40 applicants for each opening. Right now, we have an interview with each of them, without anyone of the workers council present and then select the one we like best.

In my old company we had a test we did with all of the applicants in a room and then had an interview with the three or four that did best. For obvious reasons, that saves a lot of time. Personally, I also think it's fair, because the test recognizes neither sex nor skin color or whatever else one might discriminate against.

So I wrote such a test for this company, too. And found out that the workers council has to approve any change in procedure. So I send them the test including a set of acceptable answers. I also told them I was completely happy with any observation they'd like to do. They can come watch over the test itself and they can see any of the results. There was a lot of stalling that was pretty unprofessional and wasting time for the sake of it (like asking if I graded the test using a template, while looking at the test would have told them that that would not even be possible because it's not multiple choice).

In the end, the workers council would only allow the test, if they got the privilege to veto it's results. To me, that would invalidate it's use. If they could invalidate a test result of their chosing, why would I even do the test? It's supposed to be fair.

From my personal perspective, having a test and transparency how it's done is way better than todays system of picking a candidate behind closed doors. For everyone. So stalling it and asking for privileges I cannot grant, thereby making it impossible to change the procedure to me smells like a political agenda. They block this, so they can later trade their approval for something they want.

I'm not interested in politics, especially since my plan is supposed to be in their best interest, making the whole procedure more transparent and less employer-centric. Is there a way to proceed without the political games?

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    Have they expressed how or why they would use a veto? Is it primarily for the case when your top 5 test-takers do not have the personality that would fit in your work environment? Do they just want to have the power to veto, but can't really think of a reason they would use it?
    – David K
    Apr 10, 2015 at 16:42
  • @DavidK No, they did not. They don't even know our work environment. They are located at one of the logistic centres and never have been to the IT part of the company. They don't want to veto our decision which of the ones we pick from the interviews after the tests, they want to veto the test results.
    – nvoigt
    Apr 10, 2015 at 17:22
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    When the answers are not multiple-choice but free-form, then the grading is subjective. When the grading is subjective, it is quite reasonable to have a veto instance.
    – Philipp
    Apr 10, 2015 at 18:10
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    @Philipp Keep in mind this is a test for young people straight from school. I don't think questions like "What is the capital of France" are subjective just because they are not multiple choice. But even it it were subjective. Then it's still better than today, where it's subjective without transparency.
    – nvoigt
    Apr 10, 2015 at 19:44
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    @DavidK I guess so. I stopped answering their questions when it was clear that they were just asking to stall. They don't have any say in the current process and whatever a veto means to them, the way they acted, I won't give them a say in the future process. I'd rather leave it as it is.
    – nvoigt
    Apr 10, 2015 at 19:48

2 Answers 2


This may be an overly cynical answer, and some may disagree with it. However, it's based on my 30 years of experience in a variety of different organizations of sizes from 6 to 15,000 employees.

From time to time in your career, you're likely to run across people whose main function seems to be to act as a choke point or obstruction for everything that crosses their path. Quite often these individuals have no skills in their particular area of responsibility, or their skills have deteriorated to the point that they're no longer relevant. They know how to play the political games necessary to have power, though, and feel that they need to keep exercising that power to show how important they are. From a practical standpoint they only way that they can do this is to slow down, "advise" to a standstill, or otherwise derail everything that they touch. After all, if they don't have input, they must not be valuable, right?

Managers and leaders like this tend to congregate in poorly-run organizations, and often feed off each other. This creates an interesting feedback loop where people that want to do the right thing get frustrated and leave, and people who don't care and are happy to play politics survive and advance.

When you find yourself in such an organization, you have two choices:

  1. Realize that resistance is futile, and grin and bear it until you can find another position
  2. Resign yourself to playing the political games necessary to succeed within the organization, and don't worry overly about each "win" or "loss".

That's just the way the world works, unfortunately. I wish I had a better answer for you, but you won't win every battle and this is likely one of them.


Politics are necessary to drive change in 100% of all organizations. Sometimes the politics are less obvious than others. But they are always there and if you want to be change driver in your organization, you cannot afford to not play politics. You need allies and you need to have a repuation for being someone who can deliver. You probably have none of those things if you are too pure to play politics and so the resistance is stronger to what you propose.

However, it is not surpriseing there is resitance to the change,. You can expect that for any but the most minor change. That is noraml and ordinary and should be accounted for in planning by anyone who hopes to drive change. You have to actually listen to the objections and ask them to help you design to overcome them. Putting out a proposal without consulting anyone about it beforehand and lining up allies who also think this is a workable idea before you every present it is the path to having your idea turned down. You ahve to be willing to get some of what you want by compromising and giving them some of waht they want. An idea partially implem,ented leaves room to improve it later, an idea flatly turend down does not.

What is wrong with letting them have the veto and seeing how things work? Maybe they are right that subjective hiring is better in some instances? Can you honestly test the most important skills involved for the job? They want assurance that the test actually works before giving you carte blanche and that is actually pretty reasonable.

  • First, I don't mind negotiating or compromising my own idea. My problem is, that this seems to be a bargaining chip for a negotiation totally unrelated to my part and even completely unknown to me..
    – nvoigt
    Apr 10, 2015 at 21:28
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    Second: I have carte blanche right now. I could invite all 50 one-by-one, not talk to any of them and pick the one with the funniest t-shirt. That would be ok. (For obvious reasons I don't do this.) What is unreasonable is expecting me to sign a document, so that they will have veto powers from now until forever after. And yes, I can honestly test the most important skills. That's not rocket science. I did a ton of those tests myself during my own education.
    – nvoigt
    Apr 10, 2015 at 21:33

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