Peter Parker, Spider-Man’s alter ego, is enjoying a hard-earned holiday. But SHIELD agent Nick Fury demands he return to work to deal with a mysterious, and potentially serious, threat. Are Fury’s demands reasonable or is his management technique outdated?
Parker is reluctant to let down his colleagues or customers (the citizens of Earth), and Fury is understandably driven by his mission to guarantee global security. Together, these mindsets make for a “potent combination”, says HR and leadership consultant Shakil Butt.
Parker ultimately accedes to his manager’s demands, behaviour which is often seen in the public sector or voluntary organisations with a strong service culture. The job of SHIELD’s HR department in such a situation is to set boundaries managers must respect and understand, even when superheroes are expected to be responsive and flexible.
“A busy period – like saving the entire universe from the villain Thanos – must be followed by a period of recuperation to allow Parker to attend to himself, his loved ones and to come back to work refreshed,” says Butt. “Burned-out heroes are no good to anyone, including themselves.”
The answer lies in workforce planning – bringing in additional staff, finding another hero to provide cover or introducing a job-share arrangement to help Spider-Man when he is struggling with work-life balance.