Did I scare you? Probably not. No offense to John Carpenter and Wes Craven (RIP), but most of us are not terrified by masked slashers or clawed fiends who invade our nightmares. These are fantasies. Reality is much scarier. How are we going to pay the bills? What if we lose our jobs? Will we ever be able to retire? These are the thoughts that run through our heads as we toss and turn at night.
I’m no exception. But it’s the realities of the workplace that frighten me more than any personal concerns. Now, I know some of you think that as an HR Guy, I’m the one who is truly scary. The bogeyman with the pink slip and the empty box for you to pack up your office, lurking behind the door as you walk in to start your day. Many of you wish I was a fantasy, a monster under your bed, a bad dream you could wake up from. But I’m here to stay, and it’s a good thing, too.
Some say we don’t need HR, that managers can and should perform most of the employee relation and performance management functions HR performs. HR, they claim, gets in the way. Here are some examples of why these people are wrong. I may have written about some of these before, but in honor of Halloween, the most frightening ones bear repeating. What’s even more terrifying is that most of what I’m going to describe occurred at places that are overall great places to work. It sends shivers up my spine to imagine what happens at employers who don’t care what employees think.
1) A woman asks her boss for a raise. He tells her that he would pay her more if she was the breadwinner.
2) A manager asks an employee why she is bothering to study psychology, when the Bible has all the answers to life anyone will ever need.
3) A nursing mother asks about a private place to pump. Her manager tells her to go use a bathroom stall.
4) A verbally abusive manager tells his staff that if they complain to upper management or HR, he will fire them because they are “at-will”.
5) An employee leaves over a fifty-cent raise ($540 annual) the manager refuses to sign off on due to budget constraints. It costs $3,000 to replace that employee.
6) A manager has the habit of looking female employees up and down when he talks to them. He tells one that she would look more “professional” if she wore more skirts and heels.
7) An employee gives other employees derogatory nicknames, and even uses them directly. The manager does nothing about this. He claims employees have no problem with the nicknames, because who doesn’t like being referred to as ugly or stupid?
I could go on, but I won’t. I’m breaking out in a sweat as it is. The bottom-line is that what scares me most is, despite all the training, all the coaching, all the talk of fostering a positive work environment, managers will still go and do something unethical, illegal, or just plain stupid. And when they do, it’s HR that has to pick up the pieces. But don’t feel bad for me. It comes with the job. Feel bad for the employees who work too hard to have to put up with bad bosses day-in-and-day-out.
And as for those managers who insist on being jerks, what about them? Maybe they should try something novel for Halloween, and dress up as human beings.