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.
I am of the firm belief that the workplace would be a much more happy and productive place if everyone just had a theme song.
Look at the great workplace comedies. Mary Tyler Moore could turn the world on with her smile. Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin got the better of their tyrannical boss working 9 to 5. Then there’s that great bass riff to start out the theme to Barney Miller, and get the cops of the 12th Precinct through another day of dealing with purse snatchers, prostitutes and the just plain weird.
If you still don’t believe me, compare these TV shows and movies to those that are more negative about the workplace. As great as The Office and Office Space are, their music is not what you remember about them. These fictional workplaces are dysfunctional, at least in part, for lack of a good theme song.
With this in mind I went out in search of a theme song of my own, something to improve my performance and increase my job satisfaction. I wanted something upbeat to reflect my always cheery disposition. Perhaps Eddy Grant’s Reggae classic Walking on Sunshine, Beautiful Day by U2, or Bobby McFerrin’s Don’t Worry, Be Happy. Unable to decide from so many great choice, I asked my coworkers for suggestions.
They didn’t even hesitate. Without a moment’s thought, they all said at once, the theme from Jaws.
Yeah, that’s right, to them I’m a mindless, man-eating monster of the deep. When I come into their workspaces, shivers run up their spines with the fear of getting devoured with a termination packet and an empty box for packing their personal belongings.
Now, I’ve written about my reputation as the guy who fires people before in a previous post, but that was a few years ago. Surely, my reputation has changed by now. Rarely are people fired at my organization. Most of my time is spent helping people. Whether it’s assisting them in navigating the benefit package or counseling them in how to deal with a difficult coworker, I’m the good guy.
I’ve been assured that this is the case most of the time, but to some, I’ll always be the guy who shows up when you are about to get your legs chopped off while your frantically swimming for that buoy. They don’t see me, they see a fin popping out of the water.
This is the onus of being in HR, and no matter how I act or what I do, it always will be. It comes with the job, and I’ll just have to get used to it.
And tere is a bright side. When I asked for a theme song, at least they didn’t suggest Talking Heads Psycho Killer
Court Jester Productions is looking for contestants to be on their new reality show, Project Hiring. This show will pit a dozen human resource professionals against one another, eliminating one over the course of each episode to determine who will win the title of Top HR.
Each week, contestants will face a new challenge, these will include:
1) Conducting a sensitivity training session which takes two hours to tell people not to be jerks.
2) Arbitrarily applying some policy written in 1984 to a current situation, without considering the circumstances (the phrases, “That’s the policy” and “We don’t want to start a precedent” have to be used at least once).
3) Creating a canned PowerPoint presentation filled with charts and metrics that make it appear that the HR professional is accomplishing something other than beating his/her high score on Candy Crush.
4) Seeing how many times buzzwords like synergy, gamification and strategic partner can be woven into a one hour meeting that should have only taken ten minutes.
5) Selecting a job candidate using questions such as “If you were an animal, what animal would you be?” and “What’s the color of success?”
6) Firing someone while keeping a straight face, even though you’re smiling on the inside because you never liked that person anyway.
7) Providing psychiatric advice even though your only qualification is having read, I’m OK, You’re OK.
8) Counseling managers on employment law issues, despite the fact that all your legal knowledge comes from watching reruns of Alley McBeal.
9) Telling an employee that a two percent raise isn’t in the budget while ordering a new massage chair for the executive lounge.
10) Conducting a New Employee Orientation in under 15 minutes by saying, “Here’s your desk, here’s your computer, coffee’s over there, get to work.”
11) Seeing how many acronyms such as FSA, FMLA, ADA and COBRA you can throw into a five-minute conversation, oblivious to the fact that no one else knows what you’re talking about.
For the final challenge, the remaining two contestants will have to tell Donald Trump that he isn’t fit to manage the night shift at a convenience store when he’s the only one working, and to do it in such a diplomatic way that not only doesn’t get them fired, but gets them a promotion.
The best news about this new show is they’ve selected me to be one of the judges. I’ll be a mix between Simon Cowell without the accent and Tim Gunn without the fashion sense. They would have chosen me to be a Heidi Klum-like host, but I just don’t have the legs for it.
The winner of Project Hiring will receive a new, high-paying job where he/she never has to deal with another living soul ever again.
In order to ensure that contestants provide the proper entertainment value demanded by cable television, applicants will be required to undergo a thorough mental health examination. Only those who fail this exam will be considered.
Tryouts begin April 1 at the Scranton, OH Holiday Inn and Conference Center.