Scary HR Stories... 5 Things HR Managers Dread!
The Human Resource department in a company walks a tightrope balancing management demands and employee expectations. Often, the job involves dealing with unhappy people who look upon them as a sounding board and solution provider. In reality, the HR department cannot take many decisions of its own and hence finds itself in a situation caught between the devil and the deep sea.
Human Resource personnel are not only in charge of recruitment and retention but also play a considerable role in ensuring that an employee remains engaged and happy. Their job is also directly impacted by the rating the company receives on various happiness indices which measure employee satisfaction.
An additional layer of complexity comes with the changing demands with time. While a secure, ‘9-5’ job was the norm earlier, employees today emphasise on work culture and benefits more than the job. It is what keeps them from switching jobs as soon as a competitor offers higher pay.
The HR department also shoulders the responsibility to communicate a company’s core values, convert them into actionable policies and measure how the company did year on year in maintaining it. In this act of trying to keep everyone happy, some things do fall out of the cracks. Here are five scary stories from HR. Trust us; you wouldn’t want to be the ‘human’ in these human resource nightmare stories.
5 Things That HR Managers Are Afraid Of
Here are 5 things that an HR manager dreads most:
1. When Employees Think ‘The World Is A Stage…’
These are employees who are the kings and queens in the grand drama that is their lives and will extend this feeling to all situations, even at their workplace. You’ll see them making a mountain of a molehill for every issue in the office.
Shabana was one such employee. She walked into the HR manager’s office one day to discuss an ‘urgent’ problem. The coffee vending machine was dispensing sour coffee, and it was severely affecting her productivity. The next day, the office air conditioner was set too low, and her fingers were freezing so she couldn’t work. Every day, there was a new reason that would dramatically affect only her and no one else.
What the HR manager did: After a couple of weeks of patiently listening, the HR manager raised the issue with Shabana’s boss. Together they invited her to an ‘intervention’ of sorts, to discuss how things can be improved for her to start contributing to her job adequately.
Needless to say, it was a wake-up call that covertly spelt it out that she had to concentrate on doing the job rather than nit-picking about the slightest inconveniences.
2. When Employees Threaten To Sue Or Leave
Most HR managers have their hands full, solving daily problems, even though others think they are ‘just’ doing their job. An unhappy employee tries to find an outlet to vent out their anger. While colleagues sometimes bear the brunt, threats are often directed towards HR managers.
One such threat came from Akansha, who had just found out about her annual increment. The numbers matched her performance, but it left her fuming. She had heard some of her colleagues mentioning better numbers, and this situation was like a loss of face. The first threat was that she would be ‘fighting a battle’ for her rights. The next was about resigning.
The last hit that came below the belt was to defame the company by giving it a bad online review. It as a no-holds-barred match and she was leaving no stone unturned in the fight.
The management found her behaviour to have disgraced the company culture and decided that it will be best to let them part ways.
3. When Employees Hate HR
A lot of employees think that the HR department is the sole cause of their woes in office. They don’t give a good raise, but plan retreats in luxury destinations, have a sufficient budget to fit in extra office pizzas, give employees their workstations or give out freebies.
Mr Krishnan was a senior employee and would retire in a couple of years. He saw ‘young bloods’ take the office by storm and getting better benefits and pay. It made him bitter, and he often vented his feelings at the HR manager. His words would often be laden with sarcasm and jibes. The other times, he levelled direct accusations that the department was being biased against him because of his age. He wrote a letter to his manager and the CEO about the alleged discrimination.
The management decided to respect his experience and service of many years. They understood that it was natural for the senior generation to feel left out, owing to the enthusiasm and technological smartness of the new ‘millennial’ generation. They decided to engage those in his age group to give their opinions on specific policies.
They also decided to reward him for showcasing his contributions to the company.
It not only improved the relationship but the positivity in the act made everyone feel better.
4. The ‘Excuse Monger’ Employee
Some employees take the ‘open communication’ part too seriously. They discuss everything from family problems to traffic to increasing cost of education for their children with the office HR.
It helps them paint a background of being a victim if they are pulled up for not doing their job.
One such story comes from Swati; She would be perpetually late for work and always laid blame on everyone from her neighbor to the city traffic. There were times when she called the HR manager at 11 pm to discuss the late mark policy of the company.
After a brief discussion, the HR manager sent out an email to the entire office stating policies related to late entries. People were requested not to come later more than three times a month, or it would attract penalty.
5. The Middleman-HR Juggle
The HR manager cannot directly fire an employee. He/she can, at most, refer it to the manager and the management decides if stern action is required in rare and exceptional cases.
The hard truth is that no one wants to be the axe-bearer. The fact also remains that the messenger does get shot.
Whether it is reacting to a star employee leaving to join a competitor or the management ordering layoffs due to a bad business season, it is the HR personnel who have to maintain smiling faces, showcase empathy and uphold company values through difficult times.
Ranbir’s case was a hard one. He had performed well and achieved his targets. But the management decided to sell off his unit as it wasn’t as profitable as the others. He was confused and angry. At a time when a recession was setting in, he was asked to leave in spite of good performance. The HR manager had a difficult time explaining how valuable Ranbir had been to the company. The only saving grace was that the company offered a decent severance package that promised to sustain him for the next three months until he found another job.
An HR job can be exciting when it makes employees happy and engaged. But it can seem like an under-appreciated and thankless job too. The job will have a good amount of good and not-so-good days. The one clear solution is to have strategies, policies and rulebooks in place that can be leveraged to tackle a difficult situation.