Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Archive for the ‘Human Resources’ Category

HR Has Never Been on the Side of Workers. #MeToo Is More Proof.

Monday, January 8th, 2018

After human resources was informed in 2014 that Emily Nestor, former front desk assistant for the Weinstein Company, was allegedly sexually harassed by Harvey Weinstein, company officials reportedly informed Nestor that any complaints would be directly reported to Weinstein himself. 

And when Helen Donahue, a former Vice employee, complained to human resources in 2015 that Jason Mojica, the head of Vice News at the time, had non-consensually groped her, she says she was told by then-human resources director Nancy Ashbrooke to “forget about it and laugh it off.”

Engineer Susan Fowler says that when she complained to Uber’s human resources department that a manager had propositioned her for sex, she was instructed to either move to a different job at Uber or continue working for her alleged harasser. A manager later threatened to fire Fowler for registering the complaint with human resources, she claims.

As #MeToo testimony shines new light on these industries’ cultures of rampant sexual violence, the complicity of human resources is a thread running throughout several stories of predation and retaliation. While some have presented HR departments as a solution, the above experiences make clear that HR is at best a distraction from the real solution to workplace abuse: collective organizing led by, and accountable to, workers themselves. As unions and worker organizations have long recognized, workplace abuse will not be corrected by benevolent management—it must be defeated by worker power.

Presented as neutral arbiters, human resources departments in fact report to management and function to shield bosses from repercussions. They emerged from early anti-union efforts and social-control initiatives implemented by notorious industry titans like the Ford Motor Company—and today often house top-down efforts to undermine worker solidarity and protect companies from lawsuits. Some labor historians and organizers tell In These Times that the present climate offers an opportunity to dispense of the falsehood that human resources departments exist to protect workers.

“Human resources departments exist primarily to keep the employer from being sued,” author and longtime labor organizer Jane McAlevey tells In These Times. “While they may play functional bureaucratic roles, the chief purpose of HR departments in my experience—after a lifetime in the labor movement—is to protect the company, not workers. Obviously they will be totally ineffective to address the sexual harassment crisis in this country.”

As Weinstein and others of his ilk now fall from grace, any effective postmortem must examine human resources among the structural foundations that uphold powerful men as they perpetrate large-scale harm.

“Treating labor as a commodity”

According to the anti-harassment policy of the Society for Human Resource Management, human resources departments are in place to help employers “prevent, correct and discipline behavior” that qualifies as “unlawful discrimination or harassment of any kind.”

Yet, the history of human resources departments tells a different story.

Elizabeth Anderson is a professor of Philosophy and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan and author of Private Government: How Employers Rule Our Lives (and Why We Don’t Talk About It). She tells In These Times that the roots of modern-day human resources can be traced to initiatives like the Ford Motor Company’s “Sociological Department,” established in 1914. With its introduction of a $5-per-day pay rate, deemed a boost at the time, the company established codes of conduct to ensure that workers were sufficiently orderly and worthy of this sum. The Henry Ford, an organization that oversees a museum in Dearborn, Mich., describes this program:

The Sociological Department monitored employees at home, as well as on the job. Investigators made unannounced visits to employees’ homes and evaluated the cleanliness of the home, noted if the family had renters, checked with school attendance offices to determine if children were attending school and monitored bank records to verify that employees made regular deposits. Sociological Department investigators also assisted workers’ families by teaching wives about home care, cooking and hygiene.

“They really said they were going to govern workers’ lives,” says Anderson, explaining that such efforts were often aimed at “Americanizing European immigrants.”

In the 1920s and 1930s, the Australian sociologist Elton Mayo oversaw a series of experiments at Hawthorne Works, a Western Electric factory in Cicero, Ill. Researchers examined the impact that changes in conditions—for example, brightening and dimming lights—had on workers’ productivity. He concluded that workers perform better when researchers show interest in them—that the perception of attention and interest can itself boost output. The principle that attention is a key workplace motivator became the bedrock of the field of “human relations.” This field influenced companies to create human resources departments to give the appearance that workers are cared for and tended to.

But Peter Rachleff, a labor historian and executive director of the East Side Freedom Library in St. Paul, Minn., tells In These Times that there is a significant gap between appearance and reality.How can you get more of this commodity for less? How can you get more labor produced by that commodity? That’s the grounding of human resources,” he says.

“Where union busters set up camp”

Early human resources departments also had other aims. Peter Cappelli, professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, tells In These Times that human resources departments emerged as “a more serious development with the rise of unions. Companies started to see them as a way of keeping unions out. They put in place practices that would buy out discontent.”

“These departments are not set up by the government, and their job is not to protect employees,” emphasizes Cappelli. “These are private organizations.”

With a spate of anti-workplace-discrimination laws and orders passed in the 1960s, including the Civil Rights Act, the focus of human resources shifted to protecting companies from lawsuits. “The idea was [companies] could shield themselves, and workers could be obliged to report their complaints to the internal process,” explains Anderson. “You get a huge incentive for larger corporations to set up human resources departments to shield themselves from liability.”

Today, human resources departments often operate in concert with efforts to undermine unions and other forms of worker organizing. In just one example, the National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint against Tesla in August 2017 charging that the company’s security guards and human resources personnel directly intimidated workers at a Fremont, Calif., factory for distributing pro-union materials—and ultimately forced them to leave the premises. The complaint states that a human-resources official “interrogated” an employee about “the employee’s Union and/or protected, concerted activities and/or the Union and/or protected, concerted activities of other employees.”

As McAlevey puts it, “The human resources department is the traditional place where union busters set up camp—the office out of which union-busting firms will run union-busting campaigns.”

Of course, the absence of a human resources department is not a good in itself, and abolishing HR wouldn’t fix the problem. As Aída Chávez reported January 5 for The Intercept, The New Republic, AlterNet and The Nation Institute “had no real HR when abuses occurred” (Full disclosure: This author is a prior employee of AlterNet and formerly received reporting funding from The Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund.)

While noting that “such departments are no panacea,” Chávez argues that “the absence of any HR department at many small news outlets creates a unique vulnerability for employees, whose fates may rest entirely in the hands of their often charismatic leaders or founders.”

And indeed, the problem of retaliation and intimidation encompasses the vast majority of industries, with or without HR. A 2003 study referenced by the federal U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission “found that 75 percent of U.S. workers who spoke out against workplace mistreatment faced some form of retaliation.”

Organizers have long argued that the solution to workplace harassment lies in building collective solidarity among workers—and tilting the balance of power away from institutions that are under the control of management, including but not limited to human resources.

There is no shortage of organizing efforts lighting the way. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) highlights its worker-led Fair Food Program as a bottom-up strategy to protect some of the most vulnerable workers in the United States from a plethora of workplace atrocities, including sexual violence and slavery. The program includes a 24-hour, independent worker-complaint hotline, and worker-led political education and organizing programs. Through broad-based campaigning, CIW has forced 14 food industry giants to join their labor agreement.

From the fields to the factories, union and worker center members engage in day-to-day efforts to protect each other, by staging direct actions, organizing and enforcing contracts, and extending support and solidarity, in the many forms that takes. As McAlevey puts it, “What changes is if you have a union.”

This article was originally published at In These Times on January 8, 2018. Reprinted with permission. 

About the Author: Sarah Lazare is web editor at In These Times. She comes from a background in independent journalism for publications including The Nation, Tom Dispatch, YES! Magazine, and Al Jazeera America. Her article about corporate exploitation of the refugee crisis was honored as a top censored story of 2016 by Project Censored. A former staff writer for AlterNet and Common Dreams, Sarah co-edited the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War.

Holding Yourself Back

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

Image: Bob RosnerThis is a first, this week’s blog is a letter to a friend. But I think the message applies to a many people out there. Heck, if the shoe fits, consider this your New Year’s Resolution…

Dear R.

If Eskimos have many different words for snow, you have a similar huge repertoire of ways to put yourself down, to diminish your accomplishments. I wish you could watch yourself, you’re ruthless at attacking any compliment that’s thrown your way. It’s like a more efficient version of the old Star Wars missile defense shield, every compliment is shot down long before it reaches its intended target.

Okay, I think a little self-doubt can be a great thing. Lord knows, a number of people have told me that through the years. But in your case you not only don’t get the buzz off people saying nice things about you, you put energy into attacking what they say. It must be incredibly tiring.

I have a simple rule. If all of the people around me believe that I’ve got what it takes to get the job done, even if I have my doubts, I can be persuaded to accept their point of view. Especially when the people who are tossing bon mots are clearly experienced, savvy and insightful.

So here is your homework assignment. Practice saying, “Thank you Bob.” “Thank you J.” “Thank you D.” Don’t let Nancy Negative take hold, just practice the art of graciously accepting compliments tossed your way. Given how few and far between they are for most of us, it’s a silly source of fuel for you to squander.

40 hours a week is tough enough. Treat compliments like the ballast that allows you to survive the workplace grind. In fact, I even know people who keep a file of nice things that have been written to them. One woman, would even write down compliments that were said to her and put then in her file. She calls it her “victory file” and she reads it on those tough days when everything is going wrong to put herself back into a more positive frame of mind.

You might never get rid of those negative thoughts rattling around inside your head. That said, just because they’re there, doesn’t mean that you have to listen, or act, on them. You can just let them fall on deaf ears. Your own.

Again, I’m a fan. I think you have a lot of potential for helping to take us to the next level. But we all need you to stop beating yourself up and putting all that energy into moving all of us forward. We can afford to squander any energy with the challenges that lay ahead of us.

So please consider this a pat on the back. And a kick in the butt.

About The Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.

Poor Leaders Can Decrease Worker Productivity By Up to 40 Percent

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

Mark Harkebe

As Newswise reports, based on employee engagement research by Florida State University business school professor Wayne Hochwarter,

recession-based uncertainty has encouraged many business leaders to pursue self-serving behaviors at the expense of those that are considered mutually beneficial or supportive of organizational goals.

This plays out in behaviors that Hochwarter’s team classified using the biblical Seven Deadly Sins as a framework.  While the percentages attached to each of those “behavioral sins,” based on feedback from more than 700 mid-level workers, is interesting, what appears further down in Newswise’s article caught my attention more from a productive workplace standpoint: FSU found that employees with leaders who committed any of these “sins” said they cut back on their contributions by 40%.  Notably, they were also:

  • 66% less likely to make creative suggestions, and
  • 75% more likely to pursue other job opportunities.

Hochwarter’s findings tell me that workplace qualities that some leaders might consider as soft (or at least far down on the totem pole of what they need to worry about day to day), such as trust, respect, and fairness, are not just “nice to do’s” – they have a real impact on product/service delivery and quality, and company spending on recruiting and retraining.

This is one of the reasons that Winning Workplaces revised our Top Small Company Workplaces award application for 2011 to take a more in-depth look at how things like rewards/recognition and employee leadership development strategies impact business results.  Year after year of our small workplace award program, we see that happier, more highly engaged employees lead to better outcomes, while the opposite lead to a path of lower profitability and competitiveness in the marketplace.

This post is cross-posted on the Winning Workplaces Blog.

About The Author: Mark Harbeke is Director of Content Development for Winning Workplace. He helps write and edit Winning Workplaces’ e-newsletter, IDEAS, and provides graphic design and marketing support. Mark holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Drake University.

Ten Game-Changing Strategies to Achieve Success and Find Greatness

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

JeffreyRobinsonSmRandal PinkettEstablish a strong identity and purpose. Your ethnic and cultural identity is a great asset. Amplify it as a competitive advantage. A strong identity reflects an appreciation of your uniqueness and its value. A strong identity grounds you; a well-defined purpose gives you the self-confidence to know you can choose your own path, rather than follow society. Start by asking yourself, “What does it mean to be Black or African American?”

Obtain broad exposure. Seek out different experiences, perspectives, places, and people that bring about a healthy level of discomfort. Moving beyond your comfort zone will expand your worldview and sense of possibilities, contribute to how you construct your identity and define your purpose, and enable you to develop and grow.

Demonstrate excellence. Being good at what you do is not enough. You must be excellent. Achieving excellence takes combining the gifts and passion you naturally possess with discipline (the time, effort, and hard work you are willing to put forth) and your beliefs (the translation of your thoughts into empowering actions and outcomes).

Build diverse and solid relationships. Historically, African Americans have had to adapt to the codes of the white majority. But in a global marketplace and a United States where minorities are the majority, code switching encompasses a wide array of standards and norms. Reach out and network with the aim of creating a culture where everyone sees the value in learning more about one another.

Seek the wisdom of others. There is always something you can learn from others, whether younger, older, less experienced, or more capable. Learn from others’ mistakes as well as their successes. When you seek the wisdom of others, you develop your own. Learn from your peers. Find a mentor, and be one, too. The best way to learn is to teach.

Find strength in numbers. Surround yourself with people who share your perspective, affirm your values, and support your goals. Cultivate an inner circle whose members are all comfortable with each other, trust each other, and watch out for each other. (The key isn’t necessarily ethnicity, but compatibility.) Get involved in collaborative organizations, which range from Black Greek-lettered fraternities and sororities to the NAACP.

Think and act intrapreneurially. Apply an entrepreneurial mindset within an established organization to effect institutional change. You must maintain a strong sense of self-determination and work within the system to make a big impact.

Think and act entrepreneurially. You must take control of your career; you must dare to be in the driver’s seat of your destiny; and you must be in a position to pursue your economic prosperity. The entrepreneurial mindset of passion, creativity, resourcefulness, courage, and resilience is mandatory for success in the twenty-first century. Work outside the system to build wealth for yourself and the community as a whole.

Synergize and reach scale. To redefine the game you must create mutually beneficial connections between people and between organizations to fulfill their collective purpose — and then amplify their collaborative actions to have the broadest or deepest possible impact in a way that levels the playing field for everyone.

Give back generously. Each and every one of us represents the continuation of a countless number of legacies and we can blaze trails for others to follow. Today, African-American giving is no longer only about survival or even helping each other; it is about empowerment and collective self-determination. To address the many challenges in our community, we must leverage our combined efforts through organizations and businesses to reach as many people as possible.

© 2010 Randal Pinkett & Jeffrey Robinson, authors of Black Faces in White Places: 10 Game-Changing Strategies to Achieve Success and Find Greatness

About The Authors:
Randal Pinkett, Ph.D., coauthor of Black Faces in White Places: 10 Game-Changing Strategies to Achieve Success and Find Greatness, was the winner of season four of The Apprentice and the show’s first minority winner. He is the co-founder, chairman, and CEO of BCT Partners, an information technology and management consulting firm. Dr. Pinkett is based in Somerset, New Jersey.For more information please visit www.randalpinkett.com and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter.

Jeffrey Robinson, Ph.D., coauthor of Black Faces in White Places: 10 Game-Changing Strategies to Achieve Success and Find Greatness, is a leading business scholar at Rutgers Business School and lives in Piscataway, New Jersey.

Be The Change You Want to See

Monday, October 18th, 2010

Image: Bob RosnerRecently I saw an excellent speaker at an HR conference. She was enthusiastic, smart, well read and incredibly informed on her subject. Her topic was increasing employee involvement and I was very interested in her presentation.

Turns out she’d worked for a big company and she’d pioneered using online bulletin boards to solve work, and non-work related problems, by giving them a common space to solve problems. She gave examples of corporate problems that were solved quickly and efficiently. There was even a story about a worker who was able to locate a donor match for surgery quickly and efficiently.

There was only one problem, she never got the audience involved. During previous sessions speakers got the audience involved asking questions, making comments and offering solutions. It was truly an interactive experience.

But during the talk on employee involvement, nada. One person asked a question in ninety minutes. One.

Her session had great information. But she never modeled the topic she focused on, getting people involved.

We all have to be careful when we try to cut the same kind of corners at work. We should understand that our words are important, but not usually the most important part of our presentations. No, there is often a much bigger message that we need to understand and respect if our message is to gain maximum leverage for our audience.

It’s our actions. Read the speech that you’re about to give to see if your actions are aligned with it.

If they aren’t aligned, you’ve got options. You can increase your walk. You can decrease your talk. Anything to get them aligned will help the cause. Yours!

About The Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.

Gen Y’ers Are Special Cases

Friday, October 8th, 2010

Image: Noel S. WilliamsHave you seen the “Drill Sergeant Therapist” commercial put out by Geico?  A self-pitying patient who looks like a Generation Y member exclaims his sadness from the couch.   He engenders little sympathy from the therapist who energetically offers to escort the “Jackwagon” on a trip to namby-pamby land in search of some real self-confidence.   The therapist then throws a tissue at his sniveling subject, disdainfully calling him a cry baby.

That kind of “tough love” may be the best therapy for the self-indulgent Gen Y’er, who looks like a confused product of the self-esteem movement.   The poor lad was probably brainwashed by mollycoddling teachers into thinking he’s “special,” but when it didn’t pan out that way in the real world, oh, he got so awfully sad.

I’m also sad because I have to deal with these “special” people in the workplace, consoling them lest the fret over not getting the best laptop or an extra PC monitor.    I even feel sympathy for our Human Resources department who must deal with their tantrums over not being promoted after completing their vey first assignment.

Over the last 20 years, permissive parents successfully lobbied schools to emphasize self-esteem over accomplishment, but these idealistic efforts to build self-confidence have often gone too far.  You’ve probably heard the little tune “Frere Jacques”.  Well, many educators tweaked the ditty such:  “I am special, I am special. Turn around, you will see.  Someone very special, someone very special, yes it’s me, yes it’s me!”  This is the kind of codswallop that leads Generation Y workers to demand a reward system based on little voices in their psyches telling them they’re special, but not based upon merit systems that enable businesses to thrive.

The “I am special” mantra lays the groundwork for unrealistic expectations and may cause cognitive dissonance when the reality hits that only a few of us are truly special.  Indeed, namby-pamby land is well represented by sad Millenials — mental health statistics show they are a stressed-out generation.

It’s problematic trying to forge a cohesive work unit from nice, but essentially ordinary workers running around with ill-conceived impressions about their self-worth.  It group cohesion when a Gen Y employee complains because our business needs preclude his unusual work schedule demands, or that our career management systems don’t instantly recognize how special he is.

Workplace surveys consistently show that Gen Y employees are generally poor performers.  Many highlight troubles assimilating Gen Y employees into the workplace, suggesting they bring as many unique challenges as strengths to the workplace.

Survey results corroborate my anecdotal experiences.  My work unit was cohesive, productive and stable… until two special people joined us.  One of our newest colleagues was a Gen Y’er whose first of many peccadilloes was to erect a conspicuous  sign in her cube proclaiming “I am special.”

Established employees whose innovation and productivity created her new position wanted action; they wanted proof of her specialness, not just obtrusive signs.  Unfortunately, the self-esteem movement which forged her notion of self-importance didn’t provide her with commensurate skills.  It didn’t help that her overinflated ego led to demands for perks normally assigned to someone approaching retirement.

Our second special recruit was an equally misguided male whose highfalutin attitude was preposterously misplaced. Despite numerous efforts at remedial training and counseling, human resources eventually aided him with some outplacement services.

Attitudinal differences between generations are complex and I’m not special enough to offer an antidote.  Perhaps a bit of authoritative parenting would keep potential namby-pambies away from drill-sergeant therapists; more importantly, away from my workplace.  Educators could also toughen up a bit, perhaps even rewarding superior performance instead of imbuing everyone with Pollyannaish notions.

Pending a shift in societal norms, we can at least remedy the symptoms. Awareness in attitudinal differences between generations will enable us to direct scarce training resources to programs that install self-confidence founded upon hard work and accomplishment, not self-entitlement.

In the meantime, there is one special benefit to the great economic recession:  faced with layoffs instead of promotion, Gen Y workers are adopting a stronger work ethic and are more amenable to direction.  Let’s hope they keep it up when we’re able to hire again.

This article was originally published on Recruiting Trends.

About the Author: Noel S. Williams currently enjoys work as an Information Technology Specialist.  While he also holds a master’s degree in Human Resource Management, it is his training as Jedi Knight that gives him the fortitude to delve into the dark side of workplace unfairness.

Efficient At Your Job, Inefficient With Your People

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Image: Bob RosnerEfficiency. If today’s workplace has a holy grail, chances are that it is summed up by the “E” word. Okay, I know what some of you are thinking, what about profitability?

The days of being “inefficiently” profitable are over. If there is a “location, location, location” like mantra for being successful today, efficiency is undoubtedly part of the equation.

Unfortunately there is one place where efficiency must take the back seat, with our people. Why?

Because people are inherently inefficient. We have to take time to earn their trust, to get to know them to appreciation their subtle contributions.

I’m born again when it comes to appreciating that people are a powerful tool, but like all powerful tools, it takes time to learn how to use them properly. Loads and loads of time: coffee breaks, drives to offsite meetings, email exchanges, furtive glances during meetings, all that and much more.

With my new job I’ve been working the halls. Getting to know people and learning from them what works and what doesn’t. It’s been insanely helpful. Heck it’s even been fun.

Back to the “E” word, so many of us are in such a rush that we increase the time, odds and difficulty factor for our projects by taking the people we must work with for granted. And then we get sabotaged or just plain struggle.

The key is to see your time bonding with people as an investment, an investment for you, for your company and for your desire to accomplish something at work.

If you’re a leader, here is a simple tactic to use. Next time someone comes to you with a problem don’t seek to be efficient, don’t just tell them what to do. Ask, “What have you tried?” “What worked?” “What didn’t work?” And the one we all overlook, “What can I do to help?”

You’ll learn something. So will they.

About The Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.

The End of Free Agent Nation (at least for me)

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

Image: Bob RosnerA friend that I went to high school is an accomplished writer on ethical issues. He’s written a couple of books and columns for the NY Times and Fortune. He once called me the biggest BS artist he’s ever met, because I write about the workplace but don’t work in one. Of course I just shrugged my shoulders and said, “Sure Jeff, and you write about ethics.”

Seriously, even though I wrote most of my articles while in shorts on my couch, I always had guidance about what was going on in the workplace from the 50,000 people who’ve written to me through the years, both bosses and employees. This insight has provided an invaluable understanding about workplace dynamics and a treasure trove of creative solutions for solving common workplace problems.

I’ve also done an average of 25 speeches a year. Which has allowed me yet another venue to take the pulse of what’s going on at work. And finally, I’ve coached a number of executives through the years.

A couple of weeks ago a company asked me to serve as a consultant to them. This isn’t unusual, I’ve done it a number of times during the course of my career.

But as the conversations continued, they eventually asked me to work for them full time. Don’t worry, I’ll continue to write my column and blog.

This got me thinking about the basic tenet of Free Agent Nation. That being an entrepreneur is the most evolved place to spend your time in the workplace. I disagree, even though I’ve done the free agent thing for many years.

I think that there are times in your life where it makes sense to be on your own and there are also times where it makes sense to occupy box on the organizational chart.

Okay, it’s weird to think about having a desk and being expected to show up at an office regularly. But I’m excited about a concept that I haven’t had for many years, colleagues, people who I can bounce ideas off of. And yes, people that I have to convince. But even that prospect can only serve to make my ideas better.

There is life after Free Agent Nation. And I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

About The Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.

HR—Friend or Foe

Monday, July 19th, 2010

Image: Bob RosnerLast week a friend stopped by who’d just been riffed by Microsoft (reduction in force, for the luckily uninitiated).

She spoke angrily about the HR woman who answered most of her questions wrong concerning her severance and departure from the company. Initially my friend was told there was no severance beyond six weeks and her layoff would leave her just short of the date where she’d be fully invested in her pension. Later she talked to a more senior HR staffer who reassured her that she would receive enough additional time to receive her pension.

Misinformation. It happens all the time. But I can think of few times more painful than when you are getting laid off to get bad information. In football the term for this would be piling on. And yet I hear from people all the time who have to go through an experience that would be difficult enough by itself, getting laid off, but then the salt water is poured in their wounds by insensitive or incompetent HR or management staff.

Let me lay a card or two on the table. I like the vast majority of Human Resources people I’ve met through the years. I’ve spoken at HR conferences, I’ve written for HR publications and I consider many HR people to be my friends. This shouldn’t be surprising because I like people with heart.

It pains me when people in HR forget that they need to be the bridge between the company and its people, rather than just serving as an agent for the company.

Let me explain. I once spoke at a HR conference. I began by asking if audience members grew up with an adult’s table and a children’s table at big family events like Thanksgiving. Most of the audience smiled and said they had.

I then asked a simple question, as an HR person, which table do you sit at where you work, the adult’s table or the children’s table? For the rest of the session, every person who spoke began by saying that they sat at the adult’s table and then they explained why. “I have a great relationship with the CEO and board.” “I attend executive staff meetings.” “I report directly to the CEO,” were typical responses.

Oh, there was one exception. At the very end of the session one HR director said that she preferred the children’s table because you could play with your food, there weren’t a bunch of annoying rules and meals were always fun.

The correct answer concerning which table is either “both” or “neither.” The most effective HR people must be able to mix it up at both the adult and children’s table, but they should never allow just one audience—executives or employees—to dominate their thinking. Because, to be effective, they need to be a bridge between both groups.

It is tough to have to fit in both in the rarefied air at the top of the corporation and in the trenches where the work really gets done. Let’s just give thanks that there are people out there who can.

About The Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.

Companies That Care About Workers' Rights: Apply Now to be Named a 2010 Top Small Company Workplace

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

Inc. magazine and the nonprofit I work for, Winning Workplaces, have partnered to find and recognize exemplary workplaces; those that motivate, engage and reward people. A model workplace can offer a critical competitive edge, ultimately retaining employees and boosting the bottom line.

Together, Inc. and Winning Workplaces will identify and honor those benchmark small and mid-sized businesses that offer truly innovative, supportive environments, thus achieving significant, sustainable business results.

“Growing, privately held companies have always excelled at competing based on the people they employ,” states Jane Berentson, Editor of Inc. magazine. “Their innate ability to innovate is woven throughout their cultures, including the way they manage and motivate their employees. Inc.’s partnership with Winning Workplaces is a great opportunity to fully recognize private company excellence in supporting their human capital.”

Click to apply for Top Small Company Workplaces 2010“Winning Workplaces is thrilled to partner with Inc. as we honor truly exemplary organizations who have created workplaces that are better for people; better for business; and better for society,” said Gaye van den Hombergh, President, Winning Workplaces. “These organizations are an inspiration to business leaders looking for ways to leverage their people practices to create more profitable and sustainable companies.”

The application process is open through January 22, 2010. To apply, go to tsw.winningworkplaces.org. The Top Small Company Workplaces will be announced in a special issue of Inc., which will be available on newsstands June 8, 2010, and on Inc.com in June. An awards ceremony, honoring the finalists and winners, will be held at the national Inc. On Leadership Conference in October 2010.

About Inc. magazine
Founded in 1979 and acquired in 2005 by Mansueto Ventures, Inc. magazine (www.inc.com) is the only major business magazine dedicated exclusively to owners and managers of growing private companies that delivers real solutions for today’s innovative company builders. With a total paid circulation of 724,110, Inc. provides hands-on tools and market-tested strategies for managing people, finances, sales, marketing and technology.

About Winning Workplaces
Winning Workplaces (www.winningworkplaces.org) is an Evanston, IL-based not-for-profit, whose mission is to help the leaders of small and mid-sized organizations create great workplaces. Founded in 2001, Winning Workplaces serves as a clearinghouse of information on workplace best practices, provides seminars and workshops on workplace-related topics and inspires and awards top workplaces through its annual Top Small Company Workplaces initiative.

About the Author: Mark Harbeke ensures that content on Winning Workplaces’ website is up-to-date, accurate and engaging. He also writes and edits their monthly e-newsletter, Ideas, and provides graphic design and marketing support. His experience includes serving as editorial assistant for Meredith Corporation’s Midwest Living magazine title, publications editor for Visionation, Ltd., and proofreader for the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. Mark holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Drake University. Winning Workplaces is a not-for-profit providing consulting, training and information to help small and midsize organizations create great workplaces. Too often, the information and resources needed to create a high-performance workplace are out of reach for all but the largest organizations. Winning Workplaces is changing that by offering employers affordable consulting, training and information.

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