The Human Resources Department in this one organization was reminiscent of a trauma center. Its personnel were extremely busy handling emergencies. People were not necessarily in the facility, but they were backed up on the phone lines and in the e-mail system. HR technicians were anxiously utilizing their expertise to treat each employee for their affliction. When the scene was extremely hurried, calls were routed to the answering service and placed in a queue until the messages could be returned. They often stated that they will get back to you at the earliest convenience. When contact is made, there is the nebulous comfort of knowing that your call is being monitored for quality purposes.
At times the department could have been labeled ER instead of HR. With the ER standing for employee retention, employee recovery, employee replacement or employee rescue. The counselors were there to listen to the grievances, perform attitude adjustments, and recommend strategies that would benefit the patient as well as the organization. Sometimes they had to perform surgery to extract misunderstandings and misinformation and settle claims that could resort from managerial malpractice.
One employee at an insurance company described a situation that reminded me of a trauma center. It was as if she was in a combat zone with warring factions all around her. Some people kept their heads down and continued to fight through the workload. Others went AWOL and left the organization. The climate was similar to a MASH unit. This terminology is familiar to those in the military who fought in combat situations. MASH was also the name of situation comedy which was very popular years ago. MASH in our HR situation stands for Managers Are Stifling Hope or Managers Are Spreading Hostility, as their employees are demoralized and afraid to resign. The tragedy is that these Managers Are Sacrificing Heroes, when they really need their people to deliver heroic efforts beyond expectations in a competitive marketplace.
The ER department’s data bank reveals that many employees have problems with their manager. Their managers are unable to function in a stressful environment without taking it out on their people. They were not given stress management courses in leadership school. Employees are complaining about the way their managers treat them and speak to them. Employees cite circumstances where they feel threatened and intimidated. They describe wounds to their egos and blows to their self-esteem. There are complaints of verbal bashing, name-calling, being betrayed and stabbed in the back by lies and innuendos. The manager’s actions created a hostile work environment that borders on harassment at least in the minds of these individual.
One individual from an insurance company described a toxic climate where the following statements were said to her.
- “Someone is going to lose their job and it won’t be me.”
- “If you don’t like it you can leave. There are plenty of people ready to take your place.”
- “I know I shouldn’t be saying this. And this could get me fired, but……..” (She continued with her inflammatory remarks against her employees)
Veterans of the workforce have commented that they don’t recall seeing things this bad. They are astonished by the lack of trust that exists between employees and management. Some are pessimistic about change in the immediate future. However, some are optimistic and say this is part of a cycle and improvement will occur when business performs better. As sales go up, people perform better at every level and much of the tension is removed from daily interactions between employees and supervisors.
I look forward to the world pictured by the optimist. It will be comforting when people are more engaged and the culture improves at work and at home. I will probably receive fewer telephone calls from people who feel threatened on their jobs and are very nervous because they fear being unemployed. There is hope now that the job market is getting better, but jumping ship is always a nervous thing to do. To the workers who are losing sleep, unable to eat or eat too much and drink to calm their nerves, they want relief. They want the resilience of those who are exercising more to increase the ability to handle the stress until the world improves.
Managers have different ways to handle pressure and stress associated with it. Those who are very skillful and competent, recognize that intimidation is a short term means of getting results. At some point this approach will become counterproductive when the manager really needs his people to deliver their maximum levels of engagement and results. It is easy to say that an employee should control what they can and work to become an indispensable member of the organization. Individuals with superior skills can generally land a job in any economic environment. But employees still need the ER to help them through the tough times.
Periodically, it is important to assess the injuries that are being treated in the Human Resources Department. Responsible leadership should evaluate these cases and the use these data points, along with employee surveys and focus groups to determine the health of the organization.
The question is what can be done to prevent the assault on HR from wounded employees who view it as their Emergency Room where Employee Restoration is practiced before returning them back to work? What can be done for the manager to remove the incentive to intimidate others? How can we turn HR into the ER which is the engagement room, or the empowerment room, where people are revitalized, and energized and anxious to go to work?
The Human Resources Department performs a vital role in the health and well-being of any organization. Its ability to ensure that the company’s greatest asset, its people, are hired, trained, developed, and placed in situations that are best for the individual and the organization, will have a profound business impact.
Organizations must work to ensure that if HR becomes the ER, it is a positive place where people receive the treatment they deserve. If HR becomes a MASH unit may it be because Managers Are Sanctioning Hope. Where the treatment they deserve empowers them to be more engaged, more productive and committed to exceeding the objectives that will make the organization and its members successful.
Copyright © 2015 Orlando Ceaser