Tuesday, April 15, 2008

"My" HR Executives


I've worked for three senior HR executives in my non-military career. They have been of different sex, race, and background. I thought it would be worth sharing a few simple observations and experiences I had/have working for them.
I once began an email "Leadership Lesson" that I would blast out to the management of the organization that I worked for as well as some outsiders who I thought would appreciate them. My boss told me not to include the senior executives in my Leadership Lessons group.

I was told to never email the CEO, with anything. There is a strict chain of command. You could probably describe me as far from being a "climber" as anyone could be. But if there was something that I thought might be of interest to the CEO as it related to my position, I figured why not? That thinking ended mighty quickly.

When a minor blip in the company's finances occurred, this HR executive immediately put our periodic service awards program on hiatus. The program had been wildly successful and enjoyed by staff who were recognized in an affirming way for reaching important milestones in their careers in the organization. If I ever begged for anything in my career, I begged that we could keep the program alive. I believed it would send a extremely negative message and in relative terms be of minimal expense to continue on schedule. So much for begging.

I once received an annual performance evaluation from my HR VP with him sitting behind his desk and me sitting in front of the desk. The performance evaluation form was on the corner of the desk and was completely blank. He sort of scooted the papers towards me, and it was a very awkward meeting for the both of us.

In my capacity as Director of Employee Relations, along with my VP, we developed a Formal Review process of management actions that had a committee of other mid-level directors as the final decision makers on whether a management action would be upheld or reversed. We thought together that the Formal Review process would be powerful learning opportunities for the members of the committee as well as the managers/directors whose decisions were being reviewed.

One of my bosses always thought it best to bring in managers to review drafts of HR policy's before they were finalized and promulgated and affected their lives. HR welcomed the advice of managers in policy development at this organization.

In one organization the final decision on all personnel "Grievances" was always the VP of HR.

One of my bosses tended to prefer more positive HR terms when we designed policies and procedures. We used "Initial Evaluation Period" when other companies might call it "Probationary Status." You know, new employees. We called it "Corrective Action" instead of the "Disciplinary Policy." "Formal Reviews" not "Grievance Procedures."

One boss's weekly meeting with his directors were mostly information sharing, usually from him to us. His people performed for him more than anything.

One boss's weekly meetings encouraged open discussion and real problem-solving where we were listened to and, as a team, we came up with more optimal solutions for the issues we faced.

One boss always publicly praised the fine work of her team.

One VP never said a word of public praise for the fine work of his team.

One of my bosses believed that her reports and her could be friends.

One ensured I always knew who was in charge and actually said to me once, "Your time is my time."

All three have pretty much left me alone to perform.

This HR career thing has been quite an interesting ride!
(For any of you too young to know, that would be The Boss's picture up there!)

1 comment:

Ralph said...

LOL at "boss's picture."

I only have direct experience with federal HR offices. Without exception, they've had their heads up their asses. They have given definition to the words "bureaucratic" and "unresponsive." I don't have space here to describe how the processing of my retirement application was mishandled, but it's enough to say that if I hadn't taken a proactive stance I'd either still be working or receiving much less of the annuity due me.

Partner works for an HR company, the words "personnel services" is actually part of its title. Their treatment of employees could make a textbook of what not to do.

I come away wondering, at least in these two instances, why, if employees are in some cases lucky enough to thrive, it's in spite of HR treatment rather than because of it.

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