The Great Con

Harold hung up the phone, still seething from the conversation he just with his company’s HR department. All he could think of what he suspected the department’s motto was, “There’s a sucker born every minute”, and practiced that motto with gusto and glee. He could count himself as one of the victims of the latest round of con artistry perpetrated by what was laughingly called Human Resources.

He had called HR because he was frustrated. He was buried with work and continually given new assignments. These new assignments were usually not his regular job responsibilities, but he was known as the guy who would figure it out, so he was the one who received the tough problems. He would often succeed in these tasks, get a good pat on the back from his manager, and be rewarded with more work. “Nothing succeeds like success!”, his manager would say with an annoying chuckle.

Yet, every time Harold would bring up the subject of promotion for his hard work, suddenly his work wasn’t quite good enough and his achievements not so wonderful. He was told maybe next year if he showed he could handle the work given to him, and then more work dumped upon him. He was stressed, exhausted, and physically ill.

He had no great love of Human Resources as he had seen their lack of caring for employees over the years, but he threw the dice and took advantage of their offer to speak with any employee about career advancement. What he heard did not change his opinion of the group. Rather, it caused him to have, if anything, a lower opinion of that misnamed group.

He spoke to the HR rep, Gloria, about the workload, the stress, the extra work, and the lack of tangible appreciation for his contributions. Gloria listened silently, asked a few questions, and let him finish his thoughts. “What do I do to get tangibly recognized?”, Harold asked, emotionally.

Gloria began what was to be her well-practiced speech. “I think you need to look not at vertical advancement, but rather role expansion.” In other words, the rep was telling Harold that there would be no help with a promotion, but rather ‘finding satisfaction’ through more duties in his current role and level. The company would get even more work out of Harold and he would receive nothing except more stress.

Harold bit back a few of the more colorful comments he was about to make. Instead, he said, “So this would lead to a promotion?” Gloria would not comment on that but rather said it would make him more marketable in the company so he would have more opportunities. Harold thanked her and prepared for round two.

Round two involved Harold taking time one night to detail all the work he had done that was outside his formal job description. To his surprise, it ran several pages, especially with the explanation of each and how it benefitted the company. He double checked it and composed an email to Gloria. In it he said he appreciated the conversation on job expansion. It inspired him to detail every time his job expanded, which was attached. Could Gloria review the attachment and let him know the next step to promotion, as it was pretty obvious to him that he had expanded tremendously, to the point where he had no more bandwidth for anything. He pressed Send and awaited the reply.

That reply came a few days later. An obviously perturbed Gloria wrote back something very simple. She thanked Harold for his submission, but ‘reminded’ him that the company was not in the habit of giving promotions for, “…simply doing your job”. Harold decided then and there to cut back on his willingness, his problem solving, and his workload. Obviously hard work didn’t matter to people who were only interested in pack mules, not human resources.

A leader of a small firm once said that he didn’t like the idea of calling the group Human Resources. He said it downgraded employees to simple resources, not something that is valued and should be grown. It’s a shame when the view of Human Resources is that people are expendible and HR’s only function is to squeeze more work out of them without providing any compensation. Their role was not advancing them in the workplace. Heaven forbid! Yet these same HR people will moan and wail when they can’t get quality employees who are committed to growing the company. Pro Tip, HR folks: You can’t have it both ways.

HR Leaders — are you simply an efficiency expert of the company — seeing how much work you can get per unit. Or, are you there truly to grow and develop your people? The first guarantees events like The Great Resignation. The second ensures a stable and knowledgable workforce. If you are the first, then I guess the only job you really care about is you own.

When that is the only job you are interested in promoting, you are obviously in the wrong line of work.


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