Author’s Note: In a previous blog, we found out about Harold, who saw all the promotions going on around him but wasn’t getting promoted himself. Having spoken with his HR representative and receiving a less than satisfactory response, he wondered what his next step was. Unfortunately, the HR representative wasn’t the only one who was less than forthcoming with him.
After hearing the response from HR and seeing that he would get no help on that front, Harold began to work on some other fronts to understand why he wasn’t getting promoted and what he could to change that situation. Taking the direct route, he spoke with his supervisor and her manager, plainly asking what he was doing wrong. They answered carefully and with consideration they said they were glad Harold brought this to their attention and would be speaking with him separately about it. Harold didn’t hold his breath waiting for that to happen, but he would follow up on occasion to remind them about that conversation.
It was then something interesting happened. An executive of the department asked to meet with Harold to discuss Harold wanting to advance. They sat and chatted for a while about what Harold thought were some of the gaps in the department’s servicing structure. Harold offered his thoughts, and the executive asked him to submit a proposal for a position to address that gap. Again, Harold tempered his expectations but knew he had to go along for even the hope of some progress.
He spoke with his management about the conversation, which his management had facilitated, and was asked by them to run the proposal passed their eyes before going to the senior executive. Harold crafted this new position document carefully, getting feedback, making changes, and then handed it to his senior management for their response.
The manager’s response was one of silence. Besides saying that he had discussed this with the executive, he said nothing else. Upon prompting by Harold the manager shared that the department leadership was about to undergo discussions about their servicing structure so there could be no new positions for now. Harold was disappointed but realized he needed to play the game. He continued to do his job, handled the increasing workload, and waited as patiently as possible.
A few weeks later the department shared the new servicing structure, designed to help the department cope with increased business with the same amount of people. With that done, Harold hoped his proposal would get some attention. He continued to do his job, handled the increasing workload, and waited as patiently as possible.
A week or so later Harold was informed that the company had decided to expand their investigations beyond the servicing strategy into their sales strategy. This would place a hold on any consideration of Harold’s proposal, though he was told there was still interest in it. He continued to do his job, handled the increasing workload, and waited as patiently as possible. See a pattern here?
The manager was true to his word and let Harold know there was progress on the position and told Harold a meeting would appear on his calendar very soon regarding it. Harold was grateful and waited for the meeting to appear…and waited…and waited. He sent a follow up message or so thanking the manager for the information and wondering when the meeting would be scheduled.
A week or so later a meeting appeared. Looking at the invitees, Harold saw a name he really wasn’t happy to see. It was Gloria, the HR person Harold had spoken to previously. The meeting was not to discuss the new position, but to let Harold know his position had been eliminated. While he wasn’t alone in the layoffs, as many of his colleagues were also on the receiving end of these conversations, it felt like a betrayal to Harold. To him, it felt like they were stringing him along, getting the work out of him, plying him with promises of recognition until they no longer needed his effort.
Economic times are good and they are bad. Companies hire and they lay off. Any experienced employee knows this. What stays the same, or what should stay the same, is the integrity of the people navigating these oceans. You can either be up front and forthright with your employees or you can install false hope to keep your people productive and then pull the rug out from under them.
The first way doesn’t guarantee high productivity but does treats your employees with the respect they want and deserve. The second can give you the results you want but tells your employees that they matter very little to the company. What does it matter? They’re going to be let go anyway. So what if your company gets a poor reputation online with job seekers? There will always be someone who will believe the promises of advancement and a company which cares about them.
The United States and the world recently went through a period where there weren’t enough people to hire, forcing companies to be competitive. Not wanting to throw money at the problem, many HR people spoke of ‘the company culture’ as the differentiator. Every time a company treats a Harold the way they do. Every time a Harold is strung along. Every time these type of tactics are used to get productivity, it chips away at the collective integrity of the corporate world. Excuse me, Mr. or Ms. HR person, but too many have seen your ‘culture’. We’ll take the money, thank you very much.