A month or two, shortly after our new COO came aboard, we had a division-wide meeting (at FalStaff, a division is a collection of departments) that included us, our sister department, and both departments’ QA groups (which I was not a part of then, but am now). The premise behind the meeting was to talk with our new HR director and learn about our benefits and discuss what we’d like to see from the company.
It smelled very much like an ambush.
Several months ago, relations between the Legal Standards & Compliance (LSC) Department and Reports & Legal Contracts (RLC) Departments reached a low. The CIO (our chief, Willard and George’s boss, as well as the head of LSC (which, contrary to its name, is not staffed with lawyers or even paralegals). The day before the meeting, Jarvis (Willard’s deputy) warned us not to air any of our complaints. It was an odd thing to say, considering that was the whole point of the meeting (both sides airing our complaints). Jarvis told us that they were baiting us to complain and that the reason they were having the meeting was to tell us to lay back on them, not to come to any mutual understanding on the matter.
We heeded Jarvis’s advice. Our sister department got no such advice and registered a complaint. As Jarvis predicted, the subject was immediately turned to how much we didn’t appreciate how hard that LSC was working and how all we do is complain about the job they do and yadda yadda yadda. The substance, which was not wholly inaccurate in hindisight, isn’t the point. The point is that they drew us in to one meeting with one purpose and then had a very different meeting with a different purpose.
As predicted, the HR meeting was an ambush. The new HR guy gave a good twenty minute speech emphasizing how he was our advocate and on our side. At the end of the twenty minutes, he asked if we had any questions or complaints about the policies. The first complaint triggered the real meaning of the meeting, which was how unobservant we have been of longstanding company policies (which aren’t written down). He went in to our unacceptable dress, our questionable work ethic, our imperfect attendence, and a litany of management complaints.
But worst of all were the threats. If someone is caught surfing the Internet on company time, they’ll take away our Internet. If people continue to skirt the current dress codes, they’ll make them more stringent. Pregnant employees, whose feet had swollen beyond the size of their shoes, were told they had to buy new shoes rather than wear sandals. To give you an idea of the tone and nature of the discussion, he said that if you miss days without company permission (or take more than three sick days) that your job is at risk. He went into what came across as a tirade about how if they wanted part-time workers, they would hire part-time workers, but this company doesn’t hire part-time workers for a reason. At least six people in the room were designated part-time employees. But the essential gyst was “You are replaceable. If you don’t want to do things exactly our way, we’ll find someone else that will.”
A very morale-building speech from our advocate.
The COO joined in the meeting and said, more-or-less, that his primary concern was the bottom line. Often that means pleasing us, sometimes it means not pleasing us. Stick with the company and work hard and you’ll get ahead. If not then not. Not a different message, but I couldn’t help but have more respect for him because he never pretended to be our ally.
The HR guy works in the old building and from home, so we rarely see him. When we do, he’s usually canvassing the aisles looking for people that are not staying focus. They’ve been discussing taking away our fifteen minute breaks. I suspect he’s gathering evidence to justify it. We also know that he wants our Internet access taken away, too.
I got the impression that he used to be an executive of either this company or one of the Fallons’ other ventures. Or some other company. This must be his first stint as an HR director because he is approaching everything as a supervisor. I can see where he’s coming from on most of what he has to say and even agree with a lot of it. But this company has a pretty bad problem with turnover. Less than half the employees that were here when I got here are still here. Every few months they basically have to train a new RLC Dept. The company acknowledges this as a problem and will periodically send out questionnaires always followed by complaints of lack of participation and a stern warning that they can’t help us if we don’t tell them what’s wrong.