Posted by Erik Even on Aug 17, 2009 in Employment
It can be confusing, sometimes, to figure out what a human resources manager does. Is he or she a representative of management, a manager, or an employee advocate? (Yes.) Is he or she involved in payroll, hiring, and benefits? (Yes.) Can you go to your HR Manager if you have an issue with your superior? (Yes.)
The HR person’s role can vary between companies. But here are some basic responsibilities:
Hiring: Often, managers at a firm will write up a description for a position they need filled. The HR manager will then act as a recruiter — placing the job ad, evaluating responses, and setting up interviews with potential employees. If the HR manager is happy with the outcome of that first interview, he or she will set up one or more interviews with the actual manager and other executives, sometimes on the same day.
In my experience, especially concerning technical and new media positions, an HR manager will happily pass you along to your potential supervisor, who will decide you are not a fit for the position at all. What’s the disconnect between the HR manager and the supervisor? Usually a lack of communication, and a poor understanding on the HR Manager’s part of what the position entails.
Member of management: One of an HR manager’s primary duties is to ensure professional business practices in all human resources decisions and communications. Usually this involves creating an employee manual, and then enforcing the rules of the manual. In a growing company, the HR person may need to demolish the fun, freewheeling atmosphere of a small company in order to protect it from lawsuits as it becomes a medium-sized or large company.
HR managers must be on the lookout for inappropriate behavior — sexual harassment, inappropriate jokes or pranks, racial or religious remarks, unsuitable work clothing, dangerous work practices that may lead to injury, etc. This applies to both management and non-management employees. At a well-run company, the HR manager has the authority to force management into behaving properly and treating employees with respect.
Employee advocate: When an employee is not getting what they are due — a raise, bonus or promotion, job resources, respect — the HR person becomes his or her advocate, working with the employee and with management to reach a solution. But if your HR manager has no pull with management, then they are ill-suited to advocate on your behalf. This is why unions exist.
Let us know what you think in the comments!
Posted by Erik Even on Jun 1, 2009 in Advice
, Job Search
About a year ago, I was contacted by an entertainment lawyer who was looking to hire a writer. This guy was a genuine bigwig — hundreds of celebrity photos all over his office, and a video player on infinite loop in the front office with his many interviews on cable news shows, talking about the latest legal problems of Lindsay Lohan and other celebs.
I put on my suit, printed out the writing samples he had requested, and schlepped across town to his Beverly Hills office. There was already another applicant waiting when I arrived. I filled out the usual paperwork and handed over a copy of my resume.
At about the precise time of my interview, the lawyer arrived at his office. After a few minutes, he called in the other applicant.
Fifty-six seconds later, the other applicant came back out, looking confused. He left, and I was called in.
The lawyer told me sit down, and asked me some basic questions about my background. I started to give the usual interview answers, designed to emphasize my skills — but he cut me off. He just wanted the basic facts. So that’s what I gave him.
After a few more basic questions (did I have a car? was I insured?), he told me my resume was going on the pile, and if he decided to call me back, would the next Wednesday afternoon be a good time for another interview? “Yes,” I lied. He shook my hand and I left.
Fifty-six seconds had passed.
No, I would not have gone to the second interview if I had been invited (I wasn’t). This individual did not respect me, or my time. What kind of a nightmare would it have been to work for him?
What was he even trying to accomplish? He wanted to briefly meet each applicant before arranging an interview — why? Was he trying to avoid a certain ethnic group? Perhaps if he had warned me the first interview would be very brief, I would not have been offended.
In another, less heinous example, a Internet firm down by the airport called me in to interview with the HR person and the manager who would be my superior. I had an excellent conversation, for about half an hour, with the HR rep. Then she went off to find the manager.
Fifteen minutes later, deeply embarrassed, she returned to tell me that the manager was on a call that went long, and he couldn’t see me. Maybe I could come back the next week. “That would be fine,” I lied, with a smile plastered to my face.
A few days later, they gave the job to someone who interviewed before I did. That’s okay — I wouldn’t have gone back.
I have worked for people who, I assure you, would never treat a job applicant this way. In fact, I like to think that these arrogant and unprofessional employers are in the minority. But I have worked for people who had no respect for their own employees — and you do not want to work for these people.
As a manager, you do not want to be one of these people, either. No matter what your yearly income, title, or level of responsibility, you are not above the rules of common decency. A job applicant’s time is as valuable as your own. And even if you don’t accept that, then look at it this way — you are mistreating people who might be highly skilled workers who can make you a lot of money.
There are only two circumstances under which is permissible to treat people poorly and take advantage of their need for employment: never, and never ever. Act accordingly — it’s the ethical and professional thing to do.
Posted by Erik Even on Mar 31, 2009 in Careers
Today, a joke:
One day while walking down the street, a highly successful Human Resources Director was tragically hit by a bus and died. Her soul arrived up in Heaven where she was met at the Pearly Gates by St. Peter himself.
“Welcome to Heaven,” said St. Peter. “Before you get settled in though, it seems we have a problem. You see, strangely enough, we’ve never once had a Human Resources Director make it this far and we’re not really sure what to do with you.”
“No problem, just let me in,” said the woman.
“Well, I’d like to, but I have higher orders. What we’re going to do is let you have a day in Hell and a day in Heaven. Then you can choose whichever one you want to spend an eternity in,” replied St. Peter.
“Actually, I think I’ve made up my mind, I prefer to stay in Heaven”, said the woman.
“Sorry, we have rules…” And with that, St. Peter put the executive in an elevator and it went down, down, down to hell.
The doors opened and she found herself stepping out onto the putting green of a beautiful golf course. In the distance was a country club and standing in front of her were all her friends – fellow executives who she had worked with. They were well dressed in evening gowns and cheering for her. They ran up and kissed her on both cheeks, and they talked about old times. They played an excellent round of golf.
That night they all went to the country club where she enjoyed an excellent steak and lobster dinner. She met the Devil who was actually a really nice guy (kind of cute), and she had a great time telling jokes and dancing. She was having such a good time that before she knew it, it was time to leave. Everybody shook her hand and waved goodbye as she got on the elevator. The elevator went up, up, up and opened at the Pearly Gates where she found St. Peter waiting for her.
“Now it’s time to spend a day in heaven,” he said. So she spent the next 24 hours lounging around on clouds and playing the harp and singing. She had a great time. Before she knew it, her 24 hours were up, and St. Peter came and got her.
“So, you’ve spent a day in Hell and you’ve spent a day in Heaven. Now you must choose your eternity,” said St. Peter.
The woman replied, “Well, I never thought I’d say this, I mean, Heaven has been really great and all, but I think I had a better time in Hell.”
So St. Peter escorted her to the elevator and again she went down, down, down back to Hell. When the doors of the elevator opened, she found herself standing in a desolate wasteland covered in garbage and filth. She saw her friends were dressed in rags and were picking up the garbage and putting it in sacks.
The Devil came up to her and put his arm around her. “I don’t understand,” stammered the woman, “Yesterday I was here, and there was a golf course and a country club. We ate lobster, and we danced and had a great time. Now all there is a wasteland of garbage, and all my friends look miserable.”
The Devil looked at her and smiled. “Yesterday we were recruiting you, today you’re staff…”
Posted by Erik Even on Mar 30, 2009 in Careers
, Job Search
Just about everyone has had to deal with a bad boss — a supervisor who is mean, incompetent, manipulative, inappropriate, unprofessional, or all of the above. It’s like they say: those who can, do; those who can’t, teach; and those who can’t teach, manage.
But how do you deal with a difficult boss, when you job relies on keeping this insane person happy?
The best advice is: find a new employer. You shouldn’t have to put up with an unprofessional supervisor, and a clean break is the best cure.
Unfortunately, for a lot of people, this is not an immediate option, not in this economy.
Be unfailing professional. In the face of whatever bad boss behavior is driving you crazy, be calm, businesslike and mature. Of course, any employee or employer should behave this way anyway. But by being aggressively professional despite your boss’ antics, you will (1) impress other people at the company, including someone who might be in the position to get you out from under this bad boss, and (2) you might — might– actually influence your boss to behave better.
Some people call this “managing up,” a term I hate because it implies it’s your job to fix your boss. It’s not — but any positive steps you can take will just make your life easier.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. If your boss ignores your emails, gives contradictory instructions, or plans meetings during lunch without providing food, you’re just going to have to live with it until you get out of there.
Report the big stuff. If your boss is sexually harassing you, or physically or emotionally abusing you, you do not have to put up with this, nor should you. Go straight to your HR manager, if the firm has one. If you work at a small firm, consider speaking to a lawyer or a government agency. But this kind of thing is not okay.
Don’t badmouth your boss to other people at the firm. Everyone probably already knows your boss is insane, and will show you sympathy and may even be able to help you deal with him or her. But if you go around criticizing your boss to everyone, this will be noticed by management, who may come to see you as more of a problem than your supervisor. If you have to vent, vent at home. And don’t write criticism of your boss in IM or on email at work –your company can read that stuff!
Have any more advice about dealing with bad bosses? Let us know in the comments!