I often ask people, "what is your story?"
Today, I am going to tell you a story that may surprise you.
It is a story that illustrates some of the absolute worst workplace behaviour I have ever gained knowledge of.
It involves deceit, bullying, negligence, and cowardice.
And while these alone may not be enough to cause you to shake your head, perhaps this will:
It was perpetrated by HR...
In one of the most egregious examples of breaching the trust and respect of an employee I have come across.
A NOTE TO BEGIN...
You will notice that the story I am about to tell you may be vague in places, lacking specific details you will want to know and containing intrigue where it is not intended.
I apologize for this...however it is necessary.
You see, it is my belief that the antagonist in the story I am about to outline monitors this blog...
And, if in any way is identified, will exact their revenge on the victim (who still works for the company) in a most harsh and harmful way.
However, as with any bully, this one relies on the silence of their victim to retain their position of power.
And, in the only way I can without causing further harm to the victim, I will deny this person the silence they desire, if only slightly to bring a sliver of light to the events that have transpired.
Am I being unnecessarily dramatic?
Because the bully I mentioned is the company's HR Manager...
The very person who wrote the company's policies on workplace harassment...
The one person who knows better than anyone else how to get around these policies and get away with wreaking havoc on the lives of employees.
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THE STORY OF NED
17 years ago, Ned watched his father and grandfather go off to work.
He recalls how, even as a boy, all he wanted to was follow in their footsteps.
So, Ned trained hard.
He eventually gets hired.
He had his dream job...
...A dream that would become a nightmare (ok..THAT was overly dramatic...)
Ned is a hard worker with the utmost respect for the job.
It was this respect that would prove to be his downfall.
Ned's respect for the job meant that he believed all of the rules, policies, and procedures that made up the job were sanctified.
When he saw others break these rules and ignore these procedures, he interpreted their actions as a sign of disrespect.
And this got under his skin.
Unfortunately, Ned lacked the human skills to address his concerns with others in a non-confrontational way.
He didn't discuss, he blamed.
And he took issue with even the smallest of infractions.
FROM BAD TO WORSE
Seeing few other options, Ned took his concerns to his managers.
This led to him being targeted at work by the 2%ers who were the most guilty of thumbing their nose at the rules...
So Ned started to make notes to document incidents and gather proof.
Eventually, Ned gathered his notes and presented them to his manager with the expectation that his manager would fix the problem.
This didn't result in the outcome Ned had expected.
His managers saw Ned as the problem.
The response to his concerns was Ned being told to "suck it up" and to let it go.
Ned's manager started telling other managers and workers about Ned, reportedly spreading the rumour that Ned was "crazy" and "unstable".
Ned, who (again) lacked the human skills to neutralize this behaviour from the outset, fueled these rumours by losing his temper.
As the situations grew, it eventually landed on the desk of the HR Manager to deal with.
HR - THE TWO-HEADED SNAKE
Ned met with the company's HR Manager, bringing with him his file of documented evidence.
He wanted to tell his story and believed HR would help him fix the problem.
It was HR after all...
Ned was greeted by the HR Manager, who (according to Ned) held an interrogating gaze and sly smile.
You know the look...it is that look people give you when they feel they hold a position of superior moral, professional, or intellectual authority over you.
The HR Manager, spoke calmly and eloquently, and their smile never left their face.
Ned told his story, discussed his documented evidence, and made his case.
He believed that...finally...the wrong would be righted.
Once Ned had finished, the HR manager, began to immediately disappoint.
They resorted to the use of "HR speak*"...and quoted company policies while never directly addressing Ned's allegation.
(*HR speak: the excessive use of HR-related buzzwords or phrases meant to convey a superior sense of knowledge or wisdom to the listener but that, in reality, have little substance.)
The HR manager made numerous statements but didn't to ask Ned a single question about his claims.
As the HR Manager continued, Ned noticed their expression was all but completely void of any compassion for the harassment Ned had been enduring.
The meeting ended with the HR manager telling Ned that they would investigate and take care of it.
Or so Ned was led to believe.
HR BLAMES THE VICTIM
As would be expected, HR "conducted" an investigation into the matter.
The HR Manager spoke only with Ned's coworkers who were targeting him.
They, of course, denied they were doing anything wrong.
Instead, they turned the tables around and accused Ned of being "nuts".
Unlike Ned, though, they had no documented evidence.
Never-the-less, the HR Manager concluded the investigation there...
Ignoring the numerous red flags that should have been obvious to an experienced HR Manager...
At least one conducting an unbiased, thorough investigation, HR chose to believe the words of the coworkers over Ned's documented evidence.
The HR Manager concluded that Ned indeed was the problem, and dismisses the issue.
When approached by Ned once again, the HR Manager chose to deceive him.
Rather than tell Ned they had dismissed the issue, the HR Manager told Ned that they believed the coworkers were lying but there was nothing that HR could do to help.
Instead, the HR Manager told Ned that he had to let it go...that he needed to just go back and do his job and keep his head down, because there was nothing that could be done to improve his situation.
It is no wonder that others we have spoken to in this company have zero respect for HR.
This is all on the record.
HR...COVER UP EXPERTS?
Ned wasn't satisfied with this.
He intended to stand up for what he believed was right.
So next, the HR Director gets involved.
The HR Director (the Manager's boss) advised Ned that "the solution was being worked on..." but provided no insight into what this may be.
However, the Director assured him, they had a plan.
In the meantime Ned continued to be harassed at work and his safety threatened.
All while the 2-headed snakes continued to tell Ned, both verbally and through email, that he should "take time off", "take care of himself", "get better", and "get fixed".
Again, blaming him. Treating Ned like the problem that needed to change.
They continued to reassure Ned that they would fix the problem.
All the while, they actively worked to paint Ned as an insubordinate disruptor who they needed to go away...
Even go so far as to participate in the perpetuation of the rumours that Ned was "crazy".
They knew that, with Ned's evidence, they couldn't simply fire him without significant scrutiny being placed on their own activities and involvement.
This went on for years.
This means that Ned has been waiting for HR to end the workplace bullying, threats, and harassment from his coworkers for years.
There is still no evidence of the problem being dealt with directly.
Over the years, HR has conducted respectful workplace seminars hoping those they know are guilty of the harassment will change their ways.
HR has hired consultants to conduct other forms of training for all of the workers...yet has never directly addressed those small number of workers who have actually caused the problem.
Whether they lack the necessary competencies or they simply don't want to draw attention to how ineptly they have handled Ned's situation, they continue to ignore the elephant in the room.
When questioned, they still say all of these years later that they have a plan. When asked what this plan is, the refuse to answer, citing "confidentiality".
As in many companies, word travels fast.
All of the workers have watched this happen over the years and understand the underlying message interpreted from HR's actions...
That you better not create waves or question HR because it is easier for them to intimidate and force out the isolated victim than it is to stand up to those workers causing the bullying.
Ask others in this company about HR and the words and phrases used to describe them are:
- Without integrity
Of course, they won't say this on record at work because they know what will happen to them if they do.
WHO IS HOLDING HR ACCOUNTABLE?
As an outsider, I try to remain neutral until I gather the facts.
This case, however, disgusts me.
An employee reached out to HR for help.
To that employee, they offered reassurance and promises.
These, it turned out, were disingenuous and empty.
How can one engage in this behaviour and then tell others how important respect in the workplace is?
Is this neglect? I am no authority on the legalities surrounding this word so I can't say.
If you are in HR, however, would you have handled this differently?
I hope so.
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