The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


June 21, 2013

Watercooler: When HR goes off the rails

Q: I work for a large nonprofit (300 to 500 employees) that has recently restructured its human resources department. The new policy is that employees are not allowed to contact HR directly; all requests or questions — including pay issues, benefits concerns and supervisor conflicts — must first go through supervisors and up a multi-level chain of command before HR sees them.

Is distancing and even removing communication between HR and employees a standard practice? We're all baffled at how this new system is beneficial.

Karla: My reaction: "Whut."

For a more cogent analysis, I turned to Steven Miranda, managing director at Cornell University ILR School's Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies. As Miranda sees it, your new policy creates three major problems:

1. Increased risk for the company. How can workers safely report harassment if the perpetrators are part of the mandatory reporting chain?

2. Mistrustful atmosphere. Employees could infer that management either doesn't trust HR or doesn't trust employees to know what issues are worth elevating.

3. Inefficiency. The multiple reporting levels are "bad operational hygiene," Miranda says. If your IT department required all those steps to request a repair, productivity would squeal to a halt.

Your odds of getting this policy changed range from slim to infinitesimal, but knowing the reasons behind it might make it more tolerable. Miranda suggests three explanations:

1. If HR lost most of its staff in the restructuring, the policy may be a way to manage workflow.

2. If the department is not competent, management may be avoiding routing important decisions through it.

3. The company may want to make middle managers more accountable and engaged.

Since your official communication channels have more layers and hoops than a debutante's ballgown, I recommend seeking a friendly high-level source who is willing to listen to you explain, using Miranda's first three points, that the policy is bad for the company. This source might be able to communicate that to the higher-ups and also convince them that they should communicate their strategy to worried workers.

Text Only
  • How to become a leader

    QUESTION: I’ve just been promoted into a leadership role. I’m excited, but also kind of overwhelmed. What do I need to do to be good at my new job?

    July 24, 2014

  • Balancing Act: How much is your time worth? Consider outsourcing some tasks

    Todd Paton has a booming business getting customers noticed on the Web. One tool he uses is generating online press releases to build brand awareness and create links that will send traffic to a customer’s website. But Paton, owner of Paton Internet Marketing, acknowledges that writing the releases is not his strong suit. Rather than spend his time doing it, he hires out the task.

    July 23, 2014

  • The Color of Money: No easy way to get out of debt

    Many people who are deeply in debt are desperate for a quick fix. They ask the question: What can I do to get out of debt?

    July 21, 2014

  • Watercooler: When to speak up if you see problems down the line

    Q: Our organization has hired a new director. I am one of a number of division heads; above us, there's the associate director, and above him is the director. The associate director is feared and disliked for his duplicity and dictatorial nature, though few have come forward because of his vindictiveness.

    July 18, 2014

  • Career Coach: Bringing a purpose-driven spirit to work

    Increasingly, religious beliefs and practices of employees are becoming more evident in the workplace. Religious diversity and concepts of spirituality are more prevalent in organizational settings.

    July 18, 2014

  • Ask the Mompreneur: It’s best to farm out your payroll

    When my husband and I hired our first employee at our Web development company, we had it easy when it came to doing payroll.

    July 17, 2014

  • Protecting against unnecessary losses

    QUESTION: I run a small bar and grill which is open 7 days a week and have to rely on others for some of the shifts. How can I ensure employees have not become my partners?

    July 17, 2014

  • A checklist for keeping you focused at work

    A quick check of Facebook and next thing you know, a half-hour’s passed. Start chatting with a co-worker and suddenly 20 minutes is gone and the report you were supposed to finish by lunch is late.
    Workplace distractions are everywhere, especially in an age of social media and open-plan offices. In the face of so much temptation, accomplishing what you’re paid to do can be tough.

    July 16, 2014

  • It could be time for a career coach

    Need a little help figuring out your next career move?
    If you’re putting in the hours and still not seeing the rewards, feeling undervalued or simply striving to be more successful, it may be time to hire a career coach.

    July 16, 2014

  • Your Office Coach: Turn to boss for help with disgruntled underling

    QUESTION: When I joined this company a few weeks ago, I discovered that the person who previously held my position is now working for me. “Sarah” obviously resents my presence and frequently says I don’t have the authority to manage her, even though I clearly do. Her negativity has made my job much more difficult.

    July 15, 2014

Business Video