June 7th, 2009

Trends in HR Anti-Employee Tactics, Part 1

Fact: HR (“human” resources) is a management support service, low-credibility department in medium-size to large businesses. HR is NOT an advocate for employees. The evidence is compelling that the opposite is true. To see what HR is trying to accomplish, pay attention to the most current trends in training and services created for HR.

Here are 3 examples from May-June, 2009 seminar marketing to HR.

“When Employees Strike Back”
“Banish Bullies and their Lawsuits”
“Make Unions Irrelevant”

1) Hyped sales-oriented headline for a seminar “When Employees Strike Back”

Rationale given: “The number of retaliation claims against employers skyrocketed to record 32,690 in fiscal year 2008, resulting in more than $111 million in monetary awards.”

HR skills to acquire: “Learn how to avoid damaging retaliation jury awards”

This is mythical because retaliation claims by employees can be filed only after original claims of discrimination were answered by employer retaliation. You complain that you were discriminated against — sexual harassment or racial discrimination or age discrimination or your disability caused them to mistreat you — and the sham HR “investigation” concludes no wrongs were done. The employer enabled the harassment to happen in the first place! On top of that insult, the employer demotes you, punishes you in some way or fires you for daring to insist on your dignity. So, you can file a retaliation claim.
Retaliation is the employer, often with HR’s guidance, striking down the employee a second time. How can it be characterized as employees striking back? Funny, if it was not a seminar taught by an attorney helping HR keep complaining employees in their place.

2) Hyped sales-oriented headline for a seminar “Banish Bullies and their Lawsuits”
[This is our favorite.]

Actual title of the attorney-led seminar: “Workplace Shootings, Domestic Violence, and Bullying: New Challenges and Legal Threats for Employers”

Rationale given: “More than 71 million American workers are victims of bullying at work, according to a recent study by the Workplace Bullying Institute.” (Wrong! It’s 54 million who have directed experienced bullying. The 71 million includes witnesses. They found the WBI-Zogby survey statistics but can’t cite them correctly.)

“New pending legislation in 16 states that prohibit bullying in the workplace and what these laws could mean for employers” (Wrong again! Here, they cite the history of the WBI-Legislative Campaign which has had 16 states since 2003 with some version of our anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill. In 2009, 12 states had active legislation. And they did not bother to mention that the “toughest” versions of the bill do not carry a mandate requiring employers to do anything. They only get the chance to avoid being sued if they create policies and faithfully enforce them — something they should be doing as good business practice voluntarily. Again, too tough for corporate attorneys to read accurately.)

The seminar contents focuses on workplace violence and domestic violence intruding into the workplace and the security risks they pose. The reference to bullying was limited to coverage of “bully bosses” and the legal liabilities they bring to any organization.” Note that they used bullying as a hot topic sales gimmick.

The presenter is an attorney, author of Workplace Catastrophes: An Employer’s Guide to Workplace Violence, Terrorism and Natural Disasters.

If WBI dared to associate bullying with terrorism, we’d be banished. It would imply that employers hire terrorists to do their bidding as bullies. But evidently it’s OK for employers to brand employees they don’t like terrorists.

3) Hyped sales-oriented headline for a seminar “Make Unions Irrelevant”

Actual seminar title: “Minimize the Impact of EFCA and Unions with Powerful HR Communications”

(EFCA, Employee Free Choice Act, is the proposed federal legislation making union organizing easier, the first new labor law in over 30 years in the U.S.)

For this training, the outline of its content is especially revealing (and funny):

– “Communication techniques to win the hearts and minds of your employees by championing your organization’s sound policies and benefits” (Yea, right. Loyalty in exchange for policies that are not enforced and benefits that are disappearing.)

– “Specific internal communications to demonstrate why unions are irrelevant” (This is the union-busting industry’s best seller. It’s the mandated meetings when union organizers announce they want the employees to vote on having a union.

– “How to establish a first line of defense by monitoring the Internet for signs of organizing activity and chatter about your organization — because it all starts online” (The same people who want to win hearts and minds will conduct surveillance, just in case.)

– “How to overhaul supervisory communications immediately, so your supervisors can become advocates for management, listening posts, and experts in interpersonal relations” (This is a very narrow definition of communications skills. Listening is for surveillance purposes only and then only to report to higher ups what is heard and who is affiliating with whom. Are we clear here? It’s snitching.)

– “The grassroots nature of union communications, which focus on emotive language and an emphasis on people over profits” (Yes, that dastardly emphasis by people on people is grassroots by nature, union-driven, and employee advocacy must be struck down.

Readers will find WalMart’s categorization of which employees are “union-prone” equally illuminating.)

Also relevant to union prevention is the report by Kate Bronfenbrenner at Center for Economic Policy and Research. Employers more than doubled their use of anti-union tactics against employees attempting to form unions between 1999 and 2003. Sixty-three percent of employers use mandatory one-on-one, anti-union meetings with employees. Further, 57 percent of employers threatened to close the workplace, 47 percent of employers issued threats to slash benefits and wages, while 34 percent of employers fired workers during union organizing drives. Read the full May 20, 2009 report – No Holds Barred: The Intensification of Employer Opposition to Organizing

So you see from these three examples, HR is about helping management communication focusing on profits and snitching. Nothing about HR need focus on employee rights, dignity at work, employee safety and health. HR works for the employer and must keep the corporate mission in mind – profits at the expense of people. No bleeding hearts need apply for HR.

G. Namie

So tell your HR story here. Please comment.


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This entry was posted on Sunday, June 7th, 2009 at 9:58 am and is filed under Employers Gone Wild: Doing Bad Things. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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