Why can't HR ever give me a straight answer on employee terminations?

by on May 22, 2009 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center

Employee terminations are one of the gray areas and that’s where HR lives

It’s the job of HR people to think and live in the gray area. They exist in the “it depends” area. It’s not a personality flaw; HR people think like “60 Minutes” thinks. Can you say as a supervisor, “Can I do this?” “Well, it depends.” “Well, the employee terminations depend on what?” “Well, it depends on a lot of things.”

If you ask if you can layoff an employee, HR is going to go on alert. The term ‘layoff’ implies calling back. It says you’ve guaranteed potential property rights to that employee to that job for three years. So if you use the term “layoff” and then go and hire his replacement two and a half years later, you might run into wrongful employee terminations lawsuit.

See, an HR worker’s brain is filled with this kind of stuff. Before you begin that reduction in force, you go to HR. You say, “Okay. Can I risk reduction in force, Bob?” They’ll say “Well, wait a minute. How many employees do we have?” “Well, 100.” “And you’re getting rid of one? This one guy and his salary is going to save the entire operation? Why of all the people that are here?” And their age, sex, race, religion, national origin, disability, all the people that are here, why did you pick Bob?” Why is Bob the only candidate for employee termination?

HR: Corporate checks and balances
Because HR exists in the gray area, because of all the things that go on with employee terminations that most managers don’t and honestly shouldn’t have to think about every day, this is kind of the checks and balance in the system. This is how you should use human resources.

It’s not that they can’t give a straight answer. A lot of times they would, you don’t like it. Should we serve alcohol at the holiday party? Most HR people say no.

So then you have to find the “it depends” in the middle. How would the outsider look at this? HR people are good at thinking of the consequences before we take the action. Managers typically aren’t. You want to fix it now. You think you have got to act now. We’ve got to double this. We’ve got to work this, this, this, this.

But they’re not necessarily good at thinking consequences. The employee terminations will lead or could lead to this. And that’s why you need that kind of checks and balance. And that’s why HR lives in the gray area and gives a lot of “it depends”.

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