Ever get the feeling that the human resources department is hiding something from you? And we're not talking about the fact that your job is in danger. That's no secret.
The clandestine information I'm talking about are the "Ten Things Human Resources Won't Tell You," to quote the headline of a recent article by Jim Rendon in The Wall Street Journal.
It is shocking to get confirmation that the mild-mannered munchkins of management -- who claim to want nothing more than to make your work life happy-happy-happy -- are actually involved in activities that are nefarious, negative and nasty. But maybe we shouldn't blame them. According to Steve Miranda of the Society for Human Resource Management, "HR departments are under pressure like never before."
As result of this terrible pressure, the highly evolved HR professionals are doing what comes naturally -- they're saving their own skins. If the price of keeping their cushy HR lifestyles intact is to slice and dice sales, marketing, IT, and most of middle management, the HR folks are going to replace their employee manuals with Cuisinarts.
This bit of reality brings us to the first of the 10 secrets: "We're not always your advocate." As painful as it is to accept that the corporate shoulder you've always had to cry upon has turned a cold shoulder to you, it is refreshing to hear some candor coming out of HR.
"Employees should realize that HR answers to the company, explains Lewis Maltby, director of the National Workrights Institute, an employee-rights organization. "HR is a spear carrier for the boss." Of course, the truth is that HR never was your advocate. And whatever employee rights you do have, here's one you should cling to -- whenever an HR person comes looking for you, exercise your right to hide in the coat closet.
Another secret revealed is that HR can help with your career. JT O'Donnell, the founder of Careerealism.com, opines that employees often want to avoid HR, "but you really should do the opposite."
One recommended form of proactive communication with HR-meisters is the occasional e-mail to let your HR manager "know how you've been contributing to your company's success." You may want to try this technique. After all, in your case, this will be a very, very short e-mail.
"Yes, Facebook can get you fired" is another sobering secret, along with the equally sobering statistic that, according to a 2009 survey conducted by the American Management Association and the ePolicy Institute, "27 percent of companies have policies about what employees can post on personal blogs." Nancy Flynn, executive director of the institute, posits that "2 percent of companies have dismissed employees over the content of personal social-networking sites."
If you hear the footsteps of "Big Brother" echoing in the hallways, I suggest you immediately write an angry protest to post on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. That way, when you show up in the unemployment office tomorrow, everyone will know why you are there. If clinging to your rights as citizen comes second to keeping your job, I suggest you clear all Facebook postings with HR before clicking "share." Share all your off-work activities at the same time. Showing up in the HR department in your latex suit with your whips, handcuffs and 6-inch stilettos will not only give you a clear "go ahead" for your personal, after-work social-networking activities, but you could also discover a whole new bunch of playmates.
"You're not paranoid -- we are watching you" reminds us that many companies monitor the online activities of their employees. In fact, if you are reading this column on the company computer or on company time, chances are your termination is already being processed.
And don't think you're going to be successful launching an insanity defense. Though you are certainly certifiable, here's a final HR secret -- the arbitration clause secreted in the fine print of your employment contract has probably doomed you to losing your suit. "A recent study found that arbitrators decided in favor of employees just 30 percent of the time, and when the individual arbitrator had worked previously on a case with the employer, the employee won only 12 percent of the time."
You could fight it, but why? It's about time you have a secret all your own. How about this: next time you look for work, go for a really easy gig with plenty of opportunities to inflict havoc on your fellow employees. That's right! Apply for that dream job in HR.