Stupid HR Tricks

Can your highly trained human-resources professional do this? Or has he already?

In 2003, FedEx for the first time asked employees to make $10 copayments for doctors' visits. But Dave Haynes, a FedEx sales rep and author of The Peon Book (Berrett-Koehler, 2004), notes that "in order to ensure that all employees understood the policy and its impact, HR sent us three separate glossy four-color brochures and went to the expense of creating a Web site." Says a FedEx spokeswoman, "We do send four-color brochures to get the attention of employees and their families."

An editor at Disney Press, the Walt Disney Co.'s publisher of children's books, was worried about his relationship with his increasingly erratic supervisor. One morning, he arrived at work to find a voice mail from the boss that threatened physical violence. He played the voice mail to a human-resources manager, who told him, "Well, I think it's time for you to start looking for another job." "I said, 'You're kidding, right?' " the editor says now. "She said, 'That's my best solution.' I couldn't believe it." Disney declined to comment.

Regina Blus was managing a large software project across several departments at Sun Microsystems. In one department, a new manager, widely disliked, consistently berated and harassed the workers, Blus says, even while engaging one in an affair. Blus approached the local HR manager. "He said, 'Well, I certainly don't think it's appropriate to get involved in these witch hunts. And anyway, it's none of your business.' " The incident was never investigated. Sun says there is no record of Blus's complaint, that any such report would have sparked an investigation, and that it takes such issues seriously.

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