September 24, 2009

Is HR alone responsible for firing employees?

It was in March, 08 that I had fired 3 people without quite being convinced myself of the reason for their sacking. Why am I thinking of that now? Cos, the news has it - one of my HR contacts - Roy Goerge, VP - HR of Pricol (Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu) was beaten to death in Coimbatore for laying off employees.. I'd known him through a student at IIPM, who'd done his thesis under his guidance while he was VP-HR with Satyam Cinemas.

I didn't know him personally a great deal, but hear from others that he was a good HR person, 'a seasoned one' I'd believe to have risen to the top positions in various organizations. But, what could he have done wrong as a VP - HR is the question? That anyways wouldn't justify the irreversible consequence of workers' outburst, but it's quite a thing to reflect on what went wrong when the action was taken and communicated; what were the workers thinking when they'd schemed his beating up?

I reflect on my own actions and the actions behind the curtains in March '08. Few observations--
  • Sacking an employee is not a decision by a singular department, the least - HR, which would first look at alternate employability of a person within the organization.
  • Many-a-time, management screws up.. I mean they make mistakes.. serious hiring mistakes, and then, in a fit to control damage and unnecessary cost, press on to sack employees.
  • HR Head, most of the time, unless the CEO & Board's leadership culture supports, is a mere puppet; compelled to yield to the demands of others.
  • Though the decision is taken by CEO, COO, Directors or others, HR is expected, and even asked to communicate the decision singularly. 

In case of Roy, I think of the manufacturing setup, the not so matured understanding of workers, and feel it was some mob mentality that drove them to do this. I may be generalizing here, but I'm reminded of my O|D Prof. S.C. Kapoor's statement "Masses are just Mindless ASSes!"

Sacking an employee of course, mostly happens at the end of the day, to keep it hush hush, when everyone's almost gone. Well, I had one of the three employees call me the next day morning when I was off for a vacation, threatening me to commit suicide and leaving a letter to the police. Hmm, it did freak me out for a few minutes though, however, it wasn't a pleasant experience then, nor is it a pleasant memory now.

I keep saying it time and again - Firing employees, is traumatic equally to the HR person, if not more than what is felt by the one getting fired!

The solution then - acting on all the reflections given above, and puhleez get this clear.. HR Dept is an employee champion, and a business partner!
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