Great HR mistakes of our time - Aviva fires 1300 by email
Not very clever, was it - any other HR mistakes you'd like to share with us?
You missed the key function of refusing to employ the best candidate because they didn't match some profile quiz you found in HELLO!
-I must thank play.c*m for this, the next interview turned out to be a much, much better job :)
It always seemed to me that the function of Personnel Department, as they used to be called, was to plot graphs of the numebr of people leaving so they could say they were administering an orderly policy.
In one of my jobs, I was at the desk adjacent to the trade union rep. He did a far better job of expaining company decisions to the staff than a whole personnel department would have done. In fact he spent about half his working day doing that.
Already been done - people who add their boss onto their Facebook friends list because they're the useless kind of tosser that adds EVERYONE, then they get drunk/tired/fed up and bitch about their boss/job....there's been a few in the press about people who insulted their boss and were then told not to come back into work on their profile.
If you have to get rid of someone, do it face to face. It might be because the employee is incompetent, the company is short of funds, or some other reason. But sit down, close the doors and ex
I've been let go once. At the time, I was expecting it (lack of company funds, finding myself with nothing to do), so when I got the phone call to come up to the boss's office, I knew what to expect. I didn't like him (nor he I). Never the less, he was never the man that would send an email to let someone go, or let someone else do the job. I respected him for that.
Anyone who is too gutless to sack someone in person - anyone who is afraid or lazy to actually explain his or her reasons to the retrenchee to their face - has no place in management.
Ah yes. But that was back when companies hired people for the long term and tried to keep their employees motivated and productive. I can almost remember when personnel departments were supposed to be a part of that process.
But now, its all devilishily more simple. Human resources (like inanimate computing resources) are carefully benchmarked and rated. As soon as it becomes cheaper to bring in a new hire (or less hires) the swingeing machine gets into action.
Of course, little hiccups will occur on the production line, now and again.
I've twice had to lay off my entire staff, and always told them face to face, even when it meant driving round the country at my own expense to do so.
In one job it was obvious we were being shut down, and the boss asked me how to do it. I replied "Whenever I have had to write a list of names I have always put my own at the top", explaining that you need to be able to look people in the face when sending them home. "Jah" he said, "Dat is gud advice". He went and wrote a list and put my name at the top.
That isn't how it works. I worked for a consultancy that engaged more or less continuously in constructive dismissal. They were set in such a way that they could make you *look* incompetent even though you weren't, because that saved them paying redundancy. Of course, they made it appear they had remedial processes, but one close look would have been enough to realise that that was only for show.
At one point they tried it with a friend of mine, which was very amusing because they told him he couldn't leave without signing a form. He calmly called the police station around the corner and the HR droid had to spend a few uncomfortable hours explaining why he thought unlawful detention was a good idea. It was a nice tough he used his company phone for that. Needless to say, they ended up paying more than if they had tried to just play it straight..
Glad I'm no longer working for that outfit..
"is email not the best medium to use when sacking anyone?"
The actual sacking may have been done face-to-face - the email reads like a standard admin procedure for departing staff rather than a "you are fired" message.
But I wouldn't want to suggest Aviva isn't utterly incompetent and uncaring - in their line of work doing so may count as harmful to their reputation.
Access to computer automatically denied.
Can't open desk drawers. Automatically locked.
Window locked down, suicide is not an option.
Burly roboguard shows you out of your office; door closes and access code blinks red.
Speaker system gives out a canned announcement by good-sounding female text-to-speech system that you are now leaving the building.
Never be able to read the retraction.
On the other hand... I wonder what the damage was? Without a full automatic lock-out, there was bound to be some employees who read the email and started yelling, "Fire ME, will they? Well, I'll show them! Goodbye, file server!!"
Even if only 1% of employees would consider sabotage, that's still 13 people with itchy trigger fingers.
It's happened before; a guy at my last job thought he'd been fired by email, and trashed a file server. Turns out, the email was spam: "You're fired! (...what would you do if this were real?)"
Though, to be fair, he was fired that day.
A mail cascaded from manglement requiring technical staff to update our skills profiles in the database, so they could match skills to new projects.
A reasonable request, but the mail trail down from the top man also included the message to him from HR, saying "make sure they do it properly, 'cos they couldn't sell water to a dying man in the desert".
My motivation to do the task plummeted.
And as this is really about manglement rather than HR - Another favourite was:
During a cascade briefing, a Director told us "If you don't like (the recent changes), you know what you can do"
After a flurry of the best people resigning, there was another hastily-organised briefing, where the Director accused us of misinterpreting his words!
My favorite was being called to a company-wide meeting, introduced with: "Some of have probably noticed that there seems to be a lack of chairs. This is not a coincidence." - Indeed: anyone who had not managed to get into a chair got the straight sack!
'the mail trail down from the top man also included the message to him from HR, saying "make sure they do it properly, 'cos they couldn't sell water to a dying man in the desert".'
Presumably you immediately added that skill to your profile.
On rare occasions forwarding the shit on "by accident" can help confirm to staff just where in the organisation the Peter Principle is most prevelant. And ideally the faux pas by the incompetent is sufficiently discussed with senior management such that the incompetent agrees that "their career aspirations lie elsewhere".
Hasta la vista, baby!
Thought notices of resignation/dismissal could only be retracted by mutual consent? If so, any employee who was thinking of leaving anyway can just withold their consent (they have their dismissal in writing... 'just kidding' or 'oops I didn't mean it' isn't going to wash) and collect a nice fat redundancy payout...
Shame. Might make people more careful if they had to follow through.
Can just imagine some HR idiots sacking people every Friday due to a mistake in the system. Any company that employs people in HR that make this kind of mistake isn't a company to willingly work for.
I worked* for that bunch of idiots about 10 years ago when they were still called Norwich Union. Great people in the team I worked in but as for the management, oh dear... We spent most of our time fighting red tape and stupidity - it was like wading in treacle (and using the inadequate IT systems/networks was a pretty similar experience).
*I'd been made redundant by another company which was going down the swanee and NU offered me a job and I needed the money - honest guv!
Oh they were Norwich Union?
Installed a system for them years ago... they paid for training, but only half the people turned up - one of which was the admin who hadn't been told we were installing and had a huge list of security questions (not unreasonable ones, to be fair) before we were allowed to do the install - apparently management had signed the contract and paid the money and not bothered to tell the IT people.
Subsequent discussion centred on how the system would work with their internal market as each department had to *buy* computing resources off the IT department!
Heard nothing for many months - then found out that something had broke, all the people we'd trained had left and those that were left didn't know anything including who to call to get it fixed. For all I know there's still a broken server sat in their IT department surrounded by cluelessness...
In the late 80s when they de-mutualised, in came a new team of dynamic halfwit top management who gave the user depts more power. The user management decided that the IT dept were just "overpaid clerks" and that their favourite poodles could do the job just as well for less money.
I'm delighted to see the chaos that resulted is still going on twenty odd years later.
I worked for NU and was 'restructured' in their first wave of dumping staff in1993.
On execution day, everyone had to remain at their desk. Outside calls were banned and incoming calls had to be refused unless from The Blue Building. My phone rang and I was summoned and told my skillset did not meet their requirements. I was escorted back to my desk (with instructions to talk to no-one), given a fine selection of M&S plastic bags to clear my desk and then marched out. It was all a bit Pythonesque but was the best thing that ever happened to me. I got 3 months 'gardening leave' on full pay and then 30K tax free. I hated my job so it was a nice reward and I took 6 months off to look after my newly born son and then got a contract for twice the money. I'm now just about to get another huge tax free bung and a good pension from Aviva (i had worked for NU for 21 years). It looks like they have refined the firing process a little but otherwise the competence has remained at near-zero. I bet the management still all have snappy suits, slick hair and bugger all brains.
On of my project leaders there was a DJV. An excellent man and far too good for that bunch of clowns.
"Clerical error was blamed for exit mail, which had been intended for one person."
They sent by accident an e-mail that was intended for one person as a "general dump"? I would respectfully suggest that if you are going to sack somebody a manager with the cojones to do the job should be assigned to do it face to face. However, they do not want to hear that do they? It is so much more pleasant to press the kill-button on your remote drone "somewhere over enemy territory" than have to do it face to face. Tossers!
Having seen the email I would like to draw everybodies attention to this part:
"I am required to remind you of your contractual obligations to the company you are leaving. You have an obligation to retain any confidential information pertaining to Aviva Investors operations, systems and clients."
Not sure how your reading it but I see it as a legal obligation to take with you all confidentual information and a copy of the client database etc etc. Would appear they could be in breach of contract if they don't!
Muppet with a send-to-all-the-company and without the good sense to protect themselves from too easily using it. Yes, gaffes happen all the time. Sometimes having staff walk out because of HR gaffes is well-deserved, too.
I've resigned where they really didnt want me to go, I've resigned on the spot because enough was enough ("but we didn't mean it that way", they said, but they had let me burn out regardless, and the signs pointed to everyone knowing full well what was happening while they let it happen anyway), I've been reverse-psychologised into talking until my boss made up his mind--he is rather a geek too, so not very smooth with interpersonal relations but at least he tried. All of it more or less in person.
I don't know what I'd do if I got a letter or an email saying to sod off after working in an office for a while. Or, you know, get "escorted" off premises on no notice. I'd be that much more incentivised to sue them essentially because they were being arses in an aggravating manner without taking timely steps to prevent the situation from deteriorating that much. IE they weren't doing their jobs.
We now and then talk about what damage a rogue in IT might do. HR is just as much overhead and if dysfunctional can in its own very special way do massive damage to the company. Like there's this one company in Amsterdam* , that managed to convince me I wouldn't want to work there, I wouldn't want to do business with them, and I won't recommend anything they do; rather the reverse. Exactly and solely because their HR practices are so fscked up.
It just *usually* doesn't blow up as spectacularly as a serious IT gaffe. But that happens, too.
* Doing cluster-y things with GPUs in Amsterdam. They had an opening for someone to help them install their kit while traveling Europe. Answered "must already live in Amsterdam" via a recruiter, while having just hired people from Germany and France, then "don't have enough of what we listed in the advert explicitly as nice to have but /certainly/ not required" talking to them directly. Applicants get at most one chance, usually. They got two, blew it twice. Clear enough.
This might be a reason why recruiters and tech mix so poorly: Techies tend to be literal-minded people, so what others might think of as "white lies" quickly deteriorate into "insults to intelligence". Plus telling people that pride themselves in ability to do hard things other people plain cannot, that they're not good enough, is of course a bit lacking in tact. If you don't understand that, you have no place in dealing with tech personnel in any way or form. Goes for HR, goes for recruiters. I haven't seen a single recruiter yet who even tried to understand that.
'...Plus telling people that pride themselves in ability to do hard things other people plain cannot, that they're not good enough, is of course a bit lacking in tact.'
A HR wonk for a certain large online book retailer sent me a rather sarcastic job application rejection email along those lines once. Around 8 months later, same job was advertised again, was told by my advisor at ye olde jobbe centre to apply for it (was unemployed at the time - was also in the process of jumping ship from IT work anyway), pull out printed copy of this rejection email from my file, show it to her, and calmly explain that there was no fecking way I was going to apply *ever* to that company so long as little shits like this guy handle the recruitment. Advisor actually went and photocopied the email printout.
I once worked for a company where one of my responsibilities was to make sure that in any outgoing electronic communication nothing was routed using To: but only Bcc: so that recipients (tens of thousands of merchants) would not see each other's identities (this was at the request of the Board of Directors who'd had complaints in the past from those same merchants).
A senior manager told me one day that "sometimes he needed pencils and sometimes he needed people" - this was his budget management philosophy. It struck me as somewhat Hubbardesque - LRon's "management tech" defines employees as "terminals" and whatever they produce or exchange as "particles", as good a way of dehumanising the workplace as any.
A week later the senior manager circulated an email praising my contribution to the team. A week after that, I was laid off due to budget considerations; my immediate boss and the director of HR were obviously embarrassed and uncomfortable during the exit interview.
A week after that, someone in Level 2 Support, who had been given my responsibilities, sent out an email to thousands of merchants using the To: line, and stirred up a stitshorm; he was let go immediately. At least I felt a little vindicated.
Actually, we've recently done some risk analysis, and incompetent HR ranks pretty high in possible causes for a company to go under. Th problem is that we've come across very few *competent* recruiters and HR staff - all of those surveyed have turned into tick box merchants. The "Human" part of recruitment simply no longer exists other than at very high level..
Helpful people, who made sure that all the right forms got filled in at the right times, the taxes and pension contributions got paid, holiday records were kept, sick notes were filed, and all that sort of stuff.
Then, along came Human Resources and some people found ways to turn a purely clerical necessity into a position of real power within the company: the perfect niche occupation for the manipulative nasties in life.
As a side job whilst doing my degree I worked in a nightclub. It was part of a rather large company (First Leisure), and head office had a Unit Admin Controller come and do the weekly payroll and accounts type stuff (only for 1, maybe 2 days a week mind). No need to be anonymous cos 95% she did a decent job (we all make mistakes, she made one in 3 years of me working there). Unit hiring/firing was done by management at the unit, but they were all nice people and knew how to deal with people. Paper only came into it for disciplinaries and stuff like that.
I understand that in the pre-automated era they needed to do clerical work to ensure taxes were paid/forms were filled out, handle payroll, benefits administration, etc, but all of those things are self-service and computerized these days. I guess they still have recruiting and hiring, but they needlessly insert themselves into those processes. How is an HR recruiter going to determine if someone applying for a DBA position knows what they are doing, or a financial analysts position, or sales positions, etc? They have never worked in any of those positions.
I think they have obtained enough power in the organization that everyone just assumes they are doing something worthwhile... no one wants to ask them what for fear of being pulled into some session about "team building" or "organizational communication" which will take 10 points off of your IQ just for listening or being label "not a team player."
Who else apart from HR, would be able to ask you what your favourite colour is or what your best friend would say was your best attribute AND keep a straight face.
Technical skill questions pah..
(Questions asked at interview for an IT position in a bank)
I had to fight for my job in one re-structure (which was known about pretty widely). There was an HR person there, but that one was ok. I knew the other two staff on the panel already, and had good relations with them. Could be seen as a lack of partiality, but one was my (then) current manager and that couldn't be avoided.
because we’re in a “maximising value” era of management. If you can boost the share price by losing 200 people off the wage bill then you do it, and need HR as an instrument to do so.
The fact that you’ve just fired the R&D staff and in 10 years the company will be nothing but a nostalgia brand held in the Caymans suits the management – the current management – down to the ground, as that’s where their winter home will be.
If we were in a “creating value” era, then engineers & techies would be valued and HR would be relegated to the clerical task it truly is.
There is a vast difference between 'HR' and 'Personnel'.
The former are people who treat staff purely as a commodity or resourse, to be used or disposed of like an old machine with no humanity, and as the article states with the minimum cost or legal liability to the company. The latter, on the other hand, are people who are there for the mutual benefit of the company and its staff, and who try to do the best for all concerned and what is morally correct. The former don't take morality into account because they don't possess or understand moral virtue, a bit like bankers, lawyers and estate agents.
Nobody goes into HR becaue they want to help people.
Maybe once, when it was called Personnel and you wanted to do honest administrative work, but definitely not now.
They go in now so that they can mess with the humans and thereby save the company money, just like you might mess with the rent or the diesel or the electric bill or the paper for the photocopier. The humans are a resource to be economised on and bargained with and screwed.
HR people get paid as much as they can screw out of the company to make an effective job of manipulating the company's resources.
Perceptive lead comment "they join HR hoping to help and end up working on how to get rid of employees without getting sued". There are too freaking many allegedly legitimate grounds for lawsuits.I suspect some big outfits will be turning HR into a profit center, investing as it were in the employees or atlkeast in their education and training and 'company culture' skills.
In a previous job I worked in the office next door to the HR department. From time to time one of them would come in and say "we've got a computer problem". Desktop support wasn't really my job, but I'd offer to help. Only to be told "you're not allowed to see what's on the screen".
The real joke is that, as a contractor, I have little or no interest in the pay and power struggles of the permies.
I've had multiple interactions with HR, from hiring people, being put at redundancy risk myself, being instructed to lie to my colleagues by HR, and being lied to by HR.
I wouldn't want to generalised (but I will) but I'm not surprised things like this happens, they are lazy and send out tedious company wide email all day long, and I'm sure Outlook happily picked the company-all for the in the to field and they were to idle to notice until they got the email themselves a few minutes later.
Poorly trained, poorly paid and carrying out the actions of management. I don't actually think they are smart enough to be evil like catbert...
I still can't get out of my head the idea that they would have something like this set up in the first place.
Would someone really be sacked by email?
So how does that work? Do you use a regular expression?
You need to get rid of half the workforce:
$ sack "* [m-zM-Z]*"
Oops, type "sack *" by mistake.
I was under discplinary procedings in a govt department for using a bad word towards a subordinate ("I am not here to feckin baby-sit you'" etc etc). HR woman (who I trusted) misrepresented the complaint and refused to let me see the document. After I had admitted the bad language, she showed the complaint form which was about a different issue, and refused to let me withdraw my ommission nor make a counter-complaint. When I ask for my lawyer (my useless union rep was already in the room), they said "I would hate this to be your legacy" which was code for "push this issue and we will fire you and give you a really bad reference".
Chicks are cowards for the most part, HR chicks doubly so.
For example, protest to the Chief Executive and the response will come from HR. You will rarely see one of them give evidence to a tribunal.
Ironically I think the reams of employment legislation has worked against companies. A tribunal case on average costs around £5,000. More highly paid employees take action in the High Court which is even more expensive. If all things were equal about half of cases taken to tribunal would be lost by employers, however that system seems to be biased towards the employers. Also, many of the Employment Judges represent companies in other tribunal areas as barristers (obviously a very large conflict of interest there). So some companies take advantage of this, even making your dismissal so complicated that you could easily exhaust the £50,000 limit that your home insurance would cover you for. In a way it's understandable that they don't want their company to have to pay out thousands or even millions in compensation, but they shouldn't lie to stop this happening.
I have no doubt that there are good HR departments, they are just in short supply.
Had a lovely experience a few years back. It was clear something was going on, as certain managers would vanish off & be closetted for hours. Then the whole team were called into a room and told there was a restructuring going on, and as part of that an entire management level was being removed.
So with no prior notice 3 of us were suddenly no longer managers with direct reports, we were effectively downgraded and at the same level as people we'd previously been line managing. I left soon after for a better (and better paid) job, but was advised later that I could have walked out that day and claimed constructive dismissal.
Follow me, In the late 80s when they de-mutualised, in came a new team of dynamic halfwit top management who gave the user depts more power. The user management decided that the IT dept were just "overpaid clerks" and that their favourite poodles could do the job just as well for less money.
I'm delighted to see the chaos that resulted is still going on twenty odd years later.
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