The HR Nightmare

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November 23, 2010

*This guest post is from writer Michelle Berg of Elevated HR Solutions.  Be sure to check out her site and show her some love for sharing her personal story of how an HR matter turned terribly wrong…

So it’s 1 am, July 1 (Canada Day) and I wake up groggy to my cell phone ringing.  Typically, I ignore the late night accidental phone calls, but for some reason, I decide to pick it up.

“Hello?”

“Oh Michelle, I’m so sorry to wake you,” she slurred.

“Who is this?” I could hear loud music in the background, people talking.

“Oh you mean you can’t tell by the voice? Then I’m your worst nightmare and I just wanted to let you know that you’re dead. You better sleep with one eye open, because payback is a bi$ch.”

I sat there, shaking somewhat. On one hand, I knew who it was. A woman I had to let go about four months before hand.  She had worked directly for me, and despite all the signs of a completely disengaged employee, I kept her, until she broke a confidentiality clause in front of several employees – regarding compensation and termination (an HR nightmare in itself).

At the time of the phone call, I was scared – but didn’t know what I should do.  I went to my management team the next work day and we decided to bring in the police.  That didn’t go so well for me (the police basically rolled their eyes at the situation) — and it was in that moment, that I decided to take the following week off to decide what my life was going to look like, because I had certainly had enough of this one.

As a member of senior management, of a low over-head but high revenue type company, I understood the challenges that would be presented in HR.  We were encouraged to work hard, but join in the fun and play hard too.  And after each night, I was literally paid to make the problems go away. And that I did – but only because I enjoyed the bonuses I seemed to receive along the way.  It’s not that we did anything illegal…but every day, I pushed any sense of morality away.  At one point, I even remember taking down my Certified Human Resources Professional diploma because when it stared back at me, it was haunting. I enjoyed living in denial (or was paid to live there anyway).

During my 12 year career, this was merely an escalation.  It didn’t matter which organization I was in – I found myself always in the drama.  I thought I could be the game changer in every organization I walked into – and for a while I was.  Until my inspirational and motivational discussions were perceived as nagging.  HR was blamed for hundreds of terminations (while not one was ever in my control), we were blamed for compensation increases (or lack thereof during the recession), we were blamed for terrible benefits programs, we were blamed for a lack of morale, heck we were blamed for turn over.  It didn’t matter what study I brought in, or specialists I engaged, or programs I developed – the indispensable linchpin I walked in as and respected for, always came to a crazy crash.  Sure – maybe it was me.  I’ve resigned myself to maybe I give up too easily.  Maybe I needed to be more creative. Maybe I needed to be less about the business and more about the people…

So I took all those ideas and thoughts and have opened up my own HR consulting firm that is geared towards small to medium sized businesses.  We have designed processes and programs to work with management to ensure simple, fast, customized solutions. I don’t have to be involved in the drama anymore.  I believe that manager’s need to manage and be responsible and accountable – and when they need a tool – I’m there to lend a helping hand.  Not only have I garnered huge success, businesses and management teams are empowered knowing someone has their back — and if they choose to take the advice I give – great.  If not, no problem.  In the end, I’m growing my team and building a company where my teammates will never live in fear, they are appreciated and they know what a difference they make to the organization.

In addition, I’m head of fundraising for a non-profit organization called Making Changes – an organization that provides resume writing and interviewing classes as well as professional attire for women to go to interviews with.  We serviced 1000 women last year on only $200,000 and we’re aiming to triple the funds and women reached this year.

I call that making up for lost time and massaging the soul.


4 Comments

  • Ugh, that is so like HR, bailing on a good story halfway through to slip in a morality lesson.

    Just kidding. Congrats on the shift. Good work tends not to pay as well, but it does make mirrors easier to tolerate.

  • Wow, what an amazing story. It takes a lot of courage to change up your career like that. Thank you for sharing! I would love to learn more about your non-profit organization and how to get involved. Great idea.

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A former HR executive and HCM product leader with over 20 years of experience.

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