HR Case II Answers

Following on from my previous post, the recommended course of action is:

1. Remind the employee that he must refrain from all involvement in politics in countries where he has no civil rights and the company is operating.

2. Reiterate that respect for human rights, including freedom of expression, is a fundamental company commitment.

3. Draw the employee’s attention to the fact that he may be perceived from outside as a company spokesman.

Ultimately, the company has signed up to international labour codes which respect freedom of expression. This is why they can’t just rush in and sack someone who has published something which the middle management don’t like or find inconvenient, e.g. a blog post which doesn’t mention the company name. As I said, it’s a large multinational with a reputation to protect and plenty of people wanting to see it come to grief in a courtroom. If you were some two-bit outfit nobody’s ever heard of then you’ve probably got more room to manoeuvre, but giant corporations have to watch their step.

In my earlier post, I quoted this part of the company code of conduct:

By virtue of international Human Rights standards (notably the Universal Declaration of Human Rights), every individual has the right to freedom of opinion and expression. The right to freedom of opinion guarantees that no one should be harassed due to their opinions. All individuals also have the right to freedom of expression, which includes the freedom to seek, receive and disseminate any kind of information, provided that the privacy and reputation of third parties and the company are respected.

This is important, as it means it’s not a question of management deciding on some vague measure that an employee has brought the company into disrepute and therefore must be disciplined. Instead, the employee can claim he acted within the company code of conduct and it’s up to the employer to demonstrate that he did so in a way so egregious that his rights are forgone in this instance. That’s not something I’d want to convince a tribunal of in the case of an employee’s Twitter comment which incited a mob to bombard the HR department with demands he be sacked.

This is really the basis of Israel Folau’s lawsuit against his former employers. If the code of conduct specifically allows people to practice their religion, how can he then be fired for effectively doing just that? I expect over the course of the next few years we’ll see a series of court cases which determine the degree to which corporations can sanction employees for expressing opinions in a private capacity which the management find inconvenient. Note that this wasn’t really a problem until Twitter came along and allowed SJW mobs to form. My guess is we’ll see a few silly rulings by progressive judges before higher courts containing more sensible judges point to commitments to human rights and freedom of expression in corporations’ documents and tell them they’d better start living up to them. The James Damore lawsuit will be worth watching.

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HR Case II

As another exercise for those interested in HR matters, here’s a hypothetical case I have found in the guidelines of a major international company:

One of our expatriate employees has no civil rights in the host country where we are working, and has a column in a local newspaper. He is officially supporting the incumbent, and virulently criticising opposition candidates. The column is under his real name.

Anyone want to take a guess at the recommended course of action?

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HR Case Study Answers

Thanks to everyone for their responses to yesterday’s HR poser. I think most people got halfway to finding a reasonable outcome, but I don’t think anyone got it completely. So first, here’s how I answered the question for my assignment.

My Approach

Let’s call the English blogger Tim, the Nigerian Adewale, and the Frenchman Gilles.

1. Gilles needs to read the article so he can discuss it factually. This will help him understand Adewale’s objections and, if he’s experienced and properly trained, understand the cultural context of the conflict.

2. Gilles should pass the article to legal, HR, the ethics committee or whichever department in the organisation is responsible for determining whether employees have broken the law or a company code of conduct. For information, the Company Code of Conduct states under “Political Activity”:

Employees who could be considered to represent the Group shall refrain from political activity in countries where they are not entitled to exercise political rights and where the Group operates. In addition, employees must refrain from doing anything that would be contrary to such countries’ traditions or cultures.

and they strive to uphold the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19 of which states:

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

The Code of Conduct also says employees shall “refrain from intervening in the political arena of the countries in which they have no civil rights.” The company guideline on human rights states that:

By virtue of international Human Rights standards (notably the Universal Declaration of Human Rights), every individual has the right to freedom of opinion and expression. The right to freedom of opinion guarantees that no one should be harassed due to their opinions. All individuals also have the right to freedom of expression, which includes the freedom to seek, receive and disseminate any kind of information, provided that the privacy and reputation of third parties and the company are respected.

The reason Gilles seeks guidance on this is not to act on the information which comes back (necessarily), but to understand what his options are should reasonable attempts to solve the conflict fail. In negotiation terms this is called the Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA). I’m not a lawyer, but I think a good one could successfully argue my writing the blog post fell within the acceptable behaviour set out by the company’s governing documents, especially if it were in front of an Australian tribunal.

3. Gilles needs to talk to Tim and find out why he wrote the article, what he hoped to achieve, and to clarify certain points. In other words, intentions matter in these cases. So let’s say Tim gives his perspective (which I think you all know!).

4. At this point, if he is experienced and trained, Gilles should understand:

i) Tim sees a clear dividing line between his work and private life.

ii) Tim is aware of his rights under Australian law.

iii) Tim knows that he writes in a provocative, robust manner but did not intend to offend any individual, nor did he write it in the expectation any Nigerian would read it. In short, he did not deliberately set out to write an article which would upset his colleagues.

iv) Tim is displaying a degree of self-awareness and even social awareness, but self-management is lacking with the result that his relationship management is poor.

He should immediately recognise that Nos. i) and ii) are a product of Tim’s cultural background, i.e. the UK. Britain is (or was) a country of rules whereby people are generally free to engage in behaviour which is not explicitly prohibited (and yes, this applies in companies, clubs, and other organisations too). He thinks if the company says freedom of expression is allowed, then he is allowed to freely express himself.

By contrast, Adewale is from a culture where power is invested in the person, rather than distributed through institutions like in the UK. He therefore believes rules and procedures are subordinate to the will of the project director, and hence sees no reason why Gilles just can’t fire Tim. But Tim thinks Gilles has no such right as his power is severely limited by the company rules and national laws. And it is this cultural difference which is the root cause of the conflict.

5. Gilles needs to invite Adewale for a formal, structured conversation. He needs to try to get Adewale to specify exactly which words or phrases he found so offensive. This will help diffuse the anger and emotion from the conflict, effectively shifting it from an affective to cognitive conflict.

6. Gilles then needs to ask Adewale if he might soften his views in light of the fact Tim didn’t deliberately set out to upset his colleagues, nor was he targeting any individual. He was just sounding off as Brits tend to do. Perhaps arrange a phone call between the two, in which Tim can apologise?

7. If Adewale accepts, the conflict is resolved. If not, Gilles has 3 options:

i) Issue Adewale with a disciplinary warning for being unprofessional. This is probably unwise in an already heated situation.

ii) Do nothing and let Adewale resign (or not). This is dependent on how vital Adewale is to the project and how easily he can be replaced.

iii) Agree to fire Tim.

Let’s say he does No. iii).

8. If Gilles just fires Tim from the project, he risks at best a highly disgruntled employee and at worst a costly lawsuit. So it’s better to negotiate.

9. He should first ascertain how happy Tim is in his position in the first place. Maybe he doesn’t like Australia and would rather be somewhere else anyway? He should speak with the career managers and find out if there’s a half-decent position on another project, and then have a chat with Tim. He should start by saying there’s not a whole lot wrong with the article, but it’s inadvertently caused him a big headache and he’d really, really appreciate it if Tim would consider just stepping off the project to perhaps go and take up this other position. Gilles would consider it a favour, and he’d owe him a beer or two when they next meet up in HQ.

10. If Tim agrees to this – and he would – the conflict is resolved. However, Gilles’ authority in Nigeria has been severely undermined. This is was probably the plan all along: the Nigerians sensed weakness in the French manager and wanted to test it. This is once again cultural: it is unlikely a Nigerian would have threatened a fellow Nigerian in the same manner, and I expect a Chinese manager who brings such a conflict to a Chinese project director would have mere seconds to survive in the firm. The same goes for Koreans, Japanese, and probably Russians.

My Professor’s Comments

Bear in mind here my professor is a man with considerable experience running companies of all sorts, not some academic who’s never left the Sorbonne. His approach is:

1. Gilles thanks Adewale for bringing the article to his attention, and says he will deal with it.

2. He passes the article to legal/HR/ethics/whoever and gets back to running his project.

3. The end.

I wouldn’t have got a whole lot of marks if I’d answered my assignment like that, but he made some very good points. Firstly, he said a project director is there to direct a project, not waste time reading blog posts. Secondly, he is neither experienced nor qualified to ascertain whether a blog post breaches the law, company rules, or generates reputational damage for the company. His opinions on the post are therefore utterly irrelevant. Thirdly, the whole thing is likely an exercise on the part of the Nigerian to determine “who is the dog and who is the human”. As soon as Gilles starts even discussing the matter with Adewale, that question gets answered. He shouldn’t even open the subject, as by now it is off his desk and into another department where it belongs. Finally, he presumed that if Gilles had the competence to manage the situation in the way I suggested he’d probably not be assigned to a project in Nigeria in the first place. To paraphrase Donald Trump, they’re not sending their best. At that I could only grin broadly.

My professor also made the quite accurate comment that if a company really wants rid of you, they’ll do so one way or another.

What Actually Happened

1. Gilles caved immediately upon hearing Adewale’s demand and ran me off the project, hence I was forced to leave Australia and go to France.

When I reminded him of the corporate policies I cited above, he replied by saying: “But this is a project. You’re not being fired from the company, just removed from the project.” I went back and had a look, but failed to find a footnote saying corporate policies don’t apply to those assigned to projects.

When I suggested he might have approached this as per No. 9 in my proposal, he said with considerable annoyance: “I don’t have to do that, I’m the project director.”

I was actually quite happy to go to France, it’s just the position they assigned me was rubbish. Although I could have sought legal redress in Australia, frankly it wasn’t worth it.

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HR Case Study

Yesterday as part of one of my HR modules I did a presentation on a conflict situation  I’d encountered during my career, and how I thought it should be solved. One of the professors made some interesting remarks afterwards, and I’d like to know what you lot think.

So I had worked for almost 3 years for an international company in Nigeria before they transferred me to Australia, but assigned to a Nigerian project headquartered in Lagos. I was employed in Australia under an Australian work contract, subject to Australian law. My position on the project was a largely administrative one with no public interface, and I had nobody reporting to me. A couple of months into the assignment I wrote this post on my blog, which a Nigerian newspaper scooped up and republished without telling me. The post was passed around the Lagos office and read by pretty much everyone. A few days later a senior Nigerian assigned to the project burst into the office of the French project director and demand I be fired, saying he could not work in the same organisation as someone who holds such views of his country.

The question is, how should the project director handle it?

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Employees of Conscience

This doesn’t surprise me:

Amnesty International is to lose most of its senior leadership team after a report said it had a “toxic” workplace.

The human rights organisation’s secretary-general, Kumi Naidoo, ordered an independent review after two employees killed themselves last year.

In the review one staff member described Amnesty as having “a toxic culture of secrecy and mistrust”.

Amnesty said the senior leadership team accepted responsibility and all seven had offered to resign.

Five of the seven senior leaders, based mainly in London and Geneva, are now believed to have left or are in the process of leaving the organisation.

Amnesty International is just one of an inexhaustible list of institutions captured by the hard left and converted to anti-western political campaigning with its original purpose forgotten. And it appears to have become a truism that the more self-righteous a charity is, and the more it embraces progressive ideology, the worse the people running it are.

In May 2018, Gaëtan Mootoo, 65, killed himself in Amnesty’s Paris offices. He left a note talking of stress and overwork.

A subsequent inquiry found he was unhappy over a “justified sense of having been abandoned and neglected”.

Amnesty International was founded to campaign on behalf of political prisoners who had been abandoned and neglected. Now they’re giving their staff a similar experience.

Many staff gave specific examples of experiencing or witnessing bullying by managers.

There were reports of managers belittling staff in meetings and making demeaning and menacing comments, for example: “You should quit. If you stay in this position, your life will be a misery.”

To be fair, this doesn’t sound much different from the management in any other large organisation. These days the only characteristic that is tolerated is unwavering obedience.

There were multiple accounts of discrimination on the basis of race and gender, and in which women, staff of colour, and LGBT employees were allegedly targeted or treated unfairly.

I’d be willing to bet major oil companies are an order of magnitude better on this score. But who gets held up as the conscience of the world while the other has protesters outside their offices looking to shut them down?

The report also pointed to an “us versus them” dynamic between employees and management.

Which is as common a management style as you’ll find anywhere.

Amnesty is not the only human rights organisation to come under fire for its treatment of employees.

A report earlier this year said that bullying and harassment were commonplace at Oxfam, and last year Save the Children was at the centre of serious allegations of workplace sexual harassment.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. One day someone will confirm the rumours I hear about what working in the United Nations is like.

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Head 1, Hunter 0

This is an old post which I’d made private when it was sensible to do so. Now I’m studying HR it serves as a handy reminder as to how bad things are out there, so I’m reposting it.

A few months ago I received an email from a manpower agency representing an independent oil company that was looking to recruit an Engineering Manager to be located in a West African country. The reason why I didn’t just hit *Delete* as I do with most of these emails is because, for once, the agent had named the company and provided a job description. This is unusual in the extreme, most of these clowns email you with an exciting opportunity with a company they cannot name in a vague location with a job description “to follow”. Uh-huh. I’ve written about this before.

So I replied that I was interested, just for the hell of it, and the agent responded with an outline salary and benefits package, which looked pretty good. So I became more interested. I wasn’t exactly looking to move company, but I think it’s always wise to keep an eye on what’s out there, know what the market thinks of you, and get in some interview practice (you never know when you might need it!) And if my current employer was only going to offer me a role in a filling station as my next assignment…well, you get the picture.

Firstly the agent interviewed me, just to make sure that I wasn’t a complete Herbert. Then within a couple of weeks I had a phone interview with the HR bloke, who was about 25 years old and recently recruited from…a manpower agency. This was a pretty standard HR interview, but near the end I queried the part of the salary package which made reference to a “hypothetical tax deduction”. All oil companies do this for various reasons: deduct taxes from staff salaries in one place and actually pay taxes wherever they’re working. This is fairly standard practice, but the tax rate is usually pretty low. In this case, the HR chap told me I’d be taxed at the full UK rate.

Whilst working in West Africa on a residential basis.

I didn’t say anything at the time, but when a 50% or whatever tax is applied to the salary package it didn’t look anywhere near as attractive. I called up the agent, told them I was no longer interested, and they said they’d “look into it”.

I was therefore quite surprised to be invited to another phone interview, this time with the Head of Engineering & Projects (who would be my functional line manager). Having nothing to lose, I went ahead and did it anyway, and thoroughly enjoyed myself. With no pressure to actually get the job I was myself (blunt and opinionated), and had a good discussion with the chap on the other end who clearly knew his stuff. It was far more of a technical discussion than the previous one, outlining the role, who I am, my experience, my management style, etc.  And I came away thinking that the role was a lot larger and more interesting than anything I’ve yet had, and with a lot more responsibility. Now I had no interest in doing another stint in Africa, but if the right position came up and they were throwing money at me…well, I can be persuaded.

It turned out I impressed them enough for me to be considered their front runner for the position (so the agent told me), and they arranged another phone interview (which would be the fourth, if you include the one with the agent). This one was with the Regional Manager, and during the conversation much was made of the benefits of working for a smaller, more flexible company which exercised common sense, made quick decisions, delegated responsibility, and kept procedures to a minimum. This was in contrast to a supermajor, which makes even the army look slick and efficient. I have to say, this prospect alone did appeal. Needing line manager’s authorisation to hang a white board in your office, and waiting 9 months for expenses to clear a 6-stage approval process, does tend annoy after a while. Like the previous interviewer, this chap was also pretty switched on and we had a good chat. I didn’t change my approach – blunt and opinionated – mainly because I don’t know how to be any other way, but I came out of that round still as the favoured candidate.

It had occurred to me that we would need a face-to-face interview before they’d make me an offer, but I assumed this would take place in London or some other half-normal place. So my expectation was that they’d send me an offer subject to a final interview, and if I liked it I’d jump on a plane to see them, spend a few hours sizing each other up, and then make a decision one way or the other.

This turned out to be far too sensible. Instead HR took the lead and said, through the agent, that I should go to this West African country to see the place and “meet the team”. Now if this can be done easily, then fair enough. If I was working in London, there’s no reason why I couldn’t jump on the plane to Aberdeen to meet a few folk and scope out the office. But almost nobody goes to these sort of locations on a scoping visit, they just jump aboard and hope it’s okay when they get there. I signed up for Sakhalin knowing nothing about it, and turned up in Nigeria for a 3-year assignment having never set foot in the place. It’s just the way it is, standard practice in the oil business. So I explained that I didn’t need to see the place, anything will be an improvement on Nigeria, and can we just get on with it please? Time was running out, as I would need to start talking about my next assignment with my current employer, and I don’t like to fanny people about too much.

Then word came back that I needed to go to this country because the Country Manager, Production Manager, and Maintenance Manager (or something) all wanted to interview me. So I looked at how I could get myself over to this country without my current employer knowing (they’d twig pretty quickly I wasn’t there on holiday). After a bit of research, it turned out that I couldn’t. It is not possible to lie about which flights you’re taking in and out of Nigeria, because we get taken to and met from every flight directly for (very sensible) security reasons. And I didn’t even know how I’d get a visa for this place, and if the agent or the company HR people knew they were keeping it to themselves. Checking the internet, I needed to apply for a visa in advance, but I had to find even that out for myself. HR were about as proactive as Israel’s Iron Dome.

So I went back to them with a proposal: the three people who want to see me can select one person to come and meet me in London on a certain Saturday, which I can plausibly claim is a brief trip home. They have their headquarters in London, so it shouldn’t be that difficult. Or all three could come, I really didn’t care. The agent took this proposal to the young HR chap, who seemed reluctant to pass it to his bosses. Instead he came back with a rather pompous repetition of his previous demand that I show up in this bloody country. So I told them, once and for all, I’m not sodding going. I’ve made a proposal, either answer it or leave me alone. And still nobody was any the wiser as to how I could get a visa.

The agent then kind of got shoved to the side and I spoke directly with the oil company, an HR girl who was actually quite nice but clueless. I told her that before I get on a plane anywhere I need a firm offer to discuss when I get there. Meanwhile, she was trying to persuade me that I really did need to go for an interview in-country. So I decided to give her a bit of training in How Oil Companies Normally Interview Candidates In A Sensible Manner (later, my colleagues thought I should have invoiced them a consultancy fee). I said it’s fine to want a face-to-face interview, that part I get, but it’s mind-bogglingly stupid to expect candidates to present themselves in the developing world for the purpose. Every other organisation arranges for candidates to come to a logical transport hub – Dubai, London, Singapore (where I had the main interview for my Nigeria job) – and a panel of managers spend 2-3 days conducting interviews and having a bit of a jolly. Nobody – not even blitheringly idiotic major oil companies – bring candidates to the arse-end of nowhere. In my case the Nigerian interview was conducted over the phone once the chaps I met in Singapore had given me the thumbs up. All of this seemed to be new to her.

What also seemed new to their entire organisation was the impracticality of flying between West African countries. They approached the whole thing as if it was a simple hop from Paris to London. For a company which prided itself on its African operations, they seemed to know little about how the place works.

Anyway, they came back with an offer. By this stage I had given them precise details of my current package, to ensure we’d not be wasting our time if they were only paying peanuts. Their offer matched my current package almost to the dollar, only more of theirs was wrapped up in discretionary bonuses. I was still being taxed at full UK rates, even though this money wouldn’t be handed over to HMRC and I’d have to remain a tax exile. Bearing in mind this company is very much smaller and far less well known than my current employer, the question of why the hell I would leave for the same money did spring to mind.

When they rang me back, for what was to be the last time, I asked them this. They said they considered their offer to be competitive, which I suppose it was if they were hiring somebody unemployed and not trying to poach somebody from a much larger and grander organisation. But these small independent companies have to poach people, and that means giving them an incentive to jump ship. Paying the same money isn’t going to interest anybody.

But that wasn’t the worst of it. She repeated the request, now backed by some manager or other, that it was “their policy” to conduct the Stage 2 interviews in-country. Stage 2?!! I’d had four interviews over the course of 2-3 months, and we were still not out of Stage 1! They couldn’t do the interview in London because “all the managers cannot come”, and they could not select one to make the trip because “that’s not how we work”. This was an outfit whose main selling points were quick decisions, flexible operations, efficiency, common sense, and a disregard for procedures.

Also, it wasn’t just the in-country managers who would interview me, I needed to present myself to my future colleagues as well and secure their approval. Which I admit was a first for me. Normally your management hires you and you meet your new colleagues on your first day in the office. This lot seemed to hire via some kind of star chamber.

In withdrawing my candidacy, I pointed out that if I wanted to experience indecision, nonsensical policies, managerial dithering, and general incompetence I could simply attend any random meeting in my own organisation. I didn’t need to change company to get this sort of thing. That pretty much burned the bridges, with them and the agent.

(Incidentally, they told me their other candidates had no problem going to interviews in-country. Which if true, and they find someone suitable, shows them to be doing things right after all. But I am curious to know who these other candidates were: lordy, if I’m the front-runner they can’t be that great! And I can’t imagine too many decent candidates leaving a major oil company to take up this role. So it wouldn’t surprise me if I get a call in 6 months time saying the position has magically reopened and would I be interested in reapplying?)

As things turned out, I did get other agencies calling me asking if I wanted to apply for this same position over the course of the next two years. And by pure coincidence I found myself a few years later in the same meeting as one of the managers who’d interviewed me. I decided to give him a little feedback on his company’s recruitment methods and he (unsurprisingly) got very defensive and said “well, that’s the way we work”. So I asked him if they ever managed to recruit anyone and he said they did, but within two months it was obvious he wasn’t suitable so they got rid of him. Then they hired another guy who walked about before six months was up, but which time the oil price had crashed and they didn’t need anyone there anyway.

“That’s the way we work.”

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Recruitment Consultants

I’m thinking of doing a post on recruitment consultants, and people’s views of them. So a poll is necessary.

Has your overall experience of recruitment consultants been:

  • Generally bad with some exceptions (59%, 102 Votes)
  • Generally good with some exceptions (24%, 41 Votes)
  • Very bad (17%, 29 Votes)
  • Very good (1%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 173

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For those of you who like to comment, please share your experiences below.

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Posted in HR

Pot-au-feu

I’m not surprised by this:

The ex-boss of France Telecom and six other former executives have gone on trial in Paris, accused of moral harassment linked to a spate of suicides among employees.

Didier Lombard and his fellow defendants deny their tough restructuring measures were to blame for the subsequent loss of life.

The company, since renamed Orange, is also on trial for the same offence.

Thirty-five staff took their lives between 2008 and 2009.

Some of them left messages blaming France Telecom and its managers.

At the time, the newly privatised company was in the throes of a major reorganisation. Mr Lombard was trying to cut 22,000 jobs and retrain at least 10,000 workers.

Some employees were transferred away from their families or left behind when offices were moved, or assigned demeaning jobs.

The French management style – or what passes for one – consists of appointing the best students from the grandes écoles to the top management positions regardless of industry experience. While these individuals are undoubtedly very bright, they often lack the emotional intelligence which genuine leaders have in abundance. They set up a top-down command-and-obey organisation in which absolute obedience from subordinates is demanded, or their careers abruptly ended. Promotion and advancement is based on the degree to which an individual has not fallen foul of the boss. It is probably as close to an Asian power model as can be found in Europe.

The problem is the French are not Asians, and the stress this puts on employees is immense. During France’s golden era of industrialisation this probably didn’t matter as the organisations were doing well, but as globalisation is forcing companies to adapt or die, French management has been found wanting time and again. Total, for example, is a company with operations in 131 countries yet retains French as its official working language for the convenience of those in headquarters and to preserve an outdated model of cultural identity. French management, in parallel with their political counterparts who are drawn from the same schools and with whom swapping positions is commonplace (see here again), are proving incapable of doing the job which is assigned to them. Their response is to take it out on the employees.

One might argue that France Telecom needed to lay those workers off, but they might have witnessed a decade of blithering managerial incompetence prior to that decision, making retrenchment a bitter pill to swallow. And if you’ve hung around French companies as long as I have, you’ll know these suicides don’t just happen in times of redundancies; we used to hear the stories filtering down at my last place of work. I also know at least one case where a complaint of harcèlement moral was brought to HR concerning a manager, and their response was to do whatever was necessary to protect the management. I suspect this is commonplace; little wonder French unions still enjoy high membership rates.

I suspect as the large French companies come under increasing competitive pressure from globalisation, the failings of their managerial cadres are going to get more pronounced. Sadly, it will be the ordinary workers who pay the price.

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And your knob size, sir?

I’ve written about the absolute state of oil and gas recruiters based in the Middle East before. The other day I got this email:

Intertek Global International LLC is the leading Technical Staffing Services in Qatar that provides consultants to one of our biggest oil and gas clients based in Qatar. I went through your CV in an oil & gas online candidates portal and would like to ask few questions for us to determine if we can possibly propose your profile for an assignment with our client.

I expect there’s a GDPR violation going on right there.

They send me an email on a Wednesday with the deadline for application the Thursday for a job which starts on Monday. Sounds like a pro outfit.

If interested, please respond to this email along with a copy of your updated CV w/ ID photo/picture with full details of job description, in Microsoft word format along with the following details. Kindly fill out the attached forms and send it back to me.

Here’s one of the forms:

I don’t know whether this is indicative of standards in the oil industry or standards in the HR profession, or possibly both.

A few weeks back in one of my HR lectures I queried the practice of companies asking candidates to state their expected salary early on in the recruitment process. I was told this is standard everywhere now. As far as I’m concerned, it shows their HR or finance department to be either incompetent or untrustworthy. Companies should know the market rate for any given position as well as what package their financial model can support. Candidates on the other hand are often pitching in the dark, particularly if they are interviewing for a job in a different industry, city, or country. What companies think they’re doing is weeding out people who will demand too high a salary early on, whereas what they’re actually doing is weeding out potentially suitable candidates who don’t know the market rate but don’t want to undersell themselves. What some companies are doing – and I have experience of this – is using the asymmetry of information to get what they see as a bargain, whereby a candidate undersells himself relative to their market rate. This is so mind-bogglingly stupid on the part of the management it’s hard to find words to describe it, but it does happen, even in major corporations.

It also brings into play a contradiction which I’m sure affects all MBA courses. Are we being taught to play the HR game in order to land a job, or to be able to set up a competent HR department in our future careers? As this example shows, the two are not necessarily the same.

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Posted in HR

Strangers in a strange land

There’s an article in the BBC lamenting that the whole world is designed for men and, having succeeded in their demands to access every workplace in the land, women are finding they’ve not been tailored to suit them.

From police stab vests that don’t account for breasts, to safety goggles too large for women’s faces, to boots that don’t fit women’s feet, Ms Criado Perez says the list is endless.

This reminds me of the oft-heard complaint that there are not enough female film directors, in response to which Tim Almond among others likes to ask: “So what’s stopping them?” The complaint isn’t so much that women are being prevented from making films, it’s that Hollywood studios aren’t handing directing duties on blockbuster films to women. Which isn’t the same thing.

Similarly, what’s stopping a bunch of entrepreneurial women spotting this giant gap in the market for women’s stab vests and safety goggles and touting their wares around every organisation (meaning, all of them) which boasts about their gender diversity? Surely the management would welcome them with open arms and submit an order tout de suite, if only to stem the flood of complaints being submitted to HR. But no, the demand is that people already out there doing stuff should consider their needs more. The individual female employees who’ve been forced to use unsuitable kit have a genuine complaint, but when it’s presented by the BBC as an example of widespread patriarchal indifference it sounds like a bored wife complaining her husband is inconsiderate and doesn’t notice her enough.

Democratic Congresswoman Niki Tsongas at the time called out the military’s unresponsiveness to the needs of female service members, citing the “alarming” disadvantages for women, including being unable to properly fire a weapon, Military.com reported.

Yes, there are women in the US military who can’t fire a weapon properly. We shouldn’t be surprised by this. Of course, the implication here is the weapon should be redesigned to suit women, or women given a different weapon, which would be interesting in a war to say the least. I bet none of this was discussed during the debates over whether women should be allowed to serve in the first place.

From apps to the actual size, there are a number of design features that have made some women say smartphones have been designed with only men in mind.

Women’s hands are, on average, around an inch smaller than men’s – which can make the industry’s ever-increasing screen sizes problematic to use.

Texting one-handed on a 4.7-inch (12cm) or bigger iPhone can be difficult to impossible for many women (and small-handed men).

So they can buy the smaller-sized phone, can’t they? Or do they want the version with the big screen but an option to defy physics during text messaging operations?

“The comprehensive health app on the iPhone that didn’t have a period tracker; the way Siri could find a Viagra supplier but not an abortion provider – that’s what happens when you don’t include women in the decision making process,” Ms Criado Perez says.

Apparently if women are included in the decision-making process they’ll equate aborting a fetus with buying viagra. Could that be the reason why they’re not? And as Tim Almond would say, “Why can’t they build their own abortion app?” It can’t be that hard. What I expect is lacking is demand; how many women really want to arrange their abortions using Siri?

The formula for standard US office temperatures was developed in the 1960s, based on the metabolic rate of an average 40-year-old man weighing 154 pounds (70kg).

A 2015 study published in the journal Nature found that a female metabolic rate can be up to 35% lower than the male rate used in those calculations – which amounts to, on average, a five degree temperature preference difference.

Of course, this has nothing to do with men being required to wear suits in the office while women get to wear nice dresses showing lots of skin. But again, this is an example of women demanding access to workplaces and then complaining about everything once they get there. The old dinosaur patriarchs said that women wouldn’t like it, and it would make them miserable, didn’t they? The logical answer is staring us in the face, especially in the MeToo era: segregated workplaces. Is that what they want? Seems like it, doesn’t it?

“But it makes me so angry to think of all these women, living their lives, thinking there’s something wrong with them – that they’re too small or don’t fit or whatever it is.”

“It’s just that we haven’t built anything for women.”

The irony is that this is genuinely proof of how gender equality programs have failed, but not in the way she thinks. This is not the 1980s; women have occupied senior positions in every department of every large organisation for more than a decade now, so this “we” she’s referring to is as much women as men. But the power-skirts haven’t done anything about these practical issues women face, because power-skirts rarely get involved in practical issues. The actual design, manufacture, and supply of useful goods and services appears to still be done by men, while the power-skirts do…well, what exactly? HR departments are dominated by feminists holding seminars on sexual harassment and celebrating International Women’s Day but they’ve not even made sure their female employees have got the right kit. There’s a term for this sort of thing: abject failure.

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