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My relationship status with HR: It’s Complicated

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Me: So where is this approved clinic?

HR: It’s somewhere pretty far from here.

Me: From my past experience and understanding, this organization provides a service to take me to a clinic, another clinic; one that is much closer- and help me get my papers done there.

HR: No. That is not something we can do since you were already a resident here before. You are not coming into this city from another country as a new resident, so we can’t provide you with this service.

Me: But you provided it to me when I was client, how could you not provide it when I am now an employee?

HR: Sorry, that is our protocol.

Me: Okay, can you then send a driver with me there? I don’t know where this place is.

HR: No. What I can do is provide you with the address and get a driver to try to explain it to you, but we do not provide drivers. Don’t you have one?

I am a little stunned and in awe for a few moments because I really sense that this person doesn’t want to try to help in any way. It’s like I’m talking to a machine.

Me: Alright then, I’ll figure this out. Thanks.

HR: You’re welcome.

 

Yup this conversation is real! I’m working somewhere in the GCC, I recently started a new job and I was asked to provide a medical certificate stating that I was ‘fit for the job’. Now, getting your medical check-up done can be a hassle; you get a chest X-ray, blood sample and an all rounded checkup. So I was advised by other colleagues to enquire HR about the procedures (even though I assure you this wasn’t the first time for me to undergo these procedures with this very same organization.)

It’s no surprise that dealing with HR in any or all organizations can be challenging. In many cases, we rely heavily on the fact that HR stands for ‘Human Resources’ which to the rest of us means helping us ‘humans’ not get screwed over by the system. Little do we know; the role of HR can also be considered as dealing with people as assets or a resource, which then translates to that “they” (meaning us, employees) will/can be commoditized and abused.

But isn’t that something we all expect? We know that certain rights will go to waste and certain advantages will soon become disadvantages. So, after a few years of experience and a few interviews with some unfriendly/unhelpful HR personnel, one quickly figures how the game is played. But for someone like myself, I don’t ask for too much, especially from HR. All I ask for are these two things, and two things only 1) being nice and 2) being helpful (or at least trying to seem helpful). On some occasions I tend to be greedy enough and secretly wish for a smile every now and then but I don’t like to push my luck.

We all know that much of our fate lies in the hands of HRs, they handle all of our paper work, they handle our holidays and tickets, our medical documents and much of the job hiring process. But then why do they have to be so difficult about it, I mean certainly someone must be in charge of their “paper work, holidays, tickets, medical documents and much of the job hiring.” Why don’t they feel for us?

Anyway, the next day, I’m finally at this medical clinic from 8:30 am until 12:30 pm. I am exhausted and tired, and it’s very busy. Once I finish the medical tests, I go back to the office, and share my morning experience with my colleagues, both of which looked stunned by my story and asked why on earth didn’t I get HR to speak to the immigration department to send a driver with me to go to our own approved clinic where they’d have finished all of this work for me in less than 20 minutes. Of course I replied that it was because I already told this piece of information to HR but they said they can’t do that. So, my colleagues took me to the immigration department (who are in charge of all medical things) and asked them if they could’ve helped and this was their response, “Of course, just send us an email with your request, we will then send you a time and date for the car pick up and give you the red carpet service at the clinic and you’ll be done in 15 minutes.”

You cannot imagine my frustration at the HR for providing me with the wrong information, not bothering to direct me to the rightly concerned department -which was immigration, and for not even picking up the phone to ask them if they had any other solutions, the least of which was providing me with a driver.

So I went back to the HR to approach them and try to correct their current information, just to avoid anyone else going through what I went through. I explained the situation to HR and said that immigration along with other employees, confirmed the fact that my medical checkup requirement is a service that they can help with. But this was the response I received:

HR: Oh, well that’s not what we were told by Mr. X. We will check with him about this matter and if we can help then, we will.

Of course I left their office in a profoundly shocked state of mind simply at the lack of any human emotion or sincere interaction, I didn’t expect an apology, but I certainly did expect a little more than an “Oh”.

So when all is said and done, all I can say is HR departments should really try to work more on how they handle their people skills, even if certain rules can’t be bent, there’s always a nice way of applying them and there’s always a way to try to seem helpful and concerned and that’s all I ask for.

Amira Shohdi

Photography: Alia Faramawi

EDITOR: Mennat-Allah Yasser Zohny

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Articles

Was it Critique,Training or Bluntly Bullying?

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Artwork & Writing By: Rim Abdelhamid

At one of the call centers I worked in, since day one, the manager and the trainers who were supposed to help us learn and get adapted to the job, they kept telling me how much negative and depressing they think I am. They even went as far as calling me a DEAD person. My manager enjoyed making fun of me by imitating how he thought I used to speak or how I sound, saying that I have speech disorder -because this is “funny”- just a joke! He even tried to get others to join in. It was always the same excuse: they’re “trying to help me get better at my job!” Even though it had nothing to do with my performance and it started the first day I started work.

Let me tell you why -them trying to help me- was a lie? How this is not a critique but in fact bullying? What is the aim of bullies? What are the types of bullying in general? How do they start? And how to stop it?

What workplace bullying is…

When giving a critique one gives it based on actual facts. They could give a certain advice, or simply just tell the person what they’re doing wrong, etc… But it’s never calling them names; that’s abuse. What makes abuse turn into bullying is it not being on all employees but a specific one targeted, and over a prolonged period of time (not just one incident). The harassment behavior could be by one or more colleagues (subordinates and/or superiors), where the one being targeted is unable to defend his/herself. In that case it’s no longer a bad management issue, or a bad behavior by one individual but in fact one person being alienated; BULLIED.

How bullying is like at the workplace?

You might think it is physical? But no, bullies are smart! It cannot be psychical because it could cost them their job and even get them arrested. However, it’s a mental abuse. For example, telling you something hurtful in a way of “joking” or putting you in situations that could affect the quality of your work like unrealistic deadlines. Also, it could be things like yelling, threats or sabotage. Whatever it is, it is an action that could cause stress to the victim. And could cause them to feel trapped and it is repeated over time.

In my case, I was forced by that same manager to work overtimes and on weekends. And even without extra pay. Spending every day, and almost 12-13 hours a day, sometimes with no breaks, with no time to eat and no way of getting good sleep or the rest my body needed. And I couldn’t risk losing my job. Why though? Why would someone bully another at work? POWER AND CONTROL. The bullies in this case just want to feel in control and they do it by bringing others down. In my situation, I was the only one in my team with past experience in that field, the only one who didn’t need training so that was my manager’s and the trainers’ way to “put me in my place”. They didn’t have any real critique so they tried to gain power by verbal abuse, by overwork, by putting me down and stressing me out.

What makes victims not speak sometimes or have a hard time reporting the issue? Because of the charming personality of the bully. You’d think you can tell that the person in front of you is a bully but it’s actually hard to tell. Since bullies manipulate others with poker face. They are self-centered and in some cases sociopaths but likeable.

I was always being told it’s an “advice”, they’re “helping” me. All in the midst of me being bullied. I was made to think I deserved the way I was treated.

In other cases, bullies could come after you in a non-direct way. For example, by emailing a manager telling them you’ll meet a certain deadline when it’s impossible for you to do so, they’re not coming to you directly but instead they’re putting you in a situation where you can’t really decline, knowing you’ll be in a hard and stressful situation. They could work on making you lose your job in that same manner. So basically, they’re not monsters hunting you down literally, they’re just that guy/woman sitting next to you smiling while putting you intentionally in stressful situations. Making you feel stuck all the time.

Well, how to stop bullies?

The thing about bullies is that they test their target victim. So, if you right away push back, you’ll be ok. But if they managed to get to you, they won’t stop easily. You need to always address the situation head on. Call out the behavior and leave the situation, no matter how awkward or uncomfortable it might be for you at that specific moment. Instant action is a must. You should also document every single detail big or small. The reason why sometimes bullying incidents go undisciplined is the lack of evidence. Stick to facts, to what happened and do not allow anger or other emotions to cloud your action. Then reach out to the HR and bring the incident to their attention.

To conclude the key to end bullying is to remain calm, confident and immediately push back, by calling out the action then reporting it if it’s repeated.

If there is anything, I wish I could have done differently is not letting my emotions control me. While I didn’t get angry, but instead I felt stuck, depressed and worthless. I let them put me down and I accepted the idea that I deserve to be treated this way, this is why I never reported what happened. I should have only focused on achieving my target because that’s what evaluates the quality of my work, not what anyone thinks. I wish I could tell my old self that: “Harassment, stress and overwork do not help anyone. Teamwork, respect and positive work environment does. Always know your work duties (targets) and your rights as well.”

If anyone who’s going through the same experience is reading this, I hope you know now what to do.

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Articles

Work Slave

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Written By: Yasmine Gazzarine

Edited & Published By: Mariham Magdy

Nowadays, HR managers struggle with work place ethics. At this critical time where every detail is shared on social media, we, as employees, are not prudent enough to choose what to share and what not to share.

On the other hand, HR is confused what could be the criteria to judge upon or what should be taken seriously and what should not be taken into consideration regarding the employees social media posts.

Let me take you through my personal experience; I’m a consultant and trainer, in addition to my full time job, out of my bigger aim to influence the new generation. One day I found my personal photo among my trainees printed by the work printer. In a way or another, I knew who printed it.

The surprise was that it’s my dear beloved boss who did so, I confronted him in front of the section head and he just snapped shooting “I’m your boss and I’m free to do whatever I see appropriate, you’re my subordinate and I got unlimited authority to investigate you”.

For a moment I saw myself wearing prison outfit in dark dungeon dragging these feet cuffs and this big metal ball. Is working in an organization means being deprived from your free days? To cut it short I took my action to condemn this act as freedom trespassing which is illegal and unethical.    

That drives us to the concept of work place ethics, does that means policies and procedures within the organization?!, or is it a personal factor depending on the culture, behavior and heredity ?! Going through some search we can easily find that the work place ethics definition is “the ability to maintain proper moral value within the workplace”. It is an attitude that shapes the way an individual performs his/her job duties with high moral standards.

This leads us to a more important question “Do you want to be a boss or a leader?” supportive or frustrating? In my point of view, every boss should or better be a leader. If you recognize that one of your staff has a potential or a sparkling skill, please win this employee, benefit from him, make him or her your ambassador.

As he/she demonstrates his/ her skill inside or outside the work environment he/she makes the organization image very good. As he/she delivers the level of professionalism within your organization outside…imagine what would this add to you later on?

Moreover, the competition between work-mates should be healthy and for the best of the organization. There is nothing wrong if your subordinate excels you in some skills or in some domains. Work environment is all about integration.

May be if we put clear fine-tuned policies and procedures this can enhance or guide the existence of preferable work ethics and their application.

In the Egyptian work environments there are always written policies in the background but what really rule the situation are norms. Egyptians are emotional people who are prone to consider anything you post on social media a direct projection on somebody or a certain situation.

But as HR, shall we take what’s posted on social media seriously?! or am I supposed to monitor every post of every employee?! In my humble opinion if a post contains bulling sentence against a colleague or the organization I shall take it seriously only in this case.

Anyway to avoid such problems, simply set rules, communicate it and apply it over all the organization. Be aware not to encourage ever an employee who spread rumors or snitches even if it’s for your own benefit cause Karma always gives you back what you give.           

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5 Reasons Why Smoking is Good for your Employees and Workplace!

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Written By:
Mahmoud Mansi

The average number of smokers consume around one pack of cigarettes a day or less. During their working hours they will take at least five short breaks in order to smoke. During these short breaks there are various unnoticed benefits for the concerned employees and for the organization. No doubt smoking has its harms as a habit, however we can see a different perspective…

1-Back, Neck and Eye Pain Release

Continuous working on the desk causes back and neck pain, same goes with staring at the screen for a long time and forgetting to rest. Nonsmokers in most organizations tend to spend more time on their desks forgetting all about taking short breaks.

2-Brainstorming and Communicating

Many smokers would agree that during their “short breaks” they mingle very well with colleagues or managers, talk about KPI’s, discuss concerns related to work, suggest ideas, share solutions and communicate more freely than inside the office environment.

3-Meditation, Less Fatigue, More Focused

If not mingling with others, some of the smoking breaks are all about solitude, spending time with the self, breathing slowly and contemplating the view or some ideas. This solitude and quick meditation gives the person the chance to take a mental and emotional break from the stress environment then return back recharged and ready to complete the day.

4-Fresh Air and More Exposure to Sun

Employees are almost trapped all morning and evening at the office, they forget that they need to breathe fresh air instead of the air conditioner and be exposed to natural sunlight. Many employees suffer vitamin D deficiency because of that reason.

5-More Connected to Personal Life

Usually spending most of the time answering office calls, emails and delivering tasks on the laptop or doing some paperwork, employees forget to check their social media updates, call a family member or answer a message sent from a friend. Work keeps them detached from the community and it might cause increase in stress or anxiousness. With breaks employees tend to check their personal messages and have a chance to connect and fulfil their social needs.

Solutions!

Healthwise, smoking is harmful, and smokers – like all other people – are attached to a habit. Every person has a different habit that they wish to change or not!

The purpose behind this article is to see the other side, and how professionals can change the system of the organization in order to provide the discussed five benefits to ALL employees (smokers and non-smokers), and therefore have a working environment that cares about their employees’ backpain, neck pain, eye dryness problems, providing channels of informal communication and innovative ways to brainstorm, caring about employees’ fatigue and nourishing their souls and minds with meditation, giving a chance for employees to be daily exposed to the sunlight and nature, and giving some measured space for them to connect with their families and community.

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