We have seen some incredible talent get burned by making the wrong choice. First let’s spell out why human resources really exists. Headline: It is not for employees. Human resources is designed to keep management from being sued. It oversees hiring, annual reviews and station policies to make sure the company is protected. This knowledge is key.
If you are being harassed by a co-worker, you need to be able to make a clear case. If management is after you, human resources is helping the effort. However, human resources does still give you options. You just need to play your cards right because the deck is stacked against the individual worker. If you complain as a group, there can be safety in numbers and strength in message. This is hard to understand for many workers, however, it is the simple truth. Also you should never go to human resources before speaking with your direct managers. This will burn you because you are not going through the chain of command and giving management a chance to fix the problem. The only exception would be if your reason for seeking help is a problem with the news director.
So when do you go to human resources? The answer is usually in your employee handbook. When station policies are clearly being violated you have the right to complain. This often involves a manager that is out and out ignoring written policies, like approval of vacation time or denying sick time despite having sick notes or other required documentation. This means you must have a paper trail. Written proof of one incident is usually not enough. You must be able to show a pattern. Again, the best bet is if several people have similar documentation and it’s all turned it in over a short period.
Now let’s say your job is being threatened. Complaints to human resources might buy you time. Again though, you must have documentation. Let’s say management is complaining you don’t always come to work. If it’s because a manager keeps changing your schedule and doesn’t inform you, that could buy you time. So, in this example, copies of the schedules and the changes that caused the issue could go a long way toward protecting you. Also, check your employee handbook. Usually you must be given written notice of schedule changes. If you are told there are issues with your job performance, take a look at your annual reviews. If you have several past reviews that are strong and one that is weak, you may be able to buy some time. Request that management give you an action plan to improve your performance. Then follow up with human resources if management fails to give you such a plan.
Human resources can also be a direct link to the general manager. Weigh this knowledge carefully. If you just hate a manager and want to bring the person down, a complaint to human resources is a serious gamble. You need clear cut proof the manager is not following corporate or station policy. You also need several others who can corroborate your complaint. If there are clear cut problems though and a group of people are willing to stand up, your chances of getting help are much better. Notice we said help. Do not expect a manager to get fired. What you might see is policy change or disciplinary action. In one case we saw a news director forced to seek anger management training. No firing however. Still it did help calm the waters in the newsroom. But you must also realize that this process does not always happen in a vacuum. Here’s one final note to think about: That particular news director may have actually been told who complained. So, think hard if you want your boss to know you complained about them later on down the line, when layoffs or other changes are needed.