I was quite surprised to receive some post in the office internal mail the other day. I get absolutely piles of email, but I get precious little in the way of old-fashioned, honest-to-goodness post. Anything that breaks the routine of another dull day in the office is to be embraced though, so I grabbed it and began to examine the envelope. It arrived in one of those funny little brightly coloured envelopes with lots of boxes all over it – the idea being that you can re-use the same envelope many times by simply crossing out your own details and by filling in the next recipient’s name and department in an empty box.
I looked a little blankly at the box showing my name and department, and wondered -- as you do when you get a piece of post you weren’t expecting and can’t instantly identify – what on earth it could be. They'd written my name out, and then used a highlighter pen over it. I wasn't sure why. Perhaps for emphasis?
I opened it up and saw, to my bemusement, that it appeared to be a letter from the Department of Social Security. I looked at it more closely. It turns out that the DSS had recently received a request for benefit from a certain Mr. B, but before they gave him any money, they wanted to confirm that what he was telling them was true: that he was indeed dismissed without being offered any alternative roles within the organisation. The letter was addressed to the human resources department. Would someone from the HR be so kind as to write back to them with the relevant information?
There was a covering note from HR.
“Could you please fill this out and send it back to the DSS. Thanks”
Mr. B was my boss. He was “asked to leave” because he was fairly useless (which was something the company should have known anyway, as they had already employed him in the same role once before, and he was hopeless at it then too... but luckily someone else had been daft enough to offer him a job and he had resigned. Quite why my lot subsequently re-employed him is something of a mystery to me... but what do I know, right?).
Anyway. Is it just me, or should HR have taken a bit more care over this?
Did it not occur to anyone in HR that this might be a bit of a sensitive issue and that they should perhaps take the time to find the right person to send it to instead of just sending it to someone with a similar sounding job title? Why had they just dumped it into the post anyway? The only reason I could think of for doing that was that they couldn't really be arsed with it and just wanted to get it off their desks as quickly as possible.
I’m not an expert by any means, but if HR don’t take the time to get things like this right, what do they do?
Yeah. I know. Stupid question.
Podcast: The West Wing Weekly
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