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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

When Making it Confidential Defeats the Purpose

I got a call. An employee was to be laid off and given a severance package. She was within a few months of reaching retirement, so instead of giving her severance pay the plan was to "bridge" her until she reached retirement. This means we continue to pay her as if she is an active employee, but she doesn't come into work.

Fine. This is standard and happens all the time. No big deal. Understand that part? This is within policy and happens all the time. In fact, it's so common that no one cares one wit.

Except, her manager was hyper paranoid and wanted this term to be kept confidential. We assured her that all terminations were confidential.

That was not good enough. Because she would still be on payroll, she would still hit headcount. The person in her department who handled headcount would be aware that this person wasn't a "voluntary" retirement. This was unacceptable.

We assured her that the headcount guy wouldn't care. He's seen it before and will see it again. He doesn't care.

Not good enough. We had to move her to a different cost center so no one would know this person's situation.

Now, remember, the whole idea was to keep this confidential, right? In a normal term, the following people would have known: The HR person responsible, the data entry person, legal and department headcount coordinator. That's it.

Because it was "super confidential" the following people had to know in order to keep it hidden:
  • HR
  • Data entry supervisor--because we couldn't send the term through normal channels
  • Data entry--because someone has to do the work
  • Organizational Management manager--because she had to be moved to a new cost center
  • Finance person 1--because we needed a new cost center for her
  • Finance person 2--the above's manager because he had to approve the exception
  • HR's headcount coordinator--because she had to know why someone was showing up on a previously unused cost center
  • Multiple people in legal--because of the exception on costs, approval had to be obtained from the higher ups
  • Payroll--because the system couldn't automatically pay her because of her new cost center wasn't designed for payroll costs
  • Finance persons 3, 4, and 5--to explain the cost center change. (They called us asking why.)

    Oh, and the department heacount coordinator? Found out anyway--because of all the questions generated by handling this outside of normal process.

    It could have been a normal term and no one would have discussed a single thing about it. But, by making it confidential, twice as many people needed to be involved. Everyone had to hear a long explanation and the term became a topic of discussion, rather than routine business. Why is this term so special? (It wasn't) Did she do something really wrong? (No. She volunteered for the package) Her term code says job elimination? Was it really a job elimination? (Yes, again she volunteered) It must not have been because it was so special. (It was, just a hyper paranoid manager.) Aargh!

    How's that for Confidential?

    apu said...

    phew ! that beats all common sense ! But doesn't the company have the right to insist in such cases, that its a stupid and impractical way to do things?

    Evil HR Lady said...

    We insisted it was stupid. Legal insisted it was stupid. Manager was a VP. Manager won.

    Luciana (lubrasil) said...

    This is such a neat example of how not looking at the big picture can totally subvert the intended result! I'm keeping it to show to management when they make a request to technology to handle something outside of normal process!

    Dean Dad said...

    Worthy of Dilbert. We have something similar going on now. We're moving to a paperless application system at the same time that we've instituted a records retention policy requiring us to print out electronic records on paper.

    Your tax dollars at work...

    Evil HR Lady said...

    Lubrasil--good luck. I hope your management can see the results of going "outside" the process.

    Dean Dad--aren't you glad to know that it's not just government that makes stupid decisions?

    We have the same requirements for terms. Everything is handled electronically, and then it's all printed out in case the auditors show up. I said, "Can't we just show the auditors the electronic copies?"

    Umm no.

    Wally Bock said...

    This violates one of Wally's Basic Rules -- routine things should be done routinely. Every exception sucks energy and attention away from productive work.