Personnel offices fighting 'immoral war'?Baltimore's human...

WORKPLACE & CAREERS

November 13, 1992|By Kim Clark

Personnel offices fighting 'immoral war'?

Baltimore's human resources managers aren't going to like Jerry B. Harvey much.

But anyone who's ever been RIF-ed, "rightsized" or laid off will probably get a charge out of the Dec. 3 lecture by the professor of management science at George Washington University.

Mr. Harvey is preparing a talk for the Baltimore-based Center for Ethics and Corporate Policy, and it may change the way you think about your friendly personnel department:

Although "always benign and well-intentioned," human resources staffers are like soldiers in an immoral war, often following orders that end up harming employees and the organization, Mr. Harvey said in a telephone interview this week.

When executives order a layoff, for example, human resources departments have to implement it. "They try to make the killing as easy as possible."

But even a "good" layoff has disastrous consequences for all of those involved, including those who keep their jobs, he said.

"There will also be an increase in depression, heart disease, absenteeism," Mr. Harvey said.

There is also growing evidence that though executives think "cutting fat" will make the remaining workers more productive, layoffs actually reduce productivity 1.5 percent to 2 percent, Mr. Harvey said. Human resources managers should instead search for alternatives that treat all employees fairly, he said.

To avert layoffs, Mr. Harvey said, most workers would agree to sacrifice up to 20 percent of their pay -- if the sacrifices were shared by everyone in the company. That means the chief executive officer, too, he stressed.

L "The perception of fairness is very, very central," he said.

How does Mr. Harvey know about the depression and anxiety of losing a job?

"I get fired with great regularity," he said.

Small wonder.

Hugs or harassment:crossing the line

A boss who thought he was being "affectionate" was really sexually harassing a worker, a judge has ruled.

The head of an area printing company illegally harassed his female sales manager when he made comments about the Rockville woman "working under" him and, on another occasion, when he sat on her back, Administrative Law Judge Merry Hudson ruled Sept. 30.

The man's lawyer says the court misinterpreted the actions of an "affectionate" employer.

"He hugged everybody," said Mindy Farber.

The judge ordered Frank Gumpert, the owner of Frank Gumpert Printing Co., to stop sexually harassing employees and to post signs announcing that sexual harassment is illegal.

But the judge cleared the Alexandria, Va., company, which was founded in Rockville and has 12 offices in the Washington and Baltimore area, of charges that it illegally passed over Helen Dodson for promotion and then fired her.

The Maryland Human Relations Commission, which prosecuted the suit, has appealed the decision on those two counts.

Mr. Gumpert denies harassing anyone and says many of the comments cited in the case were taken out of context. He won't appeal the one conviction because the judge didn't assess a fine.

Mr. Gumpert says he is outraged that he has had to fight the charges for eight years and that he now feels frightened of being friendly to employees.

"It has chilled the warmth between myself and the employees. . . . Now I come into the home office and shake the women's hands and only hug the men," he said.

Pay raises meager in finance, real estate

A government report on wages and benefits finds that workers in the finance, insurance and real estate industries got the smallest raises in the country in the year that ended Sept. 30.

Pay in the finance field had risen a negligible 0.2 percent since Sept. 30, 1991, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.

The biggest raises, averaging 4.3 percent, were in the energy and cleanup businesses.

Union workers led their non-union counterparts in raises, with paychecks averaging 3.4 percent higher this fall than last fall. Non-union workers' paychecks rose 2.5 percent in the same period.

The national average wage increase was 2.7 percent. Adding in all compensation costs, such as health benefits, total compensation costs rose 3.5 percent in the 12-month period.

Teamsters would find Godiva boycott sweet

The Teamsters Union is asking for help, in the form of self-restraint, from the chocolate snobs of the world.

The union is calling for a boycott of Godiva brand chocolates, among the most expensive treats in the United States, because Godiva uses Diamond brand walnuts.

The union has already called a boycott against Diamond Walnut Growers Inc. to pressure the California-based company to reinstate more than 500 striking processing plant workers who have been replaced.

But Godiva executives say they use comparatively small amounts of walnuts.

Only a small percentage of Godiva chocolates have walnuts in them, and not all of those walnuts are Diamond brand, said Kevin Lowry, spokesman for Campbell Soup Co., which owns Godiva.

"They obviously singled us out because of our name and high quality," he said from Campbell's Camden, N.J., headquarters.

Godiva doesn't plan to change its purchasing and hasn't noticed any drop in sales, he said.

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