Feb 16, 2009

How human resources are misused

Our un-managed system is being exploited by different forces to their advantage. Today people are bullied, punished or fired due to their upright stance, competence or professional approach rather than incompetence. Groupings exist in every office; organisation and they make honest people suffer. A few cases are being referred to from real life situation:
(a) People in Swat found themselves in a badly governed set-up ever since Swat State joined Pakistan and were genuinely perturbed, while foreign elements exploited this situation and involved them in insurgency by funding their cause monetarily and materially. All political governments kept on watching the situation with half hearted actions so that their tenure passes away calmly. Devolution turned the DMG, the main players in English governance model into lame ducks. Hence these de motivated brains were forced to take refuge elsewhere. While power was handed over to non-salaried, part time, ill trained individuals who possess all good or bad virtues of our society while remaining unaccountable. Maximum they could lose is their seat which they defend using all available resources ensuring “their main supporters” remain happy at all costs as they are instrumental in securing 20-30 per cent votes for getting elected.
(b) On the other hand administrative failure can be gauged by the fact that complaint cells have become either rubbish bins or at best, work as post offices. Higher authority or his assistant marks the letter to the organisation or officer against whom complaint has been made. None follows up as a result the concerned office or officer sleeps over it till someone follows up, which is seldom. Then responds by judging the seriousness of the person reminding him e.g. a reminder in writing only means a routine follow-up unless followed by a telephone. Yet his response will be to defend his organisation or subordinate’s stance against which complaint has been lodged. Purpose is to buy time so that till 3rd attempt, complainant, reminding authority or he himself gets tired, removed or transferred respectively. Three chairs to governance and administration.
(c) A multi sector, bilateral development project had completed two & half years of its life and except for staff placement, acquisition of equipment and vehicles, establish offices, did not know how to start coordinated work? The project management unit was not clear about its goals and strategy to achieve them. As a result it was involved in petty issues in weekly PMU meetings; it would spend hours debating non issues. A situation of complete chaos persisted. Being Manager, Fin & Admin I was part of PMU and secretary to it. After few months of minutes writing I got frustrated and told my boss that real problem was that he wanted to get things done, his way and in one go, instead of asking managers to come up with their plans and improve them. Managers were chosen because of their expertise in their respective fields and by empowering them he’ll be able to judge their true potential as well. He being an expatriate agreed and changed his strategy forthwith. Now the ball was in manager’s court. Strange things started happening, managers started getting ideas and feedback from their subordinates which resulted in more realistic planning. I was offered to start a new section of participatory M&E after necessary orientation. It was later changed to PME and feedback section when I had received most advanced trainings in PME techniques. Sole aim was to find solutions in a participative manner, reminding everyone that no one is perfect yet everyone is accountable and has to deliver in line with strategic plan. Coordination and motivation of staff increased many folds, roles and responsibilities clarified, non issues vanished from management meetings. We accomplished more in one year as compared to previous three years. On strategic level we were able to cut down cost of the project by almost $150 million, that would either been wasted or remained un-utilised due to faulty planning. It also demonstrated the unbelievable! Staff of different line agencies could work and deliver under one roof “as a team” just by better management and addressing their genuine grievances. Ironically this successful model was never publicised by HR Advisor or the donor as this specific model was not foreseen in the PC1 of the project. Probably it was assumed that multi sector project, including staff of various line agencies will automatically adapt to strategic plan, while expected outcome was focused mostly on community participation and usual staff training, a major flaw of all development projects.
(d) Top management positions are allocated not due to their ability but usefulness or connections. Selections are merely an eye wash, TORs and essential criteria to fulfill these jobs are tailor made and if still a serious challenge arises through another applicant, CV’s disappear, interviews cancelled or postponed or else challenging candidate is ousted by the team through specially prepared line of questioning. I have ample personal experience in this regard. Whereas recruitment is a very serious business and need proper testing, interviewing, and needs to evaluate past achievements in current job context. Mere grades, years of service or a degree is simply not enough. Even, when a driver is to be selected, he needs to be actually tested on the road and his past performance verified and negative aspects if any probed thoroughly. His selection criteria should given more weight to these aspects rather than his “references”, domicile, appearance or his ability to speak and write.
(e) An upright engineer in his mid carrier, who worked with a very reputed group, was blamed for ordering and installation of pumps that were substandard and loss of millions was borne by the company. Enquiry was conducted in his “absence” and suspension letter awaited him as he returned after his father’s death. Poor guy was totally unnerved and told to accept the blame and he would be reinstated with a warning, which he declined. Till the time he managed to prove that neither the order was placed by him nor equipment installed in his supervision, he had developed BP and diabetes. (He was heard only when a powerful connection asked top management to listen to his side of story). Strangely real culprits remained untouched.
(f) He was not spared for his “attitude” just a few years later; he was promoted and assigned a “challenging task” which was related to a different field like a pilot being asked to drive a train. On top of it a deadline was also given. Poor guy spent his days, nights, weekly holidays to meet the challenge on time and he did succeed but at the cost of a massive heart attack from which he died. No one questioned those who actually got him killed by assigning such a task and a tight deadline that was not his domain of work. His family is still struggling to cope with this grave loss.
(g) Concept of HR was understood and implemented by British in their administrative systems that fixed maximum working hours between 37-40 / week and kept a strict vigil over it. They ensured that family life shouldn’t suffer or the bread winner should not be worked to death. Annual holidays were enforced. Now we often see both men and women spending more than 60 working hours per week especially in private sector. True family life is not possible beyond 45hrs per week, otherwise home becomes a house and family turns into a bunch of hostel fellows. What will be its implications on our home, traditional values or culture and society in general, when even the West has started promoting, “back to basics and importance of family and home”! Just by use of time criteria one can know whether someone is not doing his work according to job description, wasting time, overworked, or simply being mismanaged. Accountability of both staff member, as well management is required for not firing or punishment but for better management. Hardly anyone is using this essential tool any where in Pakistan.
(h) A very professional teacher who was amongst the best, produced very good results, was not liked by his superior as he would stick to his task and was not involved in usual buttering of the boss like others. Received tough time and when things got too unbearable for him, he blasted and was fired for his misbehavior. Same guy was rehired in another position at another station by the same organisation where he proved his worth and is awaiting posting to his family station; the senior management realised his potential when he came out of the clout of his immediate superior who had tarnished his image earlier on. In the process he has suffered mentally, economically in very difficult circumstances with little salary being spent at two stations. Who is going to compensate him for time and economic loses, sufferings, lapses in grooming of children and days of happiness taken away from him?
In all cases situation improved only when top management came to know about problems. It proves that HR department was not playing its part as M&E was either non existent or had no linkage and mechanisms that ensure that issues are tackled in time. These are just few examples which show the daily crises every organisation faces and the way professional staff suffers at the hands of groupings within all organisations. Top management mostly relies on “trusted lieutenants” who may lack management capacity or inappropriately empowered to run the division they head. As a result either their decisions are based on gut feeling or delayed till boss finds time to look into them. In either case it is a disaster. A professional on the other hand will be loyal to the organisation rather than immediate boss; and would take calculated decision in the best interest of organisation. As such he is truly an asset for that organisation but mostly finds himself in hot waters when organisation doesn’t have a system to support such precious individuals at testing times and are trashed. By Altaf Gauhar

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