Annual review by a workplace radical’s alter ego

Get a glimpse behind the corporate glass with HR Future’s workplace radical

From: Me
To: You

Let me seize this opportunity to meet you on the other side of this page through these words. Stop right here. Good, I have eyeball attention.  I am the other ego of Yusuf whose work has filled this space for the past year. I regret to inform you that Yusuf has been trapped in a corporate cage – serves him right for rattling such places. He would have missed the deadline for submitting his irreverent views but I am here to save the day in his absence. 

A quick introduction: I’m the other ego that tells Yusuf to stay with the same boring ideas, keep his thoughts to himself, wear a mask of deception, use buzzwords without meaning and go quietly with the flow of the crowd, It does not matter if he has innovative ideas about reward or disagrees with the HR director keeping white elephants in the department. It does not matter if he wants to break the mask by speaking the raw truth or highlight moronic people practices. He should rather focus on safeguarding his career interests. Much to my dismay, he has dismissed my advice. He continues steadfastly on a mission in the opposite direction to spread professionalism, independent thinking and boldness in HR.

I am going to revisit some of the organisations that he covered in this column:

In July 2006, he discussed the racially charged case of Christaans versus Eskom with lessons for HR communication and talent retention. Racial tensions remain explosive in Eskom. Last month Solidarity, the labour union released a critical report about 75% of Eskom’s 5000 white staff wanting to quit the company.

By September, Yusuf was cutting his teeth in bringing people issues to the fore.  Titled with an intentional pun,  “Experiences to post about”,  he compared the customer experience at a particular Post Office (frustration) and Post Net (wow) outlet. Postnet is part of the Onelogix Group and the share price has rocketed by more than 70% in nine months.

The following month, he took to task, sales practices in the health and fitness industry. His hard-hitting comments about the sales practices at Planet Fitness seems to have been ignored. Another overzealous sales consultant recently called with a rehearsed pitch, oblivious of this column. Fortunately, I took the call with gentle responses although it was irritating when he requested referrals from me. Special mention must be made of the e-mails requesting that Yusuf rattles the health clubs by conducting a detailed investigation. 

The year ended with coverage of wheels on the ground and in the air. He looked at South African Airways’ Mango with its rock bottom prices and tightly packed seats. And lamented the waste of a red hot opportunity with their retired but experienced SAA pilots. HR at SAA are currently having the flight of their career with restructuring turmoil. Unconcerned, Yusuf went on his first Mango flight in June.

The “Tips for Trevor” in the February rattling of this column included a special tax dispensation for those in HR from progressive tax deductions for hiring incompetent employees and hardship allowances for those on the trip to the CCMA to fringe benefits for a ‘designated leader’ and deductions on romantic expenditures in the office. Sorry, none materialised in the Budget Speech. A welcome fiscal move was the relaxation of bursary and scholarships provisions, maybe there is hope for educating incompetent employees.

Many man-hours were given to the scandals in the retirement industry – bulking practice at Alexander Forbes Limited (August) and the missing millions at Fidentia Holdings (March). The proposed acquisition of Alexander Forbes Limited by a consortium of private equity investors is in progess. Fidentia is under curatorship. Yusuf was very grateful for the correspondence from former Fidentia staff in this period. 

Finally, I noticed the ‘contribution’ of government over the months to this column. The relationship between the ordinary citizen and government is about safety, education, transport and health care. Or rather the disturbing break-down in these areas. (There is a raging public sector strike over pay increases ten kilometres away). 
I need to get back into the box.  I just heard that Yusuf has broken free of the corporate cage – apparently he found a loophole in the HR policies again. He will be back next month, dismissing my ‘play it safe’ advice to rattle your cage.

(HR Future, July 2007)

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