My HR Manager is a Nightmare

Last Updated Aug 30, 2010 6:54 AM EDT

Dear Evil HR Lady,

I have been able to ignore the evil HR VP for the 7 years I've been with my current employer. But she is now trying to deny me the opportunity for promotion. In the past, when the going got tough at work, I got going to another employer, but in this economy and in my economically depressed community, it's not likely I will have that option and as the division of a large corporation, my employer offers the best salary and benefits in the county.
I'm the executive assistant to three VPs. There are three other executive assistants and one assistant to the President. The evil HR lady hates all of us because, I have concluded, we are attractive and well liked while she is unattractive and, well...evil. The one thing she does have going for her, however, is the ear of the President because he likes to hire family and friends and golf buddies and she finds jobs for all of them. Early on in my tenure, I made the unfortunate mistake of requesting I be given the name of a new employee in one of my bosses departments when one was hired so that when my boss asked me to get them on the phone, I would know who he was talking about. The evil HR lady's response was "we don't do that here." So the policy remains---one must wait until one of our other employees figures out who the new person is and what they do and word eventually gets around. Her large staff all live in fear of her so do not offer much assistance either.
The President's assistant is leaving. She and I sit directly outside the President's office, we work very well together, and I assume her responsibilities when she is ill or on vacation (sometimes three weeks at a time). I have had excellent performance reviews, I have taken on many new responsibilities in my position, and have a good relationship with the President. But the evil HR lady has convinced him not to post the position so that none of the current executive assistants can be considered. Do I have a cause of action other than becoming bitter?
Your HR Manager is not the problem. She doesn't hate you because you're attractive. Her being unattractive has nothing to do with her skills and your feelings about her appearance are apparent at the office. She may be incompetent. She may be a lackey that makes sure she can find jobs for all the president's golf buddies (really, how many golf buddies in need of work can one man have?). But the HR manager is not your problem.

Your problem is that the president doesn't wish to hire you. Your problem is that your boss won't ask the HR manager for the list of new employees. Your problem is that you haven't advocated for yourself. Your problem is that when she said, "we don't do that here," you said, "Okay," instead of, "well, what do I need to do to get this done?"

Do you see where I am going with this? Don't blame bad workplace dynamics on one person. Yes, one person can be a nightmare, but it's that person's manager who lets the problem go on. HR isn't an independent organization that doesn't report up to the company president. They fall in the chain of command just like accounting and marketing do. If she's a nightmare it's because her boss allows it. She should be terminated if she's a big problem causer.

But, it's likely that whatever she does is exactly what the president wants. If he doesn't want to hire any of the existing administrative assistants he goes to her for advice, "They are all going to post for it, and I don't want to hire any of them." And she replies, "Then don't post it." It's not her, it's him.

Now, if it is her, then you just go around. If you've been sitting by the president's office, and filled in for his current assistant then he knows you. So, go up to him and say, "Karen is leaving. I really enjoyed the times I filled in for her. I have the experience and skills necessary to do the job and I'd like to apply for Karen's position. Here is a copy of my resume."

See, no HR involvement needed. This, of course, means that the president will either hire you or he won't and if he doesn't it means he didn't want to hire you, which can be painful. It's much easier to say the HR manager doesn't like me and that's why I couldn't post for the job. But, if you want the job, you've got to ask for it. Don't sit back and wait for it to happen.
Photo by Geishaboy500, Flickr cc 2.0

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