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Where you at?



I’d like to pose a question to the HR practitioners and those that have worked in or with HR. Where are you? No I haven’t been sniffing the marker pens again, I mean physically….where is HR?

I was talking with someone the other day, and after getting through the inevitable “…no being in HR doesn’t mean I have to like people, in fact I think it inhibits your ability if you like people too much, just look at Tiger Woods….” part of the conversation and explaining what I did, she replied, “so that is why they always hide you away in some dingy corner”.

Sadly, there is more than a grain of truth in this. When I think about my previous organisations, with the exception of one, we have always been hidden away like the alcoholic grandma with Tourette’s at the family christening. When I arrived at my current organisation, I found I was on the oddball floor with all the parts of the organisation that didn’t seem to fit anywhere else….the organisational equivalent of Glee but without the hidden talent.

And before anyone starts to talk about status envy, let me be clear: where you sit in an organisation does matter. Not just because of status, but because of accessibility. If you think about going to a train station and the people are behind what feels like bullet proof glass and you can’t hear them or talk to them properly or see them. How do you feel about that?

One of the sad things is that quite often HR people are responsible for this, with proclamations about confidentiality blah, blah, blah. Because other areas of the business don’t have to deal with confidential information? When I enquired whether I could move my team from its current location to somewhere more open and accessible I was told that my predecessor had actually argued for the barricades that surround us to be erected and they cost a lot of money…….

When I talk to other HR pros about this, the number of times people tell me that they too sit in unusual or hidden places. So what is going on? Is this HR again lacking in confidence and wanting to hide? Is this organisations not rating their departments and putting them in dark corners? Or is this a figment of my imagination forced by the need to fill the electronic equivalent of column inches?

Come out of the shadows and give me your thoughts?

6 Comments leave one →
  1. BJH permalink
    03/17/2010 15:29

    I’m in a general operations role now, which includes HR responsibility and sit right in the middle of things. But in my last role (a year ago) I worked for a large US-owned, blue-chip company. HR was in a very dingy, half-basement area.

    It was accessible, as it was below the staff canteen, but the office environment was very miserable. As you’ve said, the main reason for that location was it was the only place on the site where access could be 100% controlled for security reasons. Also employees could come and see HR without people necessarily knowing … they could have been going to the canteen.

    I was there six years and throughout that time we were going to move “within the next six months”. I hear that’s still the mantra – whilst they’re busy outsourcing HR so there will be very little left to relocate!

  2. Corporate Daycare permalink
    03/17/2010 15:34

    The layout of my company is such that we are all on the same floor of a building. All the managers are housed in hardwalled offices and all other employees are in the open concept cubicle community.

    I am fortunate enough to be in an office. With a door. That locks. (Basically everything that I can ask for) What I do not like is the window that starts about 3/4 up the wall which everyone peeks into to see who I’m meeting with if the door is closed.

    It’s in a central area an easily accessible to all, but as I am the sole HR person here – I still don’t belong to a department per se…just housed where there was an opening and as far as from Finance as they could put me.

    BTW – I’m not sure what I like better, the Glee reference or the alcholoc grandma.

  3. 03/18/2010 10:34

    Hang on a minute. Aren’t you in that bloody great big corner office with the great views out over London and the enviable balcony?

  4. 03/18/2010 12:48

    @BJH – One of my teams was in a basement too…..unbelievable.

    @Corporate Daycare – Maybe Glee performed by alcoholic Grandmas???

    @Henry – True, but my team sit in a badly formed goldfish bowl…..

  5. teresahrgirl permalink
    03/18/2010 15:14

    I remember a prior organization where the only offices in the top floor of the building that our company occupied were for the President and HR. Employees referred to it as the “ivory tower”. When you had to go to the “ivory tower” it was never viewed as a good thing and god forbid if you were summoned!
    These days i’m on the floor with everyone else. I am a little further down, but my office is right beside the door where everyone comes and goes so I get to see everyone at some point.

  6. 03/18/2010 16:20

    @teresahrgirl – As a compare and contrast you make the point perfectly…..again!

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