Terrible HR Tuesday – Counter Offer Part 1

Feeling Bad

In my HR career, I have encountered many questionable HR “talent.” You know the ones, the HR employees that give us all a bad name? The ones who aren’t passionate about HR, but ended up there? I’m hoping to highlight “terrible HR” here on Tuesdays, as long as I have stories to share. Please feel free to share your encounters with bad Human Resources – either as an HR professional or as an employee! melissa@hrincommon.com

I have been DYING to share this experience with you all since it happened to ME recently. I recently decided to leave my corporate job (more on this in another post, promise), and went to hand-in my resignation to my boss, an HR director. In that meeting, she asked what levers needed to be pulled to keep me, and I was very clear about the things that needed to happen – I wasn’t bitter or disgruntled (yet), but bored. After our meeting she met with her boss, the VP, and came back to me saying, “We’re not losing you. I will have more info and a counter tomorrow.” That was Monday.

On Tuesday, no word – at 5pm, she mentioned that she would have something for me on Wednesday. On Wednesday, not a word. As you can imagine my openness and engagement to stay was dwindling by the moment – another shining example of how our HR team was not able to actually DELIVER HR. If the waiting and situation wasn’t bad enough… my boss just about tackled me as I arrived in the office on Thursday morning. She sat down, with nothing in her hands (a written letter/offer always is better) and begins her “offer.” The conversation went like this, “So before I get into the offer, I had to reach out to other HR employees for feedback about you. Here is the feedback I got…” She continued to essentially tell me that I was a crappy employee that my colleagues didn’t like – I was too directive, too controlling, and I copied their boss on an email, so they didn’t trust me. (Don’t worry – it gets better). Mind you this “feedback” was not presented with specific (or STAR) examples; was not from people I actually interact or work with, and my clients were not asked to provide feedback “because they absolutely love you.” After all of the negative commentary, I was then asked, “So, do you even want to hear the counter?” To be honest, I was thinking HELL NO, but we are at work, so I responded, “Sure – that’s what you were here for, so I’d be happy to hear what it is.”  “Great, the offer is… You are a highly valued employee and we really want you to stay.”

I know, you think I”m kidding right? This is a very seasoned HR director who messed up delivering a counter offer to an HR professional – messed up royally really. Here’s the thing… when you are trying to KEEP an employee, especially one who is retainable, the whole point of the counter discussion is to engage them, talk them up, tell them all of the great things they delivered, what an asset they are to the company. There are PLENTY of venues and forums to deliver feedback (we can debate whether or not what she said to me was feedback later – wait until part 2!), that is more appropriate, especially if that type of feedback has never been mentioned or delivered in the past. Trust me – the Counter Offer, is NOT the place to do that.

So in this episode of terrible HR, we saw a HR senior professional…

  • Delay a counter offer for several days
  • Come into the counter offer meeting without any official paperwork (three days too late)
  • Start the counter conversation with negative “feedback,” particularly from non-relevant stakeholders

I know, I know – you want to hear about the offer! Soon, I promise – but it’s another shining example of terrible HR, so hold tight.

Photo by Ben Heine

Who Does HR Serve?


Being someone whose Human Resources career was an accident – in other words, I came from the “other side of the fence,” the business, I have constantly struggled with who HR truly serves. My personal approach has been to provide extraordinary HR service to my clients – I serve the people. However, I’ve found that in most companies, HR serves almost everyone except the people. I know – a dichotomy, but stick with me here.

When I want to gauge my effectiveness, what programs to implement, how to approach/manage a situation, I look to my business partners to figure out how I can serve them best. The business is where my loyalty lays. According to the “true” HR professionals – the ones that have only worked in HR, their approach is quite different. They do what HR wants them to do – push out a program, no problem – never mind that it will add absolutely zero value to the business that you are supporting; deliver the same programs year-over-year without tweaking or improving them – of course, we need a consistent template doesn’t the business KNOW that? I need my CLIENTS to want to partner with me and that means that I need to deliver value to them in ways that move the needle. Apparently this is at the expense of my fellow HR team members “liking” me. I push back, I ask questions, I want to know how everything will IMPACT Marketing or Sales or Clinical – how will this form/strategy/template/etc. address their specific people issues? I don’t just push “HR things” out, I challenge them. It creates extremely happy customers who trust me and know that I am not going to waste their time.

HR people tend to report into “HR” – not a lofty concept, but why aren’t we directly responsible to our clients? I’m specifically referring to an HR business partner role here. If our merit is dependent upon delivering strategic solutions and partnering with the business, then why aren’t we actually part of the business? Can HR work reporting into the business directly with dotted or shared reporting relationships to “HR” to share best practices that way?

I ask because HR has a bad reputation – we are seen often times as the dumping ground for employees who just don’t work out elsewhere, or who don’t have critical skills to deliver in other areas. At my current company, HR was a rotational opportunity – no real HR expertise or experience was needed, you just needed to be a decent “manager” with some “potential.” To me and hopefully to you, HR is a profession – we can deliver significant value and solutions that enrich not only the culture, but engage the company’s biggest asset, their people. Until HR is able to BE ABOUT THE CLIENT, we will never gain the credibility and respect truly dedicated HR professionals deserve.

Photo by elycefeliz