The following report is extracted from the November 2015 issue of ‘People Management’ published by the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development:
“Xavier Broseta, Assistant HR Manager of Air France, has been taking the lead in complex negotiations that would see the carrier lose 2,900 jobs and increase flying hours for pilots. Talks had reportedly been going well, until he turned up to a meeting with union reps this month and had his clothing torn to shreds by a furious mob of employees.
“A tattered Broseta and a colleague were forced to scale the fence at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, to escape hundreds of staff who had turned up unexpectedly. “This incident came a little more than 12 months after employees at a Goodyear plant in northern France held the firm’s HR Director hostage with a giant tyre after he announced plans to close the site.”
I am also reminded of the practice of ‘Gherao’ in India in which disgruntled employees ‘imprison’ their bosses in their own offices until their demands are met.
Time was when the HR function was seen through the lens of a ‘nice’ guy or gal who looked after the welfare of the employees, the provision of good environmental working conditions, fostering friendly, pleasant relationships, personifying and presenting the ‘soft side’, the happy face of the business or organization on behalf of the board and management.
Now in most progressive organizations, the HR function is represented in the corporate boardroom with responsibilities which serve the core functions of the organization, in addition to discharging all the original roles. The human side is still central, but so also are the production, operational, financial, material and marketing aspects for optimal efficacy.
These evolutionary changes now identify the HR function with the economic and financial fortunes of the corporation, for which the HR Director is often held answerable to the employees and their unions.
The incidents described above might suggest the need for some battle gear and new competencies for self-defence for HR Directors; they also raise questions about the conventional ‘strike weapon’; are they becoming a thing of the past?