Be careful of people. Not everyone you hang with is your friend. Some people’s friendship to you is more poisonous than the venom of a snake- Anonymous.
Some very angry news greeted my timeline as I logged in to Twitter in the morning of Monday June 22:
Mediamax Networks, owned by the Kenyatta family and the media house behind K24 announced another set of redundancies. Monday’s was a surprise since the entire newsroom was swept clean, with two news anchors spared and an entire anchoring team coming in.
Some of the employees from the station that were shown the door include news anchors Sam Njoroge, Rose Gakuo, Fred Indimuli, Eric Njoka, Karen Karimi, Isabella Kituri, Nancy Onyancha, Caren Kibett, Shon Osimbo, Sara Adams, Joy Kariuki, Joab Mwaura, Shiksha Arora and Tony Khwalanda.
The manner at which they were terminated however made irked a majority of Kenyans, including the one writing this. Even the Kenya Union of Journalists were not amused and threatened the media house with the mother of all legal battles in court.
A text message notice posted on social media that was sent by the company’s human resource department led by Human Resource Manager Maureen Wandera to the affected staff on the night of Sunday June 23 ignited an uproar on social media. The message wrote:
“Hi. This is Wandera from HR. I am contacting you with regards to the redundancy notice issued on 21st of May 2020. The notice period has expired. Unfortunately, your position has been affected by way of redundancy.
“I would like to invite you to Emory Hotel in Kileleshwa tomorrow, Monday 22, at 8:55 a.m. to discuss what this means to your employment. When you get to the hotel kindly ask for me. We thank you for your indulgence and cooperation in this matter,” read the message.
Seeing that immediately reminded me of my internship at a digital media house earlier this year. The place was nice, the vibes were right…for the video team that is who seemed like friendly individuals. Not the editorial side where I’ve had my fair share of stresses.
Then there was this HR who looked friendly. Everyone used to go to her for anything; from problems to tips to just striking up a conversation. She was good friends with a guy working in social media who was in the same campus as I am. However I was improving at predicting people’s characters and I learnt she wasn’t as friendly as I thought. Looks deceive.
Two months later I lost the internship. Reason: something unknown but disguised as “didn’t want to waste my time”. My instincts hinted that it wasn’t true. And overtime I learnt the gruesome truth that everybody in the working space should drill into their minds:
HR Is Not Your Friend
Actually, NOBODY at the workplace is your friend. Some can’t stand your unorthodox presence. Others hide their meanness in favour of being nice to you. Others want what you have and will do anything to steal it from you. Others want you out from day one.
Everybody at the office is after your head, wanting it on a plate. Nobody is genuinely your friend. Do your work, get paid…then go home!
If you do manage to make genuine friends within the workplace, good for you. Maybe some mean well but a good majority are not after your best interests. It’s nothing personal…maybe…it’s just business.
HR works for the employer, not the employee. Yes, HR is technically in place to support the needs of employees, but their bigger purpose is to keep employees happy and motivated so they remain good producers and keep strong loyalty to the company. Therefore, when an employee comes to HR with a negative claim or issue, HR’s first thought is, “How do I minimize the impact of this on the entire organization?”
This is why HR often fails to respond in the manner or degree to which the employee believes necessary. Especially, for 20-somethings, who were raised by parents that taught them everyone is equal and should feel justified in sharing when they feel they’ve been wronged. For them, the response by HR can often seem highly insensitive and lacking. When in reality, HR is trying to look at it from all sides.
HR Is Not Your Career Coach
As a matter of fact, she doesn’t care about your problems. When she keeps insisting people during the general meeting to let her/him know if you’re unable to come to work or to let her know if you have any issues at the workplace, it’s nothing genuine. That’s a trap.
Having issues with your boss or coworkers? You’re better off sharing with your close friend outside work, or a family member. You might think HR is the place to talk through them. But, you would be wrong.
The moment you bring a grievance or concern to HR, it’s documented on your employment record. You’re marked as having an issue. And, that means you’re someone who has the immediate potential to disrupt the workplace harmony HR is trying to keep in check. In short, going to HR should only happen when you are:
Prepared to present your case properly, and
Understand and accept the potential ramifications of your actions.
If you feel you’ve been wronged at work, before you march down to HR to file a complaint, or draft a detailed letter documenting the situation, it’s best to talk to someone outside the company who has an extensive background in HR.
Why? He or she can ask you all the questions you’ll get asked by your HR department and help you make sure you’re answering them correctly.
Think of it like a court case. There’s a reason lawyers “prep” plaintiffs before they take the stand. Saying the wrong thing can discount your credibility and get your claim ignored. Or, even worse, turned around to make it look like you’re the troublemaker.
One of the reasons many people don’t file claims is out of fear. The #MeToo movement has shown us how powerless individuals can feel in situations when their jobs and livelihoods are at stake. A good way to handle this is to put yourself in a position where you aren’t concerned your current job is your only option.
Having your references in check, your resume tuned-up, your network mobilized, and a bucket list of other employers you’d like to work for will give you the confidence you need to say, “If they don’t fix things, I’m moving on.” It’s also good in the event they decide the best course of action is to not have you work at the company any more.
In situations where things have got ugly at work, you need to understand HR’s role in solving the problem. Don’t assume their focus on employee happiness includes having your back in difficult career situations. Instead, seek help from the outside and get proper coaching on how to engage and involve HR effectively. You don’t want to make any communication mistakes that can inadvertently hurt your career.
I have to be honest, if you’ve got a grievance that is so bad you feel you must go on the record with HR, then it’s likely you aren’t going to want to work there long-term. It may be better for you personally and professionally to move on and find a new employer where you aren’t constantly reminded of a bad situation. While there are plenty of cases of companies taking swift, appropriate action and employees going on to have successful careers, there are just as many claims that end up with the employee moving on so they can start fresh someplace else.
I think I get it now. Back at my internship my main concern was getting to work. Financial problems were what I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy. I probably shouldn’t have trusted HR to help me out because afterwards I lost the internship. Just as I was getting the jist of how to write news articles in their style. Management saw me as a problem behind my back amd decided to get rid of me. Without care.
I didn’t consider revenge, didn’t even need to because life took care of that. Just a week after I left, the first coronavirus case was reported in the country. You could guess what happened after that, mass layoffs in a manner not seen in decades. My former workplace wasn’t spared either.
Anchors at Mediamax were protesting a 50% pay cut that the company was almost imposing due to the pandemic. I qualify to be on their side because I would have rejected it if approached with it. I read a tweet that said a guy would have taken that pay cut because it would mean that he or she would earn about 150K. I should have insulted him. A 50% salary cut is literally signing a death wish. It means imposing a strain to settle your bills, even worse while living on your own. Nobody wants that kind of pressure on top of a pandemic that is infecting and killing anybody it sees.
Maybe they raised their concerns to the HR. She definitely saw their concerns as a problem towards the company and snitched to management who got rid of them through SMS. On a Sunday night. After the devil, the worst people in the world are employers.
If it is indeed found out to be true then Mediamax will have a long 5 years or more in court. For any journalist…and anyone reading this, I totally feel your pain, even from an internship. Our future days are bright and they’re coming. If I was in your shoes, I wouldn’t let it go just like that.
I saw a statistic that nearly 1.2M people in Kenya lost their jobs due to the pandemic. I didn’t sleep after I saw it. The virus hasn’t made people lose their jobs, it has exposed the cruelty of some of our employers in this nation. Very few people are actually working from home. Most are just “sitting at home with no work to do”.
To anyone else looking to step into the workplace after the pandemic is brought under control, the valuable lesson remains. HR is not your friend, nobody in the workplace is your friend. Do your work, get paid…then go home!
The next interview you attend, if your employer asks if you have questions, answer with this: “What did your company do to protect your employees in regards to the global COVID 19 situation?” How they answer that question will tell you what kind of employer you’re dealing with.
If they give you an answer you’re not convinced of or refuse to answer, turn it down. Look somewhere else.