Tuesday, October 19th 2010
HR and Elvis

I cried on the way to the kids’ school this morning.

I’m perfectly fine. It was all Elvis’ fault. Have you ever really listened to the Elvis version of “How Great Thou Art?”

Caden-6yr saw my tears, heaved a big sigh in the backseat and said, under his breath, “It’s gonna be a loooong day.”

It was VERY Caden-6yr. It reminded me of a day 3 years ago. The beginning of another long day, and a similar moment in the car with Caden-3yr and probably my favorite Caden post ever. He’s an adorable mix of personality, charm, candor, and obnoxiousness.

I’ve inflicted upon myself a crash course of Human Resource Management. I couldn’t for the life of me remember why I already know all of this, and then it came to me. I did the same thing about 11 years ago. Learned everything I could on HR, in a short amount of time.

I had a really great paying job in a small office with 4 men who… really could have used a lot of God, a few self-improvement books, and maybe a muzzle or two. They were quite a group. But it was a great job regardless, and Mike was still learning the ropes of his chosen field, and that job paid the bills for the few years I had it. We were grateful.

Things went downhill. The company was supposed to lay off one person, and instead of the boss’s best friend who had just been hired, it was me. The boss’ best friend was fairly awful, but he was new. I was really good at that job. I’m a quiet, polite sort (more so back then) and went through all the proper channels of discussing this lay-off decision with the correct individuals in the correct order.  When that failed, I did a huge amount of research, and put together a 64 page official complaint, citing long passages of Equal Employment Opportunity law.

Here, on this website, I have little regard for punctuation. I know. And if I’m tired, I don’t use capital letters. And I say ‘um’ a lot. The most popular word in this blog’s lifespan is probably ‘poop.’    So it might surprise you that if I want to bust out a scary sounding legalese filled complaint, I have no problem accomplishing it.

My cover letter specifically stated that I had not retained an attorney.

But I was so pleased when I heard that middle and upper management had quaked with fear over those 64 pages and didn’t believe the ‘no-lawyer’ claim for a second. Surely they hadn’t hired/harassed/unfairly laid off some twentysomething in West Texas who could write like that….? Nah. They reacted very much as if I had an attorney.

The EEOC gave me an investigator named Gus who called frequently with endless questions.

A year of long phone interviews with Gus went on.   And then he told me that the company had then claimed they’d never gotten the complaint in the first place. It was an interesting approach. They’d spent a year discussing its content with him, page by page. I’d hand delivered two copies to two managers (with a smile), and faxed one to another out of state manager. But I hadn’t kept the fax confirmation. I couldn’t prove they received it. Unless I somehow could, they would close the investigation. Gus said the case was very strong, but they’d found a technicality that would have to be honored.

I didn’t want the job back. Not that this was an option, anyway.

I just didn’t want that particular boss to feel quite so free to treat someone else like that. And I knew I’d made him think twice about such things. Mike was getting a company started and it was already doing well.  Baby Ethan had arrived on the scene by then. So maybe this was just as well.  It was early September of 2001.

And then it was the 11th of September, in 2001.

And then it hardly mattered at all. This suddenly seemed like such an odd thing to have poured any time and energy into in the first place. This was very much… nothing… in the new collective national perspective on life.

I let it go, gladly, easily,  that day. Along with anything else that seemed petty, or small, or unimportant when placed next to the blessings of family and freedom and security and life.

Now, years later — I’d forgotten why I knew all the HR stuff I was studying, and I laughed at my six year old for not understanding why I’d cry over Elvis singing a hymn.

I guess it’s a matter of perspective. Letting the right things matter, and move you… and recognizing when to just let the rest go.


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