How Sending My Child to School Taught Me About Why People Hate HR

by Evil HR Lady on September 3, 2008

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Me? I’m a fan of transparency, efficiency and as little paperwork as possible. It seems the school system tries to be opaque, mind-numbingly slow and filled with paper. As I navigated the system, I started to think “this is why people hate HR,” because as much as I love letting people know what’s going on, I know not all HR departments are like that.

In order to get Offspring #1 enrolled in school I had to make one trip to the district office, two trips to the doctor’s office (one to get a copy of her vaccination record–which the school needed RIGHT NOW, right now being 6 months before school started), one trip to the dentist and 2 “required” trips to the school itself. (I put “required” in quotes becaused I refused to go to one of them. They wanted me to physically appear on a Thursday, between 9:30 and 11:00 to drop off a form. I said “this is why God gave us the post office” and mailed the form in.) All of these trips involved filling out forms.

Today, I picked the offspring up from her first day of school and received a whole new stack of paperwork–much of it with the same information I had already filled out on numerous other forms. And this must be returned no later than tomorrow.

Things like this drive me absolutely batty. Why do I need to fill out 3 (yes 3) different forms that list my emergency contact numbers? Can you please tell me? I understand the need to make sure about vaccinations and allergies, but what is the purpose for a dental form? When asked the school nurse said, “she can’t go on any field trips without a dental form.” Umm, okay, because you might stop for a couple of fillings and a good cleaning?

Now, let’s talk HR. How often is an inquiry into why a form is needed is, “because it’s policy”? Does everyone in HR even know why? Do we explain that HR needs to sign off on promotions, new hires, etc because we need to check that compensation guidelines aren’t violated, as well as maintaining pay equity across the department? Or do we say, “Just fill out this form.” Worse, are they filling out the form and you are just signing off on it without even reading it?

Do you ever have people fill out the same information more then once? (In case you are saying, “of course not,” stop and think. Do new employees have to fill out an application and new hire paperwork that both ask for name, address, etc?) Are these things filled out on paper and then you pay someone to type it into your HRIS, or does the applicant type it into an online system? If so, does that system transfer the information to your HRIS and Payroll systems?

Here’s another thing that bugged me about registering for school. We had to register no later than February 28. At that point we could request either morning or afternoon kindergarten, but they wouldn’t guarantee either. When did they tell us what we were assigned to? August. Yes August. Why on earth did it take so long? I have no idea. And the explanation I was given was “we haven’t decided how many classes to have.” And when they did send out the assignments, the principal was on vacation, so there was no one to complain to if you got an assignment that you didn’t agree with. The neighboring school principal did the same thing. Can we say hiding from responsibility?

Have you ever tried to get a hold of the actual PERSON who made a bad policy decision? Or does “run-around” come to your mind? If HR wants to make a policy, fine, but we better be willing to stand behind it, answer questions and deal with the fall out.

Why does it take so long to get policies changed? Why does it take 3 weeks to get an exception granted? Why does it take an interminably long time to get a new hire on board? We may have darn good reasons for all of these things, but it’s rarely transparent to the employee. What they see is delay and stalling and answers that are either lies or uninformed.

Note that none of this deals with the actual true responsibility of the schools (educating children) or HR (providing and developing and retaining the best people for the company). It’s all the administrative stuff that must be dealt with. Screw this up and people begin to distrust you on the other things.

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Dave Ferguson September 3, 2008 at 10:42 am

In my previous job with a company specializing in business-to-business electronic commerce, I was told the typical Fortune 1000 firm had 50 different computer systems, most of which didn’t talk to one another. So, for example, the inventory system didn’t exchange information with the sales or ordering system; the payroll system didn’t chat much with the personnel system; the email system knew nothing about the internal phone system… You get the idea.

As with HR and other administrative processes, these things rarely get onto the first section of Senior Management News, let alone onto page one above the fold. But they’re often the grinding, nagging, persistent minor issues that prove to the average employee (meaning someone who doesn’t get benefits shoveled at him with a front-end loaded) that Those In Charge really don’t give a rat’s right rump.

The kindergarten is engaged in garden-variety ritual, taking out form-filled insurance and trying to smooth the process of fitting your little darling, and everyone else’s, into a predictable system.

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tabitharuth September 3, 2008 at 2:36 pm

Dental records? That's a new one. Are the field trips going to some place where they will be burned beyond recognition?

Our school finally sent home last year's printout and asked if anything had changed instead of re-entering things. Though this did not transfer to the high school (though the lunch money did)>

Now I'm crabby thinking of how much my school district annoys me.

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William the Coroner September 3, 2008 at 2:38 pm

AMEN, sister!

Or, why, in a case I’m really quite familiar with, would one hire an individual, have them drive 1200 miles, establish a residence, and three months AFTER this, do the background check.

I have NO idea.

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Kevin September 3, 2008 at 2:39 pm

My daughter has a scholarship to a local college. She was in classes for a full week and then received a card in the mail that said she had been dropped from all her classes.

Found out that ‘someone’ forgot to enter her information into the system so that it wouldn’t charge her for tuition. Since she didn’t pay tuition (because of the scholarship), she was summarily dropped from all her classes.

To get back in to her classes she has to take a form to each professor and ask to be readmitted (at the professor’s discretion).

Because of this one person’s administrative mistake, my daughter will probably only take two classes this semester and she is one that has to ‘pay’ for the mistake (frustration, time, attention). Why cannot they summarily readmit her?

I’ve seen this sort of thing in HR as well. A mistake made forces the ‘victim’ to spend time and money to get things back the way they were with little to no assistance from the group that created the mess.

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Evil HR Lady September 3, 2008 at 3:17 pm

Dave–you would think companies would see the importance of properly communicating systems, but you are right–sr. mgmt doesn’t use them, so they don’t care.

tabitharuth–the burned beyond recognition is the only thing I can think of. My dentist office, by the way, refused to fill out the detailed sheet. They just wrote: Offspring is under the care of [dentist] and has regular checkups. I love them.

William–that is a really dumb HR department you’ve got there.

Kevin–exactly. We shouldn’t make someone else pay for our mistakes.

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Catbert is my hero September 3, 2008 at 3:48 pm

EHRL:

Great summary of the issues we have to remember to focus. It drove me crazy when I first started my current job that 5 different people needed to be notified of an employee’s change of address and that we needed to make the change in two separate systems. Plus having three different codes (mail, phone, and copier) for each cost center.

The little things make a big difference.

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The Office Newb September 3, 2008 at 4:01 pm

I once worked for a company who decided that the solution to people violating our computer usage policy (i.e. playing video games, streaming tv onto work computers during work hours) was not to reprimand the offenders but to just re-distribute copies of the “computer usage contract” (which you were required to sign as part of your new hire paperwork) and ask us all to sign it again.

Needless to say, my contract went unsigned.

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Helen September 3, 2008 at 4:02 pm

It seems even more insane when you know how things can work.

At my first undergraduate internship, my security ID would get me into the purchasing system, which would let me purchase any item from anywhere under $50 without additional authorization. I would post a link to what I wanted or type in a detailed description or part number, and about 3 days later the item would magically appear on my desk.

There was a somewhat complicated accounting system with charge numbers that these purchases had to be assigned to correctly, but the systems were all linked, so my security ID gave all the information needed.

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Angry Receptionist September 3, 2008 at 4:11 pm

“Dental records? That’s a new one. Are the field trips going to some place where they will be burned beyond recognition?”

Dude, they’re obviously taking them on a field trip through time to Hiroshima at the end of WWII. Or possibly the future when the machines take over. Either way, they seriously need those dental records.

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talentedapps September 3, 2008 at 9:47 pm

thanks for posting this. I still have my own “for gods sake” post about starting school as well. My issue was not only the forms (although I had all the same things you list) but also the scheduling. I didn’t find out the morning or afternoon answer until 2 days before classes started and then I got a packet in the mail with 2 different [conflicting] sets of information on what the schedule actually was. I realized that while I have managed to get this far in life I am not personally qualified to understand the complexities of a kindergarten schedule (!?) I had to restrain myself from going into the office and offering to take the whole thing over.
-Meg

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snippetsnscribbles September 3, 2008 at 11:38 pm

I couldnt agree more with you on the HR part !!

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Ask a Manager September 4, 2008 at 3:13 am

I wouldn’t be surprised if the explanation for the dental thing is that your city/county/state decided that the way to encourage routine dental care for kids was to require proof of it as a condition of admittance to school. If so, they’d probably get a better response from parents if they, you know, explained that.

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Infamous HR Guy September 4, 2008 at 4:59 pm

My big pet peeve!!! Redundant paperwork and useless trips.

I just got hired by a federal contractor who works with the Department of Homeland Security. My “interim” clearance took 3 months because one hand didn’t pass info to the next. I was told my final clearance will take 6 months to a year.

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Mary Sue September 4, 2008 at 9:01 pm

Three different forms with emergency contact information? One for the district office in case of (heaven forbid) a catastrophic event at the school where the front office is out of commission, one for the front office of the school in the case of (heaven forbid) a catastrophic event at the school where the front office is still functional but the teacher is out of commission, and one for the classroom teacher in the case of (heaven forbid) a catastrophic event in the classroom where the teacher is still functional. Happy thoughts, yay! Just wait until your kid starts school invasion lockdown drills (once a month, usually the week after the fire drill, however they usually pretty them up for younger kids and call them ‘earthquake’ or ‘tornado’ drills).

Why multiple copies at different times? Because the only personal information privacy rules more complex and convoluted than those relating to HR and medical records are those relating to the privacy of your child and your family in the education system.

Signed, former educator, now healthcare administrator,
Mary Sue

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Anonymous September 5, 2008 at 5:22 am

OMG, you will all laugh at this one. We have 11-year-old twins, who, for the past six years have required us to fill out the exact same forms on the first day of school. All 12 million forms are the same with the exception of their first name and gender. (They are boy/girl.) It made us rotfl last week when they came home from the first day in 6th grade and we had to fill out 7 different syllabus forms for each child’s 7 different classes, plus the two 12 page PTA packets. That wasn’t the end, add to it the band forms, and music lesson forms, and blah, blah, blah, blah, bling, bling, blah. LOL

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Holmes September 6, 2008 at 3:14 am

This is such an insightful, smart post.

Working for HR in the Federal government for less than a year and I think I could write a book on this topic.

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class factotum September 6, 2008 at 7:01 am

Did you have to provide proof of citizenship or legal US residency? That and the shots are the only legitimate questions as far as I’m concerned.

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Evil HR Lady September 6, 2008 at 12:25 pm

class factotum–no, but I did have to provide the deed to my house, in addition to a current utility bill. I mean really, the deed to my house?

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Anonymous September 7, 2008 at 8:50 pm

I don’t have an account with Blogger yet, so please excuse the anonymity.

I have been a teacher for three years and am now looking into HR.

Mary Sue got it right. The legal issues in education cause us lots of extra work and difficulties. In many cases, the school already has the information, but cannot share it. I wintessed a student talking with the nurse about a new medication concern. The district office had the information and the nurse knew what needed to be done, but they still had to have a new parent permission notice to let the school nurse know the needed information.

These privacy laws come from lawsuits. I would assume the dental records are needed because of some minor issue that happened and some parent threatened suit so the school has a new policy.

Also, each state and community might have privacy laws that differ from each other.

On top of all that, teachers are freaked out about the possibility of legal problems. I was always overly cautious whenever I did or said anything. Even then, I had some people complain!

Did you know that, technically speaking, teachers cannot give ANY information to anyone not listed specifically on any of the cards and paperwork sent into the school?

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Chris Young September 8, 2008 at 4:55 pm

Nice post EHRL – I couldn’t help but chuckle. I choose your post as a bonus pick to my weekly top five blog picks which can be found here: http://www.maximizepossibility.com/employee_retention/2008/09/the-rainmaker-1.html

Be Well!

Chris Young

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Original Lee September 9, 2008 at 3:24 pm

Dental records: asking for the entire dental record is a bit much, IMO, but I can think of a couple of reasons for needing at least some of the information. It would be nice if they told you, though.

1. Access to dental care stats can be used to prove poverty percentiles for free lunch programs and other federal money.

2. Proof of dental care can tie in to public health requirements. Our county recently enacted a rule about dental checkups after a kid died from an abcessed tooth.

3. Child custody/missing child tracking.

4. Part of the emergency care package, in case they walk into a door and break off a tooth or something.

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class factotum September 10, 2008 at 12:56 pm

Original Lee, you bring up some good points. To me, however, they raise the larger issue of how much power the state should have to tell parents how to raise their kids. Vaccinations are important because other children are affected if one gets smallpox, but dental care? How is another child hurt if one kid has an abcessed tooth or a cavity?

Yes, I know his mother should take him to the dentist and she’s a crummy mother for letting her kid suffer dental problems, but if we are going to start making rules about what parents have to do to get their kids in school that don’t affect the community, then I vote we require people to be licensed before they have kids at all. Then we should add things like parents can’t have TVs in the kids’ rooms, that the kids have to get a decent amount of sleep, that parents will not yield to temper tantrums in the grocery store (honestly, people, the rest of us are supporting you in your attempt to be a good parent, so stand firm), that no child should wear Crocs or any other shoe abomination, etc, etc.

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class factotum September 10, 2008 at 12:57 pm

Original Lee, you bring up some good points. To me, however, they raise the larger issue of how much power the state should have to tell parents how to raise their kids. Vaccinations are important because other children are affected if one gets smallpox, but dental care? How is another child hurt if one kid has an abcessed tooth or a cavity?

Yes, I know his mother should take him to the dentist and she’s a crummy mother for letting her kid suffer dental problems, but if we are going to start making rules about what parents have to do to get their kids in school that don’t affect the community, then I vote we require people to be licensed before they have kids at all. Then we should add things like parents can’t have TVs in the kids’ rooms, that the kids have to get a decent amount of sleep, that parents will not yield to temper tantrums in the grocery store (honestly, people, the rest of us are supporting you in your attempt to be a good parent, so stand firm), that no child should wear Crocs or any other shoe abomination, etc, etc.

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Evil HR Lady September 10, 2008 at 1:03 pm

I don’t understand how dental records show poverty. Besides, my dentist didn’t turn over any information–he just wrote, “under care of [dentist] for regular checkups.”

And because she went to the dentist 6 months ago doesn’t mean she won’t get an abscessed tooth next week.

I think it’s nannyism, pure and simple.

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Kathy August 19, 2009 at 9:41 pm

I have been dreading the next cycle of filling out multiple forms for both kids and then filling them out again because the school office looses them.

School forms are bad — but the annual Girl Scout forms are the WORST!

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