I hope you can give me some direction. My husband works for a commercial electric company that has several locations across the US. The company has been suffering financially and in March 2009 a memo was sent to employees offering possible transfer opportunities. He continued employed out of Florida with travel to other states in order to continue working. He is a field foreman, and his last work site came to completion one week ago with no more work in our region. He was terminated with a rehire status for 60 days.
His HR manager is someone he has worked with closely in the past when he held an in-house position. They have never seen eye to eye. When my husband reached out to him inquiring about transfer opportunities to the west coast, it came as no surprise not to receive an answer. He left several messages for him for one week. We are a single income family, with 3 young children. Having spent the last year apart has drained us financially and more importantly emotionally.
As my husband continued to search for employment, I took out the March memo regarding transfer opportunities and began to call the HR managers listed, starting with his direct hr manager-no answer. The letter explained that any of the managers could be contacted and they would be happy to help all being privy to the same information. I was successful in reaching 2 out of 9, I explained why I was calling and not my husband and they were very helpful and understanding. They both stated the need for foreman in their areas and we should expect a call back after the weekend. At that point I told my husband what I had done and he put another call into his hr manager, leaving a message that I had called and he should expect a call from them possibly asking for recommendations.
Monday morning rolled in and he finally got the call back from his hr manager: “how unprofessional of you having your wife call….west coast has no work….maybe one of the areas has a need but not for a foreman rather a journeyman….” said his hr manager. What can we do–it seems to us that he is not being forthright. We were told that there is a need for him in those areas. I want to call back his hr manager and try to appeal to him on a human factor, we met several times and he seemed like a nice man when he was with his wife. I would like for him to know why I took it upon myself to call. I do not know if I should call back the other hr managers that had said they would call me back. We do not want to lose his tenure, pension, and job. Thank you in advance for your attention.
The first thing you can do is put down the phone. There are only a few times when a spouse should call their beloved’s boss/hr and this isn’t one of them. (Incidentally, the times spouses should call are when your husband/wife is in the hospital and unable to pick up a phone and call, and to inform the company that your spouse has died. There may be one or two other situations where it is appropriate, but really, this is something that should be used with extreme caution.)
You wanted to help. I totally get that. It is frustrating to have an out of work spouse. It’s even more frustrating when you know that there aren’t 12 other jobs just waiting for him. But, this is his battle and you have to let him fight it.
The HR managers were nice and helpful, because that’s what we are. (See, nice and evil!) But, all of them were thinking, “uggh, I hate it when the wife calls.” Incidentally, while I’ve received a ton of calls from wives over the years, I’ve never received a single call from a husband. The question I always have running in the back of my mind is, “Why isn’t your husband calling me? Does he not want the job? Does he not care? Does he know you are doing this? Did he ask you to do this?” All of these make him look worse, not better.
Appealing to the “human” side by emphasizing the single income family doesn’t necessarily work either. Everybody needs the money. That’s why we have jobs. (Okay, I did have one employee ask if his entire salary could be deferred because he was so phenomenally wealthy that getting money was just a pain. But that’s rare.) I’m not going to make decisions based on who “needs” the job more. I’m not saying that such things aren’t ever taken into consideration, but they shouldn’t be.
So what can you do? Well, you be supportive of your husband. Polish up your own resume and start looking for work.
What can he do? It may be time to realize that he is going to have to leave this company. If there has been a massive work slowdown, he’s not the only foreman looking for a new job. Absolutely pursue whatever is out there, but start looking outside the company as well.
If possible, leave HR out of internal search. (I say if possible, because I don’t know the company’s policies or practices and I don’t want him getting in trouble.) Have him send his resume directly to the hiring manager. Express his desire to relocate (perhaps even at his own expense—depends on the situation).
Times are tough for a lot of people right now. Granted, that isn’t comforting, but it is reality.