For a first time blogger writing his maiden post, you would think I could come up with a better heading than the above. But any beginning is full of trepidation, uncertainty, and maybe even a dash of false bravado. Or as Semisonic sang it more gracefully back in the nineties, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” So, onward we go.
A former co-worker who retired at roughly the same time as I did sent an email yesterday asking me a question about our health insurance benefit. I duly responded and gave him the correct answer. We are both navigating the same waters now. While we were still working, we had our crack HR officer, ‘ol Blue Eyes, watching over us. Blue Eyes is simply the finest personnel officer I have ever had the fortunate luck in having at any workplace. I will surely miss both his fine stewardship of my HR affairs, and his office friendship.
Most HR professionals are snowed under with work constantly. They’re there to serve all staff with issues ranging from salary and benefits to the more serious areas of grievance, discipline, and counseling. But what regular staff often forget is that HR’s primary mission is to serve management. If management wants someone fired or disciplined, it’s the HR person that needs to find the legal and proper way to do so. They are potentially always in a difficult place enforcing management’s wishes while at the same time making sure all staff are also taken care of, and being friendly with both. On a good day it’s still a tricky job if done correctly. I always thought that the TV character of Toby Flenderson on The Office summed up how hard it is for some HR people to navigate the social waters of a workplace. How Blue Eyes has managed not to become a Toby is beyond me. He not only successfully keeps both management and line staff happy, but I’ve simply never seen anyone who understands all facets of benefits (i.e. insurance, retirement) better than this guy. Since retiring, I’ve done my very best to not contact him with questions. I have sent him the occasional e-mail of hello, plus a picture of Gorgeous and me having a cocktail in front of the ocean. He seems to enjoy hearing from me.
For any HR-related matter now, I have to contact the central office located in another state. I have access to an online portal that supposedly can handle all of my needs. Um, yeah. But it ain’t Blue Eyes. I have a feeling pension and benefit requests will become really challenging going forward. When I do have to speak to a live person someday at the central office, I can just imagine the 20-something I’ll be speaking with “uh-huhing” his/her way through our conversation in order to get rid of me. But I’m lucky — I at least still have an entity to serve me in some capacity. Most Americans are completely on their own after they retire.