Published On: Mon, Sep 4th, 2023

Personnel affairs

By Hilbert Haar

I am completely stunned by the way government-owned entities handle their personnel affairs. When you read the verdicts in the two GEBE-cases (against Sharine Daniel and against Clifford Sasso) there is only one conclusion. Hiring is weak and firing is even weaker.

I can understand that organizations, be it in the private or the public sector, blooper at times with hiring new staff. Sometimes, you simply get screwed.

I remember vividly an anecdotal story about the transfer of a Dutch journalist from a regional to a national newspaper. The regional newspaper was stuck with the guy and the national newspaper had a vacancy. So the journalist, a former colleague of mine whose name I will not reveal, applied for the job.

The editor-in-chief at the national newspaper thought it would be prudent to inquire about the qualities of the applicant, so he called his counterpart at the regional newspaper who must obviously have been delighted by the imminent departure of his man.

“O no,” he exclaimed to the editor of the national newspaper. “You are not going to take him away from us. You can’t do that. Please.”

It was a perfect play and the journalist was hired by the national newspaper where he failed miserably.

All this made me think of GEBE’s human resources manager Clifford Sasso. The company hired him in 2000 and eighteen years later there was a written complaint about his functioning. Apparently, Sasso has ordered payments to people who no longer worked for GEBE. The court ruling does not say whether these were friends or family members. Not that it really matters.

GEBE closed the book on this incident with a written warning, but in the following years there were more complaints. GEBE even hired a company to investigate the functioning of its human resources department.

The results of that exercise were not only negative for Sasso and his department who were both described as weak. But the researchers also found that senior and executive managers and the supervisory board were also weak and that they should all be held responsible for the badly functioning human resources department.

Mind you, Sasso has been at the helm of this department for roughly two decades and everybody slept straight through it. One may well wonder who is really not functioning in this story.

GEBE ran into another brick wall with its attempts to get rid of Sharine Daniel, its head internal auditor. The court ordered that Daniel has to be reinstated.

And here I am asking myself: how difficult can it be to fire an employee who does not fit? As an employer, you have to do certain things that convince the labor department, or the court if it gets that far, that firing is justified.

How do you do that? By building a file. If an employee does something he or she should not have done, you write a warning letter and describe in exact terms the reasons for the warning. If the employee wanders again off the reservation, you write another warning letter. And another, until you have a file that makes your employee wish he (or she) was never born.

In employer-employee relationships this is not the only possible action because, as an employer, you want the people who work for you to do a decent job. If you fire someone, you have to hire somebody else without guarantees that they will do better.

So the smart thing to do before you start writing warning letters is talk with your employee. What is bothering them? Why do they not toe the line? Trouble at home? Illness? Other bad news, like, for instance, gambling debts?

Thinking in terms of solutions is always better than thinking in terms of problems. I learned from the two recent GEBE-court rulings, that the ability to take such a course of action is sorely missing at our utilities company.

And the reason for it is rather obvious: political interference. If you appoint unqualified people you are asking for trouble. This is not only true for management, but also for positions in supervisory boards. If everybody continues to sleep at the wheel while the house catches fire, the outcome will never be good.


Related news:
GEBE has to reinstate Sharine Daniel as Head Internal Auditor, court rules
GEBE has to compensate former human resources manager