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Diary of an HR manager, aged 35 ½

If you think you’ve had a difficult few days take a minute to think about one poor old HR manager in Pretoria. First the CEO was forced out and then 14 members of Exco resigned on the same day! His succession planning has been blown out of the water and now he’s got to draw up 15 settlement agreements! He’s hoping Noone will head to the CCMA crying constructive dismissal!

Sorry I haven’t updated my diary for a while – we’ve had a crisis at work! I saw it coming ever since the shareholders went off for a bosberaad in Polokwane last December.

The climate survey we did last year identified that all wasn’t well in the company. So the shareholders wanted to get together to plan the way forward. The CEO was removed from his position as executive chairman, but kept his job as CEO.

Then the shareholders brought in one of their people to become a voting member of the Exco. They said he was just there to aid communication, but I didn’t believe it.

The talk around the water cooler started at Wednesday when the CEO’s PA was asked to change his travel arrangements and he came back to the office. The CEO loves his international travel so wouldn’t have cancelled if he didn’t have to!

Then on Thursday the General Secretary of the Board announced that the CEO had been asked to resign and he had accepted. The CEO has given his resignation in writing and the board will confirm the termination date and the last working day.

I haven’t seen a signed settlement agreement but I have been informed that he will not lose his retirement benefits. Now I’ve got to work out the leave allowance due and calculate the pension payout!

The CEO gave a wonderful farewell speech to all stakeholders – I was nearly in tears.

The CEO has to move out of the company house. I wonder how his wife feels. According to Basic Conditions he should have one month to move out. Apparently, the Board has said that he and his wife can decide exactly when they move out.

What is our policy about relocating ex-employees when they need to vacate company property? More work for me.

In the local bargaining forum, one of the party organisers suggested that the CEO should be entitled to put his side – audi alterem partem. Any party organiser suggested that maybe the board had heard the CEO. The majority of the forum accepted the resignation.

On Tuesday the CEO lodged a dispute for constructive dismissal. One of the younger members of the board has been bad-mouthing the CEO for a while. I told them that this was opening us up for a charge of constructive dismissal but they didn’t listen to me.

Work has stopped in the factory – half the workers are toyi-toyi-ing against the CEO’s dismissal – the other half are toyi-toyi-ing in support of this removal!

Then a bombshell — 11 members of the executive committee have resigned in sympathy – including the CFO who handles all dealings with the market. The stakeholders were in disarray and our share price took a big knock.

But then the CFO said he would carry on when the new CEO is appointed – is this a withdrawal of his resignation? He is on a fixed-term contract anyway. I’m going to have to phone our labour lawyers to check on that one!

As is usual in these cases, the one executive the stakeholders all hoped would resign – didn’t. We haven’t been happy with our Director of Employee Wellness for a long time and hoped she would move on.

I suppose I’ll have to continue the Incapacity poor performance termination because the previous Incapacity Ill Health has fallen through.

When the new CEO comes in they tell me he will be the CEO – he will not be in an “acting” capacity. However, the contract will end next year March. It’s not a probationary clause. It’s a fixed term contract. Will there be a legitimate expectation of renewal? Where’s that number for the lawyers?

Any resemblance to living persons is entirely co-incidental.


  • Alan Hammond is publishing editor of the Skills Portal, South Africa's most popular web portal for human resource management, training and skills development. When he's not trying to understand the inner workings of the national skills development strategy or following the minister of labour around the country, you'll find him hanging out at - or the mobile version at


  1. Musa Musa 25 September 2008

    As an Industrial Relations Consultant, this is hilarious!!

    Did the employer trully make the employment intolerable?Test for constructive dismissa, to an extent.

    Forget the lawyers, they will cost you an arm and a leg. More then the relief that the CEO would get if he won at the CCMA!!

    The major issue here who is the employer that the CEO really worked for? The shareholders meeting in Polokwane seemed to be for a different entity all together.

    Good one!

  2. TheElephant TheElephant 25 September 2008


  3. jay jay 26 September 2008

    How would this same scenario play out superimposed over “The Merchant of Venice” – by none other than Shakespear?

    And with your indulgence, will try to be brief (sorry Lisa)

    The dramatic center of the play comes in the court of the Duke of Venice. Shylock refuses Bassanio’s offer, despite Bassanio increasing the repayment to 6000 ducats (twice the specified loan). He demands the pound of flesh from Antonio. The Duke, wishing to save Antonio but unwilling to set a dangerous legal precedent of nullifying a contract, refers the case to Balthasar, a young male “doctor of the law” who is actually Portia in disguise, with “his” lawyer’s clerk, who is Nerissa in disguise. Portia asks Shylock to show mercy in a famous speech (The quality of mercy is not strained—( blah blah blah…), but Shylock refuses. Thus the court allows Shylock to extract the pound of flesh.

    At the very moment Shylock is about to cut Antonio with his knife, Portia points out a flaw in the contract (see Quibble (plot device)). The bond only allows Shylock to remove the flesh, not blood, of Antonio. If Shylock were to shed any drop of Antonio’s blood in doing so, his “lands and goods” will be forfeited under Venetian laws.

    Defeated, Shylock concedes to accepting monetary payment for the defaulted bond, but is denied. Portia pronounces none should be given, and for his attempt to take the life of a citizen, Shylock’s property will be forfeited, half to the government and half to Antonio, and his life will be at the mercy of the Duke. The Duke pardons his life before Shylock can beg for it, and Antonio asks for his share “in use” (that is, reserving the principal amount while taking only the income) until Shylock’s death, when the principal will be given to Lorenzo and Jessica. At Antonio’s request, the Duke grants remission of the state’s half of forfeiture, but in return, Shylock is forced to convert to Christianity and to make a will (or “deed of gift”) bequeathing his entire estate to Lorenzo and Jessica

    Bassanio does not recognize his disguised wife, but offers to give a present to the supposed lawyer. First she declines, but after he insists, Portia requests his ring and his gloves. He gives the gloves away without a second thought, but gives the ring only after much persuasion from Antonio, as earlier in the play he promised his wife never to lose, sell or give it away. Nerissa, as the lawyer’s clerk, also succeeds in retrieving her ring from Gratiano.

    At Belmont, Portia and Nerissa taunt their husbands before revealing they were really the lawyer and his clerk in disguise.

    After all the other characters make amends, all ends happily (except for Shylock) as Antonio learns that three of his ships were not stranded and have returned safely after all.

    All well and good now – but who will we now substitute into which part? The choices are obvious, but how would the shower head be disguised? where would he hide his Assegai – but more to the point would he whack off his willey to take on the role of Portia… – nor can I see anyone taking on the role of Nerissa

    The possibilities are so endless – and far better than any of the current soapies now running ……………. someone? – – – – – – – – anyone?

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