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Hellish Resources

, , | Working | November 2, 2016

During my career with a major oil company I learned early on that Human Resources does not exist to make my life easier. Here’s one of the most frustrating instances.

In the mid 1980s there was an oil discovery in New Mexico near the Texas border. As it looked to be significant, we and several other companies ramped up personnel in the region. There was only one small town in the area suitable for offices and living so everyone was sent there. Unfortunately, the town had a population under 30,000, so moving several hundred professionals and support staff in all at once caused a significant spike in real estate prices. Even more unfortunately, we were the last company to decide to move in so we were hit with the highest prices and the worst homes.

As it turned out, the discovery was a bust and a few years later everyone pulled out. Again, we were the last company to make the decision, so we were putting our houses, which had been far overpriced to begin with, onto a glutted market. Individuals were looking at losing 50 to 75% of their purchase prices, a significant hit.

As you can imagine there was a tremendous amount of complaining among the affected employees. It reached a point where corporate HR sent representatives out to address the issue. We gathered into an auditorium to hear what we hoped would be a rescue plan.

We were disappointed. Basically, the HR reps were telling us that we were on our own and the company wouldn’t help us. People began to get angry with the message and the questions got testier. Finally, one man asked what he was supposed to do given that the company’s decisions put us at a disadvantage coming and going.

There was a young woman from HR on the panel who responded. I’m not sure how long she had been with the company but she obviously had little real world experience. Her answer, and I quote, was: “You should have bought more responsibly.”

There was no lynching, not even a small riot, but the noise level got to the point the meeting broke up. Luckily for us, the head of the exploration company for which we worked over ruled the HR scrooges and incentives were provided to minimize our losses.

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