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‘Aunty Merve’ transforming lives through the power of HR

Published:Monday | September 25, 2023 | 12:09 AMShanel Lemmie/Staff Reporter

Mervelyn Harvey-Doughorty, assistant vice-president and head of human resources at Massy Distribution, is described as the “ultimate people person”..
Mervelyn Harvey-Doughorty, assistant vice-president and head of human resources at Massy Distribution, is described as the “ultimate people person”..
Harvey-Doughorty’s priority, even when having hard conversations, is to always leave people’s dignity intact.
Harvey-Doughorty’s priority, even when having hard conversations, is to always leave people’s dignity intact.
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At Massy Distribution (Jamaica) Limited, Mervelyn Harvey-Doughorty holds the title of assistant vice-president and head of human resources, but to her staff, she is affectionately known only as Aunty Merve. Described as the “ultimate people-person”, Harvey-Doughorty’s journey up the corporate ladder began nearly two decades ago when she held a secretarial position. Though happy to make whatever impact she could, she soon realised that her skills were best utilised in helping to bolster a company’s human capital.

“If you know me, you know that I am into people,”she began. “Its kind of cliché to say I like people, but really and truly, I’m into people and I like, specifically, people development. So I’m always concerned about developing people to get them to a place or push them to their next level or to really be the best version of themselves while working on me, too, of course. I really like that. I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

While the executive stands no taller than five feet five inches, her authority among the staff is ironclad. Colleagues, present and past, remember her for her nurturing side.

Explaining how she got the moniker ‘Aunty Merve’, she said, “I suppose because of how I interact with the staff, people don’t see me as much as the head of HR, but they see me as an aunty, motherly-type person, where whatever needs they have, they feel comfortable coming to me.”

She continued: “When you work in HR, you fill all kinds of roles. Sometimes you’re a nurse, sometimes you’re a counsellor. You play different roles. The position comes with that, and I just play along, I work with it. Sometimes somebody wants a friend, and you just take off your HR hat and you just deal with the person on a personal level.”

Though ensuring employee satisfaction is the ultimate goal of human resource personnel, the job often comes with hard conversations. Harvey-Doughorty said the priority, though, must always be to leave people’s dignity intact.

“First of all, it’s just how you do things. I’m always saying sometimes tough conversations are needed from time to time, but it’s the how. How do you package what you have to say in a way that someone doesn’t feel disrupted or feel less than? So you say the hard stuff, but you say it in a way that they get it and they understand that it’s really tough love.”

Giving the example of terminating someone’s employment, she explained that it is imperative that you “give persons an opportunity to express themself”.

Not just known for her softer side, Harvey-Doughorty is a chief strategist. With her manual ever present atop the printer on her desk, she is the brain behind the Massy Group’s move to have every employee become a shareholder in the company.

“I just wanted to do something special for our staff members for our 100th year, and I said ‘What could we do different?’ I didn’t want to just give them a lunch box or a cup, but something that is lasting and something they will be able to benefit from,” Harvey-Doughorty explained.

Praising her dedication to the staff, Patria-Kaye Charles, marketing and corporate communications manager at Massy, said: “Merve has an award ceremony that we do every year for the performance of team members. And people recognise her contribution so much that they hijacked the awards ceremony, and the final award for the day is an award that the staff got together and bought a trophy for her for the transformational work that she has done. People feel it, and she won’t take credit.”

According to Charles, since Harvey-Doughorty took on her role four years ago, Massy Distribution (Jamaica) has broken the record for promotions made in a year.

With no end in sight for the corporate trailblazer leading with love, she is happy to continue building a culture of inclusion at the Caribbean distribution giant.

shanel.lemmie@gleanerjm.com