The worst of us make a demon out of all of us.
I’m afraid this is how the world works today – folks hear about bad HR then surmise that HR as a whole is bad. For Pete’s sake, HR is regularly portrayed as hapless, harried, and ineffective (even if funny). This reality is hard to take sometimes. But it is true. Whether it is Uber’s HR not taking Susan Fowler’s complaints seriously, failing to properly classify construction workers, or allowing murder plots, we have an obligation to each other to do better.
We have to know our values. Are you for inclusive workplaces? Are you for doing the right thing even if it is hard? Are you for making sure the right people are in the right seats on the bus? Are you for giving tools to managers and then making people actually manage? Are you for holding people accountable? (If you nodded, you’re on my team! YAY!)
We have to think critically. We have to look at the examples of bad HR out there. (Unluckily, there’s no shortage.) Evaluate what went wrong – they didn’t take appropriate action, they didn’t put the needs of the organization before themselves, they didn’t understand the complexities of XYZ law, they had no clue what they were doing, etc. – and then self-reflect on whether we’ve done the same thing or how we would have behaved differently.
We have to ask tough questions. When we see a prominent HR person appearing to canoodle with someone we find distasteful, we ask why. We ask if this is the image our collective “we” wants to project out into the world. We ask if this is really how we want to meet our objectives when the alternatives are too numerous to list. We must ask ourselves the same questions and then demand answers.
We have to act as a resource for each other. Luckily, we’ve created great communities where we can share our struggles and get feedback from our peers. Take the Manufacturer’s Alliance. In every single meeting I’ve presented, they talked amongst themselves about their challenges, solicited advice, and bared naked some truly challenging issues. Take local SHRM chapters. The same thing happens there more informally. Notes are taken. Calls are made. Things get better. You don’t have to be in a formal group, you just need a group where you can safely ask questions and get the help you need.
We in HR are going to continually be demonized for the acts of a few of us. We’re not alone in this (looking at you police officers), but we have to do better for all of us. This means holding each other accountable and asking both ourselves and our leaders hard questions.
I’ll get off my soapbox now. Thank you for listening!