Begging for Leadership

Story time! When I walked into U.S. Embassy Lusaka, Zambia, I walked into an employee benefit nightmare.  Our locally engage staff (nearly all Zambians) were told one thing about their retirement benefits, but then received something much different and much lower.  While my manager had been working on this for a bit, it was squarely my problem to deal with and I was immediately taken as the enemy by much of the staff.  I had to manage up with all my might and advocate for employees while I could not tell them how hard I was trying.  I towed the company line of “this is what the benefit is until we can get it changed.”  Once it got changed and benefits massively increased, management got the glory.

This is what HR does or at least should do every day.  We work hard on behalf of employees while sharing management’s words.  It’s a thankless job often with zero glory, but when employees reap the benefit of our hard work, a swelling sense of pride comes over us.  When it doesn’t, everyone suffers.

For me, this is why it is critical to have an industry association that gets how tough it is for us and is willing to take on the burden rather than following business organizations like sheeple. An association that both represents us to the world, but also advocates to help us make life a little easier for the employees we serve. Sometimes taking hard positions even if it could cost our employers more money or take away some of the shortcuts we’ve been used to for so long.

For the past three years, I’ve watched the Society for Human Resources Management fail HR, saddling up to an Administration desperate to take rights away from our LGBTQ community, strip our workers of their ability to work, and ignore or “all lives matter” our Black and Brown colleagues. I’ve voiced my concerns to SHRM directly at Special Expertise Day before SHRM National 2019, I’ve spoken with representatives, I’ve asked folks to contact their representatives, I’ve tweeting my concerns repeatedly, I’ve spoken to Board Members. I believe I’ve done everything in my power to make change inside the organization. So, it’s time to go outside of it.

I prepared a Change.org petition asking for the bare minimum from SHRM:

  1. SHRM says “Black Lives Matter.”  SHRM can hold all the diversity summits, symposiums, webinars it likes, but until it recognizes that Black lives actually matter, all of that work means little. 
  2. SHRM advocates for the LGBTQ community.  SHRM did not file an amicus brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to find that sexual orientation and gender identity are protected classes under Title VII.  SHRM has not expressed even a whiff of concern as this Administration as advocated that business should be fire or not serve our LGBTQ friends and colleagues.  SHRM said nothing as the Administration issued a final rule stripping our friends and colleagues of health benefits.  Instead, SHRM’s president enjoyed watching the State of the Union with Congressman Mark Walker of North Carolina – a man adamantly opposed to same-sex marriage.

This petition does not ask for an ouster in leadership, it simply asks for some leadership. For our Black, Brown, Indigenous, immigrant, LGBTQ friends and colleagues, silence is violence. We should not be silent anymore. After all, as a very good friend once said, “You shouldn’t be in Human Resources if you don’t believe in human rights.”

If you would like to join the hundreds of folks who already have, please click here.  Thank you.

The Billy Graham Rule Discriminates

Last week, a Mississippi gubernatorial candidate refused to allow a female journalist to follow him on his campaign because he follows the Billy Graham rule.  The rule is that married men should not ever be alone with a woman to “avoid any situation that may evoke suspicion or compromise of [a] marriage.”

As a divorcee, I agree that trust is key to marriage.  However, if the trust between a man and a woman is so weak that he cannot be alone with a woman, then that isn’t really trust.  That’s fear.  As Jeremy White tweeted, the rule “presumes either: A) you can’t be trusted or B) women can’t be trusted.”

The Billy Graham rule discriminates against women.  Full-stop.  If a man cannot be alone with a woman, he cannot mentor her through a tough situation.  He cannot take her with on a business trip to a client site.  He cannot meet with her to give her a performance review.  As a result, the woman will miss out on significant business opportunities.  She’ll miss out on activities that are critical for her success and advancement.  She’ll be held back.  This is discrimination plain and simple.

As my friend, Suzanne Lucas advises, we should “flip it to test it.”  Instead of a woman, let’s say a man cannot be alone with a black man for fear that man will claim racism. No business trips, mentoring sessions, or performance reviews for the black man.  Or a Native American.  Or an Asian American.  Or a Latino.  Or a Jew.  Or a Muslim.  Or an older man.  We’d all agree that this would be discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, religion, and age, right?  (Readers – this is where you nod.)  The Billy Graham rule perpetuates the idea that men are only safe when they are with men like them.

Instead, we need to treat each other like humans.  We see women and everyone else as humans, colleagues, partners, and equals.  We don’t withhold support, advice, and opportunities for fear of a complaint; we treat everyone with respect.  Period.

 

Photo by Joshua Ness on Unsplash