I’ll be writing articles periodically when I have news to share with you or an opinion on current events. I recently returned from The SHRM® 2010 Annual Conference and Exposition, held in beautiful San Diego, California. I thought you might like some insight into what those dastardly Human Resource folks are cooking up. I attended the Conference in my “day job” capacity as a Human Resources professional, and as your Undercover HR Director. But first – a question: What do you call one hundred HR professionals on the bottom of San Diego Bay? A good start! No, wait – that’s lawyers. Lawyers on the bottom of San Diego Bay! (Apologies to Curt)
A little background: SHRM® stands for Society for Human Resource Management,
and it’s the world’s largest association of HR professionals, with over 250,000 members
in more than 140 countries. There were over 11,000 attendees at this year’s 3-day
conference attending training sessions on everything from “Diversifying the Leadership
Bench: Maximizing the Potential of All Employees” to “Bullying and Workplace
Violence” to my personal favorite, “RETALIATION – Coming Soon to an Employer
I have to say that of the 200+ training sessions available, not one was titled “Betraying
your Employees: The Art and Science of Deception in HR” or “Effectively Padding
the Personnel File Without Getting Caught” or even “Making Employees Miserable
101”. You may not believe me, but 95% of the sessions were positive! They had titles
like “People Are Your Business!”, “Valuing Experience: Strategies for Employing the
Older Worker”, and “Creating a Culture of Engagement”.
I’ve seen it time and time again: HR pros attend training and come home with a wealth
of positive recommendations for making their organizations more “people-centered”.
Then they’re hit with the reality of their top brass pushing back, saying that – although
People Are Our Greatest Asset – we’re not really willing to invest the time and money
in ensuring that our people are protected from bullying, retaliation and other adverse
employment actions. The organization weighs the cost of defending against a lawsuit or
governmental agency investigation and decides it’s cheaper to fight than to do the right
thing in the first place.
Many times it simply begins with a poorly-trained supervisor doing the wrong thing with
a protected-class employee. Then the supervisor misrepresents the facts to HR, which
accepts the supervisor’s version without an in-depth investigation and goes along with
the supervisor’s recommendation to terminate or discipline. This is further compounded
when it’s learned that the supervisor lied or was mistaken and upper management
defends the supervisor and upholds the discipline, rather than doing the right thing and
reversing the bad discipline. And that’s how discrimination claims and lawsuits are born.
Very few cases begin with the HR professional and the supervisor deciding together to
deliberately discriminate against an employee.
Most folks go into HR with the best intentions – to help others. I didn’t speak to a single
HR pro at the conference who said his or her goal was to screw employees over – even
in jest. But they all admitted they had a difficult time balancing the pressures from their
top management with the needs and rights of employees. Trading off a larger paycheck
to move up the food chain isn’t an excuse to ignore employees’ needs and violate their
legal rights. A true HR professional is not only technically competent in the field, but
finds ways to stand up for employees’ rights. A true HR professional doesn’t sell out
his or her principles even when ordered by management to discriminate or retaliate
against an employee. I’ve been the victim of retaliation by my boss and her boss for
whistleblowing activities – and that’s why I’m your Undercover HR Director.
Stay tuned – in my next article, I’ll fill you in on the latest topics putting Human
Resources managers’ knickers in a twist. I’ll tell you what advice HR managers
have been given to investigate questionable FMLA claims – including surveillance
– and why your employer not consistently following its own policies benefits you.