I love human resources. So much so that I’m in it for the long haul. I’m committed to evangelising and being an advocate for this industry. It’s a community of people who are often but not always invisible to our business leaders because they view our work as non-revenue generating which for a large percentage of us is the furthest thing from the truth.
Last week while surfing my feed on LinkedIn, I noticed a very engaging and entertaining comment thread regarding a workplace situation an HR practitioner shared. This professional — and I’m using that term loosely here — was looking for guidance on a “Harassment Question.”
Picture the scenario if you will. Several employees swing by to visit their office location’s HR department to complain that an a picture of Donald Trump on an employee’s desk was offensive and made them uncomfortable. HR after talking with the employee with the desk decoration in question says his photo of the Donald is religious as he is a religious icon. They believe the photo should remain displayed on the desk because it is protected for that reason.
I scrolled through the 116 LinkedIn Group comments from a variety of human resource professionals who weighed in, while I pictured in my mind a version of the situation involving gray office cubicles and a desk decorated with a prominently displayed picture of Donald pinned into the cubicle wall felt just to the right of an office calendar, painting from the worker’s child and several post it notes filled with funny notes and quips.
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This Scenario Is What’s Wrong with HR
After awaking from the above daydreaming my mind immediately went to one of my favorite Bon Jovi songs, however, I made some minor creative adjustments. I picture myself singing in front of my shiny new Macbook Air belting out the words using a water bottle as a microphone singing,”You Give HR a Bad Name.”
It’s this. That is what is exactly wrong with HR. This is the reason that talent acquisition leaders and recruiters are begging to be disassociated with the role because of silly pettiness and our role as the office police. Corporate recruiting teams would rather be a function of corporate marketing than be associated with HR, even though they are directly responsible for finding the human capital that fuels the growth for our companies.
We have such an opportunity and ability to impact every facet of the organizational and yet we waste our time, energy and effort commenting on this kind of baloney — including me.
You Give HR a Bad Name
I worked to calm myself a bit after reading through all 116 comments of this thread. This doesn’t include the 60 comments and likes on my own Facebook page where I asked my friends and followers to debate. Some professionals offered up advice suggesting that the practitioner look at policies and procedures or address the question as a political discussion at work. One of my Facebook friends mentioned he had spent the last 8 years walking by a photo of President Obama because he worked at the post office. This was not harassment. Another friend suggested the employee purchase a copy of Donald’s book and display it in his cube instead of the photo on his bulletin board.
Why Are We Talking About This
This question posed wasn’t some anonymous joke of a thread on SHRM’s HR Talk Board. It’s a LinkedIn Group that boasts nearly 1,000,000 professionals. This thread was submitted by a seasoned human resource professional who is certified and has 15 years of experience. Just kidding. The professional who submitted the thread has a master’s degree in human resources but she has no solid practitioner experience outside of serving for 19 months as a representative for a health insurance company. You, LinkedIn thread poster absolutely give the profession of human resources a bad name. Might I suggest you submit your question anonymously on SHRM’s HR Talk Board where it can be anonymous and the community is private instead of helping to perpetuate the HR stereotype. The HR Talk Board will eat this comment absolutely alive.
We, meaning HR are not keepers of the office grapevine. We are not the dress code police and we certainly are not glorified administrative assistants. We have a bigger and more strategic role to play in the growth and future of companies.
Except that this comment is in fact representative of human resources, no matter how much I want to deny it and no matter how angry it makes me. Our industry roles, experiences and functions within organizations are extremely varied as Paul Kerns demonstrates in his HR ROI Scale. Each HR department or function operates at a different and unique place on the scale. Every HR function contributes to the organizational positively although some more strategic and value added than others.
More than anything I want to defend HR. I want to tell not just the 116 professionals who were involved in the debate but the thousands of people who potentially saw this thread that this post wasn’t HR. Except that it is. What I have to tell business professionals everywhere and senior leaders that the thread only represents a small percentage of who human resources really is and the role we actually can, do and sometimes play in the greater organization.
Where Do We Go From Here
Our mission if we choose to accept it as evangelists, practitioners and professionals who work in some shape or form in HR is to get there and educate our peers, leaders and bosses on the different roles that HR plays in the bigger picture of business while simultaneously committing to mentoring HR professionals from all experiences levels, education backgrounds and interests including the person who published this particular thread in the world’s most popular LinkedIn HR Group. We have to reach out to this individual and individuals like them. Mentor them. Get to know them and most importantly help them. It’s the only way we can help ourselves.