I’m Sorry HR But Like Public Enemy Said: “Can’t Trust It”


It was a typical day. I was driving along listening to the Backspin channel. Reminiscing, rapping, and relishing a time when rap music had meaning.  “Can’t Truss It”, by Public Enemy came on, so naturally, I felt it necessary to match the energy of Chuck D and Flava Flav and rap along.   As is the norm, paying more attention to the beat, I wasn’t tuned in to the true meaning of the song.

Later, the song replayed in my head as I went about completing my evening tasks. It was then I started to think about the deeper meaning of the lyrics. In case you’re unfamiliar, the song creatively depicts the struggles recording artists experience by likening the music industry to a new kind of slavery. I could relate because there have been times when I have felt like my employer was acting in an oppressive manner.  I’ve heard coworkers provide feedback that they don’t feel empowered and lack a sense of ownership when it comes to their deliverables.  I would classify that as a kind of corporate slavery.

All of the organizations I have worked for list “trust” as a core value.  Employees look to those of us in HR for leadership in promoting this core tenet. Because HR functions manage the acquisition and retention of employees, I believe we have a greater obligation to walk and talk with trust.

It always amazes me that organizations are surprised when they get less than favorable trust ratings via formal and/or informal employee surveys. Again, I look to HR and know that if we can’t get it right, how can we expect success from the greater employee population?

Sadly, if I were to use some of the HR departments I’ve worked in to get a health read on the organization, on a scale of “HYFR” to “Can’t Trust It”, you could change our name to Public Enemy. I’ll explain using lines from the song.

 

I trust leaders will put the organization’s best interests above their own.

Survey Says: “Can’t Trust It”

 “King and chief, probably had a big beef

Because of that now I grit my teeth”

The various HR Functions have more beef than Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump on a cattle ranch.  There’s constant in-fighting and no one wants to stay in their swim lane and work collaboratively.  We have to trust one another enough to let each function operate in their own excellence. It’s difficult to be viewed as a trusted partner to our customer base when we haven’t built cooperative relationships with one another.

 

I trust that diversity and inclusion are more than words but the organization’s culture.

Survey Says: “Can’t Trust It”

“Cuz the wickedness done by Jack

Where everybody at

Divided and sold”

Social Media is a gift and a curse for HR.  When someone posts a comment or video filled with bullying or bigoted rhetoric; it doesn’t take long before their employer is located and challenged to take corrective action. This is a gift.

Recently, I came across a curse.  An OH man, (let’s call him “Jack”) posted the viral Cincinnati Zoo video with the racist caption, “Monkeys feeding monkeys to monkeys”. The employer listed on his LinkedIn Profile was bombarded with messages and comments a result.  They did the right thing and responded. It was determined that he hadn’t worked for the organization since 2014, and they stated his statements are not representative of the organizations culture.

I label this a curse, because “Jack” is a Compensation Analyst.  While it is deplorable and insensitive for anyone to make such a statement, it is even worse when the person is an HR professional responsible for ensuring fair and equitable pay for current and future employees. It makes you wonder how many in HR share similar views but don’t publicize them.

 

I trust that my organization is committed to retaining key talent.

Survey Says: “Can’t Trust It”

“90 f#@%!&g days on a slave ship

Count them fallin’ off 1, 2, 3, 4 hundred at a time”

Twice in my career, I’ve worked for an organization that was acquired by another.  It’s expected that there will be voluntary attrition before, during, and after the integration because employees don’t want to fall victim to job redundancies and other expected reductions in force.

Effective change management should thwart mass exoduses by employees in the same departments.  HR is integral in the change process so it’s a poor showing when HR has the highest percentage of ship-jumpers.

I’ve witnessed this domino effect first hand.  The company I worked for was acquired. Initially, it was a 50/50 mix of each organizations legacy HR Leaders. Almost immediately after the integration the HR Director resigned mostly due to the king/chief scenario discussed above. All was calm for a few months. Then for the next few months, starting with leadership and then trickling down to practitioners, someone from HR was resigning every two weeks. Employees who were not in HR became frenzied because the people they had grown to trust were no longer around. As a result, their trust in the organization deteriorated.

 

I trust the leaders in the organization value people more than the bottom line.

Survey says: “Can’t Trust It.”

“Classify us in the have-nots

Fightin’ haves

‘Cause it’s all about money”

Picture it, a room full of interns eager to learn and be fed leadership nuggets from one of the business’ leaders. He asks the question, “Why are we here?”.  The answers cover the entirety of the organization’s mission statement. They were proud.  I was proud that they remembered them all.  He told them they were wrong. He told them we are here to make money…then he told them they were dismissed, to go make us money.

The message was harsh, but true by many accounts. I’ve witnessed many times when HR has criticized organizational decisions that they believe are all about the money. When HR thinks a decision is made so that a small group of employees can make their bonuses, for example, it becomes difficult to trust decisions that are made in the best interest of majority “have-nots”.

 

Trust is one of those values that many of us don’t think about until it’s breached. It’s not enough to simply earn trust.  Our words and our actions have to be focused on KEEPING TRUST once it’s earned. HR should set the example for keeping trust, not the ones who breach it.

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M Puglise

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