The Human Resources Myths

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There is a myth around Human Resources, their need in the office, their role among other workers, where they stand in the hierarchy, and what their job description is. And it seems, politely so, that a surprising amount of HR, don’t even know their political and ethical role.

Human Resources was established for employee counsel, as opposed to everyone going union and using union reps (who are employed by the employee, not the employer), as an alternative as an advocate for the employee with the company’s goals and best interest at heart. It is a balancing act that requires true diplomacy, tact, grace, and a cunning and shrewd business sense. Like hiring an accountant for the company, you do not simply hire someone to figure out the numbers nonsense. You hire an accountant who is knowledgeable about filing, working numbers in the right integrity, ensuring your costs remain low, and seek out options for marginal profit and can balance the books in a such a way it’s not costing unnecessary dollars waving “bye bye” out the window. So with HR, you should be seeking a strategist, not a people pleaser.

Human Resources is not a High School Guidance Counselor. I don’t want to hear about your petty problems with Bill and Sally. Spare me the details. It is your responsibility under the work code of ethics to figure it out until there are irreconcilable differences. If you want someone to be a sounding board, that’s different. In that case, tell me. But don’t stalk me to my office, complain, and then cover it up with how you really like them because they are such nice people. That’s gaslighting. Don’t complain in the first place. Therefore, do not privy me to information as a supposed “leak”, and then say “whoops, please don’t do anything” when really you think this is a sneaky and clever way of getting me to discipline someone. I’ll fire you for breech of trust, misrepresentation, withholding information, ethical slander, fraudulent character, triangling, gaslighting, undermining, contributing to bad moral, and anything else I can sum up. Two words, Be Ethical. HR is not here to do people pleasing, or to solve employee disputes. Solving disputes is a combined effort between the supervisor/manager and HR when it escalates, and not before then. For those of you who may not be aware, HR monitors your behaviour in disputes, handling relations, and conduct. We keep note of anything that is a misrepresentation of character, breech of trust, or violates ES (Employment Standards), LR (Labor Relations), or Company Policy. If you violate enough, you go on the black list. It may be 2 years later, but when push comes to shove, and your behaviour has not changed or showed character growth, technically it doesn’t exist in the books, but it will still go against you.

It’s not all RAGS (Rules and Regulations). Policy is unique and eloquent. That’s why it’s called Policy, not law, not rules, not rights. Policy. HR should be creative with policy and court it with the same enthusiasm as a business relationship would with high profile client. You should know the character of policy (when it is appropriate), its circumstance (how effective in this circumstance), its development (in all circles, such as Trades, Medical, Social Services, Legal, etc), its rulings (how successfully different policies have been implemented for this scenario), and when and WHERE to extend or expand upon it. Policy does not dictate the law, but it does paint the scene and players for which the legal action will be carried out. Make it eloquent, just, and above all: air tight. Everyone in the company should have signed a confidentiality agreement to start, integrity agreement second. Policy should be updated regularly with HR Employment Standards development, legislative changes, and company growth and development. Ten policies that work excellent for a company of 40 employees, may backfire for a company that doubles within a year.

“I don’t want to hear about your hobbies, quirks, or personality traits- you either have the skill set or you don’t.” As quoted from an HR professional here in Vancouver. What? Who decided on this? Is this why employees are suffering each other and everyone hates their job? I can tell you now, if someone has strong pathology, looks like a psychopath, is an outside of work alcoholic, philanderer, has anger issues, or is abusive – I will NOT hire you. For the simple reasons of how you act in your personal life is always a translation of how you will act in your professional life. Morals and Values do not change when you walk in the office door, you take them everywhere. Furthermore, if I find you annoying, I will not hire you based on that you don’t fit in with the culture of the office. Fair is fair. I’m not going to piss my employees off. And that’s not in policy.

Human Resources handles the basic duties of an Office Manager plus benefits and payroll. False! This is one of the most common myths, just add on the high school guidance counselor bit. HR does not manage the office the same way an OM does. Typically, OM (Office Managers) have administrative training, a professional HR should have training in employment law, basic one-to-one counsel, peer support, training and coaching abilities, and be able to provide counsel to senior management, something an OM is not trained to do. So on the Hierarchy scale, the HR doesn’t actually have a “place” as their diplomacy and integrity is supposed to keep them as advocates for the employees, but keeping managers and senior staff on track achieving company goals. It’s a neutral position, that if it has to could be somewhere beside a senior Director- however the HR would most definitely have to be quality and know their stuff.

These are just a few of the myths in HR. You may recognize one, two, or all. But if you are an HR professional, please keep these in mind and make critiques to be the better professional I bet you can be.

Mercy & Grace in the workplace

When facing public humiliation, disgrace, and a tarnished reputation, most of us pray for mercy and grace. We wish to be absolved from our wrong doings and go on to do better things, be given a better chance, and gain more positive enablers. So when I found out my beloved agency had an embezzlement scandal, I was rather shocked.

Sometime previously, there had been investigations completed, disciplinary action taken, and a conflict resolution specialist brought in as recommended by my action plan. Unfortunately the termination of employment for fraud and false representation had not been honoured.  I have tremendous respect for my former CEO and have tried to understand the decisions made that kept the individuals who participated in criminal activity there.

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Someone once told me that grace is a pardon of good will and faith, while mercy is getting what you don’t deserve.

Let me ask you, as managers and executive staff, do we not need mercy and grace in the workplace? It compliments forgiveness without explanation and complicated detail… More of a, “if you’re going to shoot yourself in the foot, you’re going to shoot yourself in the foot.” Most people deserve a second chance- I say that with my own bias towards anyone who’s a pedaphile or rapist- not acceptable under any circumstances and no, you don’t get a second chance in my books. But with that being said, I think we would all hope for a second chance because we all make mistakes. As managers, supervisors, assistants, friends, lovers, and someone’s child- we all make mistakes. A colleague of mine chuckled, “No one makes it through childhood unscathed.” And isn’t that the truth? We are not golden children who are golden statuesque adults of perfection. I admit, the workplace remedy of grace and mercy has further enabled my own sleep at night. It’s as though that one extra chance of walking the road with someone ensures you do your part on behalf of social exchange and give them the opportunity for change. And, if they are going to shoot themselves in the foot, then oh well. Employees want someone to believe in them. They don’t want someone watching them expecting a screw up. They don’t want their position to be undermined, nor taken for granted.

My experience has been that having good faith in sometimes even what appears to be the worst employee, really pays off. No- not because they marvelously change, but because instead of undermining them as a whole, even drowning in screw ups, you can sometimes make out a glimmer of talent- and as that wonderful employer that you are- you place them in another position within the company where that glimmer of talent encompasses their entire being and they can rock out as the best employee for that job ever. That’s called talent management- and by the way, it shouldn’t take HR to do talent management. It should be decent human beings who are rooting and hoping for one another. I think that’s well enough to ask for.

I hope that my employer continues to give me mercy and grace- just as swiftly as I am to judge others or make rash decisions. And before the few of you go out on a limb and start listing your degrees in assessment let me kindly remind you that it’s illegal to make decisions on an employee’s job based on predicting the future- it’s also against most spiritual practices. Please make sure you use your strategic planning for this one. Everyone deserves the feasible chance to get ahead. There’s enough success in the world to go around.

Look Who’s Playing HR

My biggest beef for the HR professional and unprofessional of the world is who is acting with moral and intent vs who is the bumbling fool in the office.

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For those of you unfamiliar with the education of an HR, let’s list the courses taken in both the certificate and degree program:

40 hrs + for each course including Business Management, Organizational Behaviour, HR Management, Benefits, Performance Management Training, Labour Relations, Health & Safety, Recruitment, Project Management, complete the list of full time courses taken. A maximum of 20 hrs will be spent on the next courses, Harassment Training, Conflict Resolution, Change Management, Communication, Conducting Effective Interviews, Building a Positive Workplace, International HR, Harassment and Investigations, Compensation, Community HR, HRIS, Tools for Training, Cross Cultural HR.

This seems like a sparse list of studies and training for an HR professional. Especially since typical job descriptions for HR and growing demand for community liaison, project mapping, action plans, policy writing, staff training & coaching, debriefing and counsel, translation, complex conflict resolution, workplace safety, crisis intervention, analysis and response, socioeconomic development, job description and report writing, talent management, payroll management, labour relations management, employment standards implementation, human rights awareness, employee wellness, disciplinary action and more are sought after skills of the trade. My own education consists of a bachelor’s in Social Work, an additional bachelor’s in Political Science, a Masters in War Strategy in Urban Communities, additional certificates in Conflict Resolution, NVCI, Character Assessment, Profiling, Threat Analysis & Response, languages: English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Russian, and this is all on top of my HR certificate. Okay, so I’m a little over educated for the standard HR position, but without at least half of my education, I honestly don’t know how I would be an adequate HR.

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Human Resources manages such sensitive information. They get to know their employees on a whole new level, including disabilities, disciplinary action, reports, skill level, benefits, payroll, reviews, office conflict (and all the gossip that follows), they are privied to company budget information, cut backs, pay increases, bonus info, company vision, projected plans, vision change, and so much more. I do however suspect that as the HR position grows, so the required education will too. My biggest pet peeve for HR is glorified office managers who have zip training and score this amazing position. So much of HR is people oriented with tact and diplomacy. It takes a talented chameleon to go into a work environment and revolutionize positive change management from the ground up. There are many misconstrued ideas of what HR does and the role they hold within an organization. The old school myth is that HR is there to play problem solver for employees and smooth over relations. Or the flip side is that they are there to play Office Manager and handle payroll. Unfortunately these are bad reasons to take on an HR. The HR should be focused on people management, strategic planning, ensuring everyone is on task, assisting the senior management with goal development, and from there may optionally hold a speciality in the workforce such as trainer, recruiter, hiring manager, benefits manager, analysis, advisor, and so forth. What’s even more unfortunate is the people recruiting for HR seldom actually know what to look for and thus hire an individual lacking in skills. It is a vicious cycle for HR to face, especially those who are adequately trained, to step into this kind of situation.

Whoa to the HR- you face a rocky road. But don’t worry, with any luck you can write your own job description.