I have recently come across blogs and comments describing how employees brought serious allegations of inappropriate management behavior to “HR Professionals” whom allegedly minimalized, disregarded or manipulated the facts to avoid addressing and solving illegal and unethical situations, most notably the now famous blog by former Uber employee, Susan J. Fowler that led to a series of events that rocked the organization and caused multiple senior executive exits.
Everyone that holds a position in Human Resources (Human Capital or similar) are not necessarily HR Professionals. Which leads to the question, what credentials qualifies one as a true HR Professional? Generally, most would consider an individual with at least a bachelors degree in business and PHR or SPHR certification as sufficient technical credentials. However, being in HR also requires exceptional interpersonal skills, strength of character and a servant leader approach to maneuver through challenging dynamics and solve complex and often emotional conflicts.
There are some companies who place individuals who lack the education and experience in HR roles because they placed someone who was personable but lacking the credentials in the role because they didn’t understand the contribution an HR Professional can really make or the company lacked the knowledge and process to hire a HR Professional or they simply didn’t want a true HR Professional because they wanted someone who would follow orders without challenge because they would be more concerned with pleasing their boss to retain their own position- no matter what.
I would like to believe that a true HR Professional would represent themselves and their industry with competency and courage to seek to support business goals in a manner which is ethical and legally compliant, influencing business leaders to understand the long-term risks and ramifications of decisions.
In my career, I have had multiple instances where business leaders directed me to execute illegal or unethical actions. My goal is to understand what their “pain” is that they are reacting to and provide an alternative approach to solve the issue in a manner which is legally compliant and ethical to then make my best effort to influence the decision makers with disclosure of risks and their costs. Business executives, including HR professionals, must understand they may face significant personal repercussions for their decisions. At the end of the day, if I am unable to influence business leaders from making illegal or unethical decisions, I have to inform them that I respect their right to make the decision, unfortunately I can not represent or execute it on their behalf.
I would love to hear comments. Can you share an experience where an HR Professional went above and beyond to work on your behalf?