It’s a bright, shiny new year, and the world has been given a fresh start. Good thing too, since we really need a do-over after 2017. But underneath the flurry of optimistic resolutions and ardent promises to eat better and exercise, we’d be wise to remember the lessons that we hadn’t quite yet absorbed from 2017 before the holidays began and forcibly turned over a new page for us all.
The HR profession seems to have found its voice on sexual harassment, and if the slew of upcoming events and panels are any indication, lots of us want to use it. I hope we will remember that the voices we need to hear from most are those who have experienced harassment in our organizations.
The tide of revelations about sexual harassment at work has continued to go out, receding to expose an ugly landscape that has been there all along. I suspect that I’m not the only one who has found it shocking and yet also depressingly unsurprising.
I’ve been relieved to hear the voices rising from within HR, calling us to reflect on our role as a profession in the epidemic of sexual harassment, and urging us to do better. It’s certain that we must do better, but I worry that this doesn’t set the bar very high. The tales of HR complicity, or astonishing and willful ignorance if we’re exceedingly generous, are shameful. If even a small percentage of HR professionals are contributing to the pain and exploitation of employees, this should be seen as the crucial and foundational failing of Human Resources that it is.
It should be a moment of somber reflection for us; as individuals and as a profession, we must be unflinching in examining the outcomes we have contributed to, not just our intentions. But it would be a tragic missed opportunity if we were to stop there.
December is upon us, and with it come admonitions to enjoy a season filled with peace, joy, and reflection. In reality, it’s also a mad scramble to finish projects and see people before the arbitrary temporal landmark that is December 31st. Prevailing corporate wellness wisdom tells managers and HR to be especially mindful of employee stress during this period, and there is a tidal wave of articles aimed at individuals with tips to “survive the holidays”.
I have mixed feelings about wellness programs at work, and the holiday season reminds me why. Too often, these programs add things to employees already long list of tasks, rather than consider what might be removed or changed in the work environment.
Working in HR means working with conflict. Often that conflict appears in our inbox or at our office door because it’s reached a stage at which it feels unmanageable to one or more of those involved.
When it lands there, we can find ourselves cast as mediator or referee. I’m sure that I’m not the only one who finds this to be a source of professional frustration; a firefighter called to the scene only after the flames have spread to adjacent buildings.
A major challenge of talking about something as complex as culture is that we have to be reductive to be succinct. Something as layered, nuanced, and invisible would take ages to accurately convey (if we could even put it into words), but often, we try to distill it into a soundbite. A few key words or phrases that we think make our organization distinct from the average company.
“Keep learning. Explore crazy ideas”
“The Customer is Not Always Right”
“Warrior Spirit; Servant’s Heart, Fun-luving Attitude” (Note: Guys, I just found out these are actually Southwest Airlines’ values and I can’t even)
Although most organizations talk about their cultures as being unique and monolithic (that is, consistent throughout the organization, which is often an unstated assumption underlying the practice of hiring for ‘culture fit’), this is rarely the case.
One way I gauge the degree to which the world is getting to me is how much my throat hurts. I’m an incurable jaw clencher and after a few days of upper and lower mandible warfare the tension spreads down the front of my neck until it feels like I’ve been strenuously holding in a scream, which sometimes I think I have been.
Reading the accounts of the many brave women coming forward to report that they experienced sexual harassment and mistreatment from Harvey Weinstein is both freshly devastating and oppressively familiar. We’ve been here. A lot.
To the untrained, distracted, or overworked observer, rebels and cynics can easily be confused at first glance. This is particularly true in a habitat populated by otherwise homogeneous fauna. Their non-standard vocalizations and often contradictory postures might result in confusion unless further observation is undertaken.
Before you get out your binoculars, and this metaphor grows unwieldy, can I suggest taking a moment to reflect on the image that comes to mind when you hear the word ‘rebel’.
This week I attended two events held by networks I’m part of (Strategic Capability Network and Toronto Organization Development Network) that looked at innovation from the organization and individual level.
Innovation risks being yet another superficial buzzword in the HR space, in part because our culture and history as a profession is strongly linked to compliance, risk mitigation, and standardization, which is at odds with an innovative mindset. And yet, it’s clear that to attract the best talent, maintain position in the market, and respond to stakeholder demands, we must embrace it.
I’m doing really well at the saddest goal I’ve ever set. This year, after an honest assessment of where my time was going and a realization that I was consistently overcommiting myself, I faced facts and stopped doing some things. Chief among them was that I stopped going for coffee with people just because they asked me to.
I’ve just spent a week working with a few of my Actionable colleagues on the other side of the world. This gave me cause to reflect on both the obvious and intangible elements that contribute to our exceptionally collaborative team culture. It also meant that I had a lot of time on several airplanes to catch up on my reading list. Something that had been in my Pocket list for awhile was this short article by Olivia Godhill about employee happiness. I wrote about this topic years ago, and have since mostly ignored the employee happiness hype, but it continues to be an alarmingly popular aspiration for many in HR.