I always loved the show Arrested Development. In fact, after the last US election I vowed to only comment on US politics on Facebook using gifs from the show, to avoid contributing to the vitriolic, overwhelming, and (in my opinion) futile, political debates going on in my feed (as a Canadian I’m truly just yelling into the void about this stuff). Turns out this Jason Bateman gif works for more recent events too.
If you read this blog with any regularity, you’ll know that I’ve been hip deep in a research project of my own making since last year, with the goal to deepen my understanding of workplace sexual harassment as a systemic problem, how HR is implicated in that system, and what we can do to influence it differently.
That project has continued to pick up steam, and I am so grateful to the many, many people who have generously shared their time and thoughts. These include HR professionals at all levels, survivors and targets of sexual harassment, leaders, lawyers, advocates, and even a couple of scientists. When I waded into this I had no idea that this would lead to the array of incredible, humbling conversations it has, and honestly, I’m just getting started…more on that in the weeks to come.
“He’s a rockstar” “She’s brilliant” “He’s a good guy”
Whether we’re dividing people into INTJs and ENFPs, High Ds or Cs, or placing them on a 9-box grid, we love our categories. I’ve been reflecting on this over the last week, sparked by a presentation delivered by Mathieu Baril of DDI at HR Leaders Summit West. Baril’s presentation challenged traditional thinking on High Potential programs, suggesting that we need to broaden our definition of potential and recognize the individual bias at work when we go about identifying so-called Hi-Pos:
“We tend to underestimate the role of context in performance. Performance is less portable then we think.”
Is it fiercely ice-storming here (yes, in mid-April), and it currently sounds like a very determined swarm of bees is hurling themselves at our windows. Our lights keep flickering. There’s nothing left to say about this except that I am so, so tired of wearing my winter coat that I may burn it whenever (or if) Spring finally gets here.
In the meantime, I’m preparing for a busy week: I’m speaking at InnovateWorkTO on Monday night about the need for different thinking about workplace sexual harassment in the wake of #MeToo, then I head straight to HR Leader’s Summit West in Vancouver on Tuesday to join an excellent panel about remote work, and finally head to Whistler for a site visit as we finish planning Actionable’s upcoming Consulting Partner Summit.
Hence, this week’s post is a round-up rather than a new blog, but it’s packed with great stuff:
A good reminder that I married the right person is that he agrees to go to a talk about catastrophic failure in complex systems for date night. This week, Anthony and I heard Andras Tilcsik and Chris Clearfield give an overview of their new book: ‘Meltdown: When Our Systems Fail and What We Can Do About It’.
It’s a fascinating look at how many of the systems we encounter in our day to day lives are becoming increasingly complex and tightly coupled, making them more vulnerable to surprising meltdowns.
I’ve been wanting to write about evidence-based HR for a while, in part because back in 2013 I wrote a blog post critiquing the idea (brattily titled: “Evidence-Based HR: Are We Kidding Ourselves?”) and have since completely changed my opinion. This time, I’ve left it to the experts and invited the wonderful Natasha Ouslis to set me straight on what evidence-based practice in HR is and isn’t, and why we should care.
Culture. It keeps coming up in the conversations I’m having with HR professionals about sexual harassment right now. After writing about sexual harassment last year and launching a related project for 2018, I’m having a lot of these conversations at the moment.
We should talk about culture when we talk about sexual harassment (which I would like us all to be doing right now, with a new humility and curiosity), as long as we’re doing so in ways that are actionable and specific. It’s far too easy for ‘culture’ to be used as shorthand for “I don’t know why, but that’s the way things are here”.
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.
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.