Did you guys see the ABC 20/20 expose’ “True Confessions”. HR was ousted again as cutthroat, law-breaking ninnies; corporate hell at its very best (or worse). HR is the Lindsay Lohan of the office, once again in trouble and really not very sorry for being in trouble. The Ebenezer Scrooge, the Mr. Grinch, the Bad Santa of cubeland.
Cindy Shapiro, former HR pro, wrote a new book “Corporate Confidential,” which tattles in a big way on the corporate HR bully. Such an intriguing topic that ABC has lumped HR with the likes of naughty waiters (can you say “special sauce”), snarky retail sales clerks and porn stars. Whistle-blower Cindy tells stories of HR’s dirty ways of finding loopholes in the law to lay-off top performers, equating taking too much vacation time with slacking (aka an excuse to fire), treating ugly people and beautiful people poorly, and weeding out pregnant candidates from job opportunities. One victim in the piece said simply, “The worst thing is that HR was not there to help me, but to help Citibank”.
Second verse same as the first…we’ve heard this all before. Cliché HR doing cliché things. But I was glued to the piece. The reasons clichés are clichés is because there are some patterns of evident truths. Frankly, the tactics described in the piece on pregnant job candidates made me wince. Why?
I don’t doubt some employers do these things. I am fortunate to work for a company culture where policies and practices are typically employee-centric. My current employer, Daxko, doesn’t even call employees “employees”. All here are called team members. No company I’ve worked for discriminated against pregnant women. Several were hired when they were pregnant, in another case a new job was actually held until a new mother had her baby, and personally in my time at Daxko, three of my team members have been pregnant a total of four times. We’re all totally down with it.
When I watched the piece, however, one big thing that came to mind was in many cases HR cleans up the mess of poor management. Do you really think HR said “hell yea, I think you should weed out pregnant ladies”, or “I think it is very smart to fire people for taking off too much vacation time”. HR pros I know are usually asked to practice naughty things because of a bad directive, an old-school executive team or a poor decision that has already been made by a poor manager. The piece did elude to this….but not enough. HR as corporate janitor. Cleaning up messes after it is too late to do anything about them. Where HR is failing is fighting harder or even having the courage to quit working for companies who practice these things. Difficult for sure, I know.
Here are a few other things that this piece did bring to my mind:
- Women are still getting the short end of the stick in corporate America. We’ve come a long way baby and sisters are doin’ it for themselves, but we’ve only completed 13.1; men have completed the 26.2.
- HR press is typically negative.
- Some HR pros are sick of doing the wrong thing and willing to say so in a very public way.
- I wonder if Cindy should be investigated for perhaps engaging in these naughty HR behaviors. Who knows? (Not trying to be a trouble maker but did think it).
I don’t know Cindy Shapiro. Maybe she is a nut, maybe she had a bone to pick, and maybe she made the whole thing up. But I’m surprised this book didn’t come out sooner frankly. I hate you wrote this book before me.
Dawn Burke, VP of Talent Consulting at Kinetix and founder/advisor for Dawn Burke HR, is an HR leader, speaker, and writer specializing in new HR practices, engagement and workplace culture. Her HR/recruiting/leadership career has spanned the last 20 years, with past gigs including a foundational role as VP of People for Birmingham, AL’s award-winning technology company, Daxko (And yes, Kris Dunn and Dawn are making Bham the HR capital of the world! Who knew?). You can also check her out at DawnHBurke.com and a variety of other interesting places. Google her, it’ll keep you posted on what she is up to.
Most importantly: She is addicted to TV, knows most of the lyrics to Hamilton and West Side Story, loves to cry at movies (check out Cinema Paradiso for a cry fest!), thinks wine, a wheel of Brie and Milk Duds make a well-balanced dinner, and sings in her car daily. Her husband and cat are the Yin to her Yang.