“Be prepared to leave the company.”
That’s the professional opinion I gave the Mrs., sometime last year when she was feeling jerked around by her employer and had reached the point of making a formal complaint to Human Resources. It’s a sad commentary on our profession, but I knew the potential end-game she faced once that bridge was crossed – don’t be lulled into a false sense of comfort by the rather progressive-minded individuals that contribute to FOT; Human Resources is still a sticky wicket to navigate for the common employee.
I’m referring specifically to the HR Business Partners who act as an advocate for the employee company. That’s right sports fans, the HR Business Partner, despite all good intentions, is your gateway to a new corporate existence; things may get better, but it won’t be a smooth ride, and it won’t ever be the same.
So, you find yourself in an intolerable situation; what are you supposed to do?
- Get your Shinola™ together – You do know the difference, right? Get your facts, gather your documentation, and plan your discussion prior to any discussion with Human Resources. Bring your notes, and then ask to take notes during your HR discussion. If you’re going to be puckered-up, you may as well share the experience.
- Remember One Thing – There is no employee/HR confidentiality law; you want it kept secret, tell your dog (and no, I wouldn’t tell a cat, they’re too damn self-serving.)
- Know the Score – How do I phrase this in a sensitive way? Are you a jackass? Meaning, is there any reason to believe you would be in full-fledged CYA mode? Your credibility is a consideration – how about the accused? Did they invent a new polymer that saved the company?
- Present yourself in terms that are your own – Too many people self-educate themselves on employment law…if you want to play junior barrister, all you’re doing is waving the red flag of lawsuit. HR pros are reading you, and we’re usually pretty good at it – rational, factual, and personable is a tough combination to doubt.
- Get used to awkwardness – At some point, the target of the complaint will receive an opportunity to respond. This is not a time to stick your toe in the water, then retreat. If it’s important enough to bring to HR, it’s important enough to see through. But….make no doubt about it, it’s going to suck.
So when I told my wife to “be prepared to leave…” it was based on this same checklist, because things may not turn out as you would hope. There are absolutely issues that need to be reported to Human Resources, if not for you then for your team and/or future employees. This isn’t a call to avoid reporting illegal or unethical behavior, only to do so with your eyes wide open.
Are we still a “go?” Atta kid, I thought you might say that – next month, let’s talk about what happens inside the investigation.
John Whitaker (“Whit”) is a SVP and Chief People Officer at Sage Dental and the founder of HRHardball.com (2008). He specializes in building and developing strong recruiting teams who are unafraid of “kicking the ant pile.” Like most Texans, he loves to tell a story (especially those that include an armadillo or a poker game) and cutting through the chaff…don’t take it personal.