“He’s a Good Guy, Except For The Jihad”… (The Burden of Action in HR)

Kris Dunn Employee Relations, Good HR, Kris Dunn, Labor, Leadership, Policies


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I was chilling out reading the Wall Street Journal (#humblebrag) during the the South’s latest snowmaggedon a couple of weekends ago and came across how Belgium authorities had bungled an investigation that would have possibly prevented the Brussels terror attack.

Included in that bungling? A police interview that had a friend of one of the Brussels suicide bombers providing the following quote:

“He’s a Good Guy, Except For The Jihad”

Click here for a link to the abbreviated story (short version, doesn’t include the quote above that appeared in print) from the WSJ.

Think about that quote for a second. Authorities in Belgium heard that quote and didn’t take action that would have/might have prevented the suicide attacks that subsequently occurred.

The rest of the world hears that quote, the lack of action, and gets fired up about the war on terror.

Me? I hear that quote and I’m reminded of the 1,000 shades of gray that HR professionals trying to keep the peace and manage employee relations climates are faced with every week.

You and I know the reality. When you’re in an HR position that includes heavy employee relations, you’re going to get 200 pieces of information a month that rise the level of “disturbing”.  Some of those items about specific employees are work related, some are personal and some are just stupid.

Still, you got that information.  What are you going to do about it, HR?  Generally one of three things:

  1. Ignore it, because your BS filter tells you it’s not real.
  2. Put it on the watch list/in the memory bank, because it’s problematic but not life-threatening right now, or…
  3. Take action ASAP because what might happen if you ignore it is something you (and the company) can’t live with.

For most of us in HR, clear examples of option #3 (Take Action ASAP) include risk related to workplace violence, harassment, etc.

Still, at times we are caught telling ourselves that we don’t have to take action on bad stuff coming across our desk.  Why is that? The following qualifiers tell us we have time:

  1. We got the information from a third party of questionable creditability. You know this one – the source isn’t great and to truly investigate, you might have to blow the doors off of someone you like.  So you put it on the watch list and hope it doesn’t blow up in your face.
  2. We rationalize that the target of the bad stuff in our organization is a less than stellar player and might have brought it on themselves.  Translation – we don’t like them and neither does the company, so we’re slower to act.  The watch list is a perfect solution for this circumstance.
  3. The information we were given is too general.  Do we really know there’s a problem? We rationalize that information is directional in nature, and we pledge to keep our eyes on it.
  4. We’re busy, dammit.  Yep, we only have so much cycle time, and if the information provided is foggy at best, it doesn’t rise to the level of digging in and launching a more formal investigation.

HR people doing employee relations have a lot in common with the FBI or authorities trying to make sense of bad stuff happening. There’s data coming across your screen, you can’t trust most people to avoid putting their own spin on a given situation, and you’re understaffed.

As a result, it’s up to you to decide when you need to launch a formal investigation and start getting to bottom of reported bad stuff in play in your organization.

“He’s a Good Guy, Except For The Jihad”

Replace Jihad with something less threatening, and you have your life in HR.

Good luck with people coming at you this week to report bad stuff.  Your job in HR requires you to make quick decisions on who’s credible and who’s not.

If you’re good at this, you’ve got nothing to worry about.

If you’re not? You probably need to spend more of your time doing formal investigations to make sure the bad stuff doesn’t hurt you – or your company.