Taking a knee during the national anthem at National Football games is today’s discussion. If you work in HR can you take a knee or do you need to sit, or rather stand, on the sidelines?
HR folks are all about political correctness, but what if you disagree about what you’re being asked to defend daily? In professional football, we are seeing more and more “civil disobedience” played out during the national anthem. But what about in your work place? And where do you position yourself with controversial discussions and issues?
There is a laundry list of Social, Economical and Political issues that cross the lines of your workplace. The latest is DACA, before that Black Lives matter and police violence.
Now, before we go any further, I am a firm supporter of our country’s military, with my nephew serving 20 years as a Naval Officer, protecting our freedom. On a personal basis, I would never disrespect our flag or what it represents. I have literally cried during the national anthem when my nephew was in Iraq during the war. It was very personal to my family and to me.
However, our country is founded on freedom of speech and beliefs. So, if you work in HR is it ok to take a knee and dissent?
This is a tough one without a clear answer. Corporate folks would say NO. You’re paid to protect your organization regardless of your personal beliefs. Others might say you need to bring your true self to work.
Where is the line and can you cross it?
I don’t have any short answers to this. It is a debate that HR needs to take on. Not just for your employees but for ourselves. For me, the answer is do what I believe is right. I am willing to take a knee when I believe in the cause or situation. Some call this brave and others stupidity. I am fine with the opinions of others. The only opinion that matters to me is ultimately my own. I sleep well at night!
I don’t want to overtly influence any of you reading this post, but I do want to push you to stand up for the right thing when the situation presents itself. We are leaders and role models to our organizations. We are also individuals with personal convictions. Often the two intersect and we need to make choices. So, we all walk a fine line with consequences. There is no right or wrong in this discussion. Just a discussion that we all need to have. For some it is an inner dialogue and for others it needs to be discussed in the open.
All I can offer is for you to do what you believe is right for your employees and yourself. In the end isn’t that what is most important? Decisions, Decisions…
Mark Fogel is best known for his HR with an Attitude. His background includes almost a decade and a half as CHRO at Leviton Mfg., The Marcum Group, and The Success Academy Charter School Network, as well as co-founding Human Capital 3.0, a boutique HR advisory firm. Mark has been honored by SHRM nationally as their Human Capital Leader of the Year in 2007, and by HR Executive Magazine as an Honor Roll recipient in 2010 and “Best HR Ideas” in 2012. His HR teams have garnished numerous national and local awards for HR innovation, wellness, and employee engagement. Mark speaks regularly at national conferences. He is also an Adjunct Professor at Adelphi’s Graduate School of Business.