February 16, 2015
TO: All Employees
FROM: Janet Jones, Director of Human Resources
RE: Inappropriate Workplace Conversations
It has come to my attention that a fair number of you saw the movie “Fifty Shades of Grey” this past weekend. Some of you, according to my sources, attended multiple screenings.
It is apparent that many of you have forgotten that Acme Corporation’s Workplace harassment policy prohibits “verbal or physical conduct that creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.” (Section III, subsection A, paragraph 2).
While talk of one’s ‘inner goddess’ may not, on the surface, create an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment, when followed up with a discussion about the color of one’s cheeks it may cause others to feel uncomfortable.
Please also note:
- It is not appropriate to begin using “Laters, baby” as your email signature
- We will not, despite repeated requests, be turning the vacant office on the 5th floor into a “Red Room”
- Corsets are not appropriate workplace attire
- It is neither funny nor professional to inform a co-worker “I’d like to bite that lip.”
- We will no longer allow college journalism students to interview our top executives
- This memo is not tongue in cheek; it is not advisable, after all, to use the phrase “tongue in cheek.”
Thank you for your attention to this matter and please see me with any questions.
People trudge into the building, settle into a cubicle or work station, and never leave the confines of their department. Lunch is consumed at one’s desk and, unless one has meetings to attend or conference calls to join, the only conversations occur with those in close proximity.
So here’s something awesome you can do today.
Grab a co-worker or colleague and invite them to lunch. Talk about music, movies, Mardi Gras plans…whatever. Ask them about their family and tell them about yours. Build a bond. Build trust. Connect as people.
EXTRA points for this if you work in human resources and head to lunch with someone from IT or sales or marketing or….?
Recently, I was doing some reading about internal barriers in organizations created by fear. In Tom Rieger’s Breaking the Fear Barrier he points out these barriers take three forms: parochialism, territorialism, and empire building. As he states:
“Parochial managers do not necessarily want to take control over other departments. Instead, they build walls against others’ empire building attempts to keep outsiders from interfering with their own local focus and viewpoint. Territorialism is about keeping things just the way they are; empire building is about changing the balance of power. While territorialism seeks to impose limits over what people can do inside the silo, empire building seeks to change the focus of what those in other departments do. Territorialism is about defending the current span of control, but empire building is about expanding it.
Huh. I’ve known some human resources professionals that fall into each of those categories. Parochial HR leaders say things like “You can’t do xyz because it’s against policy/law/my wishes” or “We need you to complete that annual checklist performance review so we have documentation” or “Because I say so.”
The territorial HR manager will let you know, quite happily, that she controls your training budget so you best justify to her why one of your staff members needs to attend a $159 training workshop. You need to go through her (not IT) to get a new laptop and gain her approval before you allow a staff member to spend the afternoon working at the local coffee shop.
Interestingly enough, Tom Rieger shares an HR example of empire-building:
“A multibillion-dollar company centralized several support functions under its head of human resources. As a result, that executive became chief administrative officer over human resources, accounts payable, legal, real estate, and several other departments. Although the IT needs of the businesses were specialized in research and development, she insisted that IT should also be under her charge and successfully fought to add IT to her growing empire. The outcome was inefficiency, wasted resources, disengagement, and lack of focus, all of which resulted in unnecessary costs for the organization.”
Now I dare say the way this works in a multibillion-dollar company is just a tad different from how it occurs at Acme Financial Services with 300 employees. In some ways it’s easier for the HR leader to assume control of people, functions or resources in a smaller organization. No one wants to manage the vehicle fleet? HR will take it on. That administrative assistant whose job has become somewhat redundant in the last 10 years? Bam! We’ll put her to work in HR!
Next thing you know, the human resources span of control includes customer service/reception, purchasing, and facilities maintenance.
Is this always a bad thing? Not necessarily This sort of structure might be appropriate for Company A even though it’s not going to work at Company B. But, as Tom Rieger points out “Often, organizations will permit or overlook an empire builder’s encroachment because he presents his attempt at conquest as a faster way to meet an objective. In other cases, the empire builder is more subtle, taking over inch by inch. By the time anyone notices, the change has already occurred.”
Do the HR Empire Builders want to find ways to meet objectives? Get stuff done? Eliminate redundancies and remove impediments? It’s possible.
It’s also possible some just want power in whatever way they can get it.
But size – and control – have nothing to do with real strength and power. Wise HR leaders realize it’s not about gobbling up additional territory as if sweeping the board in a game of Risk in an attempt to conquer the world. Instead they realize it’s about delivering value by supporting and enabling the execution of company strategy. Period. End of story.
They understand that HR influence isn’t dependent upon the size of one’s kingdom. They know it’s about acquiring knowledge and mastering the HR fundamentals. It means they never stop learning and they look forward to the future rather than trying to run from it. They know that great HR is often invisible.
And that’s how they build an HR empire.
“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.”
Henry The Fourth, Part 2 Act 3, scene 1, 26–31
Oh human resources. A decade (!) on and we’re still battling to overcome the infamous “Why We Hate HR” article. This was such the thing back-in-the day that even SHRM commissioned a “Teaching Guide” to help us dislodge the arrows we found stuck in our collective back.
But it’s (almost) Valentine’s Day and, in the spirit of love in all its forms – agape, storge, philia and even eros – the writers on this week’s Carnival of HR share their affection for not only the things we do really well but also a bit of overall delight for this crazy profession in which we toil. And, since love knows no bounds, I’ve broken the rules for this week’s Carnival; you’ll find several posts from the semi-distant past.
So with a nod to Elizabeth Barrett Browning…
How do we love thee HR? Let us count the ways…
“I suggest the business of HR, or at least future-oriented ‘new HR’
is developing the right connections, relationships and conversations,
or generating social capital.” Jon Ingham
10 Reasons Why I Love Being an HR Professional Andrea Devers
Best friend at work? Just have my back. Mary Faulkner
7 Tips for a Happy Work Marriage Erin McCune
Married to HR Kristina Minyard
Unconventional HR Advice: Love Your People Ben Eubanks
The Long Now of Employee Engagement Paul Hebert
The Engagement Answer Heather Bussing
“There is pretty much nothing you can do to make
employees love work or be happy. You can do all sorts of things to
completely make them miserable though.” Heather Bussing
How to Develop a Performance Improvement Plan for Your Employee Blake McCammon
Has your lack of leadership led to a cultural failure? Mike Haberman
What Does Successful Succession Management Look Like? Lindsay Colitses
You’re Not Special: Puncturing Egos for the Greater Good Victorio Milian
Do You Have a Blah Blah Blah Vision or a Driving Vision? Jesse Lyn Stoner
I Love Chocolate & Great HR David Richter
“When a company’s HR department is motivated, empowered and
aligned with the strategy and values of the rest of the company,
then magic can happen. That is what I love about great HR. “
The Benefits of a Structured New Leader Transition Process Jennifer V. Miller
As the HR Schoolhouse Crumbles Kyle Jones
“I do think an organisation where HR, and the rest of the business,
invested in love and hugs would result a rather special
as well as healthy and productive workplace.” Jon Ingham
image courtesy of National Wildlife Federation