I Am Serious. (And Don’t Call Me Shirley).
I had lunch the other day with a few friends who also happen to work in the wonderful world of HR and of course there were a few moments of shop talk.
One of my friends was relating some stories about some transitional changes at her company as, over the years, she has worked to impart some HR wisdom to the troops. As a Regional HR Manager she supports many many locations, with many many managers and many many supervisors across a huge swath of states.
As she regaled us with some of her latest challenges, it struck me how often we in HR end up repeating ourselves over and over again. Year after year, we trot out the same answers to the same questions. Is there a piece of manager’s brains where HR knowledge/training goes to die? Does it leak out of their ear canal and fall into a puddle on the floor when they’re having dinner? Do they watch an episode of “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” and the exploits of Camille, Kyle and Kim move to the forefront of their frontal cortex, supplanting any HR knowledge that previously resided there?
Why can’t they remember we’re serious?
Envision these fairly common answers coming from the HR pro at the –
Annual Harassment Training: “No, it’s not your role to provide backrubs to your female staff members when they’re having a rough day. I don’t care if they tell you they’re stressed and they don’t mind. Yes, I am serious.”
Interviewing Skills Workshop – Refresher Course: “No, you are not going to ask all the women you interview if their husband or boyfriend is OK with them working at night. Yes, I am serious.”
Disability Awareness Training: “No, you can’t pay John less money because the job accommodation you’re providing due to his disability is costing you a few hundred dollars. Yes, I am serious.”
Pregnancy Discrimination Overview: “No, you aren’t going to ‘require’ that Peggy stay home from work just because you don’t think she can do the job. Yes, I am serious.”
Wage and Hour/Payroll Process Training: “No, Jim can’t work off the clock. I don’t care if he says he’s volunteering and doesn’t mind. Yes, I am serious.”
Is it us? Maybe the blame rests with the HR pros who are sharing this information. Perhaps we’re just dull and stodgy; a veritable batch of schoolmarms and sheriffs. It’s entirely possible that we’re incapable of presenting information that’s relevant and important and pertinent in an engaging manner.
Maybe we fail to draw the right correlation for the managers so that they SEE and CARE about the impact that paying Jim off the clock for “just a few hours” can have on the company when it turns from a trickle into a flood. Our topics, at their core, are interesting. We talk about money, sex, breaking-the-rules, diseases and drama. We should be able to find a way to make these topics understandable and relatable.
Perhaps we enable their continuing inability to learn and retain information because we hand-hold and coddle and make their decisions for them. Why should they retain this information when HR swoops in to make their decisions for them at every turn?
So is it the HR message? Or is it the HR messenger?
And yes. I am serious.