When Did HR Become So Cautious?

We have lost our balls. We have become so safe and cautious that now we are overly cautious. I have been having some conversations with HR Managers and Directors from various industries and walks of life and one thing that stands out in these situations is how overly cautious they are when it comes to disciplining employees. But why?

I remember when you could yell at an underperforming employee and they accepted it, got their shit together and worked harder – but not nowadays.

I remember when you could call out an employee for an error and they took total responsibility and put the work in to get better – but not nowadays.

I remember when you didn’t have to preference a performance improvement conversation with, “I really like you and I hope you don’t get mad at me however…” – but not nowadays.

My friend and co-contributor Sarah Williams, SHRM SCP, calls this, the Wussification of America. She’s absolutely correct.

When employees use racial slurs at work and you decide to write them up and put them on corrective action as opposed to firing their asses – that’s a wuss move. You can’t coach away racism – even when community language, meaning when someone of a certain community uses a slur towards someone in the same community and feels like it’s okay since they are from the same community – that’s wrong too and should not be tolerated.

Whatever happened to sending a strong message by firing someone as an example!? We don’t do that anymore. We want to collective evidence and build cases and cover our asses and we end up waiting until the situation reaches the maximum tipping point and it explodes before we do what we should have done all along!

We accept so much crap from everyone – from employees and managers and we need to stop. When a manager feels they can come into your office and tell you how you should perform HR duties, yet they can’t even manage their own team – that’s a problem and we need to call that stuff out.

I know that some of you want to have all your ducks in a row so if the crap hits the fan (and it will hit the fan) you can say, “Well, I told you so” or “I covered my part” or “I did what you told me to do”…all of which goes against our better judgement, HR instincts, and training.

I understand why we are so cautious…

1.       Social Media – no one wants to go viral. We don’t want to say or do anything that could wind up being shared millions of times and featured in the news media as “stupid things employees say/do”

2.       We gotta eat too – No one wants to be fired – not in HR professionals, we have to protect the company, the employees and ourselves. We have spouses and bills too so we have to get along to get along.

3.       We don’t want to fight – Like Tina Turner sang, “I don’t care who’s wrong or right. / Let’s sleep on it tonight. / I don’t really want to fight no more.” And Tina knows all about that – but yeah, conflict is exhausting and if you are like me, you have noticed that people aren’t really rational and accountable anymore. Everyone thinks they are perfect and always right.

4.       We want to be peaceful  like Dr. King – It’s in our DNA as HR professionals to be liked and respected. We want to solve all of the problem. We want to be the voice of reason in the boardroom, which is why we aren’t invited in there. HR must realize, not everyone is going to like you and that’s okay.

I’m not a practitioner anymore and honestly, I’m cool with that. I am too direct. I don’t have the patience for foolishness. I come from a different era and today’s employees should be happy about that.

For example, you call a lady a “bitch” and I hear about it; get a witness or some proof, and I am firing your ass. You make fun of an Asian, Hispanic or Indian person and I catch wind of it and I’m firing that ass! You purposely embarrass the company and I am putting you on the unemployment line. You don’t want to do your work? I am not building a case, I am getting you out and someone else in! You talk crazy to me in my office or in front of employees? You are gone with the wind! I don’t care how talented you are or think you, there is always someone else. And unlike most HR folks who say, “Well, I ain’t got time for that! I can’t keep hiring over and over again.”  I have time for that, I will make time to get rid of an bad employee and you are always recruiting anyway – and what happened to succession planning?

I know what you are thinking, “Chris, you will get your ass sued” or “Well, that’s why you aren’t a practitioner.” And I say “yep and thank God”, because I love HR and I am never scared.


One thought on “When Did HR Become So Cautious?

  1. We are all so scared of being sued, but we forget that it’s really hard for the employee to do that — they have to hire an attorney, collect their own evidence and in the end, what do they really want? Most don’t want to go back to the place that fired them and it’s a lot of work to just get to do the “I was right, you were wrong” dance. I personally would like to see HR let us take a few more risks … Though I’ve been in this business for almost 20 years and have yet to be called into a court room or deposition.

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