The Right Thing to Do

This is similar to my thoughts on a one-size-fits-all training but falls into how we in HR seem to think our main purpose is just to keep our bosses out of the courtroom. We spend our time writing policies, procedures, rules to follow the laws & policies meant to protect employees or employers. We use official language, legalese and ensure our policies meet the letter of the law or regulation. But does any of this make sense to our employees?

This occurred to me as I was talking with the employee relations specialist today. I’m writing a work improvement plan for a employee, only the employee is not the one I was told to write the letter for. The letter needs to make sense to an outside person (I.e. An attorney or a jury). But shouldn’t my letter make sense to the employee? Shouldn’t it be easy for him to follow? Our work improvement plans seem little more than a glossy cover to fire someone when they are no longer performing. Our evaluations and documented conversations are not enough. We also must write a letter so the attorney (or jury) can easily understand we had no other choice, but the letter is addressed to the employee.

Here in HR we are kind of stuck in the middle. We are there to support both the employee and the employer (just look at the SHRM advocacy group — most of the laws they support are for the employer). We help interpret laws and explain to our constituents how it affects our business. We need to be sure our employees and those we report to understand what, if any, changes we need to make. But I’d like us to change the tone of the conversation. We shouldn’t make the changes just because the law or regulation says so, we shouldn’t make policies that only police our staff; we need to make changes and policies because they are the right thing to do for BOTH our employees and business.

Admittedly, my first draft of the work improvement plan was incomplete. But it was a first draft. I also didn’t take the employee specialist up on his offer to just write it for me: how does that help me to learn how to write better? I’ve got his notes and will use them. However, I’m no longer going to look at this through the eyes of an outsider trying to determine what is happening. I’m going to look at it through the eyes of the employee and make it clear for him. We do enough beating around the bush in HR. We need to be more forthright with our employees. And let’s definitely stop looking at them as the enemy, just looking for the opportunity to sue us.


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