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October 13, 2010

HR Lessons in the News

Filed under: General HR Buzz2:08 pm

Sometimes the best and occasionally the most interesting HR lessons come from watching the news.  Recent “teachable moments” have included:

  • Shoot first, ask questions later. Remember Shirley Sherrod, the Department of Agriculture employee who was fired for supposedly making racists remarks during a speech?  It turns out her comments were taken out of context.   Obviously the basic HR tools of thoroughly investigating and documenting employee problems could have helped avert this nightmare.  But as important, in the age of instant news, electronic communications, heightened sensitivities, and time pressures….slow down.   Corrective actions, especially terminations, require consideration and thought.   Actual facts can also be useful tools.
  • A slide and a beer.
    The facts aren’t all in yet in the case of the flight attendant who “resigned”  via an aircraft emergency slide.    Was it a case of:  An employer who needs to do a better job promoting a good working environment for its employees?  A problem employee who needed to be better managed?  A rogue employee who couldn’t handle stress?   Symptomatic of the decline of overall civility in society and mistreatment of service workers?  An OSHA issue?  The most recent example of increasing anger in the workplace?  An example of how to “burn a bridge.”   I’m not sure what it was but it certainly made for good theater

I’ll take $40 million with that parachute.
Sexual harassment, “conduct unbecoming,” or expense report allegations don’t normally come with a $40 million price tag….at least not where a single individual is involved.   But the recent debacle involving the top guy at Hewlett Packard did.  He was forced to leave the organization amid scandal, although with cash in hand.  Organizations have dealt with sexual harassment issues for decades now, but problems persist.  Keep training your people and use all of your creativity to convey the message upward into the corner offices.   It’s also a good time to review your expense reimbursement policies and practices, to ensure there is no abuse, but also to keep costs down in a tough economy.


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