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Where on earth is HR?

I continue to hear heart-breaking stories of bullying, harassment, discrimination, and covert or hurtful behaviour from leaders in organisations who not only know better but, ironically, win awards and certifications for their great leadership and wonderful organisational cultures.

I am not talking about an occasional story here and there, but stories shared weekly from a variety of sources – workshop participants, coaching clients, HR practitioners, associates and friends who are either on the receiving end of these behaviours, or have bared witness to it.

Whilst I acknowledge that it is a small minority of leaders and employees who are behaving poorly, I am still surprised by how much of this is still going on.

At a time when organisations have a greater commitment to diversity and inclusion, are addressing mental health in the workplace, and have very clear bullying and harassment policies in place, shouldn’t we be seeing a reduction in the number of these incidents?

When I share this view with people, what disappoints me is their explanation that the culture of their organisation really hasn’t moved on, and that there is still a lot of ‘lip service’ being paid.

And if I suggest a confidential conversation with HR, the common responses I receive are:

“HR has no influence in my organisation”, “HR is only here for safeguarding the organisation”, and – my all-time worst response – “Hah! The bully is from HR!”

So, back to my original question.  Where on earth is HR? What role is HR actually playing in today’s organisations?

Surely, in today’s workplace, it shouldn’t be that hard to identify and ‘call out’ the bully, and stamp out this behaviour. As the custodians of people practice, it is HR’s role and purpose to ensure a safe, healthy and inclusive workplace for its employees.

My suggestion to HR teams: Stop wasting time filling out the forms for the next round of HR Awards, ‘Best Employer’ or whatever and, instead, be brave, be courageous, find your voice and create the inclusive, harmonious and sought-after organisational culture that your employee branding tells us you already have.

Amanda Webb

Amanda Webb is a highly experienced and respected Human Resources practitioner and CEO of Xplore.
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