17 - Listener Q&A

Just Tyson and Alexa on this one answering listeners' top questions for your entertainment. We cover:

  • How do you deal with a rude manager?

  • What do you do when people respond negatively to your job in HR?

  • Our thoughts on HR certifications/designations

  • How do you handle unethical behavior coming from the HR?

  • Executive leaders who cowtow to the CEO… go.

  • Can we force things on employees?

Yikes!



Release Date: October 12, 2021

[00:00:00] Announcer: Warning. This podcast is about the realities of working in people operations. This is not a stuck-up PC compliance-based or employment law podcast about stuffy outdated HR practices. Shit will get real here and we assume no responsibility.

[00:00:16] Tyson: We had a strict, no alcohol policy. Everybody was like, "Oh don't drink. HR is here," meanwhile in mid crack of beer. If they're that disengaged before, they're going to be that disengaged in the office, just would be sitting at their desk looking at Facebook. They are going [unintelligible 00:00:29]

[00:00:31] Announcer: This is the People Problems Podcast with Alexa Baggio and Tyson McKenzie.

[00:00:38] Alexa: Tyson. What's up?

[00:00:41] Tyson: Looks like it's been a while.

[00:00:42] Alexa: Does it?

[00:00:43] Tyson: We missed one week. We missed like one week, so I feel withdrawal of the podcast.

[00:00:47] Alexa: Nobody misses us for a week, sometimes you and I miss each other. It's nice to know you miss me, a whole week is all it takes.

[00:00:53] Tyson: [laughs]

[00:00:55] Alexa: Well, it's just us today. You're unlucky. You have me all to yourself.

[00:00:59] Tyson: Awesome. I think these are people's favorite episodes.

[00:01:01] Alexa: You tell me that and I believe you, I also refuse to read the comments, [laughs] so I refuse to read feedback. I'll take it through my Tyson filter. What are we doing today? What are we talking about?

[00:01:16] Tyson: I think we're switching it up and we're going to do some questions and answers from various sources. Just listeners, as well as the HR shook audience, so let me know when you're ready.

[00:01:26] Alexa: I think I'm ready. Do you want to just spitfire?

[00:01:28] Tyson: All right.

[00:01:29] Alexa: I feel like these questions are probably more for you than for me. I'm just here for comedic relief.

[00:01:33] Tyson: No. They're good. All right. Starting, how to deal with a rude manager.

[00:01:39] Alexa: Oh, Jesus. Really easing into this.

[00:01:42] Tyson: Coming in hot.

[00:01:43] Alexa: Softball there. How to deal with a rude manager.

[00:01:47] Tyson: We're going to have to interpret some of these, right?

[00:01:49] Alexa: Of course.

[00:01:49] Tyson: Is it your manager or are you the people ops person who's partner with the manager gets rude? We'll kind of try to interpret at the best of our abilities.

[00:01:58] Alexa: Define rude, right? I can get real granular with this. Rude as in rude to you? Rude as in rude to their people? Rude as in just--

[00:02:08] Tyson: Working with assholes one-on-one. Maybe that should just be the full episode.

[00:02:12] Alexa: Okay. Let's get your thoughts first because you probably have the most experience.

[00:02:16] Tyson: Okay. I don't have any experience working with a rude manager that's my manager. I've been very lucky in my career that I've had amazing managers. What I'll speak to is being the HR person that partners with managers, who I've been told by their people are rude or have been rude to me, so that's the easier one. When people are rude to me, I don't tolerate it. I tell them right back to their face. I'm usually like, "I don't really accept that kind of communication. If we're going to work together, I need you to respect what I'm doing," blah blah blah, that sort of thing. I usually hit it right on the head. I've actually had people reach out to me and say really rude things about HR and their relationship with HR.

I just sort of shut that down. I don't need to help you, so I won't deal with it. If I'm working with a situation where I've been given feedback on a manager where they've been rude to, whether it's their direct reports or other people, usually I try to tell the-- let's say it's a direct report that comes to me and says, "Oh, my manager's being rude." I try to coach that person on how to have the conversation with their manager versus me as the HR person jumping in because it comes off as you just went and ratted on me to the teacher and I'm getting in shit for it. I will always [crosstalk]--

[00:03:27] Alexa: Snitches get stitches.

[00:03:28] Tyson: Exactly. I always try to coach that person as long as they feel safe and comfortable having the conversation on how to-- some of the basic stuff like, "I feel disrespected when you--"

[00:03:41] Alexa: Right. I feel statements.

[00:03:43] Tyson: The I feel statements. Yes, it's corny but it works. I usually have them have that conversation with the manager and then if it's still, it needs to be escalated from there then I will usually get the manager's manager to talk to them. Again, as the HR person, I don't typically like to step in and have that conversation directly with the rude person.

[00:04:02] Alexa: I think that's fair. It preserves you as the neutral ground and the sort of-- you're there more as a coach and as a team figure than to be the fucking complaint department, as we've talked about many times in our short stint as the podcast starts. I struggle with rudeness in people in general. I think the idea of nipping it in a bud pretty quickly is good. I also am a big believer in noticing and naming. "What I'm sensing from you is you may be a little stressed out about this topic." Or, "Hey, what I'm getting from you is that you are-- there's some frustration behind this particular subject or the way this went down. Do you want to talk about that?"

It's pretty obvious when someone is being rude because of a mood or a change or a dynamic. I think that's pretty easy to just notice and name. Like, "Hey, I think what I'm picking up on here is this." When it's usually like, "Hey, I'm trying to have a moment with you," people are pretty responsive to that. What I struggle with is when people are just rude for fucking rude sake.

It's like the people who treat waiters like the assholes. You're like, "How in the world do you think that this gets you anywhere?" If I have never in my life had an interaction and I don't, I very rarely do it because I don't believe in it where I get just off at somebody, it serves me well in that situation. It rarely happens that you get or are rude to someone and it gets you what you want. It almost always works against you. It's just way easier to be nice and communicative.

[00:05:34] Tyson: Kill them with kindness.

[00:05:35] Alexa: Yes. I know it sounds so stupid.

[00:05:36] Tyson: I love that. Or when they go low, you go high.

[00:05:38] Alexa: Exactly. There is also no sweeter song to sing than just like, "I won that round and I didn't even break a sweat, like, "I didn't even have to get worked up." I think this is a hard question because it's very vague, but I do think one of the things about managers is that I've noticed in [unintelligible 00:05:57] here is that younger managers or inexperienced managers that have-- they don't have good role models for managers themselves can sometimes be-- they can be the victims of this idea of like, "I'm your manager. I get to be rude. You have to react to me." I've actually had managers like this where it's like, "Oh, I get to snap at you because I'm your manager and you just have to forgive me."

The answer is, you only get to play that card so many times before you lose somebody. I think reminding people that are working with other people, everybody has bad days. Everybody has their quirks. If you're seeing a consistent behavior in someone that is going to wind up ruining their trust or their reputation with their team, you have to notice and they met with them in a more constructive situation.

Like, "Hey, we're hearing, I'm hearing, I've gotten feedback. We've got feedback," or to the manager's manager, "Hey, you need to give this person this feedback." I think what people don't associate with those interactions is the negative consequence down the line. It's like, "Hey, I understand you got in this situation." Or, "I understand that person always brings up a problem. Never mentions a solution." When you snap at them or when you're rude and dismissive, what you do is you close off the line of communication for them in the future. What they're going to wind up doing is they're going to resent you. Then they're really going to be hard to work with. They're really not going to bring you solutions.

You got to play it out for people because in the moment people get very emotional. I can say that from experience. When you play it out for people and usually that it's got to be a consistent behavior that you can pinpoint, people are more receptive to the constructive feedback. If it's just someone's like, "Oh, that person was rude to me once." It's like, okay, there's so much contextual that could have happened. That, to your point, it's first of all, not your fucking problem, but second of all, them and the manager need to figure out like, "Okay, is this consistent? Is it just emotional rudeness? Is it because this person is expecting something from that person that they're not getting?" Then you can work from there, but just general rudeness is touch.

[00:07:53] Tyson: That's really good coaching when you're chatting with a manager who you know is problematic. Let's say there's not a specific complaint, but you just know that this particular person is problematic and rude. It's good coaching to say, "If you want a successful career here, you're not going to get it by," what's the-- you kill more--

[00:08:11] Alexa: Yes. You catch more bees with honey.

[00:08:11] Tyson: You catch more bees with honey or something. It is really good coaching. We don't want to--

[00:08:16] Alexa: I'm shocked as a Canadian. You don't know that that's scary off the top of your head.

[00:08:22] Tyson: It's good coaching, again, to have as like, that is where I might step in as HR or when I'm just having regular connects with managers. If I know they're problematic, just giving some of that coaching. Because if they want to have a successful career somewhere, they're not going to do it by being rude to people and they'll burn bridges and you won't get anywhere career-wise.

[00:08:37] Alexa: I think the only thing where this gets tricky and then I'll shut the fuck up, because it's not helpful to keep talking about it is what fuck is rude? It's just open-- it's in the eye of the interpreter. I think that's the other thing that's important about these conversations is context around who's being rude? What is the interpretation of rude? What's the prior dynamic because sometimes you'll have an employee that's like, "Oh they're so rude to me." It's like, "No, they're actually just giving you feedback that you're not taking." That's not rude. That's you don't like the feedback you're getting. You just have to be very mindful of who's involved in what the context is.

[00:09:10] Tyson: If it's a Gen Z that's complaining about rudeness, we take it with a grain of salt.

[00:09:14] Alexa: If it's your manager, I would say some of the best things I've ever found is to see if you can speak to their peers and not speak to their peers about that issue. Don't go and be like, "Oh my manager's being rude. You work with him. What can I do?" More finding the things that the people that work with that person on another level seem to know about them. Like, "Oh, he tends to do this in meetings,' or, "Oh, he sees things this way." You tend to pick up on things that will help you deal with someone above you, by talking to the people they also work with that are peers. I've always found that to be helpful. Good luck.

[00:09:46] Tyson: All right. Next question. This one's kind of funny. How do you respond when people react negatively when you say you're in HR? This one, I would love to ask a follow up. Is it in a work environment? Like," Hi. I'm here and I'm HR." Or is it like when you're at a party with your friends and you're like, " Yes, I work in HR." [crosstalk] those people. [laughs]

[00:10:10] Alexa: Actually, Tyson, my answer to both of them is, "Fuck those people." My answer to everybody who says this is, "Fuck those people." But it's not their fault. Anyway, you go first, and then I'll chime in.

[00:10:21] Tyson: That's the only response I have. I'm like, "Look, I'm so protective of my career as well in this industry." We're probably the worst people to ask this question too because we're here fighting a good fight when it comes to [crosstalk]--

[00:10:32] Alexa: I know. Literally why we're here. Literally what I get up in the morning for. Still, look, we've talked about this a little bit before, but because this is one of the things I'm out just trying to solve in my career is I get really interested about what their experience has been like, "Oh, yes, man. I'm in HR." Then people are like, "Oh, man. HR?" Then, you're like, "Yes, tell me more about that style. Tell me more about that phase."

Then you always get these really interesting stories from people about what they think HR is and what their context with it is. Then, you have an opening to actually educate them on what it is that you do and how you may be different. Look, I'm always down with like, "You can commiserate a little because it makes you relatable." I think there are not enough people in this industry that will just say, "I understand the negative connotation of my industry."

Look, #notHR, it's our fucking hashtag for a reason. People don't want to be associated with this and it's okay to be like, "I'm #notHR." Like, "Let me educate you on the new version of this and what I actually do. I'm not a paper pusher and the fun police." I think it all comes from a lack of education.

[00:11:41] Tyson: If it is someone in your circle, just wait until they have an HR question and just hit them with-

[00:11:44] Alexa: They'll be the first one they call.

[00:11:46] Tyson: -it depends.

[laughter]

[00:11:48] Alexa: I get phone calls all day, all week, all the time.

[00:11:51] Tyson: All the time.

[00:11:53] Alexa: Someone's like, "I got an HR issue." Or, "I need an HR person." I'm like, "Tough shit. You should have called me sooner. All you can do is I think learn from the perception and use it as a moment. Most people truly have no idea what HR does. If they do, they're picturing like, "Wa-wa." Mrs. Bighead in the cubicle sitting there pushing paper. I just think it's-- You could also just say you're not in HR. Say you're in people or you could say you're in something else. You could say you're in people development. You could say you're in people operations which obviously we're biased to as a title.

I think how you choose to react to it and engage with that person also shows how you feel about the industry. When you go like, "Oh, man. Fuck people think I'm [unintelligible 00:12:40] people react negatively when I'm in HR." It's like, "They're going to keep reacting that way if you're bashful about it or you're not proud of it. Turn that shit around. Find something cool. If they're like, "Oh, man. You're in HR." You're like, "Let me tell you about some crazy shit I do." Or, "Let me tell you about the coolest part of my job." Just totally turn around like, "You think I do this crappy stuff. Let me tell you the coolest, most interesting thing I've done recently." Then, people are like, "Oh, I never thought of that."

[00:13:04] Tyson: Yes. Like, "I got half a million dollars of increases for people, comp increases." It's like, "Oh, shit. I didn't realize HR did that."

[00:13:12] Alexa: Also remember, a lot of other people's jobs are boring. It's just true.

[00:13:17] Tyson: Right. Let's not scoff at people's jobs. [laughs] Although there is one job that I'm like, "You are literally like the rat of the earth." I don't know if you have them in the States. We call them bylaw officers. Basically, they go around and they enforce something called bylaws which are--

[00:13:33] Alexa: Like jaywalking and shit?

[00:13:35] Tyson: No, like parking tickets or like, "Your grass is too long." I don't like them because I had someone parking in front of my mailbox and I called them and they were like, "No. That's not a parking infraction." I'm like, "Okay, but the mailman won't drop off my mail. Why isn't that a parking infraction? Screw you." I don't like them. That's my [crosstalk]--

[00:13:55] Alexa: I hate to say this, Tyson, but you just did to the bylaw officers what everybody does to HR which is I had one bad interaction with one bad egg and now I hate the whole fucking profession.

[00:14:08] Tyson: No. Pause. I actually interned as a bylaw. I wasn't an officer, but I was a little office person. That was my first ever real office job.

[00:14:18] Alexa: Do you get a badge if you're a bylaw officer?

[00:14:20] Tyson: Yes, I think so but they can't ask you for your ID. They have literally no rights to do anything. I've been caught by bylaw a few times too being at the beach after 11:00 and shit like that. Anyways, I digressed. This is not--

[00:14:32] Alexa: It sounds like an entire interview of people who take their jobs too seriously.

[00:14:35] Tyson: For sure. They think they're cops. Anyways, let's move on to the next question. This is an easy one. Your thoughts on HR designation? They've actually added a note to say, "SHRM and HRPA is such a money grab."

[00:14:48] Alexa: The little letters after your name?

[00:14:50] Tyson: Yes, which I just removed. I'm no longer associated with HRPA.

[00:14:55] Alexa: God bless you. We need more trailblazers like you. [00:15:00] Tyson: Here's the thing, I'll just say this quickly. Maybe I've said it on the podcast before, but I was down for my company to pay for my HR designation, just because my company always pays for it. As a millennial, I refuse to fill out any extra paperwork then is literally mandatory to live this life. I got to the point where I put in enough years where you have to put in your development hours and that was it, I'm like, "I'm not doing it." Then not only do you have to do that, but you have to pay for someone to do that. It's not happening. I don't even want my company to pay for that. So, no.

[00:15:38] Alexa: I'm going to leave the feedback to you about whether or not anything those certifications teach you is valuable. How I feel about--

[00:15:46] Tyson: They don't teach you anything.

[00:15:47] Alexa: As an employer and as a business owner, all I have ever known when someone has those designations behind their title is that they paid to take a test that didn't teach them anything about people. I will go out on a limb and say, I am insanely cynical about this entire part of this industry because I think it's a racket. It's like you pay to take this test. We call it a professional certification. It's supposed to give you more job options and this and that and the other, I think that age is dead. I don't think employers are looking for that stuff anymore.

In fact, in the People Ops Society and some of the other groups I work with, there are employers that will actively dock you if you have those certifications. Because they go, "Oh, you're the old guard, you spent time looking at a different part of HR. We're interested in people who have a different set of skills or a different background." I think the idea of what they used to be is dead. There's another one called them in the States called HRCI, which is actually a funny story. I don't think most people know this, used to be a division of SHRM. HRCI--

[00:16:47] Tyson: Is separatist.

[00:16:48] Alexa: This is crazy I never knew this, but HRCI used to be the certification body of SHRM. Then all of a sudden SHRM decided to start a competitive certification business. They broke apart and they have offices in Alexandria, Virginia that face each other. It's this little old guard certification standoff in Alexandria, Virginia, where they compete with each other. It's crazy. To me, it's all-- personally, I'll just go out and say it, and I'm sure it's unpopular.

I think it's nonsense. I think it's a really good way to keep you paying for certifications and continuing ed credits and just keeping you in this vicious cycle because you're scared to lose it. I don't actually think the original intent and the spirit of those programs have kept up with the times. I don't think employers are really looking at that to designate whether or not you truly can do the job.

I'm sure that's not true in every industry. I'm sure that it also depends on your hiring manager and where they came from and if they have one and how important they think it is. For the most part, I don't see growing companies looking at people saying, "You have all the qualifications, you have all this well-rounded background, you have a perfect skill set to do this but we went with the person that had the SHRP next to their name," where they're fucking stupid. Senior HR professional designation is like what does that even mean?

[00:18:04] Tyson: I always tell people when they ask if they should get it like, "Look, I got it. I was in college and they come to the school and they give you a discount and they sign you up, so I got it. When I've had two major jobs in HR, I had it when I applied both jobs that I went into did not require it. I think for the most part, my leadership never had it, but the company paid for it. That was the only reason I kept it." That's my caveat.

[00:18:32] Alexa: If the company's paying for it, whatever, but--

[00:18:35] Tyson: Right. What I would love is can we talk about People Ops Society?

[00:18:38] Alexa: Yes, let's do it. [crosstalk]

[00:18:40] Tyson: [unintelligible 00:18:39] Instead of HRPA, for sure.

[00:18:43] Alexa: Well, yes. That's what we designed the People Ops Society for, right? You're one of our shining star members, but the whole idea is, let's do this better than these organizations. Look, I totally get, if this person is asking this question because they are looking for professional development, right? They're like, "I want to keep leveling up. I want to keep learning things. I want to keep finding out--" there's all kinds of stuff out there now that is far and away from SHRM and HRPA. Our version of this, of the People Ops Society is very much in its nascency, but we have a badging system.

Basically, I think of it as the boy scouts or the girl scouts. You earn a skill and we give you a badge for that. You accumulate a certain amount of skills, and when you reach a certain level of proficiency. We never take those badges away from you. They don't renew. You don't have to get continuing yet. It's like once you've learned how to do leveling and compensation structuring, you just have that designation and you can pick and choose, the coolest part for us is as we're designing it is, you get to pick and choose the stuff that you care about.

You may want to focus more on comp-heavy stuff or benefits-heavy stuff, or the things that you like doing. There's another person who may be your contemporary at a similar organization, who's actually chosen a whole different set of badges. They're into the psychology of feedback, and they're into communication skills, and they're into how to train for resiliency and like a whole different set of things. It allows you to actually design your career and go to a prospective employer and say, "Look at the coursework I've done in the subject matter I've done. Here's my well-rounded skill set," versus just like, "I'm an SHRP or whatever." I always fuck up the acronyms. Senior Human, SHRP, like everybody else who's in SHRP. It actually does not designate you, it's just one stamp versus the other.

That's our version of it. There's all kinds of education in the world these days. We're pretty adamant about doing things like we'll do-- like we should have financial accounting course for people, because we're like, "You need to know how to read a profit and loss statement, and a balance sheet and income statement if you are going to be a meaningful contributor to a business. Every entire person should know that stuff.

There's lots of ways to get well rounded education and I think that's the kind of stuff that employers are looking for. They also want to support you, they're giving you budget for these things. They want to support you and saying, "Hey, I'll give you money for a membership, if that membership gives you access to your peers and access to resources that are going to save me as an organization, time and money."

That's why people pay for HR, it's why they give people the money for these designations, as they say, "Oh, well, this will level you up, this will give you more skills, this will be your version of professional development." I think there's-- I'm biased, obviously, towards the people on society, but I think just from a designation perspective, I would be very wary of the ones that require you to keep paying for continuing ed credits and truthfully do not designate your interests and your skill set over anybody else's. That would be my [crosstalk]--

[00:21:34] Tyson: There was with like Nexium

[00:21:39] Alexa: No yes, yes.

[00:21:39] Tyson: You pay and then you just keep paying.

[00:21:41] Alexa: I forgot to mention we give you a sash when you take one of our courses at Pops, you get a little sash, and then a kiss on the mouth from a male leader. No. There's none of that going on. No, no, no.

[00:21:52] Tyson: No. It's a great community too with a lot of like-minded people that are in line with a lot of the stuff that we talk about, which I love. Like you said, it's sort of like the more forward-thinking folks, the people ops folks versus the old stale, HR personnel.

[00:22:05] Alexa: People are sharing things. You're going to learn a lot more by asking your peers like, "Hey, what did you do for this template?" Or, "Hey, does anybody have a starting point for this thing?" Or, "Hey, we're thinking about doing X, what do you recommend?" Then you're taking some 10-week tests that cost like $1000. It's cray-cray.

[00:22:21] Tyson: Yes, and I can only speak from the HRPA standpoint that's not the Ontario system. Again, I only ever just paid for it then that was it. I never used any of the resources or anything. I did go to the conference but again, only because I used to get to go for free because I volunteered. I refuse to give a penny even if my organization was willing to pay for it, which might work never was willing to pay for the conference because they didn't see value in it. I just like wormed my way in, because I got three paid days off and I didn't have to pay for the conference. I was very manipulative with my use of HRPA, there was not a lot [crosstalk]--

[00:22:54] Alexa: You're a good example of make sure you get your company to pay for it. If you're interested in getting your company to pay for something and struggling to get them to do so, you come talk to me and I'll help you make the argument.

[00:23:03] Tyson: Yes, for sure. All right, next question. How do you handle unethical behavior from the HR department?

[00:23:10] Alexa: Oh, Jesus, I think I need a clarifying statement here. "Unethical behavior from the HR department." You got any examples of this, Tyson?

[00:23:21] Tyson: I have one that I can share that someone asked me recently, I think it was on HR shook, and I'm going to have to very [unintelligible 00:23:32] notes here. Basically, one thing that happened was, she worked for an organization that had a diversity and inclusion policy and there was no discrimination, that sort of thing. Then, when push came to shove, there was a, not a policy, but there was an action to not hire people who are gay. It was in their policy that they were all about inclusion and diversity but then [crosstalk]-

[00:24:04] Alexa: Except if you were gay?

[00:24:05] Tyson: -exactly. She actually reached out to me and was like, "What the fuck do I do?" I'm not comfortable working in this environment blah blah. I had to chat through some stuff with her. I said, "First of all, I personally--" I have a very strong, ethical, moral. I don't know. I like to follow rules. Maybe that's why I'm an HR. [chuckles] I Just totally ruined our entire shtick.

Anyway, so, no, but I do have-- I consider myself to be an ethical person. I cannot work for companies where I don't see that. I said, you know, first and foremost, probably get yourself out of that situation if you can, not everybody can just quit your job. I get it, you have to make a living, but likely a good signal that you should probably start looking elsewhere if it's that bad and deep-rooted. If it's unable to be changed.

[00:24:54] Alexa: Yes, I look at this question-- First and foremost, the reality is sometimes you're employed by a company that doesn't do what you want them to do. It's a luxury to be able to say, "I don't agree with that. I'm going to leave." If you can do that, do that. Sometimes you got to remember, you don't like what they do, but they pay you for your time. Sometimes you got to shut the fuck up and deal with it. There's lots of people that work at Chick-fil-A that I'm sure are pissed they don't hire gay people and open on Sundays.

I get it. It's not popular. It doesn't make them right. It just means you got to look out for yourself and that's what they're doing. It's their policy. It's their company. When I read this question, the first thing that comes to mind. How do you handle unethical behavior from the HR department? Is how do you handle unethical behavior from any department? Full stop. Doesn't matter to the HR department. It matters just that it's unethical when someone is doing it.

If it's these instances where there are-- you're saying instances of like there's obvious discrimination in a process going on, or there's some sort of-- we had a member recently, not actually it wasn't recently, it was a little while ago, who was talking about how there's clearly a manager who is biased towards people that look and feel like her. She just has a lot of like buddy-buddy style, people under her.

They get a lot of feedback in the process that people who don't look and feel like her clique, she's a very cliquey manager. They give a lot of feedback at the end of the process, basically that they kind of feel she's not being inclusive, and it wasn't so far as to say unethical, but you could see how we could get there, if you play that out long enough. I think the bottom line is like, "What's the general process for reporting overall?"

Not every manager is in the HR department. If managers are involved in hiring and all these various processes as they should be, and they're not happening in the HR vacuum, it should actually be fairly easy to handle unethical behavior in the HR department. However, I hate to use the word systemic, because that's a charge right now. If it is a problem where you're like, "I can clearly see that there's a group of people in HR actively working against something." What would you do in any situation? You just take it to the highest person you can trust. Or there's whistleblower stuff for this. There are public channels where you can [crosstalk]-

[00:27:04] Tyson: Yes, there's a hotline.

[00:27:04] Alexa: There's public channels where you can whistleblow on organizations about all of these things.

[00:27:10] Tyson: Sometimes even internally and oftentimes internally, if there's some ethics hotline, it doesn't actually go to the HR department. It goes to the legal. Depending on how big the company, like I'm talking now if we're looking at larger scale companies and we definitely--

[00:27:23] Alexa: The best thing you can do is to channel that outside of the HR department, document it, and then make sure that you have, CC'd either internal counsel. Another person in the HR department depends on-- this is another one it's super vague, got to figure out the situation. I think the first question is like, "How do you handle unethical behavior in general?" It's not worse because it's HR.

I know it feels it's worse because it's HR, but embezzling money is embezzling money. It doesn't matter which department. Discrimination is discrimination, it doesn't matter what department. I think if you're worried about reporting something into the problem, then you've got to go to higher channels. When you go to a higher channel, you need to document it in writing, and you need to almost always put a second person on that communication. Do not report things alone. Do not report them in a vacuum.

[00:28:19] Tyson: Yes. Find someone you trust is super important. You mentioned that. Just a double clicking on that. Also total side note, but there's a book called Whistleblower. I don't know if you've read it. It's on my reading list for mat leave. It's about the person who started the whole thing that happened at Uber, which I don't have like hardly any context. I don't know [crosstalk] heard about it.

[00:28:36] Alexa: Yes. I've heard this.

[00:28:37] Tyson: She wrote a book. I think it's called Whistleblower. It's on my reading list.

[00:28:40] Alexa: We'll have to do a post-pregnancy Tyson's book club episode where you give us the rundown on all the things you read during that leave.

[00:28:50] Tyson: Totally. It also includes a few Liane Moriarty books. [laughs] That's really what I need to dive into like Nine Perfect Strangers.

[00:28:58] Alexa: Nice. I'm actually watching that on Hulu as we speak.

[00:29:01] Tyson: I read the book. It's so good.

[00:29:03] Alexa: It's very good. I wish I'd read the book, but then I was like, "It's Nicole Kidman. I'll skip the book." It's fine.

[00:29:07] Tyson: The show's better than the book, but--

[00:29:10] Alexa: Really?

[00:29:11] Tyson: Yes. So far, yes. It's deeper. It's juicier. I find the show is really good.

[00:29:16] Alexa: It's also a really good cast-

[00:29:17] Tyson: Yes, it's so good.

[00:29:17] Alexa: -but I've heard that the book starts really strong, is boring as shit in the middle, and then is great at the end.

[00:29:23] Tyson: It's boring.

[00:29:24] Alexa: Yes, that's what I heard.

[00:29:24] Tyson: It's not her best work. I love her as an author and she's got really good ones. Anyway, so I digress. Next question. [chuckles] Executive leaders who kowtow to the CEO help.

[00:29:38] Alexa: Oh, Jesus. What is an example where this goes, "Why this is a problem?"

[00:29:44] Tyson: Probably like, yes people. If there's a situation where everybody's just trying to please the-- and again, it could be the CEO, it could be another senior leader. If everybody's just trying to tiptoe around them, and their feelings and not actually making a-- standing up for something or just accepting all of their and agreeing to everything that they're doing, acquiescing that sort of thing. That becomes not valuable or could be taking things backwards. I've also seen this in situations where, if one leader says this is the way, and people are sitting there saying, "No, there's actually other options that could be better," but they don't speak up on that.

[00:30:28] Alexa: Yes, I've seen this in situations where the CEO is maybe not getting it and no one is willing to speak up and be like, "No, no, you're not getting it. We're telling you you need to change this and you're not changing it." I always think of, "What's the downside here?" If it's one leader and it's one problem, it's possible you could address that in a myriad of ways. You could give them data, you could support them on how to bring them a situation up, you could get them different coaching, or whatever on these issues.

I think if it's a known issue and you've got a set of executives that are not saying what's really happening to the CEO or they're sugarcoating it, then you've got a bigger issue because that's like a cultural play. It's when the executive team knows something's wrong and nobody's bringing it up, like the elephant in the room, that's a much harder thing to crack. I think that takes things that start to get really ugly.

Takes people walking out of meetings and being like, "We're going to side committee on this and we're going to talk shit about what just happened. We're going to figure out why it's broken." Then you start to work. You get into factions and coups and all sort of crazy shit. I think if it's one executive or if it's a single issue that this is happening on, it's easier to figure out what the read is from the other executives because it's entirely possible that, like we've talked about this before in our firing episode, it might just be you have one executive who just does not stand up to this person.

Just literally is unclear on how to handle the dynamic or it could be that actually there's another dynamic going on with the other executives. Like, "Hey, maybe it's not this person kowtowing to the CEO, it's the head of revenue. It's his bestie and he can't get a word in exact." You never know.

[00:32:21] Tyson: I always, and again, if I'm-- from an HR perspective if I'm let's say coaching the CEO that everybody's kowtowing to. Let's say, I don't know if it's because they're a micromanager or whatever. My discussion with the CEO often looks like this. We try to hire experts or people that are smarter than us in areas that we don't understand to elevate ourselves as a leader. The reason I do that is because when they hear it from the perspective of, "Oh, that will elevate me." Again, people think about themselves first. That will make me look like a better leader. That's typically how I would coach a situation if I find someone who's getting to be too much of a micromanager.

It's about how do we build the best team, hire people that are smarter than us, experts. Give them the space to do their job and do great work versus just having yes people. You don't want to be surrounded by yes people because that won't progress you and your career either. From a coaching perspective, from the other side, if I'm working with that CEO in question or the person that everybody else is kowtowing to because maybe there's fear, maybe there's the feeling of this micromanagement again, then that's the perspective that I take.

[00:33:36] Alexa: I think the perspective from the executive leader who is kowtowing to the CEO is like this is a really easy way for what you're telling the CEO and reality to get away from each other and you are going to be the one in charge when those two things get so far away, it's not manageable anymore. It is your job as their CEO to be the chief of this particular area. That means it is your job to tell them sometimes some hard things.

You are their expert. Turn the argument right around on them. You're his or her expert or their expert. You don't want to go down as being like, "I knew better but I didn't tell you." or, "My team's been telling me X and I've been telling you Y." You don't want to be the one who's got to remember the difference between what's been said and promised in one meeting and what the team's actually about to go do and circle behind. It's a really good way to just lose your team too. I think people forget that. It's also [crosstalk]--

[00:34:30] Tyson: People don't like yes people.

[00:34:31] Alexa: They don't like yes people. I have always, as a manager, just been like, "Are you telling me what you think? Are you telling me what I want to hear?" Spell it out. "Is that your personal opinion or is that an opinion we can back up?" Because sometimes people get emotional with this stuff. They'll bring in personal emotions and all these other things. It may just be they'd have no idea how to manage the CEO. Could be they have a weird dynamic with the CEO. "I'll tell you full stop." I am maybe the worst person to ask this question to now that I've talked about it for 10 minutes. I don't believe in managing up. I think that's fucking bullshit. I just think it's a great way to lose the team behind you wind up being a shitty manager. I'm sorry, if you're in a management position, your job is to get that team to function, it is not to get your boss to love you. It is to do the thing your boss needs you to get done. That's got to be the dynamic.

What was really hard about this question is I would imagine that this is actually a very hard thing to change once it is in motion. It's very different if you have a new executive with a CEO in a new relationship, you can work on this. If this is a known issue it's possible that this executive leader thinks the only reason they still have their job is because they do that. It's very hard to untether them from the fear of what the CEO thinks of them and the security of their job from what they should actually be saying. It's complicated. These are not easy questions without context.

[00:35:58] Tyson: No, for sure. I think final thought on this is I also thought about it from a perspective of HR people kowtowing to the managers that they support. That's not great either. Just a quick story. You don't want to be a yes person in HR, either. I was in a situation where I was chatting with a VP and he was tough. He had a certain opinion on something. I was like, "No, you're totally wrong. This is how it should be done, blah, blah."

I just totally put him in his place and he was not happy about that. He was like, "Oh, I'm taking it back." Anyway, so the conversation ended and I was like, "Well, that's it. I'm going to get fired," because I just put this guy in his place. He ends up sending an email to my boss, and my boss's boss with a glowing review, like, "Whoa, the best HR person that I've worked with, is very strong, really enjoy working with Tyson. She really knows what she's talking--" It was like this whole thing because I--

[00:36:57] Alexa: Because you checked him. He needed it.

[00:36:58] Tyson: Yes, he's like, "Wait, I had someone who was able to challenge me and not just like, say, "Yes, sure, whatever." [crosstalk]

[00:37:05] Alexa: That's the thing I've seen people forget about all this stuff is like, tension is good. It's okay. As long as it's not toxic, and it's not too much and it's not all the time, it's okay. You got to have a CEO, first and foremost, and if you don't get them a fucking coach to tweet, you got to have a CEO that's like, "I want to have tension with my executives. I want this person to argue with me because I want to come to the right conclusion. I don't want to just tell them what we should do or have them kowtow to me." It's like, I want to know that we battled it out and we eventually got to a better place because of it.

[00:37:39] Tyson: I can only hope that that continues. I'm fearful of the next-gen coming in-

[00:37:45] Alexa: Oh, Jesus.

[00:37:46] Tyson: -and they're just-- everything is so sensitive.

[00:37:48] Alexa: It's like the rude conversation I was like, "What are you considering rude?"

[00:37:50] Tyson: They're rude.

[00:37:51] Alexa: I don't know. It's a fucking blurry line these days.

[00:37:53] Tyson: Exactly. "We need you to come to work on time." "You're being rude."

[00:37:58] Alexa: Yes, exactly.

[00:37:59] Tyson: Actually, though, I was like-- I really hope that people embrace the tension. I love a good challenge. I love when people challenge me on my thoughts and stuff. I think that's why we mesh so well together.

[00:38:09] Alexa: Bring it bitch. I'm just kidding. My best working relationships to date and my best working interactions and my best products have always come out of situations that are not always rosy. They involve some tensions, but it's tension supported by trust. You can only have really productive tension with people when you trust that it's going to be okay that it got tense. My team, we have tense moments all the time.

I think and I hope that they trust that like, that's good and it's okay because that doesn't leave with me when the meeting is over. It's like, "Oh, we got tense about that thing," because you care, I care, and we're both trying to represent the same interests so that we come to the right conclusion. Not that got tense and now I'm going to go fire you because you make me uncomfortable.

If that's how it gets responded to you're never going to be able to have real tension. I think real tension is an absolutely positive thing. That's how you build muscle. You tear it in little pieces, and it rebuilds itself stronger. That's literally how you build muscle. I think people should not be scared of tension or rudeness or any of these things.

[00:39:10] Tyson: Totally. Final question. There was more questions, but I'm going to blend a few of these together because they had similar themes. It's really about is it okay to do x or is it okay to force someone to do x without telling them or without getting their thoughts on? It's really about can we force X on people? [crosstalk]--

[00:39:37] Alexa: I love this shit. It's just like should I give my boyfriend an ultimatum? Is this like that? Can I give him an ultimatum and he'll wind up marrying me? That's never a good fucking idea. If you're asking the question, it's probably not a good idea. It's my first reaction. It's probably not going to work out the way you want it to. Nothing about this profession is about forcing people to do things. It's about getting people to do the things you want them to do, the way you want them to do them, in the ways that they want to do them.

It's about optimizing the right people for the right place at the right time. I'm only going to speak for the US, because I don't know about any other country, but it is very hard to force people to do things in this country. It is also very easy to get people to sign contracts to commit to things with consequences. I think it's a fine line between those things, but we have employment at will at this country.

You can't force anyone to do anything. People can just up and quit, but that's the difference between employment and contract work, and it's all about the promises you make. Promises you make, expectations you set. I think the answer is usually, if you're asking that question maybe rethink what you're trying to solve for, but I don't know, what do you think, Tyson?

[00:41:01] Tyson: No, I agree. The caveat question was can we move people around without telling them that sort of thing, so it was very [crosstalk]--

[00:41:11] Alexa: Why would you not want to tell them though?

[00:41:13] Tyson: That was exactly my point. [crosstalk]

[00:41:16] Alexa: It's always, always, always, always, always better to communicate something. Even if it sucks.

[00:41:20] Tyson: Just tell people.

[00:41:21] Alexa: Just fucking tell.

[00:41:22] Tyson: Just tell people.

[00:41:22] Alexa: Just get it out there. They'll get over it faster. Yes.

[00:41:24] Tyson: Tell them as soon as possible. Yes, if possible be upfront, don't do things-- I also don't like backdating agreements.

[00:41:33] Alexa: Yes. That's fucking shady.

[00:41:34] Tyson: [unintelligible 00:41:34] caveat. Don't give someone an employment agreement that was backdated a month ago, unless it's a salary increase, but aside from that don't do that.

[00:41:41] Alexa: I just want to be clear, blanket statement from me on this would be, and you guys can't see how hard I've been shaking my head since this question started, but people are not as stupid as you want them to be. If you pull some shady shit, people are going to figure it out. If you move someone's department without telling them, they're going to fucking figure it out. Whether or not they figure it out before or after is just luck of a draw on how you handle the situation, but you better believe that when you do shit that people don't expect, it is almost always going to come back to haunt you.

Versus if you set the expectation whether or not it's a popular expectation is a different fucking story, but if you at least set the expectation, you could even maybe make it sound worse than it's going to be, that might even behoove you, but if you do some shit that people do not expect, and then they find out about it it is only going to come back on you. It is only going to come back to kick you in the ass.

I would implore you every single fucking time to find a way to communicate it, and find a way to get those people to opt in. Like, "Hey, we're going to put you in this role, but one of the things we really need to understand and really have a strong agreement on is that you're going to do this for at least two years." We can't invest the way we want to invest if you can't commit to being here for two years.

If you think that person's full of shit or they have real hesitation to it, there is your fucking answer, but the bottom line is like it's just a contract, they can still quit. I don't know. It's a hard topic without more context, but don't be fucking shady. No company who thinks they're going to pull a fast one on a group of people has ever gotten away with it, literally ever.

[00:43:17] Tyson: That's what gives HR a bad name, is like that forcey type stuff. It's funny we're not going to answer this question, but another question we got was how many times a day do you think the human race is doomed because people are stupid. [crosstalk] They're not as stupid as we think [crosstalk]--

[00:43:35] Alexa: They're not as stupid as you think, but they're also always the dumbest. It's like humans in a certain situation will always figure shit out, because in these situations you're creating an us against them, and so they'll find a way to win. They'll find a way to be right against the man. Humans are lemmings for the most part, people are pretty stupid. They walk off proverbial cliffs all the time, but in a work situation--

[00:43:59] Tyson: I seek comforting that stupidity though. I seek career promise. [chuckles] I will never not have a job.

[00:44:08] Alexa: Yes, I'm always going to be gainfully employed, because humans are stupid. It's fair. I see it as opportunity, Tyson. That's a good way to put it.

[00:44:18] Tyson: It's job security, so that-

[00:44:19] Alexa: Job security-

[00:44:20] Tyson: -helps me sleep at night. [chuckles]

[00:44:21] Alexa: -but also don't play with fire. It's not worth it. It never works. Even if you think your humans are the dumbest. People are incentivized by the things they're incentivized by. It's pretty obvious when one of those changes or something changes and it's uncomfortable. If a change is enough to be uncomfortable, it's going to come back to bite you if you don't set the stage correctly, but yes humans are mostly stupid, so we'll all be fine.

[00:44:45] Tyson: This was fun though. I think we should do more of these.

[00:44:48] Alexa: I know. I like Q&A.

[00:44:49] Tyson: We'll encourage people to send us questions to @peopleproblemspod on Instagram, or @hr.shook. You can send all your questions in, and then

[00:44:59] Alexa: Give us all the feedback.

[00:45:00] Tyson: We'll save them up and do another one of these.

[00:45:01] Alexa: Yes, let's do it. I like Q&A, and we'd like feedback on all of our episodes, guest recommendations, all of the above. Tyson and I love hanging out together.

[00:45:08] Tyson: Yes. Who do people want to hear from? That's a really good question. As we continue to iterate on this podcast, who's the dream guest? Hit us up.

[00:45:17] Alexa: Authors, Psychologist. Who do you want to hear from? What's interesting? What would help you in your people ops journey? #notHR. Let us know.

[00:45:25] Tyson: Amazing.

[00:45:26] Alexa: Bye, Tyson.

[00:45:27] Tyson: Bye.

[music]

[00:45:29] Alexa: This episode was executive produced by me Alexa Baggio with audio production by Ellie Brigida of Pure Harmonies. Original music was also done by the wonderful Ellie Brigida of Pure Harmonies. You can find more information about us and future episodes at peopleproblemspod.com or follow us @peopleproblemspod.

[00:45:43] [END OF AUDIO]


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