I spoke with a business owner recently (normal, I know). He’s pretty successful in his field. He works hard, really hard. Long hours, tough working conditions, great product. He was commenting to me that it seems to be harder to be an employer these days. He’s been at this for quite some years and has enough history to make a comment like that. He was basing this on his more recent experience. He has observed that people don’t want to work hard anymore and that people find it too easy to complain (or sue) about things they just don’t like, rather than what’s truly illegal.
I like this guy. I do. It’s not just because he feels the pain of some of the HR situations I find myself in. It’s not because I think all people suck (I don’t, really…no, really). I find him to be honest. His frustrations represent a belief that some of the systems put in place to protect people have now become crutches for some. I concur. He isn’t lying.
What I have often said is that it’s about people not programs. It’s wonderfully smart to have sexual harassment seminars for your staff, but does it stop people from claiming that harassment has occurred? No. And why is that? Maybe it’s because it’s too easy to get a payout. Why go through all of the drama of court? Why spend all of that money and waste time when the results will probably be the same settlement anyway? It’s been the pattern for quite some time.
I’d like to submit a thought. Culture. I recognize compliance. I recognize culpability. Culture, done well, trumps much. Fit matters more than need. Filling a need with the first available often does not work out. Waiting for someone who fits the culture is worth it in the long run. Too many times we fill to fill, to check it off the list. We did it…yay, us! Woo Hoo, Recruiting Team! (OK, too sarcastically HR…sorry).
Patience, people. Let’s find us some good peeps! When people are set up for success in a culture that fits, then a multitude of problems never happen. I am not saying that harassment training is a waste. I am not saying that at all. What I am saying is that if you think annual sexual harassment training is going to keep it from happening or at least the complaint of it happening, then you’re out of your tree. Train to the positives daily. Handle the negatives as they come up.
By creating a culture of health through challenging opportunities and open communication, then you’re more likely to see people flourish and not take the time to be entitled. We can’t fear the impact of the claim that might come up (anyone can sue for anything…welcome to America). Instead of being overwhelmed in frustration by it, we should use that energy to positively promote healthy dialogue and right thinking in relationships.
Management should be encouraged greatly. As HR, we have a big responsibility with managers and ought to regularly seek to impact them.
Do I think that things are better today in the working environment? Sure, but when compared to specific places in time. Do I think we operate in fear rather than proactivity? Yup. Our companies might see fear in their own eyes, but that view doesn't have to be true. Point out a clearer picture. Practice painting it yourself. Create buy-in. Invest in people and impact overall culture.
The good old days are seen through rose-colored glasses. It's like any form of nostalgia. It always looks better from behind. Just imagine how good today will look in 20 years when we make it as awesome as possible (yeah, I said "awesome").