There’s a rumor out there that HR is Switzerland. We’re not your boss, co-worker or subordinate. We’re unbiased and do not judge. We have no opinions and are known for our finely made watches and chocolate.
Is this really true? If we’re so neutral, why do we as HR have the reputation of being judge, jury, and executioner?
I think neutral was a word someone in HR used a long time ago to encourage employees to come forward with workplace issues without fearing for their jobs. I also think this is a quality the best HR people have…initially, at least. I say initially because we’re often tasked and required to shift from neutral and make a recommendation. In fact, I’m asked to do this nearly every day. Let me be clear, recommending that someone should be terminated is not a neutral decision. On the flip side, recommending that someone receive an increase or promotion isn’t neutral either. And if I stayed neutral during the recruitment process, it would be difficult to find the best candidates.
Of course, when someone comes in with workplace concerns, it’s imperative I stay neutral as I interview involved parties. That said, once I gather all the facts, I am asked to make a determination. But let’s be clear, that determination can and often does involve opinions. I would love to stay neutral…I really would. But I am often asked, what do you think? What would you do? What should I do? For a department and profession that are supposed to remain neutral, it sure seems a lot of people are asking for my opinion.
What’s true about the best HR departments is that they are fair and have consistent practices. We are the gatekeepers of labor laws and policy. But we’re also here to help the business grow by maximizing productivity and ensuring the workplace is safe and that workers are engaged. In the end, we are part of the business and are required to have business acumen. In 2014, we’re being hired into HR based on our ability to make sound decisions on behalf of the business and its employees, which often requires us to shift into high gear.