How many of you have heard that HR doesn’t care about employees? It’s kind of insulting, isn’t it?
One of the themes to emerge from the #MeToo movement is that HR practitioners can’t possibly care about workplace harassment because they’re not employee advocates. When in doubt, employees should avoid speaking to them because they’ll just side with the company, anyway.
It’s pretty harsh, and it’s not actually true. However, some of the criticism leveled at HR is valid.
Susan Fowler struggled to break through the HR bureaucracy at Uber and ultimately quit her job because she was ignored and mistreated. Ellen Pao, the former CEO of Reddit, eloquently describes a culture of toxic masculinity in Silicon Valley and how HR was indifferent to her complaints. And every day people have flocked online to share stories of how human resources fails to protect women and people of color from harassment and abuse.
Not every HR department fails women, and not every workplace harassment claim is ignored. Unfortunately, HR has failed some women and people of color. Even when human resources professionals get it right, many of those stories can’t be told because of the complexity of non-disclosure agreements and other legal documents.
What do you do if you work in HR and want to combat workplace harassment and address the #MeToo movement? Here are a few ideas.
Encourage regular conversations, check-ins, and feedback.
I believe the #MeToo movement is an extension of chronic disengagement and lack of meaningful connection in the workplace. And you never know about toxic behavior if you don’t ask. HR can create a culture of transparency by implementing programs and processes where leaders regularly ask people how they’re doing and follow up on the outcomes of those conversations.
Use data to address underlying causes of friction.
HR has access to raw and robust data on work-related topics from performance to compensation to paid time off. Excessive absenteeism, high quit rates attributed to an individual supervisor, and low departmental performance are all indicators of a problem that may or may not be linked to the #MeToo movement. Your job in HR is simple: If you see something, say something. Be cognizant of your role in protecting the company from litigation, and be compassionate toward your employees.
Ask everybody to be accountable.
There are women who take years to come forward with allegations of harassment because they are scared and lack a strong network that offers support. One way to address this gap? Train allies in the workforce to spot harassment before it escalates. Teach people to say something if they see something. And work with organizational effectiveness coaches and community advisers to help employees offer peer-to-peer support and guidance in the office. It’s one thing to acknowledge the #MeToo movement and its theoretical impact on workforce culture. It’s another to encourage your employees to connect on a human level, look out for one another, and be the change they wish to see in the world.
It’s time to work together and create a better future for women and people of color. Globoforce is hosting a historic #MeToo panel at WorkHuman to talk about how HR can create a culture of humanity and equality at work. Best-selling author and equality advocate Adam Grant will lead a discussion with Ashley Judd, actress and social activist, and Tarana Burke, the founder of the #MeToo movement.
We hope you can join us in Austin on April 2-5 to talk about a new paradigm for the future of work and end the culture that started the #MeToo movement once and for all.
Laurie Ruettimann is a former Human Resources leader turned influential speaker, writer, and entrepreneur.