Monday, December 16, 2013


After many years of working as a human resources practitioner I am rarely surprised by the odd behavior that people exhibit in the workplace. Let's face it, human nature can be quirky. When you combine quirky behavior with the reality that most leaders do not enjoy confrontation, you have the perfect situation for HR to assist in resolving problems. 

I Said "Rarely"

What does continue to surprise me, sadly, are the comments related to race or ethnicity that for some reason have popped up over the years.

The obvious pearl of wisdom that should be shared at this point is that those comments are never tolerated and appropriate action is taken. A good HR response, right?

But here's the rub for me...

These comments make me burn inside. I don't mean that I simply get upset that someone is being an insensitive jerk. I'm talking about the bias I have as I am made aware of these behaviors.

"We all have our own lens that we see the world through, and my lens has a hypersensitivity to narrow-minded bigots." 

I'm fully supportive of free speech, and everyone's right to have an opinion. But I'll be damned if a racist is going to hurt the reputation of my organization.

Too harsh? Too bad. 

Who's Laughing Now

One of the tremendous advantages and responsibilities of human resources leaders is that we can take action when behavior steps outside what is expected. Combined with the mission and values of each organization, the authority to act allows for the right thing to be done.

While "good 'ol boys" and jokes that evoke nervous laughter (read here --> what a loser!) sometimes influence culture, we as HR leaders have the responsibility to break through those pathetic behaviors and move our organizations in a new direction based on accountability, dignity, and respect.

One of the most embarrassing things for those that cling to these discriminatory ideals is that the modern world of work values diversity as a strategy for success. They clearly are out of touch in so many ways. When all people are not welcomed as equal members of the team, the whole company suffers. 

How About You

When was the last time you were surprised at work? Was it from a goofy misstep, or was it something more serious? If it was someone acting like an insensitive fool, did you do something about it?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.




  1. Jay - awesome post! I feel your pain/anger/frustration. It is actually mind numbing how often people display these types of behaviours. What "burns" me are organizations that like to brag about their "diversity strategy" or commitment to employment equity, but then you come to see/experience it is merely a "check in the box for them." i.e. something they did because they felt they had to ...or should do..not because they believe in it. These are reasons, plus what you cited, why that good ol boys club still remains in many organizations. The solution - strong leadership at all levels that will stamp it out because it is WRONG! Thanks Jay for a great kick start to the week!

  2. You're right, they're clearly out of touch with modern workplaces.

    Research by Kevin Groves, Ph. D at Pepperdine University has shown that healthcare organizations with more women and minorities in VP or higher positions perform better (higher HCAHPS scores, lower turnover, higher employee productivity) than organizations without:
    "Regarding executive team diversity, high-performing hospital systems reported significantly greater women (45%) and ethnic minorities (34%) across all executive positions (Vice-Presidents and above) compared to hospital organizations with low Success Factors scores (27% and 6%, respectively)."