Welcome to 2021 friends! Had a couple of publications reach out to me for comments on employee situations related to the Capital Riots, so I thought I would share the responses I gave to one of them.
Any time you're starting your response with the phrase, "In a world" in a classic movie trailer guy voice, you know that reality has officially jumped the shark. I can only assume I'll be answering questions about the best way to onboard Alien employees in 2022.
Onto the questions I answered about whether we should term employees wearing Trump stocking caps only, versus those carrying the speaker of the house podium while wearing said hat:
-Beyond legal questions, what kind of ethical and cultural considerations do HR leaders need to think about if they learn an employee participated in the Capitol riots?
I'm going to start my answer sounding like the movie trailer guy with the great voice that always starts each trailer with "In a world…" In a world where almost every election of note is a 50/50 split, HR leaders thinking about the Capital riots are going to have to dig deep and do what they normally do related to showing judgement with employment decisions. That includes logic, judgment and common sense rarely seen in social media, and at times in the media cycle.
Great HR leaders will start with the obvious – for the employee in question, what did they actually do? If they were in the Capital on the day of the riots, did they a) participate in some low level demonstrations somewhere around the mall, b) attend the Trump rally at the White House, c) march with the crowd to the capital, d) protest outside the capital and/or e) enter the capital (and if so, did they cause damage)?
This is the world of the HR leader and employment calls. People come to us with a claim, and it's up to us to figure out what actually happened. An employee that was in DC on approved PTO but did not enter the Capital building and wasn't otherwise arrested, etc. isn't a relevant call to term. People will make the case that it is, but assuming the employee is a functioning member of your company and didn't do anything illegal, real HR leaders have to look at the facts.
That's what the money's for as an HR Leader. People pay HR leaders to be the grown ups when bad situations happen and calm minds are needed, and the good news is that's exactly what we are.
-What is your advice for HR leaders concerned about action they take looking partisan or political?
Welcome to the world of HR. The more HR leaders have pitched their political beliefs in the past, the less they have the ability to lead in times of crisis where employment calls can be considered politically driven. Note this isn't rationale for HR leaders not to make tough calls, just the reality. The more you've shown you're less than politically neutral in the past, the less you'll be able to make a tough employment call (fire, don't fire) in your company that both sides of the political spectrum will respect and acknowledge as fair.
-Do you think this event should prompt HR to revisit codes of conduct? If so, what should they look out for or consider including in light of current events?
It's 100% imperative that HR has access to a broad-based "Professional Conduct Policy" that gives them the ability to take employment action across a broad range of unforeseen circumstances. A great Professional Conduct Policy (PCP) not only lists specific things for consideration in the workplace, but includes broad language that suggests conduct and behavior outside the workplace that is inconsistent with the values of the organization may warrant an employment decision by the company, if the company deems the behavior and conduct makes it impossible for the company to more forward with the individual as a member of the team.
Great Professional Conduct Policies provide flexibility for HR leaders, because you can't cover every scenario this crazy world is going to throw at you.
That said, great HR leaders treat these policies as a last resort for action, only using them if it's apparent the employee can't move forward.
2021 is the best! You know I'm around for the punishing emails. Don't hate me because won't automatically term someone. Great HR Leaders evaluate, consider, then show decisiveness. That's what makes them great.