It’s become part of my standard message. Since I’m fortunate enough to be a Human Resources professional (and I mean that very sincerely), I’ve had ample opportunities over the years to investigate allegations of leadership retaliation against their own employees. I tell them that they “simply can not retaliate against their employees for raising concerns” no matter how disappointed they are that they are in this situation.
Unfortunately I’ve seen the pain in the faces of their employees when they are back in my office, only this time it’s not about the original issue => it’s about how their leader retaliated against them for raising that original issue.
I see the disappointment, the frustration and the fear.
Coming to You Made Things Worse
This is perhaps the worst thing we can hear in Human Resources. The worst thing that is, unless we’re willing to do something about it. Allowing leaders to “get away with” retaliation is a credibility-killer. But how does the motivated HR pro go about re-addressing behavior with a leader that has already been spoken to, except now the issue of retaliation has to be added into the mix? Any takers for this assignment?
Colleagues Do Not Equal Friends
I’ve been blessed throughout my career to develop very close relationships with those that I work with, whether they were members of my team or peers. For some reason they tolerated me and for that I am grateful. But one thing that became clear early on was that my colleagues are not, and I would submit can not truly be your “friends.”
I don’t mean work-friends; I mean the kind of friend that you rely on when you are at your absolute worst. The kind of friend who you treat poorly in a weak moment, and you wake up the next morning to find them calling to make sure you’re okay. That type of friend isn’t typically the same person you’ll be developing a corrective action plan to share with the corporate office during the next monthly budget review.
So when one of these “work-friends” stumbles and retaliates against their team it’s time for HR to step up. In my world stepping up equates with confrontation. Not everyone is comfortable with the notion of confrontation. It’s easier to “let things settle down” or to “let the adults involved work this out.” That’s bull. If they could work it out they would, but it is absolutely impossible for one simple reason. The leader holds the power, and the employee who feels they have been retaliated against does not. They are going to tell the leader whatever they feel is necessary to make the bad behavior stop. Period.
“This is not rocket science, this is survival in the workplace.”
I continue to be amazed that leaders fail to recognize this power differential. Their desire to be “liked” by their employees produces a major blind spot that results in the response of “we’ve worked it all out, and everything is fine now.” Really? Says who? For those leaders that justify their inappropriate behavior because they don’t want to hear that they aren’t perfect are heading down a slippery slope. A slope they will eventually slide all the way down to the bottom and crash and burn.
What do you do when you’re made aware of retaliation? Is it time to grab the nearest broom and rug and start sweeping? Or, is time for a gut-check and to remember exactly what you’re being paid to do? Those employees are counting on you.
I’d love to hear from you.
pics courtesy of egmnblog and athnan