I’m not sure HR practitioners knew they were being blamed, but in talking to journalists and business leaders, one question kept coming up over and over again.
“Why have HR at all if this is still happening?”
It’s a legit question, and I don’t have a great answer. We have HR for all kinds of reasons that have everything to do with protecting the enterprise and very little to do with protecting the workforce from sexual predators and skeevy guys in IT. It’s not that your local HR rep is disinterested or dispassionate about sexual harassment. It’s just that she’s disempowered to do anything.
But I was corrected by smart journalists, this week, who noted that women claimed to have notified HR. Those women were, allegedly, ignored by HR. That’s the reporting.
So, this week, I had to stop in my tracks and ask myself, “Why am I defending HR? Doesn’t that make me part of the problem?”
Because I don’t understand how people who work in HR — with 100% more women and POC and LGBT workers than almost any department in a company — are comfortable working with leaders and employees who behave in despicable ways.
Some say it’s Stockholm Syndrome. You assimilate to survive. Others say that you’re trying to distance yourself from the problem to protect yourself. If you point out deviant behavior and try to do something about it, you put yourself at risk of being a victim.
But if you work in HR and someone complains to you about a legitimate problem, it’s your job to be the Jordan Horowitz of your organization and fix what’s wrong. If you can’t fix it, leave. Share your personal story on Glassdoor. Let your “truth” be helpful and inform other women/POC/LGBT candidates who might consider working for your organization.
So, I’m done defending HR. It’s not my job, it’s not very fulfilling, and I might be perpetuating the lifecycle of an outdated institution that should probably go. But if you work in HR, remember that’s it’s your job to go first and fight sexual harassment in a company. Be loud and make a difference for your workforce. Get angry when you see outrageous behavior and turn that anger into action.
Maybe reporters will start calling you if you do your jobs right.