The Ethics in HR

Beyond making a few jokes to lighten up the atmosphere based on my (little) experience of dealing with corporate HR in Ro, there is a serious point I wanna make, especially considering two of my start-up ideas centered on stress reduction were publically trashed.

Beyond the fact that many of the people in Romanian HR don’t actually know what they’re doing or don’t actually have a real strategy (I looked for particular research to quote on this, but it’s pretty obvious), I think the ethics in HR is considered as “the way we should act, or if not…”, which is rather determined by an internal frame of reference, developed in the formation period. So I can’t really imagine HR specialists from Romanian companies coming to… let’s say ethics training. Usually, participation in a specific training is viewed more as lacking than striving for improvement.

That’s why SNSPA’s initiative of including such a course in the Human Resources master (the best in Romania) is significant. And also very late. When SNSPA started organizing this master’s degree, there were already a loooot of “specialists” without any formation or certification, which instead viewed this as a means to justify or ensure their position by acquiring yet another diploma.

Let’s look at how a US university looks at such a course.

(keep reading ↓)

I don’t know how this kind of ethics can be promoted either as “stress reduction”, “organizational health,” or “ethics”. It’s simply too late to label it as such in the market. If it costs, there won’t be money. If it’s for free, there won’t be time. If I were the teacher of such a course, I would call a project like organizing an HR ethics training for HR specialists or students (like I remember a students’ association did in Bucharest).

You might think it’s idealistic to think like that. Well, it’ll cost you even more if you don’t. And I’m not talking about the fines from  ITM (The Labour Inspection Office).

The two most important things I consider in ethics are integrity and respect. It’s much easier to trust an HR’s inner ethics than what (s)he tells himself/herself to do, like in “oh, this is how it’s done because they say it’s correct”. But one of the most critical decisions that HRs make in companies is acquiring products and services. How can you trust somebody who doesn’t know how to convince his/her boss or who gets fooled too fast by anyone throwing around data about, let’s say, psychological testing? How much integrity does that show? Hmmm, not much. Integrity is not defined by one’s good intentions but by someone’s ability to have objectives and statements convergent with the company’s interests. When lacking persuasion and criteria, how can someone have convergent interests with any other entity?

Another important thing is respect [en, blog]. Anyone might agree that this is important, especially in Romania. Well, I mean it at a deeper level. The HR specialist has a huge responsibility in a company, especially between management and people. The consultant is between the agency management and the client’s interests. Where is the respect for the person and for the organization? Simply considering: “what are these entity’s needs, and how can I supply them?” won’t do it. The discourse for each person, and organization, must be adjusted to each one’s terms as proof of respect for that person’s vision of the world. As a sign of excellence, an HR person must be able to figure out other people’s thinking and reply on their terms, with their own words and thinking styles. If a manager thinks in data, offer figures and numbers. If a consultant talks about resources, talk about money, time, people, equipment, location, and information. If a subject at a test talks about emotion, talk about emotion.

In HR, nobody hires you to be yourself. Act like others, think like others, and use your integrity and intuition in making decisions. Acknowledging that might result in more profound respect. For oneself, for the client, for the consultant, for the manager, for the people, and for the organization. And, as an essential distinction to what is stated at the end of the embedded video, “treating others like you expect to be treated” is not respect, but a lack of care, because it claims that others have the exact expectations or value the same things as you do in an organization. An HR person’s work is very particular compared to all other fields. HR people (should) know better.

“Ethics means making decisions that represent what you stand for.” (Alysa Lambert, Indiana University Southeast, Ethics course)

What I’m emphasizing here are values. Before training people on ethics, it’s best to know their importance. And not in general. But especially in HR. That is where the fundamental changes have an impact. Of course, I can’t expect that from participating in an academic program, but I’m talking about training. Now, you can find information everywhere. You can sell, at best, filtered data. But no intelligent person buys information anymore, in training. You can see that in books. Values development, on the other hand, is something much more worthwhile.

PS: To have a first glance at ethics in the USA, the country of HR, you should check out this study [en, html].

Marcus Victor Grant

Copyright © Marcus Victor Grant 2009-present, all rights reserved.

The materials on this blog are subject to this disclaimer.


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