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 certain research to quote on this, but it’s quite 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. I can’t really imagine HR specialists from Romanian companies coming to… let’s say ethics training. Usually, the participation at a certain training is viewed more as lack thereof 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 very important. 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 rather viewed this as a means to justify or insure their position by acquiring yet another diploma.

Let’s have a 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 at such a course, I would call a project like organizing an HR ethics training for HR specialists or for 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 important decisions that HRs make in companies is the acquisition of 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. How can someone have convergent interests with any other entity, when lacking persuasion and criteria?

Another important thing is respect [en, blog]. Anyone might agree that is important, especially in Romania. Well, I mean it at a deeper level. The HR specialist has a huge responsibility in a company, especially being between the management and the people. The same, the consultant, being 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, organization, must be adjusted to each one’s terms as proof of respect to that person’s vision of the world. As a sign of excellence, an HR person must have the ability to figure out other people’s thinking and reply on their terms, with their own words and their thinking styles. That is, if a manager thinks in data, offer figures, numbers. If a consultant talks in resources, talk in money, time, people, equipment, location, information. If a subject at a test talks about emotion, talk 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 deeper respect. For oneself, for the client, for the consultant, for the manager, for the people, and for the organization. And, as an important distinction to what is stated at the end of the embedded video, “treating others like you expect to be treated” is not respect, but lack of respect, because it claims that others have the same 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 values. And not in general. But especially in HR. That is where the real changes have an impact. Of course, I can’t expect that to happen from participating in an academic program, but I’m talking about training. Now, you can find information everywhere. You can sell at best, filtered information. But no intelligent person buys information anymore, in training. You can find 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

Text Copyright © Marcus Victor Grant, 2009-present

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