What If HR Doesn't Respond?
6:03PM Aug 18, 2020
Okay, so now I want to talk about a situation that we see come up, sometimes not all the time. And this is the I reported to HR and they did nothing. So for those of us who don't know us, I'm Meredith Holley. I'm a lawyer and life coach and I founded Eris conflict resolution where we help employees stop sexual harassment and toxic work environments without quitting their jobs. And I am joined by Rebecca G. We say her last name was ceviche whiskey of itch. I'm going to get good at it someday. And she is another Cultural Health Trainer with us. We take people through Cultural Health Impact training to help them resolve work environment issues, and Rebecca also has her own business. Tell us what you do there.
I am a life coach for women that have experienced sexual trauma and I help them when they might feel be feeling stuck or therapy to kind of go to that next level of healing themselves.
Nice. So, um, Rebecca has hit past. Rebecca has you have more than 20 years? Is that what it is? It's 20 years, I'm 20 years of HR experience, and I have the life experience about this. So we both have our own opinions about HR and how it fits into the spectrum of workplace Cultural Health. I mean, and I think that this is true of lawyers too. But I think one of the things I've seen with HR is that it really depends on the person on the HR individual who's handling the situation and their ability to deal with conflict and to deal with difficult people as to how HR responds when somebody reports so a lot of times people are really reluctant to report anything that happens in the workplace. And you said that when your experience was when people come, like say what, what were you were saying
When people come. So like when people come to HR, most of the time, they're at this absolute breaking point. Yeah, to solve the problem. It's like, the first time it happens. And I think that is like, I think that is part of what society thinks HR is what you think HR is within your company, your HR person. Yeah, that makes a big difference, because I got to the point where people would call me before they even tried to fix the problem themselves,
because they trusted you. Like, why didn't you? Yeah.
yeah, it is really different person, a person I had this. I was saying to Rebecca earlier, I had this experience yesterday, where I was talking to a woman who I had talked through a situation where she had some weird, creepy behavior from a boss. And like we had kind of worked on her reporting that to HR when she did report, hr 100% supported her and said, this is done. acceptable, he and she works in a large company. So they had very structured procedures for how to handle it. It was not their first rodeo on someone creepy. And they knew exactly what they would do doing also a nice HR person who had compassionate and understood what the situation would be. So then this woman was talking to her sister, and her sister had a similar experience at work, but the sister was really afraid to approach HR and the woman I was talking to was saying, No, no, no, they'll support you. They'll support you talk to Meredith and I was like, I can't 100% say HR is always gonna support you. Yeah. Do you have Yeah.
And and so I'll say this, like, in all the investigations that I did, like, with harassment and sexual harassment, there were times as a person, I 1,000% knew what the the report That happened happened, but I couldn't get the proof. And so reporting, like we call it like white collar reporting is different than, say, going to the police department or anything like that, like, the police need proof too. But we don't have to play by those rules. And I couldn't, I couldn't, I couldn't justify disciplining someone when I didn't have the criteria. To do that and just go with my feelings like that wasn't gonna fly,
which is different from company to company, because when I'm working with business owners, a lot of times like in a small business, I'll say, just the rumor of some is sufficient to fire somebody or to discipline them, right. Like just, I used to work in retail, and you'd have these customers who were like the repeat customers, and if they were mad at an employee that was enough to fire an employee, right and it didn't not true or reasonable. or anything like that it just was the rumor of a problem. Because most states, an employer can fire an employee for any reason. But then when you get into large government organizations, large corporations they have standards for when they do and when they don't. And what, and if there's a union, there's different standards. And so it can get a little more structured in protecting the abuser. Mm hmm. And so then what we see a lot is people have reported to HR and haven't heard back haven't heard anything. It's been a few months. Yeah, they want to know what's going on. They're still working with this person that they've reported. Now, it seems like people know that you've reported people are acting weird and like won't work with you anymore. And then like, that leads a lot of people to just quit, unfortunately, I think like just quit their jobs which then you're the person that gets punished for that. Yeah, yeah. So what I think like when somebody is in that situation like how do you so I mean, my thought, and the way that I handled this for myself when it was me, I reported three times before times before anything happened. And before things really resolved in my workplace, we didn't have HR, but I just reported it to a different person in different person. But the thing that worked to me is that I didn't give up on solutions, right. And that, to me, was the most important thing. I think a lot of times when people are reporting they expect to experience support. Yeah. And what they're faced with is an investigation. Yeah.
That does not feel perfect. No, no.
And I also like, and I think it goes also back to the video that we just did. I would like I I've heard about People saying, Well, you know, I didn't want to call them up because I didn't want to bother them. Right? I didn't wanna bother them, and they're working on it or something happened and I don't know what happened. And sometimes doing your own follow up is well worth it to give yourself that closure. Yeah. Right or to be like, Okay, I need to go to another level to take care of this. Yeah. And you wanting that solution. For like, you wanting that solution and like you're saying, not stopping till you get some sort of concrete solution for yourself.
That's the thing I think is like, HR is generally designed to enforce rules within the workplace, not designed to make your career successful or support people through conflict. Like I just it's not the training That HR given and so a lot of HR people, I mean, like you have a wide range, like in every profession, and this is true of lawyers too. You have wonderful people and you have terrible people in both professions. But they're designed to do a specific thing. Yeah. And it's not support people in a difficult situation. Really.
Yeah. And I, I, you know, I constantly hear HR is there to protect the company, HR is there to protect the company. And for the most part, that is true, that is true. You know, like, I don't, and there's good there can be like, you're saying good, good people that are HR people that would love to do more for you. But they have to walk a pretty thin line sometimes, of if I support this person. What message does that send?
Yeah, I think we've worked with HR professionals who are just like lovely people who call meetings and like wonderful. And then they'll tell us these stories of having made sure that employees getting hired for wrong reasons and really advocating within the company that the employees never see. Yeah. But that's the that's the, to me where I'm where a lot of situations go wrong is that a lot of times employees who are experiencing abuse just need support and drama, about how to be empowered in the workplace themselves, how to force their own standards of what behavior they tolerate. And that's just not typically a skill that HR is trained in.
I was never trained on that. I was trained on like, arbitrary non corporate conflict resolution, right. That's totally different than having boundaries at work. Right. totally different
thing as a lawyer Yeah,
yeah. And it's like, I was taught, if somebody comes to me, I investigate it. I investigate it. That's what I do. I don't go. I don't give them any tools. I don't do any sort of like there's no training like you're saying, I investigate it. There's a determination.
That's it. Everybody walks away. everybody walks away. I don't know where what I was seeing before we started these programs is people will come in, they'd say, well, HR investigated and the determination was things were very unclear. And there were good points on both sides. And, and this is like a very typical determination in discrimination. Any kind of abuse allegations at work because it it is tough to find direct proof, right? Yeah. Everything I was finding is with what you said it's, it's on point to what you said of HR. Often is set up to protect the company. And so a we're not what I was seeing is a lot of HR people are not trained to ask the questions I would ask, no. Why do you think this is discriminatory? And I would just ask a few follow up questions of what leads you to believe this is discriminatory? And then I would find all this evidence because it was in my training to look for it. Mm hmm. And so it's interesting what people's background training of are you protecting the company or are you looking for discrimination comes up with the different results, but then a lot of times HR people would get in trouble with their companies because I found the evidence and then I'm suing the company.
Yeah, yeah, no, it That's what I'm saying. Like, is that like, really thin, thin line, where there were like, so many times I would like want to reach across the table and be like, Listen, you know, like, I I remember I had one I had one situation where somebody was being discriminated against for an illness. And the I was on the phone with the guy, and I knew he was going to be fired. And he had this feeling he goes, should I quit? And everything in me wanted to sell like, everything in me because if he if he quit, he would get his retirement. Want to be like, quit now quit, quit quit because I, I knew the case. But I had to be like, I can't tell you what to do. Ah, you know, because of the restrictions of your role, the restrictions of my role and, and I think one thing to think about when you are working with HR, right, is that they're, they're humans too. Right? They're humans too. And that how can I like, like I always wish the people would understand how much I couldn't do.
Like, I wish, I think and that's what we used to say when I was a lawyer is we literally people would call us and they would be at work and they would be in the situation. And they would be like, I really need help. And we'd say, call us back when you get fired. And we'll evaluate your case. Yeah, this to me, is the limitations of those roles that Yeah, not create. It's so expensive in my, for both employees and employers, because we're not actually resolving the problem, right,
that we can resolve, we could resolve it. It's so it's so and that's why I like I love when we have the clients that actually get to stay at their job and make the environment
better, and then move forward in this work that they love to do focus on the work.
Yeah. It's so much it's like so much better, because as an HR person, I don't. I don't want to lose people. We don't want to lose valuable assets. We want well functioning teams. And when somebody would quit, and then I would get that survey afterwards and find out what was going on. I was like,
Yeah, but some, like they need the training. Right? It's like, yeah, they know that.
Yeah. So I think I mean, we talked about this in in the other video, but like, when I think the earlier people identify problem and actually get support, and that's what we offer is that support for the employee to advocate for themselves effectively. The other thing that I see and that I like really tore me up when I was a lawyer and just like doing the Call me when you get fired kind of is that when people report on their own Yeah, it's not pretty. No, it's not an HR is not looking for the discrimination. They're looking for everything that's not illegal, and are the majority. No, I don't want to define HR too much. A lot of HR is just trained to look for what's not illegal versus what is illegal. And I think when I, I over and over again, when I first started our firm, what I would see, people come to me and they'd say, Well, I think I can report to HR on my own, and I'd be like, go do it. Or even when I was at church, I'd be like, go report on your own. You got this, and then they would show me what they said later. And I would be like, well, you don't have a legal claim because of this. And yeah, it didn't protect your job. you've highlighted everything that is not a problem and blame yourself forever. Anything else? Yes. And we don't hear it for ourselves, we have to have an outside person. Look at what we're saying to say do you mean to blame yourself for this other person's abuse? Because it makes no sense. But if you really think it's your fault, I guess they could fire you.
Mm hmm. And, and one thing, and to go back like, if you think your HR, like HR person is not going to do anything, it is definitely worth it to like, check us out, check somebody else out.
have an advocate with a
variance of what it means and how to report to help you. I just think it's crucial. Like I used to say go to it, you've got this. I got so many people on that. And there's no reason you should know how is why why. You shouldn't know how to do it. Yeah.
You're taught. Yeah, no, nobody's googling that at night when they get home.
Like, Oh, and if you are googling it, there's not that much.
No, it's not good. And yeah. And it's like, we think we could go just tell the story of what happened. But this isn't like a book report, right? Ah, this is just different. Yeah. And you want to help yourself, get the best outcome?
Yes. and protect the work environment. Okay. Right. like doing this correctly helps so many other people. And it probably shouldn't be this hard. But, um, unfortunately, it is. And again, I think that I mean, the other thing I think, though, is we've had these clients say, you know, like, especially women are taught but this we see this with men too, but you're kind of taught, Oh, go ahead and invest $10,000 on beauty products, but don't invest in your career and what it's like go ahead and invest in your golf swing. Yeah, not discrimination at work, because that's embarrassing, right?
Yeah. But like, it's like the thing that pays for the golf in the beauty.
Shop is what pays for all of this. Like, okay, so
and it's not I mean, what we see we see such a range of people from like, lawyers and psychologists and to fast food workers and construction workers, like none of us were taught this stuff, so there's no reason we would know how to do it.
Yeah. And I and I do like one thing is like, somehow, like, when somebody abuses us, we take it so personal. Mm hmm. And that's why it like you're saying it happens to all these, this range of professions. And so everybody, yeah, but let's just say everybody, right? And, oh, I'm a I'm a lawyer. I should know what to do. I'm an HR person like I, you know, I had experiences to where I was harassed. And I'm like all nation armor in sharpers. And I should know what to do. And it's just that never benefits any like, I've never seen it benefit anybody?
No, no and or you see, like we had someone who worked with us who experienced a toxic work environment in like a lower paid, like food service job. And so then she left that went to another job, went to another job went to another job, which you can kind of justify it a lower paying job, potentially, but you're still losing out on seniority and it's still me, worth,
you know, just
honoring your decision of what you want your career to be, instead of having your career be impacted by other people's behavior.
Yeah, send it in. And just what like these the skills go with you throughout your career.
Yeah. Like things I mean, we couldn't be doing what we're doing right now without them. I think it's just like life altering to me. Yeah. Yeah, I was talking to somebody that last night I guess and and she was like, well, like, do you think it would work in my situation and I was like, all I can tell you is that it changed my life and like, learning this stuff. When I was still working, doubled my bonus, I got a 12% raise, people started coming to me and saying what should we do with these problems? Because I just totally changed how I was encountering situations and it just worked. Yeah, so I think um, if people have reported to HR and have not heard back, like there is no time like the present to get training and understand how to take control of your work environment. Take power over what you do want to tolerate at work, what you don't want to tolerate at work and not have HR be or even a lawyer be in charge of that. Right. And so if people want to get help, or if you know somebody who needs help you can check out Cultural Health Impact training at Eris resolution er is resolution.com slash training. Thanks for chatting Rebecca