Toxic Tearoom

Is HR Your Friend, Frenemy or Foe?

March 14, 2023 That One Booth Productions Season 1 Episode 4
Is HR Your Friend, Frenemy or Foe?
Toxic Tearoom
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Toxic Tearoom
Is HR Your Friend, Frenemy or Foe?
Mar 14, 2023 Season 1 Episode 4
That One Booth Productions

Ah, Human Resources. The nicest, friendliest people in the company. They are responsible to hire you, train you, set the stage to develop you, and are tasked with all the “fun” stuff- Christmas parties, events, and more. You can almost believe that they are your friend. However, when you are getting harassed, or worse, you need to realize that HR is there to protect the company- not you. Let's discuss the role of HR and how it can impact your work experience.

With special guest, Cynthia Farrell. Cynthia believes that great places to work - and great business results - are based on behaviors, not beer in the break room. She brings this mantra to life as Chief Talent Strategist for her consulting clients, designing and driving leadership, talent, team, and culture development engagements to retain the talent they can't afford to lose. She is also an in-demand executive coach and advisor, blending proven coaching approaches with her experience working with and influencing C-suite leaders. She is known for bringing heart, courage, humor, and empathy into her work and speaking. When she's not helping her clients, you can find her living her best life in the mountains of Colorado.

Forbes 98% of HR Professionals are Burned Out
110 West Group, LLC (Cynthia Farrell)
Pay Transparency Laws 

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Thanks for listening to Toxic Tearoom! Follow us on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, X and Patreon. Are you in a toxic workplace? Tell us about it at We promise anonymity, empathy, and a healthy dose of humor.

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Show Notes Transcript

Ah, Human Resources. The nicest, friendliest people in the company. They are responsible to hire you, train you, set the stage to develop you, and are tasked with all the “fun” stuff- Christmas parties, events, and more. You can almost believe that they are your friend. However, when you are getting harassed, or worse, you need to realize that HR is there to protect the company- not you. Let's discuss the role of HR and how it can impact your work experience.

With special guest, Cynthia Farrell. Cynthia believes that great places to work - and great business results - are based on behaviors, not beer in the break room. She brings this mantra to life as Chief Talent Strategist for her consulting clients, designing and driving leadership, talent, team, and culture development engagements to retain the talent they can't afford to lose. She is also an in-demand executive coach and advisor, blending proven coaching approaches with her experience working with and influencing C-suite leaders. She is known for bringing heart, courage, humor, and empathy into her work and speaking. When she's not helping her clients, you can find her living her best life in the mountains of Colorado.

Forbes 98% of HR Professionals are Burned Out
110 West Group, LLC (Cynthia Farrell)
Pay Transparency Laws 

Spotify Playlist

Support the Show.

Thanks for listening to Toxic Tearoom! Follow us on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, X and Patreon. Are you in a toxic workplace? Tell us about it at We promise anonymity, empathy, and a healthy dose of humor.

 Toxic Tearoom Episode 4


hr, people, compensation, situation, employee, person, company, hr professionals, business, question, colleague, podcast, promoted, experience, leader,  investigation

Alison  00:01

The Toxic Tearoom podcast is for entertainment purposes only. Neither Toxic Tearoom or its parent That One Booth Productions LLC is responsible for the statements or opinions of its host guests submissions or content derived from publicly available sources. Topics discussed on this podcast should not be interpreted as referring to any specific individual, company or organization, the Toxic Tearoom podcast and That One Booth Productions LLC are not responsible for any actions taken by individuals as a result of any content produced on this podcast, or used in any social media forum. listeners are encouraged to vet any recommendations with certified professional personnel. Hi, everyone. Welcome. How's everyone doing today? Hi, hello, hello. Hello, hello. All right. Well, I thought we'd start off this episode was a little bit of a quick story too, for me to share with you. Many years ago, I've worked for a number of big companies, by the way. So I'm never going to tell you which one this is. But I'd worked for was working for a big company. Over the years, I've had many conversations with HR through all of these different big companies and small companies. But in this particular instance, a male colleague and I, who had started at the company at the same time, we were in the same job. And we were getting promoted at the same time to basically the next level. We were even emailed our promotion letters on the same day. So literally everything was happening simultaneously for us. And I was really happy when I got this promotion letter, because it came with a not only a title increase, but a compensation increase. And it was actually higher increase than I thought that was sort of the standard. You know, when you get promoted to this level, you're gonna get X percent more, and I got more than the X percent that I was expecting. So I of course, was thrilled. I saw my colleague a little bit later in the day, and he looked kind of upset. So I asked him what was wrong? And he was talking about this promotion. And he asked me about my compensation. He said, are you happy with what you got? Of course, at the time, I didn't know the lesson that you should never talk about compensation with your coworkers. I learned that later on. But I told him that yeah, I was so happy. It was more than I thought. And I was floating on cloud nine. And then he told me that his compensation increase was less than he thought. And he was pretty upset and he didn't know what happened. And so I of course commiserated with him told him that socked and then what about my day, because I was on cloud nine. But then later that day out of the blue, I received an email from HR with a corrected promotion letter that lowered the company compensation from the first letter. So basically, they corrected what they were giving me in the promotion. I, of course, went from Cloud Nine, down a few down a few levels, and I went to my boss because I wanted to know what happened. And long story short, my boss tells me, HR screwed up. They put your colleagues compensation on your letter and your compensation on his letter. And probably someone's gonna get fired because of this mistake and everyone's pissed. And, by the way, I should never talk about my compensation with my colleagues. That's a Code of Business Conduct violation. So by the way, I love this boss. I still love this boss. This is An amazing person, I would work for this person again. So this is not about my boss, but just about what happened to me in this process. And there's really three things that I took away from this story. Number one, finding out with proof that a male colleague was making more than me with the same level of experience for the same job, not a great feeling hope nobody has had to go through that to HR could have made it right and just left me with a compensation, they could have just left that alone. Instead, they went through this correction process, which basically made me feel worse, right? And then three, I learned that you should really never talk about compensation with your colleagues. That's all been imprinted on my brain. I take that lesson today. And I even give people that advice. Just don't do it. So anyway, that's my fun story. That's my fun intro. What do you also Allison,


Roberta  05:47

you and your colleague, we're going for the Olympic gold medal in synchronized career paths, getting promoted at the exact same time. And the big faux pa here in my eyes was less about you talking about the compensation, and more that you discovered the secret that your male colleague with similar experience getting promoted for the same position you were getting promoted to was going to make significantly more than you and that was the problem. Am I wrong in that interpretation?


Alison  06:24

Yes, you're correct in that interpretation, I think at the time, I had, you know, the one two punch of oh, now I actually know I'm making less rather than to suspect it. And then and then to that, I was almost admonished, because I got into this conversation about compensation. 


Roberta  06:44

You revealed the secret that was your fault. 


Alison  06:47



Roberta  06:48

But seriously, I'm, I'm hoping this was a few companies ago, and that we may have come further along, speaking, you know, as professional women in the workplace that we don't always have to measure up to what a man is making for the same role, same experience, same performance as we are, yet there's a nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach that that isn't necessarily true, but perhaps that'll be a podcast for another day.


Alison  07:15

Yeah, maybe we'll talk about compensation data. And this is the disparity 


Roberta  07:20

I don't want to make Saurabh, I don't want to make Saurabh feel uncomfortable as our token testosterone about us talking about pay inequality. So sorry, you know, forgive me, I'm sure you're paid far more than anyone here.


Alison  07:32

Well I thought that's why I thought that's why we made the decision to pay Saurabh less than the three of us, just to try to even out out,


Saurabh  07:40

I get paid and


Roberta  07:42

you're better than all of us still look at that. Yeah. And


Saurabh  07:45

I'm sorry about the rollback that you had. I think I like seeing the signs in Walmart when I'm there, you know, rollbacks. But that's about it. This is This is terrible.


Alison  07:52

Thank you. Yeah, there it was rollback compensation, just not a situation that you want anyone to go through? Well, so today, why did I open with that story? Today, we're gonna talk about one of our favorite topics, HR human resources, are they your friend frenemy foe, something else altogether? You know, human resources, the nicest, friendliest people in the company, I have many friends who've gone down these these career paths. And I love them dearly. And probably a bunch of them are going to text me after this. They hear this podcast and go, what do you what I thought you love me. And I do love you. We know that HR, I think generally, we know that they are responsible to hire and train and leadership and development. They also get tasked with a lot of the fun stuff, building corporate cultures, parties, events, taking care of people that go out and leave. I mean, there's a lot of things that HR ends up doing. And really, they are the people, people of the company, they tend to be the heart of the company, at least that's been in my experience. And so I think because of that you almost believe that they are your friend, and that you want them to be your friend in all situations. However, when you're going through certain things in the workplace, we want you to realize that HR is not actually there to be your friend. They're there to protect the company. So we're going to learn more about HR today about human resources, and how we should think about their role and really what their role is and what their function is. And because of this excellent topic that we have, that is way above all of our pay grades, we brought in somebody who can really help us be an expert and guide this discussion with us. And her name is Cynthia Farrell. Cynthia believes that great places to work and great business results are based on behaviors, not beer in the break room, or kombucha if that's your choice. She brings this mantra to life as the chief challenge talent strategist for consulting clients, designing and driving leadership, Talent Team, and culture development engagements to retain the talent they can't afford to lose. She's also an in demand executive coach and advisor, blending proven coach and approach coaching approaches with her experience working with and influencing C suite leaders. She's known for bringing heart courage, humor and empathy into her work and speaking and when she's not helping her clients, you can find her truly living her best life in the mountains of Colorado in her beautiful new workspace that we just got a preview of welcome, Cynthia.


Cynthia  10:20

Awesome. Thanks so much, Alison.


Saurabh  10:22

Please, let's not forget, let's not forget the straw bale 


Alison  10:25

the straw bale though I was worried I was gonna fumble that to the straw bale construction. Welcome,


Roberta  10:31

incredibly jealous. Oh, thank you,


Cynthia  10:32

I did not construct the straw bale structure. Let's be really clear about that. I did construct the sauna. And the fact that my husband and I are still married is a testament to our relationship. I do not recommend building Asana. However, I do have an article on LinkedIn about how building a sauna is, provides great lessons in leadership and teamwork. So you can check that out. But thanks so much for the introduction. Happy to be here, I'm really honored that you asked me You know, I want to state upfront I do not speak for all HR professionals, by all means. And I was in an HR leadership position for like leading all of HR for just a handful of years in the HR function and talent in talent capacities for a number of other years. But my so my exposure to HR has been for well over a decade actually leaving the function. Suppose for a fairly short period of time, but a good portion of my network are really, really wonderful HR people. And we all say that we should all write books about the things that we've seen, so that we can just leave that there. But I just want to say I do not


Alison  11:48

Comedy books, right? Oh, comedy, they're gonna be comedy books.


Saurabh  11:56

So thank you, Cynthia. So let's talk about the role of HR, because it seems like there's a lot of confusion around what exactly HR does for business. Cynthia, if you don't mind, can you help set us set the record straight for what the role of HR is? And what should be?


Cynthia  12:11

I mean, in Alison, you you're very right, I mean, the role of HR is to is to protect the business right in in the way that when there are people concerns, you are responsible for, in many cases, the largest asset that a business has, especially if it is a services based business and doesn't necessarily have a lot of physical overhead. And HR is there to be the advocate the mechanism for the employees. And I will say that, with very few xpect exceptions, and there are a few, with very few exceptions, every HR people I know is every people I know every HR person I know, is incredibly deep hearted loves people. And that's why they go into HR is because they really want to have an impact on people, whether it be from a benefits perspective, or a compensation perspective, or, you know, making sure people get paid. I mean, I had a payroll person who worked for me, who would get so incredibly upset if anything went wrong with payroll because of the impact that it would have on the individual. HR people deeply care about people. And they are in this position of having to walk this incredibly fine line between caring for and protecting people and caring for the business. And how so they are the caretakers, right? It's a big burden to carry. You've seen an incredible amount of burnout in HR since 2020. Because they were the ones who had to figure out how to get people out of the office and then get people back to the office and what did remote work arrangements look like? And nobody likes anything and everybody takes it out. I need to HR. So burnout in HR is in leadership is incredibly high right now. They have to walk this incredibly fine line. And and one of the things that I think is really important that you know, we were as we were prepping for this podcast, Pat cast recording, as I said, you know, it is really interesting that we are saying HR is not your friend. Would we say that any other corporate function is your friend? Would we say that finances your friend or operations is your friend? No, we wouldn't say that. There are parts of the business. So reframing that 


Alison  14:31

finance is definitely not our friend. 


Cynthia  14:33

We know that finance is nobody's friend, right? No, I


Alison  14:36

Finance is no one's friend.


Cynthia  14:39

But I mean, we I think I think it's important to reset that that HR isn't your friend, but they should be in the best HR leaders and practitioners are advocates for their employees and advocates for the business in equal measure.


Roberta  14:56

Permission to step on soapbox? Sure.


Saurabh  15:00

Hang on, hang on, let me roll out the carpet. Thank you. Just one second.


Roberta  15:04

Thank you. So I would agree with Cynthia that some of the most caring people are in human resources, they put the human in human resources. They are the fun, folks. They're the friendliest. I don't have a doubt in my mind, that HR professionals, those individuals that choose this as their career path, go into this with anything other than the biggest heart the highest expectations for themselves. I do agree with Cynthia that the burnout is real. And I would tell you, that here's where I see the issue is we forget that second part and the impact there. And why the burnout is there is because those two are not typically working well. You care for the business, or you care for the people. And it's very hard to care for both simultaneously. The challenge I think our listeners need to understand is human resources. Like all other things, if you think of resources, right, get the human out of it for a second resources. In any business. If I am in the service industry, resources are my people. They're my knowledge, they're my frontline experience for my customers, they're the experiencer is where my ideas come from. And if I was in manufacturing, it would be my raw materials, it would be my widgets, if I was in the restaurant industry, it would be the ingredients I used to make my foods, those are my resources. And the difference in Human Resources is these resources that are critical to your business could also cripple your business, and could cost your business a significant amount of money, because these are the resources that have federal oversight in certain key areas on how you treat them. And the important piece I want our listeners to walk away with is while we're not trying to villainize the individuals within HR, or even HR themselves with this episode, that it is important that people do not make the mistake of the assumption that this caring, big hearted individual that is listening to them with rapt attention, as they talk about the behavior of their superior, for example, and how it's impacting them and how it's affecting their sleep, and how they feel they can't get a break and how they feel they're not getting a fair review and letting all of that out that that person is going to perhaps launch an investigation, perhaps can't do anything more. But that person is not your advocate. They're not paid to be your advocate. Let's be clear, there P


Cynthia  17:32

I disagree with you. 


Roberta  17:34

I figured you would. But I have to be honest. I mean, we've we've seen plenty of examples where HR does step up. But I do think we have to also look at the companies involved. So if you're looking at a privately owned entity, and let's say it's the CEO, that's the problem. What is HR supposed to do? Literally nothing.


Cynthia  17:56

You're absolutely you're absolutely right. So there are limits, there are limitations, based on the company based on the culture. You know, I've been in situations where I very, very strongly encouraged action to be taken against an employee, and that counsel was not was not taken to be fair employment lawyers will tell you the same thing, right, like, really should take this action against someone and it's ultimately you know, somebody else's decision. So it's not it's not just HR, but when when I say I disagree with you, it's the position that HR are not advocates for the employee, because what you said Roberta resources, right, like their assets, I mean, I hate to talk about it in financial terms, but the but people are assets, they're the most expensive assets, the most important assets. And if those assets leave, when you don't want them to, for whatever reason, there is a real implication to the organization. So yes, HR is responsible for advocating for the employees and making sure that their meet needs are getting met, to whatever reasonable means they can, because they need to do their part. That's why HR is so concerned about employee engagement, employee retention, I mean, and the amount of time that HR leaders spend looking at data around retention. Because if people leave that you call it, you know, regrettable attrition people that you don't want to have leave. If you have people leaving that you don't want to have leave there is a real bottom line impact to the company. So yes, they do need to advocate for employees as well. And you're right there, their power only goes so far. Now one of the things that you're seeing a lot in industry is you're seeing more and more CHR rows and CEOs Chief People officers getting into CEO overalls because organizations are starting to understand the importance of caring for your people and caring for your culture. And that that is as important as the widgets, or as the machinery or anything else because your people are your biggest asset.


Roberta  20:18

I love that. And I would tell our listening audience, as we talk about toxic work environments, maybe maybe something you can look for are organizations that have those positions already on staff. It's a huge testament about how they value people, correct. You know, I'm always amused when someone has dropped resources and say, I don't want to call it human resources. Let's talk about human capital as if that's any different as if capital is not an asset. I mean, your your points are well taken, and I will resend my soapbox for a minute. I just think that an individual needs to understand that rather than viewing their HR representative as the equivalent of a union representative, which they are not to understand how HR can be a resource for them as well for certain. But that's a fine line that I think the listeners to this podcast, and just people in general need to understand that they are personally responsible for themselves at their workplace, they are personally responsible to ensure they document things. They are the things that really, really bad does HR not get involved, of course. But if things are really bad, you owe it to yourself to seek counsel for yourself because that attorney you pay is only representing you HR can't represent you. In the same way. They already represent two parties and any dispute the employee and the company. And let's be let's be truthful. Nine times out of 10 The company is going to win that one. So my I will get off my soapbox now i resend Allison to two of you in the podcast. Thank you very much for allowing me Hey,


Alison  21:49

we love we love your we love your soapbox as though Roberta that's why we're all here. Let's be honest about that. I mean, I think it's really interesting though this sort of either or, you know, category that we're talking about with HR, having gone through a number of HR situations myself, either as a people leader or things that I've had to just deal with in my career. You know, one thing that that is missing is almost like that employee advocate and and if HR is supposed to play somewhat a role in that, Cynthia, I don't know that they are like, how can how can HR folks do a better job of that? Right, because I've just been in situations without going into too many details. Because it's not this is not my therapy session today. Well, maybe it is my therapy session. Maybe it's Roberta's therapy session to I don't know, but but how? How should we think about like the employee advocacy side of HR, when you're in a probably a very personal or individual situation? Right? So we're not talking about the the broader maybe corporate culture development work that HR is doing, we're talking about there's an individual situation, somebody believes they should go to HR, and that somebody in HR should be looking out for that person? What is what is, what should they be doing at that point? And we're talking a lot about getting legal counsel and seeking outside counsel, of course, if you can afford that, of course, if you can't afford that, is there anything HR can help them with or other resources in the company they should be turning to?


Cynthia  23:18

Well, and I think Roberta makes a great point that HR is not a union rep. That's exactly right. You know, it's they're not your union rep. They are representing two parties, you know, they may call in if they have inside counsel or outside counsel, they may call in, you know, actual legal advice or help. You know, I did that when I needed to I'm not a lawyer, I'm not versed in employment law, I'd rather stick a fork in my eye. Many things, I'd rather stick a fork in my about not as one of them. But to your point when when employees have situations, yes, they should take it to HR. And the HR representatives should take every incoming conversation with the same level of seriousness, even if it feels like an eye roll. And trust me, I had many eye roll moments. And then I had many not idle moments. But regardless, my responsibility, my personal responsibility was to take every situation seriously. And and, you know, believe what I was hearing and then do the work to understand what was going on. It doesn't mean that every situation is every complaint is going to be valid. I'm not gonna lie to you about that there is babysitting that that happens in HR. Sometimes I would look around and wonder how I was ended up running an adult daycare. I mean, it. It is it's just flabbergasting. And yet every situation that comes a practiced, experienced, deeply ethical All HR practitioner with high integrity is going to take their role incredibly seriously. And is going to come come into that conversation with the employee seeking to understand, you know, with no with no preconceived notions of whether it's right or wrong. Now, am I sitting there saying in the back of my head, shit, this is going to be a shit show, and we're gonna have to get all these people involved. And we're gonna have to do all these interviews. Yeah, absolutely right, like you're thinking about what do we have to do here. But that is the role that HR should play, and employees should feel that they can go to HR, I say that and yet I know that that is not the that is not the lived experience that many people have had. So like I said, I am very lucky, every HR person I know, with a few exceptions, has the same position as me the same, the same philosophy as me. And and to be honest, there are people who I might have worked with who came to me with their complaints that I ended up saying, this isn't a valid complaint, who would probably say that I am completely full of shit right now. So there's that right, there's always two sides to every story. Does that answer your question?


Alison  26:28

Yeah, I think so. So the I mean, it's very complex, right. I think that's why we wanted to dive into this because every situation probably has its own boundaries and limits. And depending on what you might be going through what role HR should play in that is probably, you know, up for debate, we actually, we do have a story here as well, like a real life situation that I found on online, really, and I love just like listening to the stories, Cynthia, maybe you assessing it, and telling us maybe what should have happened differently here. Because obviously, there's a lot of horror stories that we see out there when people do go to HR with complaints. So here's the storyline, a couple of colleagues and I went to HR to let them know about an interpersonal relationship between the head of the department and a junior newer employee, who was then quickly promoted a few times to a very senior position. And that person didn't actually have the experience or knowledge to be in that more senior position, HR. So this person waited went HR to alert them of this. And HR reassured that person that it was, it's anonymous, there'd be no repercussions, you know, for providing this report to HR. Two months later, the head of the department sat this person down and informed them that there'll be let go for not being a team player and poor performance. And it turns out that HR had in this person's mind told them everything, including who had made the complaints. Now, obviously, there's an investigation that HR has to go through what they have to disclose, disclose what they don't disclose. I'm sure there's a lot of details we're missing here. But Cynthia would, what do you think when you hear that story?


Cynthia  28:15

I think that the person who, you know, that's their story, and that is, again, their lived experience? They don't There are is very likely parts of the story that they don't know, there are things that should have. There's just so much that like you said, HR can't divulge, right? Like, if I am told that two people are having a relationship and this person got promoted, you know, I have to go and I have to investigate that relationship. And then I can't tell people about that. I mean, if you were having a relationship with somebody at work, you wouldn't want me going around telling other people about that, right? Like I can't, I can say, you know, we are doing an investigation or we've closed our investigation, but I can't even say what the outcome of it is, like, just can't legally there. And it's easy for somebody to say, well, this person got promoted when they didn't have the skills or ability. That could be true. Maybe it wasn't true. Maybe, you know, I think well, there's a big gap there about if this person got promoted multiple times, where was HR in that process, regardless of whether or not there was a relationship. So there's another gap there that I'd be like, trying to figure out how that happened. And then the piece of this person being let go, because they aren't a team player. Again, you know, two sides to every story, and I'm wondering, okay, so were they not put on some sort of performance plan where they're not performance conversations, was this not documented? Right? And, and I'm going to just put in a caveat here to say, I believe that performance improvement plan should be used to lift an employee up not to move them out. That is my personal philosophy around it. And that is how I have worked with me managers on that. So I'm not saying put them on a plan to move them out. But if you're going to do that there needs to be documentation and they have need to have been given an opportunity to move up. So if that wasn't done again, that's a huge Miss. What would that person possibly have a claim to? You know that they were let go unjustly? I don't know. I mean, there's, there's so much there. But there are multiple red flags in that situation. That tells me, that would just make me very curious as to how HR was involved.


Roberta  30:34

I hate to put you on the spot. Cynthia, that's not true. I love to put Cynthia on the spot. I'm checking myself, I'm being truthful. This is my truth. So yes, there are varying levels and types of HR professionals, and under the premise that most of them do absolutely want to do the best job possible. But real talk, because you're not an HR anymore. Real talk, how often is a complaintant kept confidential, when you try to look into the issue they were complaining about that their name does not come up again.


Cynthia  31:09

For me, personally, I would, if there was no need to disclose, you do not disclose. So in that situation, you would not disclose there is no need for anyone to disclose who made you know, who made this complaint that to other people having a relationship? If it was that, you know, someone that someone is accused of, let's say threatening behavior harassing behavior, then generally Yes, you are going to need to let that person know, because you need to do that investigation. And that is going to, you know, require diving into workplace situations. Again, this is where it's very important. If, if an HR professional ever gets a call about something that like harassment or threatening behavior, one of their first calls is going to be to counsel, because you need to understand exactly what you can and cannot disclose. You don't disclose information, if you if it is absolutely, absolutely not required for the investigation.


Saurabh  32:11

So Cynthia, I'm going to piggyback on this one, it seems to me that there should be a code of conduct or some kind of a rule book for HR professionals to follow. I don't know if there's a training guide or manual or something because you seem to speak from experience. But what differentiates a good HR professional from a quote unquote, bad HR professional, someone that bends the rules, and this this example that Allison provided seems like something went wrong here. And you're right. There are always two sides to a story, but it seems objectively speaking, some bigger things were missed. So is this a bad HR rep that did not follow the rules to certain rules exist? And if so, where do we find


Cynthia  32:52

there are accreditation agencies, for HR professionals, I I have my own opinions on those. So I'll just put those over to the side. We won't talk about that. Um, anything that tests your ability to take a test is not a valid accreditation, can we just get we just put that out there. Okay, a lot of


Roberta  33:14

People got real nervous in their careers, with all the papers hanging on their walls right now.


Cynthia  33:20

So there are very. So there are accreditations there are degree programs. You know, one of the when I was going for my master's degree, I ended up getting a Master of Education and Human Resource Development that I started off in the human resources and industrial relations. To answer your question, your question serve about you know, how can you tell? I mean, I think in that situation, that it's not, it's not that I feel like HR practitioners are poorly intended, I think that they're either inexperienced, or they are, you know, hamstrung by the business in some way, or just not mature, like not mature enough. And I've seen that you see that, in HR professionals, everybody matures in their career, and it's just there's a lot of risk. If you are an HR professional and don't exercise professional maturity. There is also a very strong delineation between HR professionals and departments and functions, honestly, that are treated as strategic business partners, and that are treated as tactical, operational, kind of old school transactional HR. Right? And, and you see companies making the shift, again, understanding that people are their biggest resource, making the shift to really seeing HR as a strategic business partner. And in that you do see HR professionals who are more strategic who are more mature who have gotten maybe not even more education, but more experienced, it's a higher level of HR professional. And then you have the more transactional HR where they get these sorts of situations and they don't necessarily know how to handle them. You there are larger companies that have entire teams of highly trained employee relations professionals to deal specifically with these situations. So now, when I was in smaller companies, you know, we the HR professionals dealt with that directly in a bigger company, you start going to maybe it's your HR business partner, and then they're going to have you call the Employee Relations hotline, because you're highly trained professionals who work with this, and it is a very different ball of wax. Does it mean it's, it's always positive? I am sitting here thinking of a horror story a friend went through with an eight with an Employee Relations team. But that that I think is the crux of it is what's the experience? What's the maturity level?


Saurabh  35:53

Thank you, Cynthia. Have a few follow up questions here. But I'm gonna let Roberto Stella Alison chime in and ask their questions if they have any. But this is very, very helpful. Thank you. Well, I'll,


Alison  36:06

I'll jump in. So I've, I guess I've experienced a lot of the immature HR people in my career, unfortunately, because anywhere from someone making a six week PIP turn into an 18 week, Pip, then being told at the end of the PIP, that the person was under protected status. So there was nothing I could do, even though I proved that the person on the PIP was not performing at the level, I needed them to, all the way to just HR, not handling a situation well by, you know, when you go, let's say you have to report a leader. If the first action that the HR person does is go to the leader, then to me like you lose complete, like sense of safety, to go to that HR representative, because it doesn't seem fair. One of the things I want to piggyback off of what Sarah was saying to ask, in a lot of these smaller or private companies, what is the criteria? or what have you found the criteria to be in the hiring process of the HR? Because the I, again, like I can go on a rampage about how I believe it isn't solely up to the HR individual to manage culture, it's up to the leaders to manage culture. But if the leader hiring the HR person doesn't have good culture, or doesn't have good leadership, what what kind of criteria is used to hire the HR person? I guess? That's my question.


Cynthia  38:11

Yeah, that's a, that's a complicated question that doesn't have a straight answer. And it's going to depend on the level of the role, it's going to depend on the what the organization is looking for. So if you've got, if you're looking for somebody to do HR, like basic administration, administer employee paperwork, you know, you can get somebody with a high school degree, and then you can develop them into an HR professional, but bringing them in at that low level. But if you're talking more of an HR leadership role, an HR business partner above you, again, you're looking for somebody with that HR experience, a lot of times they'll look for the credentials, but it also is going to depend on what the business wants. And I'll give you an example of this. There have been multiple instances where I was a candidate for the top HR role at a small privately funded or privately funded organization. And one I didn't really get past the first round. The other one, I was one of two finalists and other one I was one of two finalists, I didn't get any of them was totally fine, because in retrospect, I didn't want those roles. But in each case, they said it was outlined in the job description that they were really looking for someone who had experience building culture, building talent, building leadership, that's all my expertise, like, I know enough about benefits to be dangerous. You don't want me doing your comp strategy. I would hire a comp consultant for that I would work with a benefits broker on benefits. I would have a super awesome payroll person, right, like Employee Relations is not my cup of tea. I want somebody who's really good at that and loves that. But all of these job descriptions said that they wanted somebody who had that culture and talent and leadership and OD experience? That's my background. Well then get to the actual rubber meets the road decision point. And one of the organizations Oh, actually, we really want somebody with compensation experience because we need a comp strategy. And we don't want to hire somebody from outside, well, then I'm not your person. Like, couldn't we have had that conversation before he flew me halfway across the country? You know, another one, they're like, Oh, we, you know, we we decided we really do need somebody with more of an operations and HR operations background. And that's who they hired again, why did we go through 20 interviews to get to this point? You know, and then and then the other one kind of the same thing? Once somebody with more tactical HR experience, okay, well, then can you change your job posting, because I wouldn't have applied and we shouldn't have had this conversation, you're wasting everybody's time. So it's really interesting, because I think what leaders often think they want in an HR leader is somebody who has this more strategic perspective. And then they get to the point where they're, they're like, Oh, well, crap, who's actually going to administer our benefits? And then they go back to, to the more tactical HR. So there's no good answer to your question, Stella, but I do want to say to the examples that you gave, like the one with the person who was on the PIP, I would have to wonder I just always get really curious about what else might might have been going on? And was there something going on behind the scenes with with counsel with legal counsel? And they're saying, Nope, you can't do this, because we have, you know, this situation that you don't even know about, they can't tell anybody else about it. Right? So there, there could always be something going on behind the scenes, you know, it's just it's it just like to get really curious about that, like, what might be going on? Like to the question about going and, and, you know, reporting a leader, one of the first things HR does have to do is going is go to the leader and tell them that we're opening an investigation against you, right, like, I mean, that that's just kind of the way the way the cookie crumbles there. So, anyway, so I'll, I'll get off my soapbox there. And, and let you guys go on. Actually, can I do one more soap boxy thing? Quick, please.


Saurabh  42:19

This, this is your podium. 


Cynthia  42:21

So Alison, how you kicked it off. And it just one thing that I'll say that I think is really shifting? One, I am really sorry, you had that experience? That sucks. And that's shitty. And I hope that the HR person felt really, really terrible about that. I mean, you know, and I


Alison  42:35

They might have been fired? I don't know


Cynthia  42:36

I have I have, I have been in situations where comp comp information has been shared with people that it shouldn't have been. And it is, you're just you have that gut, you're like, hole, Oh, this isn't good. This isn't good. And you feel terrible for everybody involved. But what's really interesting, what I wanted to say is that that mentality that you do not share, talk about compensation is very much what I'm in assume is I assume we're all kind of the same generation that has totally shifted with the younger generations, they are very open to talking about compensation. And then you have on top of that all of these states and Colorado is one where they are putting in place, pay transparency laws, which there's pluses and minuses to that not talking about compensation is very different now. Like, younger generations are like, No, we're going to talk about how much we're making, because you better I'll be paying us the same.


Alison  43:33

Yeah, it's so interesting. I mean, I think I'm sure it's shaking up a lot of older companies, right? Who had the rulebook literally Code of Business Conduct handbook, rulebook, whatever it was about these things? And yeah, we're all we're all open source now. Saurabh, I think you had one last question. And then we have a fun little interlude next.


Saurabh  43:55

Yes, I do have one final thought about this. So Cynthia, who audits the auditors in this case? So you go to an HR professional say, say it's someone higher up, but not the ultimate HR leadership leader in this company? How does it work? The rules, say or the Code of Conduct says that, okay, the general approach is go to your business partner, HR business partner, and then make your way up from there. And if I, as the employee am uncertain or do not like the potential outcome, I'm not saying that there's an outcome per se, how do we escalate that further? And what happens if the leader themselves are quote unquote, corrupt and not in line with what we would expect


Cynthia  44:36

If you if you don't, if you just don't like the decision, there's not a lot more you can do about it. That's not going to be you, you know, going outside of the company and talking to somebody else, right? If it is a concern that you have with somebody in HR, for example, then the correct thing that HR should do is they should defer it to counsel whether that's inside or outside counsel, you know, I when you're in a small organization is generally outside in a large organization, it's inside, but they should kick it over to to an independent party to investigate. Okay, thank you for the shortest answer I've given to the perhaps a very important question. 


Saurabh  45:18

And I like that because yes, because I like that because it's speaks to how it should be. It should be that simple.


Alison  45:27

Yeah, thank you for answering all of our our deep dive questions, Cynthia that are not easy to to answer. We thought we'd have a little fun with Cynthia is our guest today and introduce our first ever toxic T game show. Is this an HR problem or my problem? Who? Yes, indeed, I will be your host, Allison and our competitors on our game show today our cowboy Sarab playing against supply chain anti Roberta. Welcome. Welcome competitors to the competition. 


Roberta  46:04

Thank you for having us. Saurabh, you're going down. 


Saurabh  46:06

Much obliged


Alison  46:08

I have Stella here to make sure that Saurabh doesn't cheat. 


Roberta  46:11

Tall Order 


Alison  46:14

she's gonna last watching sure to make watching and make sure he doesn't Google. And our judge and jury is Cynthia, she's going to confirm if their answers are right, wrong, or just completely ridiculous, which is just highly likely given 


Cynthia  46:28

Just to confirm I probably have HR people across the board cringing by everything I've said right now, but that's okay.


Roberta  46:34

Don't worry. We're gonna give them an email address later that they can bitch to it's okay. Yeah.


Cynthia  46:40

This is why I just don't want those er related jobs. Anyway.


Alison  46:44

Our mailbag is open. Alright, are we


Saurabh  46:48

So Alison, real quick on that? Cynthia is the judge and jury.


Alison  46:52

She might be the executioner, too.


Saurabh  46:56

I think that's I think that's Stella


Roberta  46:58

I would agree that.


Cynthia  46:59

Yeah, I'll just I'll kick it over to Stella. She's my outside counsel. There you go.


Roberta  47:05

It's gonna be great.


Saurabh  47:08

There's absolutely no bias here, perhaps,


Alison  47:10

It's all in good fun. All right. Let's get started. Our first question is for Saurabh. Sorry, I don't like the flavor of Lacroix in the company break room. Is this an HR problem or my problem?


Saurabh  47:26

Definitely an HR problem. They stock the fridge right? 


Alison  47:29



Cynthia  47:32

No, yeah, I'm kicking you over to Stella but these Okay, to be fair, these are the real sorts of complaints that HR people have to deal with. And I there were many times that I just sat there and I'm like how was this my job now? I have a master's degree. 


Saurabh  47:48

Hey, the cookies suck.


Alison  47:51

I really hope our HR friends or do not have to stock the refrigerator. Although I think in small companies they do.


Cynthia  47:57

You would be amazed at what ends up on hrs plate. Yes.


Alison  48:02

I agree. I agree. Yes. So the answer is Saurabh, bring in your own damn Lacroix. Okay, yes. All right. All right. Our second question is for Roberta and say, Roberta, I have to take emergency medical leave. And I'm not sure when I can come back to work. My boss told me not to worry about it, and that he would just cover for me. But when I got back to work, he started to grill me on my performance. Is this an HR problem? Or my problem?  Well, it's obviously my problem. I'm the one that got sick, who else would be responsible for my sickness? But me?  Cynthia, what do you think


Cynthia  48:37

HR problem and what you should do first is when you know you have to take a leave is to go to HR. And that's what your manager should have told you to do as well so that you can take advantage of benefits from short term disability if it's required to maybe it's a PTO policy that you can leverage FML very much want to go to HR first and there are with any sort of leave, there are restrictions around what you can and cannot do in terms of your your job requirements when you are on leave that are there to protect you. So and trust me HR wants to protect you in that regard. So yes, go to HR first.


Alison  49:13

Awesome, very good. Third question. Saurabh. I really don't like the way my boss looks at me Roberta, she gives me this weird luck and it makes me uncomfortable sometimes. Is this an HR problem? Or my problem? Well,


Saurabh  49:34

Okay, so I have just worked out and I put on a shirt I shouldn't have worn that shirt. So I guess it's my problem.


Alison  49:43

Cynthia, what do you do with weird looks?


Cynthia  49:46

I had that specific thing come to me. Somebody said my manager is looking at me weird. Okay


Alison  49:58

How do you open up the the investigatory process


Cynthia  50:03

Define weird to me, I think that's probably what I said is tell me more to find weird to me again, let's get curious here. But there is a


Saurabh  50:15

Maybe this helps Cynthia should I should I demonstrate with the shirt, you know, or just send you the mail, you


Cynthia  50:22

None of the above, I mean, if it is something that you feel is very concerning, and this is uncomfortable for you, yes, go to HR, you can talk to HR, just expect that the next step is going to be an investigation and you're gonna, they're going to talk to you, they're probably going to talk to your, they're going to talk to your leader and have to tell them that you that you filed this complaint, they will probably have to talk to some of your colleagues, and they should keep your name out of it, just so you know. So just be aware of that. But also, I mean, HR, you might be just go to HR and say, Hey, this is what's happening. And I'm uncomfortable with this, you know, are there some ideas that you have for how I might address this and maybe one option and like with this individual, we I gave her this option was, you know, if we want to sit down and have a facilitated conversation about that, I'm happy to facilitate that, you know, as a conversation between you and your manager, you know, it's next step is to file a complaint. And so I think going to HR and sharing the sharing the scenario is, you know, if you're really concerned about it, that's what you should do just understand what it I'm not saying don't do it, if you don't want those next steps, like I mean, if you're concerned about it, you should do it, but know what the next step will probably be.


Roberta  51:37

Go ahead and go to HR about the way I look at you Feel Strong. Go ahead. Go ahead. double dog dare you go ahead feel strong


Saurabh  51:46

See now I'm being bullied.


Roberta  51:49

anymore. Let's go ahead and go to HR boy,


Cynthia  51:53

Well, and so I'm gonna I'm just gonna say that's really interesting, because the I'm being bullied can often I shouldn't say often, but you can see that being used when somebody is being held to a performance standard, that they can fall back on. Well, I'm being bullied and the managers like, well, they're supposed to meet these KPIs, and there's not. And that's why it's really important for leaders to have either KPIs metrics that you can record against, or specific goals and actions that you are, you know, measuring performance against, so that you can say, hey, this is what we said you needed to do and you're not doing so just kind of a sidebar there. 


Roberta  52:33

Good advice.


Alison  52:34

Yeah. A great, thank you. Okay. Our last question is for Auntie Roberta. Roberta, my boss has accused me of falsifying company reports. He's berated me in front of the team about this accusation, which is completely wrong. And he's told me that he's going to fire me. Is this an HR problem or my problem?


Roberta  52:55

I mean, at this point, I'd want to have a discussion with my attorney. Candidly, I don't think this is an HR issue yet. But I mean, I guess after I talked to my attorney, I should file a complaint with HR. Final answer.


Alison  53:12

Cynthia, what do you think


Cynthia  53:14

You should definitely go to HR and talk about that. I mean, HR would want to know, if about bad leader behavior, they should be, you know, talking to the leader about that they should be talking to the leader about, hey, if there's a performance issue, there's ways to address this. And there's ways not to, if there is an actual complaint of falsified documents, obviously, there needs to be an investigation into that. And you you would want to be on on the front of that. So I would say absolutely go to HR.


Alison  53:46

Awesome, great advice. Thank you, Cynthia. Great job, everybody. I think we ended in a tie game. I don't know. What do you think Stella?


Stella  53:54

Yes, we're gonna call it a tie. 


Alison  53:56

Perfect. Everybody gets a cheer. Thank you, Cynthia. This is a phenomenal conversation. Thank you for being a part of this. Roberta. I don't know if you'd like to wrap up with some key takeaways.


Roberta  54:10

Absolutely. First and foremost, everybody HR is there to protect the company. And while you may also develop a personal relationship with the amazing people that toil and work in HR, in a business context, they are not your friend. As we mentioned before, you should document document document. But you can go to HR for things like understanding your benefits leadership training for support as a people leader. And in some of these specific situations that we've discussed through some of these exercises and examples. We're going to HR is absolutely a necessity to ensure that they are doing the right investigatory work within the company. Thank you again, Cynthia. That's amazing. Stella.


Stella  54:56

Yes. Thank you so much, Cynthia. So Do you have a toxic workplace story? Or do you work in HR, and disagree with everything Cynthia just said, not us, Cynthia.


Roberta  55:12

We take no accountability, that was in the disclaimer.


Stella  55:18

Send us your stories and comments to the tea bag at toxic tea And please subscribe and follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Tiktok.


Roberta  55:31

And don't forget to check out the show notes for details on additional resources. And Cynthia will include your information there as well. You do a lot of leadership training for companies on how to keep good people, and leverage all of this wonderful experience you have and to productive and proactive approaches. So we'll include your contact information in the show notes as well.


Cynthia  55:54

Don't contact me for employer relations, for the love of all that's holy. But I just there's one other thing I'd just like to add before we wrap and that is we just asked you all right now to give your HR people some grace, they are tired. They are heartbroken. They are, you know, losing the talent war, and then they're having to lay people off. And you know, nobody is happy with where they have to work and they are crying a lot because they have the biggest hearts and they and they just want what's best for everybody. And, and then when things get tough. What's one of the first departments cut HR, so please just give them a little bit of grace. They're really wonderful people who are really just doing the best thing well said.


Saurabh  56:45

Yep, HR people, HR people are people to


Alison  56:48

Give your give your HR person some love today. Thank you, Cynthia. Thank you everyone for listening and bye for now. We'll see you again soon. We've got some great episodes coming up around PTO. Is it your time, our time or their time coming to you? Bye bye