In a single word: INTEGRITY

Through my up-brining as a Navy brat, and the influence that my Marine buddies have had on me I have learned the real-life meanings to the words: Duty and Honor.

Back in Boy Scouts I learned the meanings to the words: Trustworthy, Loyal, Brave, and Reverent.

Through my Kung-Fu and Tai-Chi training I have learned the meaning of the words: Balance, Precision, Commitment, and Humility (somewhere in my head I hear my four sisters laughing at this statement, but it is humility that I have learned all the same).

However, this last week I learned an entirely new definition to the word Integrity…

This last week, I had the unfortunate ability to see a social science project up close, and in person. I learned that my company was going to need to go through another “right-sizing” exercise (nothing new in my line of work really) , but this time it that had a surprise that the end. My already compressed hybrid of a position as an HR Manager/Recruiting Manager was being eliminated. Now before you go and think that this blog post is one of ill-content, I harbour no negativity, and would in no-way, shape, or form wish to break rank here. In fact, I thank my employer for being so gracious and giving me an 8 weeks heads-up notice. I am very thankful!

This blog  post instead revolves around a word that I believe needs to be exemplified more often in the HR lexicon, and brought to the forefront of more of our workplace conversations. How much more honest and frank can you get than by asking an employee if they feel that they have the integrity of continuing on under their current circumstances?

My reasoning for this statement/question comes after completing an exit interview conversation during this past week. A now-ex-employee asked me a question to which I could only answer with this one word. Integrity. They asked me, “Why Rob? Why are you still “plugged in” and connected here? I checked out two weeks ago… they have already told you that your job is scheduled to be eliminated, so why do you care?” Astoundingly, the old, dusty word just popped right in my head. It was like lightning zapped my noggin and it rolled out of my mouth. Of course, I then extrapolated how I cared…not so much about what other employees had to say to my face while I was there, but more about how they would rate my performance after I left (besides, no one had really been hovering over my meticulous building of HR structures over the last year and three months, but they did like the outcomes. My diligence was just something that I did because I innately thought that it needed to done…nothing special in my mind until I can now see the impact). To wrap up the conversation I shared, “besides,  I have worked to dang hard to get things where they are now. If they just fall apart after I leave, what does that say about my leadership? Nothing.”

To say the least, I am still astounded shocked at my response, and never really knew that I had such emotions for an environment, and a group of people like this – but I guess that is what happens when you put on the “vest of invulnerability” everyday and jump into danger when the organization, or an employee sends out the emergency signal…I am hoping at this point that some HR colleagues can agree that it can become a bit of force of habit.

The real question I have in reflection to the events of the last week are this: How much INTEGRITY is too much? Is there a line of INTEGRITY that is to far out of reach?

I understand being a representative for an organization, and holding true to company ideals, visions and values until the very end –  but, in our present day economy with even the best of intended business decisions going wrong – can an HR professionals continue to hold themselves in harm’s way at the risk of being the only leader of a company that worries about the fate of others before the fate of themselves?

2 Comments

  1. Rob-
    It wasn’t too far into my HR experience that I realized this could some day be my reality. That idea alone has made my whole process related to RIF work more compassionate and respectful. I think you are showing exactly what many of your peers would. We work hard at what we do, believing we make a difference in the success of the business. And we do, but conditions change and there are no guarantees.
    Your decision to act with integrity isn’t something that can be tuned in – I don’t think there is “too much” integrity nor “too little”. I have seen one person who I held to a high standard act without integrity in this situation, and even then, I could argue that his previous six months were filled with terrible abuse on the part of leaders. The integrity had been beat out of him.
    Your integrity will continue to serve you well, and will assure that you will rise above your situation.
    Tim

  2. Dan Nuroo

    Interesting post Rob,

    I think HR people can be too loyal. Get seduced into the idea that as ambassadors of the brand/company that they are the company. When that thinking happens it is easy to stay past your used by date, from either your point of view or the companies. The idea that, “I’ve built this” is a constant theme, and when that is there, it is hard to walk away. I have a colleague, who is confused. He is tired of his role, seriously drained, however he sees it hypocritical of him to start looking for roles that will make him happy when he spends 70% of his time convincing people to stay with the company.

    The challenge is that the “integrity” and loyalty can get in the way of looking for new roles, or from seeing reality of the writing on the wall vs “I can fix this… it’ll improve”. HR people are (I hope) by nature, people who look after other people’s needs. It sometimes takes a shove to help them (HR People) look after their own.

    Just my 2 cents.. cheers

    Dan

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