Not all rules are created equal
Human society is based upon laws and rules. Rules put the civil in civilization. Rules also put the profesh in professional..or something like that.
Most professionals, including HR professionals also develop a personal code of ethical conduct that helps guide our conduct in the workplace. Personally, I have found this to be useful.
Let’s look at both sides of this coin.
SHRM has a code of ethics for HR professionals that were published in November 2007. I’m excerpting highlights, but you can find the click on the link to find the full SHRM Code of Ethics.
As HR professionals, we are responsible for adding value to the organizations we serve and contributing to the ethical success of those organizations. We accept professional responsibility for our individual decisions and actions. We are also advocates for the profession by engaging in activities that enhance its credibility and value.
As professionals we must strive to meet the highest standards of competence and commit to strengthen our competencies on a continuous basis.
HR professionals are expected to exhibit individual leadership as a role model for maintaining the highest standards of ethical conduct.
As human resource professionals, we are ethically responsible for promoting and fostering fairness and justice for all employees and their organizations.
As HR professionals, we must maintain a high level of trust with our stakeholders. We must protect the interests of our stakeholders as well as our professional integrity and should not engage in activities that create actual, apparent, or potential conflicts of interest.
HR professionals consider and protect the rights of individuals, especially in the acquisition and dissemination of information while ensuring truthful communications and facilitating informed decision-making.
Good stuff really, filled with high minded principles and professionally appropriate jargon that we should all take to heart as HR professionals and practice inn the workplace on a daily basis. The problem with high minded principles, for me at least is that they don’t answer real world questions very well.
I’m talking about a question like: “Is it appropriate to be personal friends with professional colleagues?”
This question was always a personal conundrum for me, especially early on in my career. I had a hard time reconciling how I could be friends with people I saw every day in the workplace because I was afraid it would compromise me professionally if I ever had to participate in a disciplinary action, or a termination action involving one of them.
Early on in my career, I took the coward’s way out, electing not to establish any type of personal friendships in the workplace. This was one of my first personal rules of HR conduct.
It was a terrible error in judgement. It hurt me personally and professionally. Co-workers perceived me as aloof and unfriendly. It took me a few years in the profession to figure this out, and a few more years before I learned to correctly balance the personal and professional aspects of workplace friendship. I’ve been a much happier and complete human being since I gave that personal rule up.
Another question I still struggle with is “When is it ok to give a professional colleague a personal compliment?” I’m not talking about compliments like “great job on the Spacely Sprocket acquisition!”. I mean stuff like “great dress”, “Nice shoes”, and “You look mahvelous.” I’m not talking about creepy stuff here, just sincere heartfelt compliments. Every time I say something like this to someone, especially someone of the opposite sex I begin to question myself, and the appropriateness of the action.
I experienced this again recently when I saw a really good picture of Rayanne Thorn with her kids. She looked so happy and radiant, it was just wonderful. I sent her a DM on Facebook that I thought she looked gorgeous (which she did). Then I apologized for sending her a compliment. Kind of like giving a Christmas gift and telling someone they are going to hate it when they open it. Rayanne reassured me it was a nice thing to hear.
One of the personal rules that has stood the test of time is “Refrain from sharing your personal religious and political beliefs” with your co-workers. People hate that.
I’m still defining my personal rules of HR. Which ones do you struggle with? I’d love to hear from you.