Wednesday, December 11, 2013

If you stand for nothing, you'll fall for anything

Life Lesson Fitting of a Professional

So I haven’t blogged in a couple of month. My deepest apologies, I have been beyond busy between professional work and family. I will stay on top of it this time. I promise…

In reflecting on my journey in HR I thought of a situation that I wanted to write about. It was one of those situations that I wish I had done more. It was a situation in which I felt someone needed my voice and my voice was not strong. It was a situation that I would do differently if I could do it all over again. It was a true learning experience and life lesson.
It was a several years ago I was working for a large grocery retailer as an HR Generalist. I did most of the recruiting and hiring for the positions within the store. I interviewed a young man; I will name him Todd Tolduso, the young man was still in high school looking for evenings and part time work. A friend of his already worked at the store and she was a great employee and suggested that I interview him because he was very nice. During the interview I noticed certain quarks about him, but I am a person who prides themself in the ability to see beyond the superficial and look at a person for true talent and ability.
I saw the talent and the ability to perform the job function. (Which let me remind you is a bagger at a retail grocery store.) I hired the young man. It took him a little longer to do the computer based training; and this is where the problems began.  Todd was taking a little longer than normal to complete computer based training and that did not sit well with my manager. After having had some interactions with Todd, my manager had noticed some of the same quarks about him that I had noticed during the interview. However, he took complete offense to them. My manager approach me after talking to the young man and sensing some irritability regarding how long it was taking Todd to complete the computer based training he said to me, “Why did you hire him? Haven’t we reached our quota for special needs? Don’t hire another one.” As he walked away laughing with his counterpart.
A part of me died when I heard those words. I never imagined that people felt, believe, or thought that way. I always had much more hope for humanity and our ability to see the greater good in people. But in hind sight all I had done was project my worldly views onto someone else. Not everyone feels and thinks the was that I do.
My manager and his assistant manager really wanted me to push him to quit.  This way they would not feel bad about their actions (or could not be sued) and their store numbers would still look good.  This I could not do. After a couple of weeks on the job the Todd was really beginning to find his groove. In a strange turn of events the young man ended up being the best employee that the store has seen in a long time. He was that employee that when someone else called off I could depend on him to come in and replace an employee. He never called in, was always on time, and more than willing to stay late – even on a school night. It came to a point when I would let my manager know someone was not able to come into work on a day, he started saying, “Can we call Todd?” I would call Todd and he would come into work, more than happy. Because he always was.
I later left that organization for a number of reasons, but I now know that my personal values did not match those of the organization and it was not a ‘good fit’ for me. Looking back I wish I had done more initially, I know that I was not going to allow myself to push Todd Tolduso out the door with difficult task in hopes that he would quit. Since then I have done more than my share to try to make Todd’s life better in any way that I can. I still keep in touch with him, I have written him letters of recommendation, and given him leads on additional work. But I wish I had said something. I wish so badly that I would have told my manager that his statement about “reaching quotas” is highly illegal, discriminatory, and not inclusive by any stretch of the imagination. 

In HR you see the good, the bad, the hilarious, and the ugly. This was definitely one of those ugly situations that you only hope does not happen in real life but it does. When it does you need to be ready and willing to take a stance. Because if you stand for nothing, than you will fall for anything. My stance? I cannot say that the situation will NEVER happen again; but my reaction will be different. Not on my watch - not while I am still an HR professional or any professional. And when you fall, there are more than enough people willing to take your place…who have a stance.

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