Just Because You Can…Doesn’t Mean You Should

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen contemplating a course of action or implementing a new procedure/policy HR practitioners stand at a metaphorical crossroads.

In general the process begins with the question “can we do X?” which is a perfectly acceptable, and appropriate, place to start.  After all, as much as we may take umbrage at the relentless HR stereotype that we’re rule-enforcing bureaucrats who take great delight in policing every action there’s no denying that ensuring compliance and mitigating potential risk is an important part of what we do.

Yet…once it’s determined that “yes we CAN do X” it’s quite rare that the follow up question “but SHOULD we do X” is ever asked.

This doesn’t seem to rear its head in relation to matters that are fairly clear cut; wage and hour issues, EEO requirements and the like. Rather it pops up when there are nuanced decisions to be made or when one can opt to do more than is required.  You know… those times when one has the opportunity to enhance the employment experience and treat people like, well, people.

This has come to mind again after a number of recent conversations, discussions and consultations when business owners, HR colleagues and others have sought clarity on things such as:

  • Eliminating paid vacation and paid holidays for some (but not all) classifications of employees
  • Drastically alternating work schedules/work hours. Immediately. Like tomorrow.
  • Deciding that an internal applicant is not worthy of an interview because “we know we wouldn’t put him in that position anyway.”
  • Requiring an exempt employee to be on-site (8 AM to 5 PM) for the 40 hour Mon-Fri workweek even though a project deadline necessitated her working 16+ hours the previous weekend.  Not at the office Mon – Fri for full 40 hours? Just make sure missed work time is accompanied by a deduction from the PTO bank.
  • Charging employees’ time to their PTO bank for breaks needed to express milk
  • Opting to not disclose to an employee the reason for his termination

Ah yes.

Please…by all means…ask if you can. But don’t forget to wonder if you should.

 

“All The Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas

Layin’ In The Sun,

Talkin’ ‘Bout The Things

They Woulda-Coulda-Shoulda Done…

But All Those Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas

All Ran Away And Hid

From One Little Did.”

Shel Silverstein

2 comments

  1. caracarroll says:

    Great article Robin! What happens if we “do something” but know “we shouldn’t”. However, when making a case to management/CEO they do not agree or wish to do nothing to change the policy. What then? This is where I seem to run into issues…

  2. broc.edwards says:

    Robin, I wonder if those questions shouldn’t be reversed: start with “should we do it?” then move on to “how can we do it?”.

Leave a Reply