HR Executive

HR Executive

HRChick

Seattle, WA

Female, 39

I'm the head of HR for a leading digital media company. I'm responsible for making my company an amazing place to work - or at least I'll go down trying! In short, I set the strategic direction for the HR function of the organization. I wear many hats: member of the executive team, confidant and advisor to my peers regarding people matters, as well as an advocate for all people that work hard to make our products great. People are what make organizations tick, and my job is to empower them all.

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Last Answer on January 11, 2015

Best Rated

If harassing behavior occurs outside of the office and outside of business hours, does this still qualify as harassment?

Asked by followupyup over 4 years ago

Yup. Anytime you have a professional relationship with someone, you do need to be mindful that what happens in Vegas, doesn't always stay in Vegas. To give an example, a manager harassing an employee at a mutual friend's wedding is still going to creep out the employee - even more so on Monday when they have to see them in the office. A similar example is from a recent court case. In this example, a management employee and a coworker were at a mutual friend's birthday party. At this party, the coworker mentioned to the manager that she was having issues with her boss, but that she didn't want the manager to do anything about it. Two years later, when the employee sued the company for harassment, she cited telling this management employee about her concerns at this party as one of the times she gave the company notice of the problem. The court held this to be true, even though the manager was not a manager of the employee, and was in a separate department. Both the company, and this management employee, were held liable for knowingly allowing harassment to happen.

If I politely ask a co-worker out on a date, is that grounds for harassment? I've heard that asking once is not, but asking again could be.

Asked by anonymous over 4 years ago

Ah, like all things in HR, the answer is somewhat situational. If you are your co-worker's boss (or in anyway senior and influential over her job), the best advice I can give you is to not go there. There are risks - if she says no, and you later have discipline problems, she can claim retaliation. If she says yes, you can only win if you stay in happy bliss and, likely, change the nature of the reporting relationship. You also open yourself up to favoritism allegations from employees you are not dating. This answer, of course, assumes you are only dating one employee at a time. I strongly advise against dating two or more at a time, even if you aren't the boss. If you are peers, it's less of an issue. In fact, a high percentage of spouses meet in the workplace. In general, harassment occurs when someone's behavior creates a hostile environment. Typically, this means if you ask someone out once, and then keep all other interactions professional and consistent with other coworkers (unless you are a jerk), if she says no you are likely OK. Same holds for dating and breaking up - keep it professional. If you are going to date someone at work, I recommend agreeing ahead of time on some ground rules for how you will interact in the workplace, both for when dating and if you break up. You should also check and see what your company's policy is on dating - some prohibit it, some require you to inform HR about it.

I've been told that if you report sexual harassment you're let go. Quite a few women I know have reported this happening to them. How can women avoid this?

Asked by howzit over 4 years ago

Harassment does happen, and it is awful for many reasons. No employee, male or female, should be in a situation where they are made to feel uncomfortable based on any personal characteristic. When it does happen, HR or management has a legal obligation to take the complaint seriously, investigate the situation, and remedy the situation. Some companies don't do this and, instead, make the situation even worse by taking further action harmful to the impacted employee. To anyone who finds themself in a situation where they are being harassed, my first advice is to seek internal resources to fix the problem. Most companies, and HR people, do want to do right by their people. If that doesn't happen, and you continue to be harassed, for personal well-being I suggest taking steps to find another job somewhere else on your own. If a company isn't going to protect its employees legal rights in one area, it likely is not going to be respectful in other areas. And I would consider taking legal action against the company, depending on the extent of the situation and your personal desire to do so. Maybe, just maybe, the last few neanderthals out there who engage in harassment might get scared enough to stop. Or, the people around them who enable the behavior will stand up to them.

People typically associate HR with hiring/firing/disputes, but it seems like your job is more than that. What's one way you think employees UNDERutilize their HR representatives?

Asked by Liesel over 4 years ago

Thank you for asking this question! We HR peeps do have a bit of a chip on our shoulder about our reputation - this gives me a chance to set the record straight. One of my favorite roles is to play as a sounding board or coach for employees at all levels. Having dealt with many different employment situations, most HR people can discuss current issues with someone and help them evaluate the different approaches. This is especially true if the situation is something that could potentially escalate into a major dispute that HR would need to be involved with. It gives us a chance to head it off at the pass, and allow the employee(s) involved avoid a stressful situation. A collaborative approach can help people find their way through disagreements, challenging work assignments, or even difficult career path questions. It is empowering for the employee, and the HR person gets to play a more fulfilling role than bad cop / lawyer / mom.

What was the worst reaction you've ever had from an employee you laid off or fired?

Asked by SeverenceIsBliss over 4 years ago

This is hard to answer - there have been some very interesting reactions! Plus, it's hard to define worst. In the context of this answer, I will define worst as the most unprofessional / what I recommend least when being fired for inappropriate behavior. Here's some pointers: * Don't have your mom call me after you have been fired for repeated inappropriate behavior. I swear it won't make a difference. * Yelling "you are a big chicken" to your (now former) manager isn't going to help your networking, no matter how much better it makes you feel in the moment. * Running away from the office before you are fired doesn't mean you can avoid it. * Finally, it's all about timing - you are likely to be 0-for-2 if you ask me out on a date two minutes after I have told you that you are fired. Awkward... Lastly, with regards to layoffs - those are the hardest conversations ever. 99% of the time the employee has done nothing to deserve the termination, and I usually have a long term relationship with them. I can only hope that I handle it with enough grace so that the employee retains their dignity and is given enough support to transition well.

The guy in the cubicle next to be REEKS to high heaven. But he's also the nicest, most gentle guy on earth (think "Stapler Guy" from Office Space). I can't bring myself to tell him directly -- can I ask HR to intervene and tell him to shower?

Asked by GMP over 4 years ago

Yup. I have had to have the following conversations more than once: * You need to take a shower before work * You need to wear clean clothes to the office * It is inappropriate to not wear shoes into the restroom * There are over the counter remedies, such as Beano, that can help address the dispute between you and your coworkers And you can ask HR to do it in an anonymous fashion...

Thoughts on the movie Up In The Air? Representative of the layoff experience or exaggerated for Hollywood?

Asked by Misty over 4 years ago

Totally exaggerated - no one is that smooth and good at firing people. It may not seem like the person doing the firing has any feelings, but they do. They are usually scared out of their mind, afraid to screw it up, because they don't do it all the time. Often they genuinely care about the person, as they have worked together a while, and are super bummed. And they don't want to get the stink eye when they run into them at the local coffee shop.