NEVER put HR Policy over People

One of my favorite office related movies is Office Space.  Although released in 1999, the humor regarding some of the stupid things we do in offices in name of productivity still apply.  I think anyone who has watched the movie knows how much the company loved putting policy over people.

In the movie, Ron Livingston finds himself in an unfulfilling, soul-sucking job he hates.  He seeks help in the form of hypnotherapy to deal with the dreadful routines he has to live through daily. During one session, his hypnotherapist dies in the middle of the session, leaving him a constant state of not really giving a shit about much anything, including the crazy requirements placed on him in his job.

Before this unplanned alteration to his personality, Ron had to endure one of his managers who was the bane of his existence.  We all know these types.  The corporate BS spewing, unproductive “manager” who delights in processes and reports while hiding behind the guise of caring for their team.  His favorite question to ask is, “What about your TPS reports.” The humor in the movie speaks to the complete disdain most of us feel about the corporate idolatry of processes and the loss of humanity in the workplace.

When I watch the movie now, I think of the numerous HR professionals I have worked with as a consultant or a colleague who treasured processes and prided themselves on being a stickler for following the code.  They seemed to enjoy the option to put HR policy over people.  Here are some examples:

  • They would rather have someone who is experiencing a life emergency fill out the right paperwork in the right color ink and faxed to the right number than simply doing what needs to be done to make someone feel valuable.
  • Rather than talking about the effectiveness of continuous coaching and feedback, they would rather talk about how fancy their ten-page quarterly employee assessment process is.
  • Instead of being engaged, goal-oriented humans, they are more like the automated phone lines that answer when you call into major organizations.

Sometimes, all we want to feel is valued, so why would ANYONE in Human Resources enjoy taking the human aspect out of it?

HR can make significant progress within their organization when it eliminates the option to put HR policy over people.

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