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How To Destroy a Lifetime of Trust as an HR Pro in a Single Day...

I got a call today.  Former HR Director who had worked for me at a past Fortune 500.  Top line talent, smart and proactive.  The dream direct report when you're a VP of HR.Mo money

But here's the deal. It didn't work out. She blew up 2 years of trust and high potential tags in one day with one action. What action could an HR pro take to throw it all away in one day, you ask?

Simple - she leveraged salary information she had due to her access to the entire HRMS to complain that she wasn't earning enough as compared to other functional leads in the unit she supported. To be specific, her feelings got hurt that she wasn't making as much as the Director of Engineering or the Director of Customer Service.  Took the complaint straight to the field VP she supported and told her she had to fix it if she wanted to keep her.

Guess who the field VP called?  That's right, the dotted line known as KD.  When I get a call like that, It feels like a mushroom cloud rising up over the eastern horizon.

Why?  Because that high potential HR Director didn't claim that she wasn't making enough relative to her HR peers in the company or HR peers in the marketplace.  She wanted to earn as much as her peers in other departments.  But the market said that wasn't warranted and still does to a large degree.

The moral of the story?  With great access (the whole HRMS, employee records, payroll registers, etc) comes great responsibility.  If you're in a HR leadership position, you've got more access to this kind of stuff than anyone.  Because of that access, you've got to act like an adult.  You're closer to a FBI/Secret Service/CIA agent in that regard.  You know things. Things that would jolt other people.  You're expected to lock it down and keep it all confidential.

The quickest way to blow trust when you have that much access?  Leverage your access to information (the HRMS salary data) to make an emotional play (pay me like the people in other departments) to attempt to pimp someone to pay you more.  Unfortunately, I've seen it multiple times in my career.

I'll say it again - with great access comes great responsibility.  You know things others don't.  That means you have to be more mature than those you serve.



Great, great advice and insight.

This post also reminds me how we in HR are also challenged to be business partners and understand the organization's bread and butter is business: revenues, profit, top line, bottom line, ROI. The best way to have a seat at the business table is to keep HR and all we do directly linked to adding business value and to quantify that.

Some in HR and talent get it, some don't, and some don't want to try. Another bonus of being a business partner, is you have an even better case that you are driving business results and deserve the commensurate compensation to the other line executives.

Seth M

To whom much is given, much is required. This is one of the basic building blocks/foundation upon which all effective HR partnerships are established.

Can I get an "Amen!"? : )

HR Buoy

Excellent post. These situations always come up and I like your statement that with great access comes great responsibility. I will us that and share your blog with colleagues. Thank you.

Sean Conrad

HR pros should take a look at the kinds of guidelines and policies that IT pros typically have in place in regards to employee information.

The ability to access personal information about another employee is not = to permission. Think about what you would have to do as the HR Pro if the same thing was done by an IT Manager - it puts it in a bit of perspective!

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