In case you missed it, I shared some thoughts on company romance for managers of people yesterday, with the firing of the CEO of McDonald's as the backdrop.
On a related note, it was reported on Monday that the company's CHRO - David Fairhurst - had opted to leave the company. Here's a quick rundown from the Wall Street Journal, then let's discuss:
"McDonald's said its top human-resources executive has left the company, days after the burger giant fired its chief executive, Steve Easterbrook, because of his relationship with an employee.
McDonald’s said Chief People Officer David Fairhurst left the company on Monday, without providing any details of the reasoning behind his departure. A McDonald’s representative said Mr. Fairhurst’s exit wasn’t related to the firing of Mr. Easterbrook.
New CEO Chris Kempczinski said in an email to employees Monday that Mr. Fairhurst was moving on from McDonald’s after 15 years of service, and had helped enhance the company’s brand. Mason Smoot, a McDonald’s senior vice president and company employee since 1994, was elevated to Mr. Fairhurst’s role on an interim basis, Mr. Kempczinski said.
Mr. Fairhurst didn’t respond to requests for comment. He had worked with Mr. Easterbrook for McDonald’s in the U.K. and was promoted to the top human-resources job soon after Mr. Easterbrook became CEO in 2015."
Did Fairhurst leave for reasons unrelated to the firing of the CEO for an inappropriate relationship? While that's possible, it's also unlikely.
Here's the top possible reasons for the departure of Fairhurst:
- He knew about the relationship and didn't escalate it appropriately.
- He didn't know about the relationship, but should have based on the circumstances.
- The board didn't evaluate whether he knew or not, they just decided he couldn't stay based on his long-term relationship with the CEO and the sensitivity of the issue related to the responsibility of the HR Function.
Regardless of the reason, the separation of McDonald's CHRO Fairhurst is a visible reminder of a shifting landscape for HR leaders. When it comes to issues of professional conduct in the C-Suite, we're increasingly being held accountable for the actions of the leaders we support. If we know of an issue, it's our responsibility to bring it up. But more importantly, it's our job to be wired in to what's going on. At the end of the day, if we're not connected enough to have the information we need, we're going to be held accountable when bad stuff happens.
Fair? Maybe, maybe not. But it's the reality in the new world, and the removal of the McDonald's CHRO underscores the need to be wired in and take action swiftly.