Dignity and Compassion

Is that too much to ask today?

One of this community's pillars is the belief that we can make modern organizations through leadership, freedom, and humanity. We see a lot of leadership worship (Bezos, Zuckerberg in the beginning, Jack Welch back in the day, etc.) and we see a lot of, I would argue misguided, freedom worship around tech company’s (nap pods! ping-pong tables!) but we don’t see a lot of the same adoration, outside of HR circles, of humanity in the workplace.

So, what does humanity at work look like on a daily basis?

Work is a cumulative experience. If people are treated poorly the majority of the time their overall experience of your organization will be negative, despite that one time the CEO bought everyone lunch.

It’s not enough to give people nap pods or meditation rooms (but those are fantastic, and I would never turn them down), but what’s the experience like working for your company? Is it cold and inhumane? Or is it warm and welcoming?

Your First & Last Day

There is a lot of attention around attracting, hiring, and onboarding employees, for the right reason. A first day without a workspace, computer, or even a plan can leave a lasting impression.

I would also argue that the end is just as important as the beginning. How do our organizations treat departing employees?

I read an article recently that highlighted various HR practitioners giving their advice about how to terminate an employee with dignity and compassion. It’s easy to envision dignity and compassion for someone whose position has been eliminated. But what about the poor performer? What about the person who likely stole from the company but you can’t quite prove it? Do they deserve dignity and compassion as well?

Is there a way to separate/terminate employment without making it about that individual?

A termination is never about the person. When we can distinguish between the employee as a person and the reason for the termination (the act), then we can keep the dignity of the person intact. When the employee feels good about who they are they can better accept the reason for the termination, learn from their mistake, and move forward. Communicate that we want to correct the act and not the person.

Sonja Talley, Principal HR Consultant

What do you think?

Maybe our world of work, our world in general, would be much better off if we aspired to separate the person from the action. Is that possible?

What if we lived in a world where, even in the worst situations, the person sitting across from us had the self-knowledge to understand it was their actions that led to separation from employment and not themselves as a person?

How would our organizations be different?

How would leadership be different?

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