Human resources ethics can make or break a business. HR must uphold the highest ethical code in the company since they’re the ones that employees come to when dealing with their own ethical problems.
However, ethics issues do arise, even with human resources. This can create an environment of distrust throughout the entire organization.
One of the top human resources ethics issues is bias. HR personnel are often placed in the difficult position of determining who’s at fault. They also have to deal with investigating their own friends. This becomes increasingly problematic for long term personnel who have made friends with multiple co-workers.
While it’s understandable to want to help a friend out and sweep an issue under the proverbial rug, this shows bias and other employees will notice. This also makes the friend feel invincible and creates more ethical issues.
Human resources isn’t above discrimination, though it’s an issue that may often be reported to them. Victims trust HR to treat everyone equally, regardless of race, sex, age and more. However, this isn’t always the case. If it’s a he said/she said situation, HR might always side with one sex over the other, no matter what evidence is presented. This gives your company a reputation of sex discrimination, hurting your chances of attracting new talent and causing you to lose existing great employees.
Feeling Above The Rules
It’s not uncommon for HR to feel like they’re above the rules. After all, who is going to investigate or punish them? When it comes to human resources ethics issues, this is arguably the worst. They may treat others unfairly, believing there are no consequences. If anyone tries to report them to upper management, they just say they’re innocent. Since they’re HR, upper management is more likely to believe them.
HR often has access to sensitive personal information on employees. They can use it to blackmail employees who try to call them out for their ethical issues. Once again, HR may feel they’re above reproach. The results can be disastrous.
Even if they’re not blackmailing anyone, they may share personal information about other employees with their friends. This can include details on salaries, previous employment, medical conditions and more. Any personal details could lead to harassment and animosity at work.
Dealing With Human Resources Ethics Issues
While human resources should be a safe place for employees to report issues at work, employees also need a safe way to report unethical behavior by HR. For instance, if they feel they were discriminated against by HR, they should have a whistleblower hotline available to report this.
Businesses need to have an unbiased team that doesn’t include HR personnel to help deal with ethics complaints. It’s only by having a full system of checks and balances that employees feel safer and you’re able to create a much more ethical workplace. Even if some staff balk at the idea of a hotline, it will help improve your business and hold everyone to a much higher ethical standard.
Image: Jonathan Borba