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Crisis Advice to HR Managers

During crises, the priorities are for personal safety and mental health. Unresolved personal emotions that may arise from events can not only disrupt performance at the given moment, but can be sufficiently traumatizing as to cause long term declines in performance and loss of effective staff. People first and foremost need access to current information, so there may be a need to relax policies to allow more radio or television usage in common rooms and at workstations. Should individuals require a few additional personal telephone calls to reassure themselves of the safety or location of loved ones, that is also a key consideration. It is appropriate to continue some controls provided that you specifically communicate to managers and supervisors that they must exercise judgment where rules would normally be strictly prohibitive of such activities. Greater judgment and flexibility should be allowed and specifically explained to be allowed at the commencement of a crisis or at escalation points. Clearly local disasters require the greatest flexibility and often specific cancellation of work for one or more individuals or at least the provision of absolute discretion to them to determine whether to continue working or leave to attend to emergency matters. The key question is mental health. What may be a minor crisis for one person may have enormous psychological impact on another. Crisis is not a time to use the argument, “if I let you, I’ll have to let everyone….” Rather it is a time to be prepared to explain that everyone is different and one person needed special support. Others will appreciate that they would want the same options. At the same time, remember basic rules of personal privacy when explaining your reasoning to others. Team members need to know enough to understand that an absent member had a crisis, had to leave or make a phone call and that you provide such support automatically when it is explained and is urgent and appropriate. They do not need to know the details from management, but can be asked to find them out from the individual in question when they return or at an appropriate time. Of course, it is best to prevent or correct rumors when possible. When letting someone leave it is appropriate to ask whether you should advise others of the reasons. That way the individual can say yes or no, tell them or don’t. If it’s confidential at least you can tell others they requested the reason not be given out until they have a chance to resolve matters. Even if you can’t give a specific detailed reason at the moment you can indicate it was a crisis. Later facts will bear you out and validate your decision to allow flexibility to this one person and not others. It is critical for supervisors and managers to be reassured that these are the procedures so they aren’t concerned about being penalized if they relax rules in reasonable ways. Most people want to do the right things, but they sometimes fear for their own position if they ease up. They need to understand they will get support and approval for acting reasonably. Ideally this will always have been the policy, but an approaching or on-going crisis is a key time to reinforce such principles for anyone new to the workplace or to management responsibilities.

educate everyone in sensible investing through retirement planning to ultimately lessen pressure from shareholders for the short term results in all companies. knowing it probably means an end to their career and steady income altogether? How many companies will hire someone with a record of ‘whistle-blowing?’ This unfortunate fact isn’t likely to change easily no matter what sort of legislation is created. What everyone really wants to know is what to do in a crisis – is there a practical action or not? To summarize. but they certainly aren’t instantaneous. The toughest question is can or when should HR or other executives speak out. “how urgent is it?” Every violation of ethics has significance. Self-sacrifice may seem like some peak of honorable behavior. the popular quick-fix idea of ‘whistle-blowing’ has to be addressed.Can Anyone Survive Whistle-Blowing on Ethical Issues? In earlier articles I’ve outlined the long term practices HR could put in place to improve ethical behavior in organizations. A better way to put it is.” I have more thinking to do before I act. Moreover. Can’t we somehow make it possible for insiders who know what’s going on to protest bad practices or unethical decisions. we most likely all react initially based on the question. At some point. when we recognize an ethical question. what else can be done? The expectation of personal sacrifice seems to loom over all HR professionals constantly. but when “them is “me. “you should go in there and tell the CEO… [whatever the speaker thinks someone else should say]. “how significant is it?” That probably shouldn’t be the case. Can this be changed… or. create good relationships and credibility at the Board level so better internal successors are more likely to be chosen and finally. so the public and employees aren’t hurt by bad actions on the part of a few senior people? In fact.” I’d truly be rich by now. the long term suggestions have been – build a culture that does not tolerate lapses at any level. as HR executives. develop solid internal successors and conservative pay programs. we ought to offer to step into the shoes of the person destined to be guillotined especially since that person may be appealing directly to HR to decide what to do. Cumulatively I believe these steps can have tremendous effects over a reasonable time. but it’s unlikely ever to be viable for executives with families and mouths to feed. if not. like Sidney Carton in Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities. about ethical lapses. Could we ever pay people enough so that they could realistically protest. It’s easy for everyone to look to “them” to solve the problem. If I had a dollar for every time I was told. and how. it’s far more valuable in the long run to set up the systems and culture to avoid problems than look to last ditch efforts to save things. routinely put our necks on the line to be the ones who do this? Isn’t this really part and parcel of ‘good HR?’ Perhaps I should ask whether. First. shouldn’t we ourselves. We . To put some perspective around such questions for I’ll try to summarize the sort of thinking I believe we all typically go through.

one could presume most managers would agree with us and a critical mass would develop pretty quickly to save the law suits from happening if for no other reason. Not a very honorable feeling. Imagine the chaos if every wild allegation got reported publicly. but one of the long term approaches previously discussed may jog corporate policy and action – and you can live with that.shouldn’t overlook a single issue. with pilfering there’s always the anonymous note to audit or whoever ought to react. but if it gets the job done. 5. Most of the time. minor pilfering or somewhat questionable results-reporting by your boss. 7. especially when we’ve been talking about useful long term solutions. If none of the easy routes work and the problem is important. I believe a second level of analysis arises in one’s mind.’ 6. but we have some latitude to decide whether it needs a quick solution. Hopeless. At some point. 2. We consider where the matter fits: 1. Can it wait? Urgency depends on imminent danger. Solvable with effort – Problems where some senior execs have blind spots. Solvable if not too urgent – Problems where you have a snowball’s chance of convincing anyone to act short term. Have you followed the common recommendation to save six months salary somewhere? . It’s best described by a hierarchy that we consciously or otherwise use to sort such issues and choose an action. Much as we would hope everyone would fix such problems for purely unselfish reasons. Easily solvable – Problems we believe we could openly confront the CEO with and expect discussion to reveal the logic. 4. Nevertheless safety is more likely to be seen generally as urgent and get resolved than. Great to have an ‘open-minded’ boss. but approaching various people carefully may build consensus so a team takes a united front with the top people or puts a solution in place themselves. Reporters get these notes all the time. Thank heavens we live in mostly ethical organizations. but livable – Silently accept that you probably can’t do anything ever – consider it ‘not my problem. Typically when a major problem surfaces everyone becomes aware that there have been such warnings and no one acted. we all know that doesn’t always happen. mild and unacceptable to you – Start a job search with possible future action when you’re ‘safe. but ethically they can’t act unless there is confirmation. Of course. say. that takes immediate action of some sort. If a safety violation could get someone killed or injured. but is that so unexpected? The alternative could be worse. Routine – Problems you know senior executives will recognize and want to fix – which therefore pose no problem to raise. serious consequences but not fatal – Quit as soon as possible. 3. lots of companies encourage it. urgency is low enough for any of us to step back and put our efforts solely into long term solutions involving education or culture change rather than risk our jobs by going over our bosses’ heads if we can’t find other ways. Unsolvable.’ if you still care. Hopeless.

That takes us back full circle to my first article recommending we build a culture that routinely involves people at every level in thinking about and participating in decisions to enforce ethical behavior.8. immediate and fatal – Blow the whistle. They are more rare as you go down the list. This creates a tendency to waffle between ignoring the issue or blowing it out of proportion as we mentally test what we should do. The time of decision-making is extremely stressful. wait for consequences. Thoughtfulness is a requirement or there isn’t really an ethical “question. We must each face our own issues. it is complex and can have far-reaching consequences for them. Pardon? Did . There is. Each is complex and we typically don’t have all the facts. however. It’s time we started making this a part of everyone’s responsibilities and training. Business Planning for Non-Planners It's the start of your business day and you quickly whip out your clearly written plans. done right. I believe it’s truly difficult to categorize some types of situations. It rarely helps for people to offer snap judgments about what someone else ought to do. balanced decisions on this sort of thing… and we should. are ultimately very personal and there is no way to escape the inevitable soulsearching and hesitation. Whatever the individual’s decision when an apparent ethics issue arises. a role for HR to work with people to help them think through their roles logically and to encourage this sort of discussion. for the whole organization and for a lot of other people. As an HR manager I didn’t see it as my role to make the decision for someone or blow the whistle for anyone except perhaps in matters that were literally life and death. By laying out the hierarchy clearly perhaps we’re in a better position to help everyone struggle as effectively as possible with such decisions. Ethics. Like it or not these are likely the pragmatic thoughts that we all have to face one time or another in organizations. Hopeless.” The sad truth is that we don’t get a lot of preparation to make reasoned. With luck one can get through a career with no number 8’s or find that one of the other solutions finds a sympathetic ear further up the line without becoming fully public.

While your plans stay in your head.you say you don't have a written business plan? Then join the club. just write down the things that come into your head about your business. The idea of planning is boring to you. I feel one of the problems for creative and entrepreneurial people is that when they think of business plans the picture that spring to mind is of hours pouring over vast pages of details. this is who you are and you don't want to lose this. If you're a member of this group and I was once. problems. Instead of thinking that you need to commit hours to writing your business plans. Writing down your plans clarifies. and clears space in your mind. not knowing how to do it or where to start. These informal plans are ones that you'll use yourself. And you'd rather be doing other things. it may be a good way to get a formal business plan started. The next step is to tap into your strengths as an entrepreneur or creative person. is it really if you're not willing to commit them to paper. current situation and positioning. Now without any thought of the right way to do it. Business failure rate is high and a major reason for this is lack of planning. and may well be intuitive. So. However. fear that you many need to change or fear of failure. You're probably great at coming up with ideas and solutions. seems unnecessary and involves too much detail. Your business plan need only be a straightforward discussion of . you're probably an entrepreneur or a creative person. Although most people would say that they operate their business as a business. in reality most operate them as hobbies. it doesn't need to be like that. not achieving the results you want and ultimately face your business failing. Now fear starts to surface. what's your reason for not having business plans? Apart from the usual reasons. strategies. Your way of working is probably much more spontaneous. That's enough to turn them straight off. The problem this club faces is that the majority of members' businesses are likely to fail. and to be creative and entrepreneurial with it. Putting them on paper brings them closer to fruition and although you may say this is what you want. such as your bank or investors then this idea might not be for you. If you need a business plan for outsiders. However. Then they wonder why they're not being successful and seeing results. organises and prioritises them. Planning your business takes it from being a hobby to a fully-fledged business. You'll use questions to come up with answers and solutions that you'll put into your business plan. However. perhaps you think that planning doesn't fit with your entrepreneurial and creative spirit. it's not so frightening and real. So. There is a way to develop plans for your business. without any plans you can end up very unfocused. like not having enough time to plan. Just capture any goals. 'Business Owners Without Plans'. exciting and in the flow so you don't want to be tied down with plans. you'll tap into all of these using the power of questions. I invite you to start with just 5 minutes. After all.

you'll want to continue. Here are some questions to get you started: What is the current business situation? What goals do you have for the business? What problems and challenges is your business currently facing? What strategies are you using? What strategies do you need to use? What resources and opportunities do you have? Okay. Nothing complicated or too detailed. and use these to develop plans for your business that keep you focused and producing the results you want. resources and goals. Once you start laying down some plans for your business and experience the benefits of doing this. what will it take for you to start putting some of your business plans onto paper? .your present situation. I invite you to make a commitment of 5 minutes each business day and continue working on your business plans. The most important step is to get started. so having spent 5 minutes on your business plans. and come up with your own thought provoking questions to answer. Take your creative and entrepreneurial spirit. Once you've responded to the above questions. your strategies. put on your creative and entrepreneurial hat. As an entrepreneur or creative.