Are we putting too much on our Line Managers?

Line Manager

You can delegate authority but not responsibility that remains with the delegator.  Well that was what I was taught back in the late 80’s when I was on my ISM course.  However it would seem that we have stopped doing that.  We have continually moved not only the authority, but also the responsibility down to the lowest level of management, Line Manager & Team Leaders.  The two articles from People Management last week only go to show that to be true.

In an article by Karen Warren for People Management last week titled Stop making excuses for bad line managers she outlined this stating, “Line Managers and team leaders are responsible for many things: recognising and rewarding great work, ensuring their staff are performing well and holding them to account if they’re not, and supporting their development – either to improve their performance and wellbeing or to help them develop and progress into other roles if they want to.”

Emily Burt also wrote about Line Manager responsibility in the same publication titled Line managers ‘first port of call’ for employees with mental ill-health talking about the CIPD and Mind guidelines for improving work place mental health.  The article states “The role of line managers in employee wellbeing is vital,” said Rachel Suff, senior employment relations adviser at the CIPD. “They are often the first port of call for someone needing help, and are most likely to see warning signs of poor mental health among employees.”

I have to wonder how much of the work of Senior Managers, HR and Occupational Health Experts is now being abdicated, yes abdicated, further down the management structure to the lowest management levels.  Could this be down, in the case of HR at least, to the fact that CIPD has been driving the profession further and further towards what it sees as the good stuff, the sexy stuff, Strategy, the thinking part, while it continues to neglect the operational side of the profession and those working within it?

Yes Line Managers/Team Leaders are the first people who are likely to spot problems, but they have not been suitably trained and developed (in a lot of cases), to actually do their main job, let alone have the training required to apportion a causal effect to a change in a team members behaviour. They definitely haven’t had the training to actually deal effectively with it and nor have the vast majority of HR, Health & Safety and other more senior managers. Add to that they are for the most not recognised or suitably remunerated for taking on these types of responsibilities.

Yes irritability and other mood changes in individuals in a managers team is usually spotted quite quickly by them.  Attributing a causal effect is much harder, takes years of experience and asking them to effectively diagnose it is something they neither have the skills, training or experience to do, not to mention the time on top of all their other responsibilities.  It is hard enough for skilled, trained and experienced people to get those suffering from mental health issues to open up and talk.  It can take hours of gentle persuasion to do so.  Have Line Managers and Team Leaders the actual time on top of everything else to do this in a way that is beneficial to the team member?

Warren goes on to re-state that the majority of our Line Managers were given their jobs and just expected to get with it.  Most are actually given the role because they are great at the job they were doing, with no training before taking on the role and scant training thereafter.  How is this still possible?

How long has CIPD and other professional bodies been championing the need to better train existing Line Managers and to encourage organisations to develop people who have the attributes to become effective ones, before they are actually needed to fill those roles, in effect developing talent pipelines.  My observations so far are that we have moved on very little since the time this issue was first raised.

During that time we have expected them to take on addition responsibilities including first line HR, Health & Safety, Training & Development, Reward & Recognition and now we want to add Wellbeing including Mental Health.  Warren says “Stop making excuses for bad line managers.”  I actually think the vast majority of them are doing the best that they can and getting scant thanks for it.

How often have we heard that stress is one of the main causes of ill-health at work?

I don’t think a week goes by without an article somewhere being published on the subject.  As we keep abdicating these authorities and responsibilities down the management levels we are actually increasing the stress levels of Line Managers.  They are now the ones senior managers expect to deal with it from not only their managers perspective but also from their team members as more senior managers within our organisations make it obvious to them that they don’t deal with that, speak to your line manager they will help you.

Personally I think it is time to review the function of Line Managers, their roles and responsibilities.  It is time that organisations reassess the training and development that line managers require to carry out the roles they are being asked to do.  It is also time for senior managers and directors to stop abdicating and take some responsibility back.  Take on the burden of some of the additional stress we have been putting on them and realise our part in getting to this situation in the first place.

Who is responsible for ensuring the wellbeing of our line managers, or are we saying they are responsible for that themselves?

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Bullying & Harassment – Who is responsible for tackling it in our organisations?


This question has been going round the HR profession for years.  Most seem to believe that it comes under HR, some believe it is Management and in particular Directors.  There has also been talk about it coming under Health and Safety.  They are all right and they are all wrong.  There is only one real answer to that question.  We all are, every single person working in, suppliers of, and customers of our organisations have a responsibility to call it out and stop it in its tracks as soon as it is seen or heard.  We can have all the policies and procedures we want, we can give out corporate statements by the dozen stating our commitment to preventing and dealing with it.  We can make specific departments or individuals responsibility for dealing with it day to day but we will never achieve the sort of reductions that are not only necessary but imperative to ensure our organisational culture eradicates all forms of bullying and harassment.

In a recent article on Don’t go numb over damning new workplace sexual harassment report in HRM the news site of the Australian HR Institute (AHRI) it sites some shocking figures for not only the instances of this particular form of harassment but the under reporting of it.  It also states that “forty per cent of workplace cases of sexual harassment are witnessed by at least one other person, 69 per cent of which did not intervene.”   For me that is the biggest reason that we don’t see these figures dropping.  It’s not just in cases of Sexual Harassment that this happens, it happens in every form of bullying and harassment.  It’s witnessed and those witnessing it do or say nothing.

There is one thing I would like to point out at this time and that is the vast majority of all forms of harassment & bullying is committed by people in the victims own peer group, only a small faction is committed by managers on subordinates.

As I say in my comments on this article, “I’m glad to see the SIA, AHRI and IRSQ getting together to discuss this in an effort (I hope) to design a joined up approach to this aspect of our work places and work relationships. I agree that we should stop deferring responsibility and actually assign responsibility, but not to one group or another, it is not any group or any group of groups that need to take responsibility. Responsibility to significantly reduce Sexual and any other form of bullying and harassment should be instilled in every individual who works in our organisations from the small companys to the multinationals.

The work needed to address this part of our work culture is vast and won’t be combated by just improving the capabilities and behaviour of those in our profession. It needs a fundamental change in our organisations culture and attitudes to this and other behaviours, We are seeing changes due to pressures outside our organisation, but I will at this point air a note of caution, that all changes have to be balanced, well thought through and implemented fairly. Too many of these interventions start from a point of apportioning blame to one group, though there is enough evidence to suggest that all groups can be seen to contain people within them that exhibit these types of unwanted behaviours and attitudes.

Yes HR Professionals have a major part to play in this drive to change culture, practice and attitudes. Increasing capabilities, competence and practice in our profession is needed as pointed out by Dr Rebecca Michalak (below). Though this alone will not drive the desperately needed changes. Other bodies such as employers groups, directors and managers groups also need to increase the competence and capabilities within their members so they can support and be supported by HR, SIA and IRSQ members. It needs a whole organisation culture change to be effective,

Some might say that the time for talking is past, it is time for action, to a point they are right but this can’t be dealt with piecemeal, to gain real traction towards zero instances of this behaviour it is going to need everyone to get onboard and it starts with making everyone responsible for their action and inaction in regards to unwanted and unwarranted behaviours regardless of their standing within our organisations.”

Before you start thinking that there will need to be changes in or new laws put in place, There isn’t any need for new laws to deal with bullying and harassment, they are already in place.  Though bullying isn’t covered under the Equality Act 2010, harassment is, based on specified criteria.  However the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 actually makes both bullying and harassment an offence under Section 7.

Section 7

General duties of employees at work.

It shall be the duty of every employee while at work—

(a)to take reasonable care for the health and safety of himself and of other persons who may be affected by his acts or omissions at work; and

(b)as regards any duty or requirement imposed on his employer or any other person by or under any of the relevant statutory provisions, to co-operate with him so far as is necessary to enable that duty or requirement to be performed or complied with.

As both bullying and harassment may result in both physical and or psychological harm to an employee, this section actually covers more than the Equality Act 2010.  It also puts a duty on employees to actually step in and were possible prevent such behaviours as well as report them.

Want to change it?

Then it’s time that every single one of us steps up, steps in and speak out.

Responsibility does not only lie with HR, Managers and Directors.  Responsibility lies with each and every one of us and only if we take on that responsibility will we see the changes necessary to significantly reduce all forms of bullying and harassment.

It starts and ends with us.  Are you going to step up, step in and speak out today?

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Unconscious Bias training, a waste of time, money and resources which can be better utilised elsewhere in the organisation.

Unconscious Bias.

What is it?

Why do we have them?

Why don’t we know we have them?

What can we do about it?

The first part is easy, just look it up online somewhere and you will get a definition something like this.

“Unconscious bias refers to a bias that we are unaware of, and which happens outside of our control. It is a bias that happens automatically and is triggered by our brain making quick judgments and assessments of people and situations, influenced by our background, cultural environment and personal experiences.”1

The definition actually answer the second and third parts without any need for further explanation in this article.

The tricky part is answering the last part, “What can we do about it?”  A lot of people far better qualified and experienced than I at researching this have tried and fallen short on their answers.  They have designed, developed, sold training packages and materials, (as well as making a lot of money from doing so) to try and answer the question but even so there is no quick fix to the problem (if there is an actual measurable problem) and of course there never will be.  Unconscious bias is by definition unknown to the person having them and differ from person to person as they all have different backgrounds, cultural environments and personal experiences.  The thing is every psychology student, professor and commentator on the subject agrees that we cannot actually function properly without these biases.

Tests have been devised to examine peoples unconscious biases, one of the best known being the Harvard Implicit Association Test (IAT), however could the unconscious biases of the person or persons devising the tests to examine such, actually be included in or influenced the tests?  The bigger question is who gets to decide what those biases are and how they should be dealt with?  The regression equations and the co-variants used within them can actually determine the outcome of the equation, in that the equations are actually set up in such a way to deliver the results that the person or persons who devised them expected or wanted in the first place.

There is however a problem in that the testing for such is being challenged and being challenged by one of the people who brought forth the idea in the first place, Brian Norsek.  The Implicit Association Test (IAT) devised and developed by Anthony Greenwald2, Mahzarin R Banaji3 and Brian Norsek4  to measure bias does not meet the test/retest reliability measure required for a diagnosis test which is 0.8/0.9.  the IAT at best reaches 0.5.  Tom Barrlett in his Chronical article Can We Really Measure Implicit Bias? Maybe Not suggests we cannot.  It has been stated by Jordan B Peterson5 “That you can give the same person the same test two weeks apart and get different results.”

There is also no evidence to suggest a positive impact of unconscious bias training, in actuality there is more evidence to suggest that there is a negative impact associated with such training.  In addition to that there is little or no evidence that unconscious bias manifesting itself in measurable behaviour.

Requiring people in organisations to undergo such training is a like to the re-education camps of Communist Russia and China.  That said, it is believed and there is evidence, that such training cannot deliver the changes that it was designed to deliver.  The requirement for unconscious bias to be tested and training delivered is, I may suggest, more politically motivated than a requirement for organisations to be better at delivering on their goals.  The people driving this narrative are those who are pushing intersectionality, especially intersectional victimhood.

My limited experience of such training is such that I question the process.  Requiring employees to under take such training (mandatory) is counterproductive.  Who gave organisations or the state the right to test, let alone re-educate people on biases they don’t know they have and which have no measurable effect on actual behaviour?  In effect by making such training mandatory organisations are saying to people you have an ism you don’t know you have, and this training is being provided to get rid of it and that is a slippery slope we certainly do not want to go down.

Such blanket training without testing certainly wont work and even with testing, has been shown not to work, so why go about actually undertaking it in the first place.  I wonder how much it cost Starbucks to shut down its operations to deliver training.

Anthony Greenwald and Brian Nosek, when referring to the Starbucks training seem to agree that such training is not effective, with Greenwald saying, 6

 “Starbucks would be wise to check out the scientific evidence on implicit bias training.  It appears to be the right thing to do, but this training has not been shown to be effective, and it can be counterproductive.”  He went on to say “The Implicit Association Test is a valuable educational devise to allow people to discover their own implicit biases.  However taking the IAT to discover one’s own implicit biases does nothing to remove or reduce those biases.  Desire to act free of implicit bias is not sufficient to enable action free of implicit bias.”

In fact social scientists and psychologist are increasingly questioning the effectiveness not only of the tests themselves but the training being delivered from the use of or not of those tests.  The biggest problem being that the tests are being used by groups with vested interests, which include most importantly, the very people making vast amounts of money in devising and administrating the tests themselves and those delivering the training.

So in answering the last question “What can we do about it?”  The answer it would seem from all the research to date, is nothing, especially as it relates to individuals, and it matters not how much or how little unconscious bias training an individual receives.

In conclusion, organisations which engage in the activities of unconscious/implicit bias testing and training are in effect wasting, time, money and resources that they could better use elsewhere.  The evidence suggests that you cannot reliably test for unconscious bias and even if you could, training is more likely to be counterproductive.


1                      ECU: 2013 Unconscious bias in higher education p1

2                      Anthony Greenwald (Professor of Psychology at University of Washington)

3                      Mahzarin R Banaji (Professor and Harvard Chair, department of Psychology)

4                      Brian Norsek (Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia)

5                      Jordan B Peterson (Professor of Psychology University Toronto)

6                      Extract from tweet regarding Starbucks Implicit bias training day

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Farewell to HR


“The heart wants what the heart wants.”

“Maybe it shouldn’t.”

Why am I quoting two lines from one of my favourite tv shows?

I have finally decided that all though in my heart I want to stay working in the field of HR I have to stop.  After two hard years trying everything to stay in this field of work I have come to the realisation that it doesn’t want me in it and nothing I do is going to change that.  I finally realised that I couldn’t go on like this, it is having a detrimental effect on my physical and mental health and wellbeing.

So I am finally giving up on it.

I have tried other things but I always came back to HR, it was always were I wanted to be and what I enjoyed doing the most.  You’re supposed to enjoy your work and working in HR certainly did that for me, but no more.  I am fed up with bashing my head against the brick wall with big letters spelling out


I started writing this blog back in January, I stopped, not because what I am about to say isn’t valid, reasonable or truthful, I stopped because I feared that it would prevent me from ever working in this field again.  Well I fear no more, because I have come to the realisation that I probably won’t work in this field again.  It is a sad indictment that a profession that prides itself on being the champion of equality, diversity and inclusion is just as outright bias as any other and I am not talking about unconscious bias.

I recently posted this paragraph on LinkedIn

“Before you start discussing the need for other parts of your business to become more diverse and inclusive may I suggest you take a look at your own department and address your own deficiencies first. What better way to show commitment to the goal than to put your own house in order.”

It drew 770 views, but only one comment, which basically agreed.  It saddened me, I would have thought out of all those who viewed it there would be some defense, but there wasn’t.  That of course might be because it wasn’t worth commenting on, there is that possibility.  The other possibility is that there can be no defense because it is true.  Who knows maybe this blog will draw out some comments in defense of the profession.

No I am not saying that all the women in this profession are that way, I have met some really great women who work in HR, OD, L & D etc  I have worked with and for women, some at the start of their careers in HR and half my age and it has bothered me not one iota.  At the end of the day, I wanted to work in a Profession I loved, doing work that I enjoyed and that was for the most different every day.  Operational HR as a generalist can’t, in my eyes at least, be beaten for shear variety.  New challenges, new problems that need solutions and an ever changing landscape in terms of law, rules and regulations.  Where a ruling/decision in an ET, EAT or Court of Appeal can mean changes in how we operate be that strategically or operationally.

But that is all by the by now.  It doesn’t matter, my head’s numb.

“Career Death by a Three Thousand Rejections?”

Ok I may be exaggerating a little, but I’m sure that during this last period of unemployment I’m not far off a three thousand.  I know that in my jobs folder on my email that it certainly runs to over three hundred for this year alone and April has only just finished, oh and that’s just from those company’s & agencies that have been good enough to respond.

The thing is, that the more of these that I receive, the more, I rightly believe my career or potential career is being damaged.  I’m sure that my personal brand has been damaged for the longer you are looking for work, the less likely you are going to be considered for a role.  Recruiters are going to look at this gap in my employment status and think to themselves, “What’s wrong with this guy that they haven’t been offered a role for so long?”

The answer to that question is as long as it is wide but for the vast majority of the feedback I have received the overwhelming answer has been “FIT.”

As I mentioned in an earlier blog on being a Job Search Manager I hate the poor excuse for feedback and along with it the word itself.

Cultural Fit = Conscious Bias towards those who look, sound and act like those already working within the organisation.  In other words cultural fit equates to discrimination.

Here’s my views on Culture Fit

Use of the word “Fit” has so many connotations that it destroys any good will that will have been generated during the process up until that point. If you are referring to fit in terms of culture, then you may seriously want to look at your culture. The culture of an organisation or a department within it shouldn’t be so ridged and oppressive as to make it impossible for someone after a short time to adapt to it and fit within it. Humans have been doing it for millennia, moving from town to town, city to city and country to country. It’s how we have evolved, adapted, survived and developed. If it is about the department being filled with one group or another and the candidate doesn’t fit into that group then you have bigger problems and the candidate is probably better off having escaped.

Hiring based on likeness (same) as what we already have is detrimental to our teams and our organisations. Change they say isn’t always a good thing, but I would suggest that no change is detrimental in both the short, medium and long term. Yes bringing in someone who is different to your existing team members is likely to shake things up a little or even a lot depending on the significance of the differences but some short-term pain may be to the benefit of everyone involved over the longer term.

So where do I go from here.  I don’t know, a holiday to recharge the batteries, clear my head and figure that out would be great, but isn’t going to happen anytime soon.  For the moment I’m going to be reflecting, asking questions, and probably regretting all those years of studying, of gaining knowledge, skills and experience.  Once that is done it will be time to refocus on what I need to do in the immediate and short-term.

Farewell HR for the most it’s been great to be apart of the profession but no longer.

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In Defence of Men.

men bashing

The Equality, Diversity & Inclusion paradigm

We will not solve the Equality, Diversity & Inclusion paradigm by constantly attacking, marginalising  and ignoring men and mens issues.

The Men blaming, men hating has to stop!

Yes they may proportionately have more responsibility for discrimination and sexual harassment, but they too can be subject to the same from women and men.  The narratives coming out in recent months are going beyond highlighting this to putting the entire blame on men alone.  This isn’t just wrong, it’s dangerous, not just for business, but society as a whole and very few are picking up on it.

The #MeToo movement completely ignores the young men & boys who were also sexually abused by same said group of Film, TV & Music people, but we see little or no notice of this in the press or by the group itself.  Before the #MeToo and other feminist groups start, take a moment to read Just a bit of banter, a flawed report and by that I mean read it all, not just the first few lines or paragraphs and then tell me that I have no right to talk or write about this subject.

I realise that according to some I would be at the bottom of the pile in terms of intersectional victimhood, in that I am a member of the group who are characterised as the great oppressors, discriminators, sexual harassers etc simply because I am a straight, white male over the age of 50.

“I for one, am none of those things!”

This is identity politics and group identity assumptions at their very worst.  The vast majority of men in general and those at work aren’t responsible for discrimination or sexual harassment.  Just because the management levels of organisations are heavily dominated by men it does not make all of those men discriminatory or sexual harassers.  In fact most sexual harassment is committed by colleagues at the same level.  Most men like every other worker be they management or not want to come to work, do their work and go home at the end of the day to spend time with their families, but you wouldn’t think so based on the media output being generated.

A recent article by Miriam Kenner Government urged to change law on sexual harassment to protect workers highlights that they are not talking about changing the law on sexual harassment to protect all workers, but just female workers.  The second line of the article quotes “The current law on sexual harassment must be bolstered to better protect women in the workplace, experts have urged the government.”

For me this is the wrong starting point.  It suggests that men and boys in employment aren’t also subject to sexual harassment at work which is far from the case.  34% of people subject to sexual harassment at work are men.

“The aim of any such law should be to reduce to zero sexual harassment at work.”

The starting point should be that the law on sexual harassment must be bolstered to protect all workers.  If there needs to be additional provisions to enhance the protection to women then by all means do so, but it has to be within that legislation and not the focus of it.  That said, a well drafted and enforced law will in effect achieve that aim without any specific provisions for one sex or the other.  For me it is at enforcement that the law falls down.  It is for the individual who has been subject to the behaviour to prosecute the case.  How many of those who are subject to this behaviour are actually in a position to do so?  Sexual Harassment is a criminal offence outside the work place, a complaint is made, the police investigate and the Crown Prosecution Service takes it to court.  In the workplace however that isn’t the case.  Those subjected to this behaviour are forced to go through a lengthy process to receive justice, that’s if they actually receive it, at a significant cost to themselves and I am not just talking about monetary costs.

In the article “Women ‘impacted more than men by age discrimination’ in the workplace” again the subject is about discrimination, this time age discrimination, but only from the view point of women.  Are older men not really impacted by age discrimination?  Of course they are, but for this article that was by the by.  The only thing that was important is that women are more disadvantaged. This is because 0.4% more women were disadvantaged.  Age discrimination against men or the impact on them isn’t mentioned, it doesn’t fit the narrative. 1

These are just two articles, there are many more out there and many more to come which put all men in the dock.  Are we at a point where we are saying?

“Most sexual harassers at work are men, therefore all men at work are sexual harassers.”

Or that.

“Most sexual discrimination is carried out by men, therefore all men are sexual discriminators.”

Neither description is true but you wouldn’t think so from the coverage of these issues.

There is now anecdotal evidence that male managers and leaders will not take women under their wing to coach and mentor them which is going to be needed if they are to attain their 50% target of managers and board members.  Why? Simply put, they consider it too much of a risk.  A lot of this work requires one to one working and men are less and less willing to do that. I have heard unsubstantiated reports that they wont even travel alone for business with a female, especially if that includes an overnight stay.

Yet another recent article “One in seven bosses wouldn’t hire a woman who might have kids”  said that 18% of male managers would not hire a woman in her 20s or 30s because they would likely go off on maternity at some point.  I will be honest I thought the figure would be higher.  But what really shocked me in the article was that 10% of female mangers would do the same, women discriminating against women!  Why is this the case?  Shouldn’t women managers be doing all they can to stop discrimination against other women in the work place or which prevents women actually getting a job because of their gender?

I remember introducing flexible working at one company, the male managers accepted it, didn’t object in any way what so ever, they even went as far as looking how their departments worked so it was possible for their female staff to take advantage of flexible working.  The female managers not only objected to the policy being put in place but did everything in their power to obstruct women in their teams from asking for flexible working in the first place as well as refusing to grant flexible working requests.  It was only pressure placed on them by me, that any request was granted.  Their reasoning. “I didn’t have that available to me so why should they have it.”

“I brought up two children without getting flexible working.”

I just couldn’t understand the rational, I still can’t and never will.

For over a decade now the education of boys and white boys in particular has been put to the back burner while millions have been spent on the education of girls and minorities especially in STEM. White boys from working class backgrounds have gone backwards in attainment. They are now less likely to go to university and young white men are going to find it extremely difficult to move into management positions while companys do what’s being asked of them to ensure that women in particular and other minorities take their percentage shares in those positions.   This may take a decade or more to happen and in that time young white men will be required to sit back and take it.

You can’t put 48% +  of the populations down like that without a backlash, and it won’t be pretty not for our oganisations, or for society in general.  This is nothing more than reverse race and sexism and has nothing to do with equality and everything to do with retaliation and retribution unfortunately it is being aimed at and will do damage to, what I and others believe to be the least sexist, least racist generation we have ever had.  The repercussions of this are most like to be not a reduction in sexism and racism, but an increase and that spells danger for everyone.

I am not saying that there aren’t problems, there undoubtably are and they need to be eliminated.  However the amount of bias in the reporting of issues around gender isn’t helping.  I would go so far to say that it is creating more harm than good.  That it has the possibility of turning a progressive drive to eliminate all forms of discrimination and harassment, not only from our work places but from society on it’s head.  If we don’t acknowledge the effects of bad behaviour on ALL our people, then we are in danger of creating a situation that will be just as bad, if not worse than what we already have.  If we don’t also acknowledge that men too can be detrimentally effected by this behaviour the battle will continue.  Men will increasingly disengage from these sorts of issues if the only thing they hear is that it is all mens fault, which of course is the current narrative.

If we want to work towards a more equal workplace and society the blaming of todays men for historical actions has to stop.

Some Interesting Statistics

4 in 5 suicides are men – 84 men die each week. – The Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM)

Work Place Deaths 97% Men – HSE Statistics

Prostate Cancer has now taken over Breast Cancer in terms of diagnosis & deaths. – Nursing Times

Domestic Violence 1.2 million women 760,000 male victims 39% of domestic violence victims are male. – Office for National Statistics

Sexual Harassment at work 66% women 34% men.

1 Women ‘impacted more than men by age discrimination’ in the workplace

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Rejecting for Culture Fit or Sector Experience.

Most of us when applying and interviewing for jobs frequently come across these terms when rejection emails hit our inboxes.  These two, are for me at least probably 90%+ of reasons given for not being offered a role.  Now I can only speak from the aspect of working in HR.  I can’t speak for any other professions, though I must say that when in the dark distant past I applied regularly for Quality Management or Health & Safety Management roles they were never given as reasons.  If you are from any other profession and this happens please let us all know, it would be interesting to hear from you.

HR is HR regardless of what organisation or sector that organisation is.  At its core are people and employment law.  Yes people are different from one organisation to another and from one sector to another.  Though I would say the differences aren’t that great, the wants, needs and essentials are pretty much the same, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs applies regardless of organisation or sector.  It’s how you deal with people and people issues that’s important.  People can adapt and adopt culture once immersed in it and quite quickly.  Look at any organisation and you will find multiple sub cultures.  Different groups need different approaches.  You will work with people on a factory floor differently than you would with people who work in the accounts department for instance.  That goes for virtually every department within an organisation and even differs between different managers depending upon their individual management style.  The truth of it is that we constantly move between cultures within one organisation let alone between different organisations.  When you think about it you can move between different towns or cities in the same country there are cultural differences.

The same applies between sectors just substitute the word culture for sector.  Ok you may have different regulatory requirements or regulatory bodies governing those sectors, i.e. FSA, CQC just to name two but these can be quickly learned and existing policies and procedures will already exist to take account of these requirements.  It’s a case of adjusting and adapting as you would between two different organisations, there are always slight differences.

It would seem to me and others that I have talked to, that these two reasons for rejection are catch alls, an easy let down for candidates and an easy out for employers and recruiters.  Yes my own profession is really guilty of this, as in the main it is we who are responsible.  It is we who provide the brief to the recruiters, internal or external.  If we don’t get it right at the outset then neither can they.

If at the end of a recruitment process we are going to have one of those two reasons as a key decider, then we should make sure that is detailed at the outset, before the recruiter has been briefed or the job advert has been written.  It really is a case of spelling it out and I don’t mean as a foot note at then end of a long job description / person specification, for example

HRBP Required for Manchester City Centre Organisation.

(Please note that we will only consider applicants who have a minimum of two years’ experience of HR Business Partnering in the Financial Services Sector).

Then go on to describe the role and person, there will be plenty of existing HRBPs who will have the skills, experience that you require and therefore meet your criteria and really would like the opportunity to work with your organisation or within that particular sector.  They will put a lot of time and effort into formatting their CV and cover letter (if required) to demonstrate that they have what you are looking for.

interview(I myself would relish the opportunity to work in the Financial Services Sector, to be exposed to the different challenges that sector would throw up).

You can imagine the frustration if after doing all that they get an email saying

“Thank you for your time in applying for the HRBP role we advertised.  Unfortunately we are only short-listing candidates who have at least two years’ experience in the Financial Services Sector.”

They are rightly going to think, “Well thanks for that, you could have told me at the outset and saved me the time and effort I wasted applying.”  It makes candidates think twice about applying to your organisation be it directly or through an agency.  It may make them think that if you can’t be specific in your requirements for people to apply, you can’t be specific in anything else.  Your personal brand, your organisations brand and the recruiters brand has been damaged.  They and thousands of others will think long and hard about applying again and as with everything else these sorts of experiences are talked about and this may severely impact on your ability to attract the right candidate in the future.  Also remember that these candidates my be customers or customers of your customer how they are treated can impact that way too.

But it’s not just the candidates time and effort that has been wasted.  The recruiters time has been wasted sifting through all the CVs they have been sent in response and lastly your own time looking through the short-listed CVs only to find some don’t meet your requirement for two years’ experience.  It really pays in this situation to be specific at the outset.

Personally I believe when we don’t open our selection criteria to include those who haven’t worked in our sector or in our type of culture we are limiting our own opportunities to learn, grow and develop.  Yes it might be easier to induct and embed people who have come from somewhere similar, but we miss out on expertise, experience and ideas that would be of benefit to our organisations and our people.

So in finishing up, let’s do everyone a favour, be specific in our job adverts, briefs etc in what we are looking for.  If cultural fit is important then make sure you really describe the organisations culture and what it will take to a candidate to demonstrate they are capable of fitting into it.

Finally, if we are open to people coming into our organisations from different backgrounds, cultures and sectors, then we have to ensure that we eliminate the biases in our recruitment process so that they can compete on as level a playing field as possible.

Just as organisations will benefit from recruiting from diverse groups of people in terms of race, sex, colour etc they can also benefit from recruiting from different sectors and organisational cultures.

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Employment Law Changes.

Emp Law

Once again sexual harassment is in the headlines with the launch by the government of an inquiry into sexual harassment at work.  The inquiry directly follows a one-off women and equalities committee evidence session on sexual harassment of women in the workplace, in which experts called for urgent change in the law.1

Once again this article and the evidence session itself ignores the experience of millions.

The article in published by People Magazine in a daily email states that the inquiry is looking for views, but it suggests that it is only looking for views from a womans prospective, “People can submit their views on women’s experience of sexual harassment at work and proposals for effective government action for one month until Tuesday 13 March.” 2

The thing is the inquiry isn’t looking for views on Women’s experience of sexual harassment at work the inquiry is in fact titled “Sexual Harassment in the work place.” The article completely misrepresents the Inquiry, it suggests that it is only looking for womens experiences, when it clearly is not.  At worse it shows a bias against men, at the other end it’s just bad journalism.  I will let you decide for yourselves.

In fact the whole article ignores the fact that men and boys at work are subject to and suffer from sexual harassment at work.  I have yet to see an article written on the subject that actually goes into any detail on sexual harassment of male workers at work.  If they are lucky they may just get a mention in the foot note or a brief one line paragraph of acknowledgement that it occurs.

There are a numerous reasons that a lot of the laws that govern employment relationships need to be reviewed, updated or created, however I can’t help feel that the way that some people want to go about this is wrong.

A recent article by Miriam Kenner Government urged to change law on sexual harassment to protect workers highlights this in that they are not talking about changing the law on sexual harassment to protect all workers, but just female workers.  The second line of the article quotes “The current law on sexual harassment must be bolstered to better protect women in the workplace, experts have urged the government.”  For me this is the wrong starting point, it suggests that men and boys in employment aren’t also subject to sexual harassment at work which is far from the case.

The starting point should be that the law on sexual harassment needs to be bolstered to protect all workers.  If there needs to be additional provisions to enhance the protection to women and girls then by all means do so, but it has to be within that legislation and not the focus of it.  However that said, a well drafted and enforced law will in effect achieve that aim without any specific provisions for one gender or the other.  The aim of any such law should be to reduce to zero all sexual harassment at work not better protect one group from being subject to it.

If we follow the rule that all employment law applies equally to all employees regardless of their differences and all employment law is written to apply equally to all, then it has it a better chance of being accepted by, adopted by and backed by all.

If you are wondering why I have taken the stance I have please read, “Still just a bit of banter.” A Flawed Report? It will explain.



1,2  Taken from the article Government opens full women-at-work sexual harassment probe after urgent calls for action by Emily Burt.



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