How Can You Be Legally Right If You Are Morally Wrong?

Let me begin by stating that in no way am I espousing one religious view over another. Further those of you, who have followed my blog since its inception in 2007, know that I rarely touch on the ethics end of our profession. Having said that one of my local churches once again posted the Sunday sermon topic, which hit a nerve. The billboard read “Nothing can be legally right when it is morally wrong.”As human resource professionals we are confronted with this dilemma each and every day we exercise our responsibilities to our organizations. Consider this real time scenario:

In the mid to late 1970’s I worked as a recruiter with several contingency recruiting firms in the northeast part of the United States.  We specialized in the recruitment of Accounting, Tax and Finance candidates for corporations across the country. At the end of the period with one of the Firms I had risen to the position of VP with the authority to make agreements with potential sources of candidates. One of the prime sources of these candidates were the auditors of the big 8 CPA firms. On one such occasion I met with the outplacement director of one of these firms during which we agreed that if the recruiting firm stopped raiding auditors at their client companies we would in turn receive the names of all the auditors who would not be made partner. We returned to the office and announced to the staff what we had agreed to. Within the first hour one of the banks of recruiters did exactly what we promised we would not do. When I brought it to the attention of the Division President I was told if you have any business ethics you did not belong working for the firm.

 So was what they did legal? Yes there was nothing illegal about raiding the clients for the public auditors working there. Was it morally right? To some it might be, to me it was totally wrong. It meant my word was not worth anything of value to a potential partner.  This is a pretty clean example of the idea behind the title of this blog. But, what if the response is not quite as simple as the scenario?

As HR professionals, we are confronted with a never-ending dilemma. On one hand we are delegated the duty to be the organizational policeman. The organization expects and in some cases demands that we rapidly correct the organization when they plan to do something that is blatantly illegal. That is well and good, but what happens in those circumstances when the action the organization undertakes is totally legal under every view we can imagine, but the human capital get hurt in the long run.

Case Study: Last week the CEO of AOL was caught in a phone call to employees telling them that the organization was changing the way they paid out the 401(k) benefits. They went from paying it out anytime over the year to a once-a-year payout in December, essentially cutting the 401(k) benefits. He also went on to blame the cuts on the expense of implementing the Affordable Care Act requirements. At the same time the CEO saw nothing wrong receiving a large increase in salary, which would have more than covered the increased expenses he was complaining about.

Was this action legal? Yes the organization has the right to plan out the dates of distribution of their corporate investments? Was it morally right? Not if the final result is that it hurt the human capital adversely in the long run. Some could argue differently I suppose. I would contend that the above scenario talks about the real dilemma facing HR professionals. These are the situations where the organization puts the total organization ahead of the human capital that, are critical to the success of the organization.

We constantly hear of organization’s complaining about the lack of employee engagement. We need to come to the realization that Cadbury Chocolate had it correct when in its high spot in their history they understood that the way to get employees ENGAGED was to take care of their needs and welfare. They were the ones who built homes for their employees so they had a roof over their head while they worked in the factory. They were the ones who recognized that by creating the pension plans like we know today, they were insuring that the employee was prepared for the future. Was it required no but it was morally the right thing to do.

As the gatekeeper for the talent management efforts of the organization we have the responsibility to meet the dual demands of ensuring that the actions of our management are both legal and morally right. It is our duty to make sure that every management decision takes in to account the betterment of the organizational society and the betterment of the rank and file employees. I am fully cognizant that at times this can be difficult. However the real desired outcome sis that we recognize that the rank and file is more than a number in an accounting file. The desired outcome is that we recognize that our rank and file is critical parts of our organization. The future of our organizations depends on our ability to treat

What are your thoughts? Let’s start the dialogue. E-Mail me or respond to this post.

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Are your human capital assets or chattel?

Like most HR professionals my inbox is bombarded with data almost all day. But one caught my eye the other day, which led me to begin to think about the question I posed in the title to this post.

One of the posts I get is from the Networked Lawyer Blog ( in which they discussed the case of USA vs. Nosal in which a recruiter for Korn Ferry was charged with the theft of Korn Ferry proprietary and confidential information in the form of candidate information.  When I talked to some of my recruiting friends the response I got was that the candidates belong to the recruiting agency not the recruiter.

I worked for several recruiting agencies in the past and the same situation prevailed there as well. What bothered me the most in this situation was that in this social media connected world, can a recruiting firm or a corporation truly claim that the background of those employees or candidates is a trade secret. For edification I looked up the definition of trade secret and found that the definition states that a trade secret is a secret process, technique, method, etc., used to advantage in a trade, business, profession, etc.  Nowhere in the definition does it say human capital assets.

In 1973, just as I was starting as a recruiter a blockbuster book was released by Allan Cox ( titled “Confessions of a Corporate Headhunter” in which Allan Cox laid out the whole recruiting process to the general public. So I reached out to him and asked him about his thoughts and he responded “ what good is a recruiter to the world if s/he doesn’t remember, especially talented people he comes across, presumably many of them, for their gifts and accomplishments.”

Here is my take on the question. There was a time and place when we paid our human capital based on what they made or produced. In this new interconnected world we now pay them based on what they dream. There is no reasonable way that we can control the ideas that are in their head. We also can’t control the flow of ideas in this interconnected world.

If we claim that our human capital are assets to the organization , then we need to realize that they are assets and not a piece of property. HR’s role in our organizations is to be the gatekeeper to talent acquisition and we can’t expect that means we have to confront this issue headfirst.  Allan Cox went on to state that “ all executes we meet in searches, though not appropriate candidates for an existing search can be suitable sources for referrals for those they know or know of who might make an ideal prospect for the current search we are conducting.”

Thus as an organization we are confronted with a decision. If we believe that they are assets to the organization then we have to treat them as such. We need to recognize that the human capital assets are non-owned leased talent who can go anywhere. If that is your true feelings then we need to recognize they are not property of the organization. On the other hand if you are living in an outdated world where you think of employees as property then recognize in the long run your talent searches are going to be limited. Understand that you will drive away talent not attract them in this innovative world we find ourselves in.

Are your human capital assets or chattel? Lets start a discussion on how the human capital fit into our cultures. Email me at with your thoughts.

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Yesterday is history, tomorrow is mystery and today is present

You read that real quick didn’t you? But go back and really consider the implications of the words themselves to the human resource professional in the daily exercise of their responsibilities.

Yesterday is history

There is no organization that is free from having made really bad human resource decisions. We have all fed into the corporate mantra, even though we may believe differently. We have been fed the Kool-Aide that the corporate organization is always right. We all are guilty of telling an employee, asking us a question –“That is not my job” resulting in the alienation of the very talent we need to maintain the organization. We have all enforced decisions which in the basis of our moral beliefs we felt were wrong. We failed to send a candidate on for further consideration because the hiring manager said he/she would not hire someone like that. The EEOC press releases are filled with very stupid actions on the part of management. We can’t go back and change them. These actions are now part of organizational history forever enshrined in the persona of our organizations. The good news is that these actions are in the past.

Tomorrow is a mystery

Flip the coin over. We are not psychics that enable us to predict the future. As human resource professionals we have an uncertain view of the road ahead of us. We are certain that the nature of our jobs will change. Demands on our time will increase whether from regulatory requirements or the implication of change within the organization. Some are suggesting that we return to the time when we were called Personnel. I would suggest that we covered that in yesterday is history, we can’t reasonably return to the past and expected to be productive in the new environment called the global workplace. The role we increasingly play as the gatekeeper of talent management is not very well served by going back to the future. Our organization’s future will not be well served by returning to an era when we were just paper pushers. We moved to that era following the change away from the Quaker business model to the human capital as numbers mentality. It did not work when we changed to a knowledge economy.As result it is critical that we prepare the organizations for that uncertain future. The way we do that is to delve into the present to resolve issues that in the past have been a detriment to the organization.

Today is present

Taiichi Ohno of the Toyota Motor Corporation is reported to have said “the past is the past and what is important is the current condition and what we will do next to go beyond where we are today.” As the human resource professional within the organization, it is critical that we become the change leader for the organization. We can’t afford to rely on the strategic response that this not how we do things here. We can’t rely on the strategic response that we have done that and it did not work. Not only HR but the entire organization must begin to look at how we can do thing better, faster and cheaper. We need to look at our long term objectives from the rose colored glasses which tell us that we need to do things better (less errors), faster (now instead of procrastinating) and cheaper (less cost outlay). We need to look at our current situations and seek to bring about change to improve the organization in the future. We need to begin to see the problems and feel how they impact on the organization. Once we have reached this plateau we must lead the change within the organization to correct these problems. The human resource professional is the only one with all the keys to meet these challenges.

Consider a recent action by the EEOC in which a financial institution agreed to pay $95,000 and provide injunctive relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC had charged that the bank failed to provide a reasonable accommodation for a former employee’s disability and discharged her because of her age. Yesterday is past. The bank made the mistakes.The future is a mystery due to the unclear picture whether management understood that change was needed. The present is here because the organization must pay the fine and provide relief to the employee. It is also inherent that the organization learn from the past and take corrective action so the problem does not reoccur.

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What is your 8″ diameter steel plate?

The NBC News reported on Sunday that the Washington State Department of Transportation reported that a construction project to construct a tunnel in Seattle had been halted because the world’s largest boring machine had been stopped by an 8 inch diameter steel pipe. When I stopped for a moment to consider this I asked myself in our HR functions what is our 8” diameter steel pipe?

The majority of HR professionals will tell you that they meet that 8” pipe every day. We are told by a manager that a position needs to be filled ASAP and then they drag their feet on their end of the process. We try and introduce a new policy or procedure which will align HR with the strategic initiatives of the organization and are told several reasons why it won’t work. Do these responses seem familiar?

  • We tried that before and it didn’t work
  • That is just not how we do things here
  • It is too complicated our employees will never go for it

As we begin the New Year it is time that we step back and look for that 8” diameter steel plates. They are the obstacles which cause us to never reach our goals. Some are hidden within our corporate culture. Others are an aspect of the fear of doing something different. They are based in the old attitude that if it is not, broken don’t touch it. However in reality everything we do in our organizations is broken in some fashion. Everything we do can be improved with some minor corrections in path.

So as a New Year’s Resolution ask yourself what is my organizational 8” diameter steel pipe and what do I have to do to get through it? E-Mail me at and let me know what your 8” plate is and how you plan to get through it if your world class borer can’t.

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2nd Annual Top Blog Post of the Year

 HR nowadays is an organizational “warm and fuzzy” atmosphere. No need for business acumen

(Published 4/3/13) 338+ Views

For the past two months there has been a running discussion in the Linked:HR group on LinkedIn regarding why more HR professionals do not have a degree or background in Business. It has been a lively discussion to say the least. However we were struck by one of the latest responses in which the member stated “HR nowadays is an organizational “warm and fuzzy” atmosphere. No need for business acumen.

John Donne in his famous poem stated that

No man is an island, Entire of itself. Each is a piece of the continent, A part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less. As well as if a promontory were. As well as if a manor of thine own Or of thine friend’s were. Each man’s death diminishes me, For I am involved in mankind. Therefore, send not to know For whom the bell tolls, It tolls for thee.

Turn the poem around to the business community and it gains a different message. Consider this version for a moment.

“No department is an island, entire of itself. Each department is a piece of the organization. The department is less As well as if a promontory were. s well as if an organization of thine own or of thine friend’s were. Each error within the department diminishes the organization, for I am involved within the organization. Therefore send not to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for the department and the organization.

In the current global workplace, we can’t squander our assets nor can we afford to operate the HR function as an island. It is more than ever critical that we all become involved in the total operations of the organization. This means that HR absolutely needs to understand the financial sides of the very decisions that we make every day. I do not expect that every HR professional will be a certified accountant, but I do expect them to be able to determine what the affect of their decisions have on the organization. As part of our training programs we have created a cost of hiring worksheet which shows the financial impact of the recruiting efforts on the bottom line. If you do not look for these data points they will stay hidden and in return the organization will suffer.

The Quaker Business Model tells us that we have an obligation t look after our fellow workers. I get it that is the warn and fuzzy part of the scenario, but that does not teach us how to become part of the organizational strategies. We have to reach beyond that island we have been part of for way too long. Physics teaches us that for every action there is a reaction. So it is in the business world. If we make a decision regarding our human capital assets it will have an affect on some other part of the organization whether it is from a productivity view or a financial view. We absolutely must learn to understand all the aspects of the ecosystem we call our organization. It is assignment critical that HR understands the business side of the organization as well as the business side understands the role that HR plays in the success of the organization. We are the gatekeepers to the full utilization of the human capital assets within the organization.


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Press Release from EEOC

In a decision endorsed by all its judges, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit decided today that employers cannot challenge – and courts cannot review – the adequacy of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) informal pre-litigation efforts to bring employers into compliance with federal anti-discrimination laws.

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How One Person Can Impact an Entire Team

I received this request from a fellow member of the National Speakers Assn to day and it is so to the point that I had to share. Thanks Gregg for the experience.

I need your help

Gregg Gregory, CSPGregg Gregory, CSPGregg works with organizations to transform team dynamics and build a culture of Collaboration & Teamwork

To: Daniel Bloom SPHR,SSBB,SCRP

Date: December 20, 2013

In October 2001, after delivering two days of training in August, GA, I drove across Interstate 20 to Atlanta. The next 24 hours, during my stay at the Marriott Northwest hotel, were some of the most emotionally turbulent hours I had ever spent. It was a front desk clerk by the name of Alex Shane that got me through this most difficult time, enabling me to deliver two more days of training.

Almost immediately, this experience became a powerful story about amazing service and how one person can impact an entire team. A few years later, I was back in Atlanta delivering a keynote speech and invited Alex to join me as I shared that story with 500 people. At the end of the keynote speech, I invited the audience to meet Alex and had her join me onstage where she received a standing ovation.

In July of 2008, the National Speaker’s Association’s annual convention was held at the Marriott Marquis in Manhattan. This was just a few short weeks after the passing of my father and I really did not want to go. Encouraged to go by friends and family, I reluctantly went and had the pleasure of meeting the CEO of Marriott hotels, Bill Marriott. I shared my story about Alex and how her kindness got me through that time with him. I also shared that this is the reason I am now an extremely loyal Marriott advocate. He was touched by the story and asked if he could see the video.

The following week, I dropped a copy of the video off for Mr. Marriott at their headquarters office. On the day before the memorial service for my father, I received a call from Mr. Marriott’s office. I learned that he was touched by the story and wanted to share the video on his Marriott on the Move blog, which he did in in February of 2009.

Since then, Mr. Marriott has shared the story and the video at general manager’s and hotel owner conferences across all brands of Marriott Hotels. In many Marriott properties, this video is now part of the on-board training program for Marriott employees, now known as ‘Brilliant Hosts’. In fact, I was checking into the San Diego Marriott Marquis and Marina this year when Ashley, a newly hired front desk host, recognized me from the video. It is amazing how powerful one story from a decade ago is still impacting people across the United States.

Now comes the part where I would like your help. As of today, the video has received over 94,000 (nowhere near viral) views on YouTube. I would like to reach 100,000 views in the next 30 days. If you are looking for a touching and powerful personal story to share with friends and family over the holidays, please view and share this story about the kindness of one young woman. Her small and simple, yet very powerful, act made a huge impact on my life and continues to have the ability to influence thousands across the country.
I invite you to view the video at  Then, if you are as touched as Mr. Marriott was, I encourage you to share this story with your teams, friends and contacts. Let’s share a little act of kindness over the holidays.

Happy Holidays to everyone and always remember that good days are for average people and, since you are not average, be sure to make today and the New Year AMAZING.

Gregg Gregory, CSP
Teams Rock!

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