The 5 Courages HR Needs to Be Good Followers

HR needs to stop leading and start following.

Did that get your attention? Good, because that’s what Tim Vanderpyl, associate professor¬† at Calgary, Canada’s Ambrose University, wants. That doesn’t mean he wants HR people to become doormats. He does want you to pay closer attention to what your organization’s leaders are up to.

His DisruptHR presentation was prompted by the sexual harassment scandals swirling around some of the most senior men at some of the world’s leading companies. His very first slide showed a rogue’s gallery of them.

“With every sexual harassment and assault scandal that came out I asked myself, ‘Where was the HR department?'” said Vanderpyl. “Were they too busy leading some obscure initiative that nobody actually cares about? Or should they have been following better?”

His idea of being a better HR follower is that HR people need to be courageous enough to speak truth to power; to call leaders — from line supervisors to the C-suite — on their behavior; and to be the force of change. It takes 5 types of courage, says Vanderpyl, to be the righteous kind of follower HR should be:

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  1. “Assume responsibility for our actions.””
  2. We need to serve the leaders.. Confront and comfort them.. If HR won’t speak up, who will. Say, “No. You can’t do this.”
  3. “We need to actually challenge leaders.” Give them the feedback they rarely, if ever, get from others.
  4. “Actually change things in our companies… There must be consequences” for actions.”
  5. “Take moral action when needed. Will you wager your job and say no?”

His rallying call is this: “Stand up to and stand up for your leader.”