Why HR Needs to Take a Stand Against Jerks at Work

Workplaces are supposed to be places of collaboration. But, for anyone who has been in HR for a hot minute, it’s not always like that. Racism, sexism, ablism, and yes, even “jerkism” all play a role in making companies tough to work for.

“In HR, we know how to put on our capes and deal when there is a legal issue,” says Ramona Burroughs, human resources director at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, said in her recent DisruptHR talk. “What about those behaviors that don’t rise to the standard of a legal problem? We still have to address those.”

Whether or not someone is an “equal opportunity jerk” as Burroughs puts it, it may not be illegal, but it’s still wrong, and it hurts organizations in a real way.

HR walks a tightrope between freedom of expression and illegal behavior. Burroughs argues that HR wants people to be able to express themselves without things getting too crazy. HR needs to set acceptable standards and remove the gray where they can.

When you have those bad actors inside organizations, everyone suffers, though. Part of culture is what you define as okay and not okay. As Burroughs points out, the cost of conflict on the workforce is substantial: $369 billion.

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Let’s make sure we are dealing with jerkism inside of organizations, says Burroughs. “We can do better in this area.” Watch the rest of the DisruptHR talk below.

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