Early in my career, I headed up HR and have had the HR portfolio as my responsibility for decades. This latest Uber resignation by the head of Uber’s HR department, amid racial slurs and discrimination is an example of how totally ineffective HR is and has been the predominant problem rather than the solution. This situation is particularly interesting because Ms. Hornsey was brought in specifically to change the toxic culture of Uber’s workplace. Not only was she totally ineffective, but she herself was toxic. This begs the question of why she was hired in the first place. Unfortunately, she is not alone in her behaviour. In the research I have done on bullying in the workplace, 80% of employees in North America do not trust HR, and with good reason!
Although she vowed to remake the toxic culture I wrote about in this blog last year, she actually exacerbated the problem. Companies across the board should review the role that HR plays in their organizations, because right now they are a liability rather than being an asset. Her discriminatory conduct is inappropriate and repulsive. Furthermore, this situation seriously damages the credibility of the many other HR professionals who are so desperately trying to make a difference in their organizations.
So, how did she get hired? The board of directors, who waited far too long to get rid of the CEO, should bear the responsibility here because they hired Ms. Hornsey to fix the existing toxic culture. Whoever did the due diligence on her failed miserably.
Typical of most HR people is that try to bamboozle everyone with words rather than taking appropriate action steps. Or in this case, taking a page from the bullies/bigots who are already there. In my book, ‘From Bully to Bull’s-Eye: Move Your Organization Out of the Line of Fire’, I discuss this dynamic at length, offering suggestions on what employees can do when faced with such issues. I also offer advice for employers who appear for the most part to be clueless about what changing a toxic culture entails.