Third of HR professionals face unethical behaviour

Around a third of HR practitioners feel that managers in their organisation often engage in behaviours they consider to be unethical, according to a new CIPD survey.

Its survey of almost 1,000 HR, L&D and OD professionals across the UK found that 28% of respondents felt there was a conflict between their own professional judgment and what the organisation expected of them.

The same proportion admitted that they often felt it necessary to compromise their ethical values to succeed.

However, many HR professionals were happy to call out behaviour or ways of working they did not agree with, according to the CIPD’s report, The people profession in 2018.

Forty-four percent had regularly challenged the purpose of tasks they had been asked to do in the past year. They based this on a number of factors including personal experience (76%), data (55%) and intuition (49%).

There is still room to improve HR’s profile within organisations, however. The CIPD found that 57% felt the function was taken seriously, 54% felt it was respected and 58% thought it was given the opportunity to add value.

Despite HR professionals’ concerns, more than three-quarters of those surveyed stated their job gave them a sense of purpose and contributed to the greater good. Seven in 10 felt their role made them happy, and 67% said it made them feel energised.

Just under two-thirds (64%) saw a connection between their job and “what they think is important in life” and 60% said it gave them a connection to the social good of their community.

CIPD chief executive Peter Cheese said that “having confidence in our own professional judgment is crucial to making better decisions in the workplace”.

He added: “Even though it might challenge some of the norms or expectations, having the self-assurance with knowledge, insights and evidence to make good and fair judgments is key to helping our profession build trust and credibility, and help us stay at the fore of business development and change.”

Louisa Baczor, research adviser at the CIPD, said: “The future of the profession is exciting and will require capabilities in managing new organisational models, the supply of skills, the shaping of jobs and improving people management and organisational cultures. But the skills mismatches and ethical conflicts highlighted by the survey show that there’s no room for complacency.”

7 Responses to Third of HR professionals face unethical behaviour

  1. Avatar
    Jagdeesh singh 5 Nov 2018 at 10:04 pm #

    Hr is an abbreviation for ‘hide’ and ‘resist’. The entire purpose of hr is to obfuscate, hide, lie and comply with their bosses. Hr is after all extension of their bosses, putted against the aggrieved employee. Their role is to control, contain and administer. When have we ever seen hr speak put their bosses wrong doing. never! As an employment lawyer, I see this scenario again and again.

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      Lucy 7 Nov 2018 at 3:10 pm #

      As a HR professional I could not disagree more, my role is to lead, guide and inform those that work both above and alongside me. I stand for what is fair and right and I am not afraid to question what I feel is unfair or unjust, you sadly have not worked aside many decent professional HR people if this is your experience and view of them.

      My current role involves protecting and developing our team to help them feel fulfilled and contented within their role. A role which I take very seriously, and employee wellbeing is at the forefront of my focus, I respect the directors of the company, but I am confident in my ability and decisions and stand by them.

      On the other hand, there are many companies that fail to introduce a proper HR structure, leading to “unethical” behaviour. This is sad to see, clearly there is still a lot of educating to do with those in management positions.

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        Kate 22 Aug 2019 at 7:37 pm #

        Hi Lucy

        I think it all depends on the sector you work within and your peers. If you haven’t worked within a firm and partnership, where internal politics, dictation and obstacles at every turn question your own ethical practice; then yo would see it isn’t as black and white as that.

        Ensuring you stay within internal policy, parameter and employment law guidelines is crucial; however when faced with 5+ Partners who have equity within the firm and want to be heard….. you may be faced with this frustrating and sometimes upsetting outcome.

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      Helen Astill 7 Nov 2018 at 3:53 pm #

      I disagree – I think that unfortunately you have been dealing with people who are not strong enough to undertake their roles. There are always those whose actions do not reflect well on the rest of a profession,. But there are those of us who believe in “HR with Attitude” – that ethical HR is vitally important; that it is in the best interest of the business to face up to difficult issues rather than just do the bidding of the senior managers. HR’s role is to educate the managers to see that the proper actions to take are not necessarily the easy ones!

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      Kate 22 Aug 2019 at 7:38 pm #

      I agree – see my comment on Lucy’s thread. I think it is easy to say certain things, when you haven’t worked within that field or specialised sector.

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    Denis W Barnard 7 Nov 2018 at 2:42 pm #

    “The same proportion admitted that they often felt it necessary to compromise their ethical values to succeed.” Therein lies the problem. Conniving with managers to disguise sackings as redundancies and proliferating the NDA culture to cover payoffs for bad treatment is all too frequent. As a profession, we either have ethics or we don’t; there’s no on-off switch option.

    If one third of the profession behave unethically, for whatever motive, then there’s a big bunch of rotten apples in the barrel. No wonder HR has always struggled for respect. Stand up – or stand out.

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    Joyce Smith 20 Feb 2020 at 12:31 pm #

    What happens when you’ve got a guy in your department that is a best/family friend of the directors. And this guy is throwing his weight around and acting as HR but has zero qualifications in this field? The employee is absolutely powerless as the phoney HR is hellbent on getting Mr director of the hook and covering up lies and cockups.

    I am a woman, up against 2 egocentric males. I have no voice. When trying to resolve an issue, I’m silenced and stamped on.

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