“I Was Fired For Being Candid, Honest & Authentic in HR…” What Should I Do?

By Alan Collins

Dear Alan,

Thank you for posting the article, 4 Disgusting Frauds Who Are Faking It HR.

I was in a similar position as “Jill” who, in the article, laughs at her HR director’s tasteless and derogatory sexist jokes. 

As I understand it, “Jill” did this rather than risk her career by privately confronting him about his humor and the message he’s sending to the rest of the HR team.  

In many ways, I’m just like “Jill.”  Loke her I only wanted to fit in with the team and didn’t want any conflict or trouble. 

However, unlike her, I DID decide to confront my HR Director in private about his behavior. 

I believed it was an important discussion.

Unfortunately, he did not.

I was terminated the next day!

I live in a small town and have not been able to find any work in HR for the past three years.

My former manager is well connected and my career in this field is over.

I know it is important to be honest and your true self.

However, if I had known the repercussions would be so detrimental, I would never have said anything.

What’s your advice?

Ally

_____________________________


Dear Ally,

I’m so sorry to hear about your situation. Telling your boss they’re behaving badly is never easy.

It sounds like you did and got fired.

Every boss is human and being told you’re wrong or misbehaving never feels good.

However, based on what you’ve told me, that’s absolutely NO excuse for his reaction.

Firing you seems to be an EXTREME REACTION by your former boss to a private conversation that I assume you handled delicately and wasn’t publicly embarrassing to him — given that no one should have known about it, except the two of you.

Nevertheless, it is what it is.

I wonder if you’ve pursued a lawsuit and damages regarding your termination. Especially since it’s been three years and you’ve not been able to find work in your small community as a result of your boss’ extreme action.  If you haven’t, I would strongly, strongly suggest exploring this option.

Secondly, I also wonder if in retrospect, given that you were punished by only providing private feedback, if it’s time to ask yourself whether that boss was worth your time and energy in the first place.

Sure it was an HR job in a small community and delivered a paycheck — which is important.  But clearly you were in a work environment where you didn’t feel comfortable enough to avoid confronting your boss over his behavior.

While you could also waited him out to see if he would have left the organization…however, the problem occurs if he didn’t.  Sadly, if he never left, my experience is that such work environments tend to get even worse (even toxic and unbearable) over time.

Thirdly, and probably most importantly, yours is a lesson for us all and thank you for sharing it.

It’s clear being authentic, being yourself and confronting a boss carries with it risk.

As I mentioned in the article, sometimes deciding to be authentic, providing candid feedback to others and being yourself requires moving very s-l-o-w-l-y, gradually and at a snail’s pace.

This is CRUCIAL!

It requires reading the work environment to seeing if they’re ready for the REAL, CANDID YOU to emerge.   This means sticking your toe in the water, first…then another toe…then another, before diving head first into the deep end of the pool.

If authenticity to you is important, it may even require making the difficult decision to even leaving your current role (and this boss) in order to find a place that will truly value you for being YOU.

Some final thoughts and next steps…

Perhaps there are opportunities in HR outside of your community you can pursue either remotely or through relocation.

In any event, please don’t let this episode hold you back.

Reach out to your network.
Pursue a mentor.
Get more advice.
But learn from this experience, continue to think positively and move forward.

Again, I regret what has happened.  Thank you, Ally, for sharing your story. And I wish you much, much success in the future.

Sincerely,
Alan

Readers: Any additional advice you’d provide Ally — or about situations like hers? Please  click HERE to provide your comments & suggestions below.

Want more advice for overcoming hurdles or advancing your career in HR — that no one else will tell you about? 

Then check out: WINNING BIG IN HR: 100+ Powerful Strategies For Accomplishing Great Results Faster & Getting Your Clients To Rave About You As A Human Resources Professional! You can download additional FREE excerpts from the book by going HERE.

About the author: Alan Collins was Vice President – Human Resources at PepsiCo where he led HR initiatives for their Quaker Oats, Gatorade and Tropicana businesses. He is founder of Success in HR, Inc. and the author of a variety of best selling books for HR professionals including WINNING BIG IN HR. 

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2 Responses to ““I Was Fired For Being Candid, Honest & Authentic in HR…” What Should I Do?”

  1. Christina Moh Says:

    I would think raising an anonymous complaint to the confidential ethics phone line might be an alternative to a boss who would not be receptive to feedback. And in many companies’ Code of Ethics, that protects the whistleblower from any retaliation. My 2 cents.
    Cheers,
    C

  2. JC Says:

    This was a tough read. I agree with Alan in these circumstances-a legal suit may be the only way to get some justice since she lives ina small town and has been unemployed for so long. In some cultures, even stepping in with a small toe first can at minimum “blackball” you and some can make it very hard for you. However, if we know we’ve done the right thing and have peace with it, then at the end of the day, it matters. One has to be able to sleep at night.

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