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HR is for the Birds – part 2: The Chicken

October 9, 2011

Having a career in HR is tough. We spend most of our time in battling for priority, resources, time and voice in the organizations we belong to. Then we have to defend the policies, practices and decisions of the same organization to employees and enforcement entities. HR professionals are under-trained, over-worked and often burn out in discouragement and frustration. Many would say a career in HR is for the birds!

This month, the Buzz on HR is going to look at lessons management can gain from the birds. Part 1 looked at the Ostrich.

Part 2 looks at the Chicken.

Like the ostrich, the chicken cannot fly. However, the chicken isn’t native to any one continent or area. In the United States alone, there are more than 150 varieties of chickens. Chickens lay eggs in almost every color of the rainbow — brown, white, yellow, pink and blue. There is no known reason why a chicken’s eggs end up being a particular color. However, chickens can only lay eggs in one color. While they do not mind sharing living space with other chickens, each chicken requires a nest of its own.

What was most interesting in doing research for this post was how many references and photos of “Chicken Little” came up while I was looking for information on the good old yard-bird! As the story goes, Chicken Little — also known as Henny Penny –gets hit in the head with an acorn, concludes that the sky is falling and runs around convincing her friends the world is coming to an end. Eventually, Chicken Little and the homies stumble into a Fox, who tells them they will be safe from the falling sky in his home … then eats them. Yikes!

So what is the lesson for HR in all of this? The same lesson that’s come from the story since it started in 20 B.C.

Think. If Henny Penny had just taken a moment to pull it together, look at what was going on and think critically about it, Henny’s ultimate demise could have been avoided. Instead, Henny Penny freaked out at the first sign of trouble, stirred everyone else into a tizzy and caused more harm than good. HR has a tendency to do the same thing. Faced with a challenging issue, we react in fear of the liability of an employee relations issue or frustration surrounding implementing a new initiative — and scare everyone else in the process! Instead, HR needs to stop, think critically and calmly develop a strategy to address the problem.

Don’t believe everything you hear. Henny Penny’s friends assumed the world was ending just because Henny said so. People come to HR all the time with all kinds of wild, outlandish stories of wrongdoing and woe! It is great to listen and it even great to have sympathy — but it is not ok to be led on a wild goose chase. Or crazy chicken chase, for that matter. Instead, HR needs to listen, then investigate independently to reach its own conclusion on what happened and how to deal with it.

Have courage. Henny Penny doesn’t get any credit for having the guts to speak up at the first sign of trouble. The conclusion was wrong but at least Henny did something!! How many others walked under that same tree, got hit by an acorn and just kept going?? Henny not only spoke up about it — but alerted others and tried to escalate the issue all the way to the King. We often work for organizations full of problems! There are acorns of inefficiency and liability falling all around us! HR needs to have the courage to speak up about it, even when no one else does. Even when no one listens.

Next week, the Vulture …

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