Hey You!!! Stop Dissing Obamacare!

And stop calling it Obamacare, while you’re at it. It’s the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — or the PPACA (Pee-pack-uh). Healthcare Reform Act works, too.

But if you can’t say “Obamacare” without obvious disdain or excitement, you should probably use another word. At least while you’re at work. Especially if you work in HR or some related function.

A couple weeks ago, I conducted training with our HR Administrators, Payroll Specialists and A/P Clerks on our benefits plans. Since these 3 groups spend a lot of time working together on our benefits, premium deductions and premium payments; it made sense to bring them all together for refresher and to roll-out updated procedures.

We were about half way through the session and everything was going great. Great discussion, great questions and great nodding in all the right places. I was so pleased.

Then I moved into a segment on the PPACA. It was 4 – 5 slides about the history of the law, the current provisions we are required to enforce, the pending Supreme Court case and what the Court’s decision would mean for us and our plans, depending on what all they decide. I deliberately kept it very dispassionate and middle of the road. I wanted the group to walk away with the facts of what was, what is and what could be as it relates to our company and this law, separate and apart from any personal or political feelings.

Which is why I was really surprised when one of our A/P clerks walked out during the session. I heard her mumble something about “Obamacare” and a bunch of expletives, get up and leave. I was shocked and shaken by it. In over a decade in HR, I’d never had someone get so upset over a topic that they’d walked out of a training before. I didn’t know what to do. So I just kept going. There were 20 other people in the room who were still there and willing to listen and learn. I wasn’t going to further interrupt things by calling more attention to the outburst of one person. She returned about 30 minutes later and the rest of the day went off without incident.

I wasn’t going to just let the incident go, though. Clara the Clerk’s behavior was beyond inappropriate. I spoke with her supervisor about it and learned this wasn’t the first time this woman had an outburst or stormed out when she didn’t like the topic. The previous incidents had not been formally documented.

Well, this one was definitely going to be.

We brought Clara the Clerk into the office to discuss these issues with her. We wanted her to understand that her behavior during the training was disrespectful, disruptive and dangerously close to insubordinate. Since this was not the first time, we wanted her to understand that this was not acceptable and would no longer be tolerated.

Clara apologized for her outburst and for anything she’d said or done that made me and others feel disrespected. She said that wasn’t her intention. She said the current Presidential Administration and its actions upset her so much that she just couldn’t contain herself sometimes. She assured us that it wouldn’t happen again. She signed the warning without any fanfare.

The case was closed, but I still felt … some kind of way … about it.

I can’t imagine feeling so charged about something that I couldn’t even sit through a ten minute review of the subject. And I can’t imagine ever thinking it would be acceptable to walk out on any workplace training because I didn’t like the topic. Perhaps this is another one of the ways working in HR has made me soft? Perhaps I am too deferential, too “company” for my own good?

In this case, I say no.

Ultimately, whether we are in HR or some other support function, we are responsible to know, understand and enforce the laws applicable to our job and our industry. We may disagree with the law and dislike the people who enact it … but we’re still responsible to abide by it. Period.

You don’t like Obamacare … or SarbOx … or OSHA … or whatever the laws and regulations … That’s your prerogative. Now shut up about it and do your job.

Please and thank you very much.

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