Should HR Be More Like “The Closer” or “Major Crimes”?

This week’s post are looking at HR lessons from tv police drama “The Closer.”

Set in Los Angeles, the show follows the “Priority Homicide” division led by Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson as they investigate and solve high-profile homicide cases. Because of her ability to get confessions resulting in convictions, Brenda is known as “a closer.”

In the series finale last week, Brenda resigned her position with the LAPD. The division was renamed “Major Crimes” and placed under the command of Captain Sharon Raydor, former head of the Force Investigation Division responsible for ensuring procedures are followed and investigating misconduct allegations against police officers.

While “The Closer” was focused on confessions, “Major Crimes” is all about convictions. The goal is to quickly gather enough evidence to determine who committed the crime and leverage that information to reach a plea bargain.

So which approach is better?? Should HR be more like “The Closer” or like “Major Crimes”???

The answer … I think … is Major Crimes.

There will never be another like Brenda Leigh Johnson. Her skills at solving cases and obtaining confessions are unmatched. And when you have someone like that on the team and/or in charge of the team, it makes sense to utilize those strengths. However, that approach can be time-consuming and expensive. It takes hours, days and weeks of investigating to obtain one confession — followed by months and years to bring the case to trial and convict the perpetrator. When resources are at a premium, it makes a lot of sense to identify a suspect and reach an agreement that includes significant jail time so that police and prosecutors alike can move on to the next issue.

When issues come up in HR, it is rare that we find a “smoking gun” or obtain a “full confession” from anyone. Much more often, we gather data and, based on patterns, we identify the most likely and plausible explanation. And many times, there are layers and mitigating factors to the problems we face because of the interpersonal relationships and histories between the people and departments involved. The “major crimes” in our workplaces tend to be very, very complex issues that are not easy to unravel or solve without compromise, sacrifice and risk.

So without a lot of time or resources, it makes sense for us to take the course of action that causes the least disruption. We settle.

It sounds horrible to say — but it is our reality and our truth. And it is OK.

Settling doesn’t mean we compromise our principles or our integrity. It doesn’t mean we let people get away with craziness, foolishness or unlawfulness. The bad guys on Major Crimes still go to jail! They just don’t necessarily go with an air-tight confession on tape as apart of the evidence package … And in our workplaces, our bad guys are still held accountable for their actions. They are still disciplined when necessary — up to and including termination, when necessary. The difference is we don’t always have every issue documented with irrefutable, independent corroboration before we take action.

Our goal is to make employment decisions that will advance the goals of the business and withstand legal scrutiny. “Confessions” are nice but “convictions” are a must. We must be confident that our course of action is fair and reasonable based on the information we have. That’s what being an HR “Closer” is about.

So farewell Brenda Leigh Johnson and hello Captain Raydor! The Major Crimes way is here to stay.


Don’t miss the rest of “The Closer” series:






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