I had a manager call me about an issue this week, and the guidance that I provided on how to handle the situation reminded me of something I witnessed in my very first HR job, and it got me thinking that I will always remember my first HR boss for the way she handled that situation. That is the legacy she left with me.
YEARS ago, when I was in my very first HR Assistant role, we had a receptionist up front at our organization who was the first impression to every candidate, customer, you name it. This receptionist came to us via a temp to hire situation, and I’m pretty sure it was the first job she had where she was supposed to dress professionally. She did her best, but they didn’t quite fit – especially the skirts. If you haven’t had the honor of having the “your clothes are inappropriate for the workplace conversation,” you really aren’t living. Yes, I’m being facetious.
It wasn’t just the fact that my boss handled the situation that has always stood out to me, it was HOW she handled it.:
She didn’t send a blanket e-mail to the entire company, reminding everyone of our dress code policy. HR is not the dress code police, and don’t let anyone make you the dress code police.
She did 2 things: 1. She talked to the employee, privately, and asked her how she could help her. During the conversation, the employee confided to my boss that she could not afford nice clothes, and so she was buying her suits in the juniors department – hence the short skirts. My boss did not judge her or give her some ultimatum about the dress code policy. My boss bought her clothes that she could wear to work. 2. My boss didn’t tell a soul, and the only way that I found out was because the receptionist shared the story.
How amazing is that? We don’t all have the ability to buy our teams new clothes, but we have the ability to meet people where they are and ask them what they need. I will never forget the way she handled that, and I can only hope that at some point in my career, I leave a similar impression with my team: I tried every day to be better for them than I was the day before, and I helped them to be the best they could be for their future teams.
What is the legacy you want to leave behind? What are you doing today to work towards that?