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 looked at the Chicken — and our old, childhood friend Chicken Little.
The vulture is a scavenging bird. There are 2 types: the new world type found in North and South America, and the old world type found everywhere else. Vultures are not found in Antarctica and, oddly, Australia. The vulture head has no feathers, which help them keep clean when feeding. Their bodily fluids are full of acids designed to kill bacteria. A vulture’s urine could burn a hole through a tree branch! Old world vultures have keen sense of sight and new world vultures have keen sense of smell, both being able to spot prey from almost a mile away.
Vultures travel in groups with several names. When they are resting in trees, they are called a volt. When in flight, they are called a kettle. When feeding, they are called a wake.
Vultures feed on dead or dying animals. They circle around a carcass until it is dead and/or all other scavenging animals have picked over it. Occasionally, a vulture will peck a dying animal to death to put it out of its misery before eating it. Vultures gorge themselves until they can’t move to fly, sleep in trees until all their food is digested and they take off to find something else to feed on.
As much as I hate to admit it, there are a lot of HR vultures out there. They see troubled employees, troubled managers, troubled procedures, practices and policies from a mile away. They only swoop in to kill when it is obvious everyone is in dire straits. They are negative and critical, using words of venom to tear others down for not being as knowledgeable of laws and management principles as they are. They gorge themselves on the fallout and aftermath of horrible workplace happenings, then disappear when the dust settles and aren’t heard from again until it is time to pick apart another problem.
The lesson from the Vulture is obvious and simple: DON’T BE A VULTURE!! Use your keen HR senses to help those less learned to prevent trouble. Speak up about potential problems to redirect things before they get out of hand. Not just because it mitigate’s your organization’s liability — but because it is the right thing to do! Be the type of HR person who has the courage to encourage, instead of the type who just cleans up mess, spins the story to limit liability and says “I told you so” to the decision-makers.