If You Rake Sh*t, It’s Going To Smell

I worked with a great Operations partner for a number of years who was fond of saying:

“If you rake sh*t it’s gonna smell.”

This was almost always said about something HR was doing – usually an investigation, and usually an investigation that really was going to go no where.  He was basically trying to say, “why?” “Why would you look into that when you know it happened, you know the result, and at this point there is nothing that can come from it.” “So, why?”  We in HR tend to do a lot of this – we rake sh*t.  I know why, but if I admit why, HR folks tend to get a little upset over the answer, because it hits a little to close to home (job justification).

Let me give you an example of how we/HR might rake some sh*t: As part of a sexual harassment investigation, that is completely legitimate, you find out some information about a director who previously had a relationship with a subordinate.  Following me so far. Seems like stuff we HR types do everyday – follow the white rabbit, see how far this hole goes down, right?  The part that’s missing, is this supposed relationship took place 3-4 years ago, and has been done for 3-4 years, the director is a great performer and has no black marks on their record.  So, what do you do?  I can tell you from my experience, too often, the HR pros want to start raking this one around.  They bring in the director, they bring the other party – both of which have moved on 3-4 years ago, but somehow in HR we want to right the wrongs -no matter what.

Is what happened 3-4 years ago wrong? Yes, without a doubt. Is investigating this wrong, now, what’s best for your organizaiton? No, it’s just raking sh*t.  What should we do when we find out about stuff like this?  You make the powers that be aware (from my experience they will already be aware – you were the only one that isn’t) and you let them know, you’re not planning to do anything about this, unless they would like you to follow up further.  They’ll thank you and it will never be talked about again.

In HR we work everyday to try and make the right things happen, and stop the bad things from happening – that’s what we do. Sometimes we miss one, and it comes up and let’s us know it.  Our pride gets the best of us and we want to make someone pay for a rule that was broken long ago.  Am I saying if you find out about something after-the-fact, that you shouldn’t do something about it? Absolutely not – you should.  What I’m saying is, in HR interpretation becomes a major skill you better get comfortable with, especially if you want operations to view you as a “valuable” business partner.  There will be times to rake and times to leave it lie, how you handle this goes a long way to how great of an HR Pro you will be.

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