Or been told not to go after a senior manager who bullied staff, because they were a high performer?
Jane*, a training manager and former HR manager, told HC Online that she faced these situations and more during her HR career.
“I think every HR person has their limits and I’ve worked with a couple of HR people who have actually resigned over being asked to do things that they fundamentally disagreed with. I usually try and find a way to compromise but if the CEO and board back the decision you might have no one else to turn to.”
In the case of the bullying manager, she disagreed with the directive but was forced to compromise because it had the board’s backing.
“In the end I suggested we move him into a role that didn’t have any staff reporting to it to minimise the impact. The CEO agreed to that but gave him a pay rise.”
One of the strangest directives came from her CEO when she and her husband were working for the same company.
“I was told by the CEO to tell my husband that the CEO had an issue with him.”
Jane refused to do so.
“If the CEO had a problem he could raise it himself. He did let it drop after that - later telling me he’d just been testing my loyalties.”
Alexandra Tselios, business consultant and publisher of the website The Big Smoke, said the first thing to do in a situation where you feel uncomfortable with a directive is to figure out why you don’t like it.
“If you’ve been asked to do something for the good of the company, but you feel uncomfortable being put into a challenging situation, then you most likely need to suck it up for the benefit of the business. However, the lines can be blurred when you feel the task goes against your moral code, or worse could be illegal.
“If you are concerned about the ethics or legality of the task, talk to your supervisor and discuss the issue. If this doesn’t get the resolution you’re after, it’s time to start investigating. Research online or contact your industry body for guidance. Alternatively, if you have a mentor or companion in a senior position, ask for their advice. The key is to know the difference between pushing yourself and your personal beliefs, and breaking a law or doing something unethical.”
*Not her real name
Have you ever been told to do something you didn’t agree with? How did you react?
Have you ever been asked to restructure an employee out of a job, because the manager recruited the wrong person and can’t manage them?