Ruelha Mascarenhas
by
Ruelha Mascarenhas

Ever since the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, the 10th of December is observed as International Human Rights Day worldwide. The UDHR is the most translated document globally and is available in more than 500 languages with the core message explicitly mentioned in the first Article, ‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.’

This statement implies that every human being, irrespective of sex, color, orientation, religion, race, caste, origin, and status – political or social or any other difference is entitled to a set of rights as a human being. These cannot be earned, purchased, accumulated, or prioritized. It is unconditional and infinite, and there can be no limit or exceptions to its claim.

Human Rights ≅ Human Resources?

Human Resources isn't just a professional chore that needs to be carried out; it's the thing that runs businesses! Employees are the most significant resource in every organization despite structure and size. If harnessed efficiently, they possess the potential to be an organization's most valuable asset.

As Jim Collins puts it, "Great vision without great people is irrelevant."

Ideally, it is not only the moral but also the legal obligation of organizations irrespective of size and turnover to respect, protect, fulfill, and promote the human rights of their employees.

The common element in Human Resources and Human Rights is the word 'human.' One expects this department to be the most humane in an entire organization. Conversely, studies reveal this department lacks that same 'human element.'

As per this study, a startling 37% of employees wouldn't feel comfortable reporting sexual harassment, while 43% wouldn't report discrimination on various grounds. About 70% of employees believe the HR department does not represent them and always sides with management. They prefer to do 'nothing' or explore options to deal with a situation themselves, avoiding the inclusion of HR under any circumstance. The fear of reporting supersedes the plausibility of a favorable resolution!

Human Rights in the context of business

From an organizational perspective, human rights provide a benchmark for minimum acceptable standards of behavior within the workplace or aspects of professional duties, relationships, and boundaries. The idea of applying human rights to business processes, policies, and strategies is a relatively recent one. However, efforts and pressure exerted from reputed international organizations on governments have made it essential for businesses worldwide to consider human rights and their application within the context of business. It has been decades since its inception, yet companies struggle to integrate its true essence and implementation. Let's look at a few basic steps to achieve this.

  • Get acquainted with the scope of Human Rights.
  • Thoroughly comprehend its applications and implications.
  • Develop, practice, and promote an uncompromising, approachable work culture.
  • Reinforce this culture through example-setting and immaculate, untarnished records.

Also Read: Human Resources | A Peek into the Future

The Scope

In the pursuit of building a work environment that encourages and idealizes the notion of equality and disapproves discrimination of any nature, one must understand the aspects of human rights that are relevant to business. Well, in brief, all human rights are relevant! Not just social, civil, and cultural, but also the political, economic, cultural rights of all employees must be considered. If we were to simplify and summarize this broad spectrum, it's as easy as ingraining humanity in all aspects of business!

The famous verse from Matthew 7:12 later reiterated in Luke 6:31 advises us to 'do unto others as we would have them do unto us.' It’s all about fairness and empathy. And the way to accomplish this is to continually remind ourselves that human beings aren't robots. They are not pre-programmed to function as per optimal conditions suited to a particular job profile. They have inhibitions, strengths, motivations, goals, boundaries, families, social networks, weaknesses, concerns, challenges, and limitations.

The Reality

The fact of the matter remains that in the daily humdrum of office life, all conflicts and disappointments make their way to the HR desk. This department is only associated with misdemeanors and drama. If it doesn't commence there, it ends up there. And more often than not, the endpoint is despair. The HR desk witnesses the full extent of human flaws and outrages. Yet, they must function with human connect and intellect while upholding employee morale and rights. Besides, they also have the responsibility to protect the organization's values that provide funding to their desks!

The secret to bringing 'human' rights into human resources is simple. Just be human …while concurrently maintaining professionalism. There lies the catch! It may seem like a tall order, but it is possible. Remember, practice makes perfect. With conscious effort and practice, eventually, it will reflect in every situation. An HR professional must approach every HR issue while being emotionally present and empathetic. But, one must recognize and respect the boundaries and limitations of the official structure and stay protected while representing the company at all times.

Desensitized as a result of Disengaging

Let us consider a regular day in the life of an HR professional. In the morning, HR deals with one sexual harassment issue. They're fresh and peppy in the morning. So, they lend an ear, investing time, attention, and emotion. A gender bias case comes up by noon, and the same personnel displays empathy and addresses the concerned parties with understanding. In the evening, a racial slur spurs up a controversial storm. By now, this professional is probably exhausted and less invested in this matter. And a moment's lapse of protection awareness is all it takes to tarnish everything they've been working for so diligently.

In most likeliness, maybe a day might not have such a varied and drastic effect, but HR professionals learn to disconnect and get desensitized over a period of time. Those who continue to protect the department's halo end up feeling miserable or, worse, switching careers. Experienced HR staff eventually siphon out the emotional quotient of the equation while dealing with issues. While they're momentarily protecting themselves by not investing any emotion, their judgment lacks the fundamental essence they stand to defend. It may sustain them a while longer, but they will certainly lose their sense of purpose. Engagement brings motivation, and motivation drives purpose. Without these, HR teams will be unproductive. A good alternative to these extremes described here is adopting a balanced strategy. When encountering a situation, HR teams must consider these aspects, which would be the cogent approach to resolving any situation rationally and reasonably.

  • Grade, categorize and classify the situation as per protocol
  • Apply company policy without exceptions
  • What was the intention?
  • Was it deliberate, planned, or involuntary?
  • What are the implications?
  • What is the extent of the damage?
  • Are those damages reversible?
  • If so, what is the cost of reversing those damages?
  • Was it repetitive? How often?

The Solution

First, maintain sensitivity to the environment, situation, and employees involved. This is where humanity must be displayed; empathy and emotion must be present. Then while diagnosing the case, let reasoning take over and classify the situation as per company guidelines. There cannot be disparities, partiality, and bias because one feels more connected to a particular person or cause than another situation or employee. SOPs must be adhered to. This is where professionalism comes in. So the secret recipe to resurrecting human rights in human resources is 'balance.'

By choosing to outsource HR functions to a reputable brand like Exela, established experts in the field, with decades of experience in dealing with every possible HR issue in the most humane-yet-professional manner, you eliminate the possibility of inappropriate, disparate, or unjust outcomes without bearing the burdens of employing an in-house HR! Exela HR Solutions is a world leader in providing end-to-end HR solutions with balanced precision. Click here to learn more.

In an attempt to uphold human dignity

Within the horizon of official facilities

Ourselves, let us rededicate

This concept to propagate

Irrespective of our many differences

The involuntary ones and also our preferences

We are all born free

And have a right to equality

As we celebrate Human Rights Day

Let’s make this pledge today

To do things the humane way

Exela HR Solutions

Will always stand by these principles

Happy Human Rights Day from Exela Technologies!

Statistical Reference Sources: www.un.org, www.zety.com

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