By Sarah Corbin
During my first weeks working as a Human Resources Manager in a big box store I made a mistake. It was years ago. And I was young. That situation, though, changed the way I act as a supervisor and leader to this day. With that one mistake I learned you sometimes have to be brave and take risks to get things done and do your job right.
When I arrived at the store I was told by the outgoing HR professional to fire someone who had been documented a couple of times for appearance. This person was still having the same issue, they hadn't fixed the problem.
I listened to what the outgoing HR person told me to do. We were peers, but she had a year of experience ahead of me and she had gotten approval from the Store Manager. The termination didn't sit right with me. But I was afraid to take a risk. I was afraid to stand on the side of the employee and make a judgement based on my own set of experiences. I terminated her.
The woman cried. She had been homeless. She was using a friend's address, but was struggling to find ways to take a shower and launder her clothes. If I had administered an initial warning or brought the employee in calmly to try and work out what to do about her appearance we could have solved some of her problems and she might have stayed employed. But I processed her termination. When I had more experience in the job, I knew I would have done things differently. But at the time I didn't feel confident enough to go against a more seasoned set of professionals.
FOR YEARS AND STILL to this day I act more bravely because of my inability to stand up for that one employee. I should have been focused on that individual instead of the policy. I should have taken a risk. Taking that risk then, even though I was afraid of my political position, would have meant that I was doing my job right.
It's an experience that has made me, time and time again, focus on the individual and further think about my mission. If my mission is to address the needs of an individual, then sometimes I have to be brave and fight to fulfill the duties of my job, even with opposition. Failing to take risks, can mean we stand still instead of moving forward.