Issues faced by human resources managers raise questions about fairness, honesty, self-discipline and consequences of behavior. Since the human resources department – which deals with employee issues – assumes a major role in the company, there may be a tremendous burden placed on human resources managers to walk a very narrow line between what is legally and morally best for the employee and financially advantageous to the company.
Human resources as a professional career choice has resulted in the creation of the Society of Human Resources Management. This organization has developed a Code of Ethics for Human Resources Managers.
Human resources managers must make decisions on a daily basis that involve employee issues versus company policies and procedures. In making these decisions, the professional and personal conduct of the manager may come into play. For example, rather than fire an employee, should he be considered for other possible alternatives in order to keep his family with shelter and food, even though he is not performing up to company standards? A valid answer may be reached with the consideration of applicable laws, organizational standards of ethical behavior, and without personal malice or opinion.
The field of human resources is evolving and constantly changing. A professional human resources manager may be committed to continuing education and certifications as a pathway to continuous improvement. The Society of Human Resources Management has established two types of certification for human resources professionals. One is a Professional in Human Resources (PHR) designation and the other is an Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) which requires more experience and/or formal education. Each certification requires additional human resources courses, workshops, and seminars.
Human resources is the "conscience" of the company. It is the responsibility of the human resources manager to be knowledgeable of all laws and regulations pertaining to the hiring, training, compensating and disciplining of employees. While maintaining loyalty to the employer, the human resources manager must comply and adhere to all federally and state-mandated laws regarding the treatment of employees. The human resources manager, at times, must take a stand with the employer to inform her of possible consequences inherent with certain acts.
Most information about employees, whether it be medical, compensation or discipline, is considered confidential. In some cases, this may include keeping information from an employee's manager or releasing information in a lawsuit or medical billing issue. These situations call for behaviors and actions that conform to the highest ethical principals. Following the letter of the law in these cases may be the best decision. If company policies are written accordingly, it will be much easier to follow the correct procedures.
A human resources manager can be seen as one with power to get things done. Having the support and trust of senior management can place a manager in a position to make autonomous decisions. It may be important for managers to include others in the decision-making process for checks and balances. Although it may be tempting to use one's position to influence others, it should be used discreetly and only for the good of both employee and company. For example, managers should not allow favoritism of an employee because of a personal relationship.