My Thoughts On SHRM’s Relationship With The White House

In the world of “Hot Takes,” I’m going to do something I probably shouldn’t do and give my humble opinion on a current event happening in the HR world. Normally, I’d watch things shake out, get information from both sides, then form an opinion. But I ran my twitter mouth and committed to a post, so here goes.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and its CEO, Johnny C. Taylor recently “signed the new Pledge to the American Worker today on behalf of SHRM and its members,”  fresh with a photo-op of Johnny and President Trump. Let’s just say that this didn’t go over too well with a vocal and influential group of SHRM members and HR professionals.

Questions arose as to why SHRM would align with an administration’s agenda that is exclusive and unsupportive of individuals of all backgrounds. I am in this camp. Seeing this photo got me a little hot under the collar due to my own personal beliefs and opinions.

For the record, SHRM doesn’t pay me. I pay dues to the organization to be a member and get access to training, thought leadership, and conferences. They share my content on their blog and invite me to be a part of the SHRM Bloggers at the annual conferences. But I don’t rely on SHRM to pay my bills and put food on my table. While I disagree with the current optics of this, I’m not quite ready to dump my membership or denounce my SHRM-SCP.

But I did start to wonder what would be my reaction if the CEO of the company that pays me every two weeks made this pledge. Would I be willing to quit my job over this? If I were an HR consultant, would I terminate my contract with an organization who actively, or financially, supports this current administration?

Many Fortune 500 companies, that employ hundreds of thousands of employees, throw their financial and political support to the current administration. They are the benefactors of wonderful corporate tax cuts that will never reach the hands of all of those employees. And, I’m sure, many of those employees do not agree with, or support, the current president or administration. But they also don’t have a choice to leave that job and the paycheck it provides.

I totally get we are in different political times and this isn’t just supporting one party over the other. The policies and actions coming out of the White House are so disappointing and alarming to me that I don’t even know what to do, at times. But there are so many employees who are so far removed from their CEO and dependent on a paycheck to make that next rent payment, that they cannot walk away.

Employee engagement is low because many people just want to do the work and get paid so they can provide for themselves and others. Or so they can invest that money into something they are really passionate about. Many do not have to luxury to tell the boss to get bent and figure it all out.

It’s pretty easy for me to chastise and disavow an organization where I have no financial stake in the game, but what would I do if my job depended on it? I’m initially disappointed and concerned about the optics of this for SHRM and I’m going to wait and see their response. It has been less than 24 hours and I’m willing to listen to the explanation and not go up a ladder.

What I love about the HR profession is our ability to hear both sides of an issue. We have to be able to put our own personal beliefs aside in moments of conflict. We are also a supportive and inclusive organization and I realize that not all of us think the same way. We strive to build inclusive workplaces where all can show up as their best selves.

In this toxic political environment we are now living in, HR must show up as the leaders to help people try to find common ground and be able to disagree in a healthy and productive way, even when our leaders do not model that behavior. Our workplaces are looking to HR to be the voice of reason in the unreasonable.

I am proud of what I witnessed in today’s dialogue. There was disagreement and thought provocation all in the spirit of gaining understanding and forwarding a productive conversation. That’s what makes us who we are.


5 thoughts on “My Thoughts On SHRM’s Relationship With The White House

  1. John, thank you for putting your thoughts down and for keeping the comments area opened. My thoughts were all over the board when I saw that photo and the headline in my Twitter feed. And as it percolated with me throughout the day, I remember something my mom used to tell me about a crotchety woman who lived down the street from us when I was a kid. She used to say, “don’t let the hatefulness keep you from eating her BBQ – it is darn good.” Or sometimes it was “I know she scares the bejeezus out of you, but her peach pie is delightful.” The lesson of course is don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater or there is often something good that can come out of any given situation.

    So with my mom’s advice as a filter, I looked again at that photo and headline, and then I looked into what was being promoted. It just might be decent BBQ.

    Does it come from an administration that has gone out of its way to promote divisiveness and hate? Yes.
    Does it come from an administration that has threatened equality in the workplace? Yes.
    Does the photo show our SHRM President shaking hands with someone who has been treasonous to our ideology, our citizens and our democracy? Most definitely.

    But is the initiative a good idea? Yes, it is.

    Now, I wish SHRM would have supported the initiative and refused to go to the ceremony and shake that imbecile’s hand…God, I would have cheered from the rooftops. But these are difficult decisions way past my pay grade as a member and I’m fortunate I didn’t have to make them.

    Again, thank you so much for writing. As always, you are an inspiring professional.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There’s a difference between a crotchety woman and someone actively working to destroy human rights. And as a member, you have a right to a voice. It’s not above your pay grade – they are representing you, as well.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Mary – you are right – there is a huge difference between the crotchety woman who lived down the street from us and our current administration. It saddens me to no end. And you’re also right that I’m a paying member of SHRM and to that end, I have expressed my disappointment in the photo as it may represent SHRM supports the organization and not just the initiative. It’s difficult, I’m sure, to make any decisions like this in today’s climate. 😦


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