One of my favorite movies is the classic Quentin Tarantino film, Pulp Fiction.
There’s a character in the movie who they refer to as “The Wolfe.” He’s a fixer. When someone screws up or makes a serious mess, they call The Wolfe. He shows up to save the day by making the problem
I think this is how management often thinks of HR — as their own personal version of “The Wolfe.” When an uncomfortable conversation is needed or they’ve made a mess with an employee, they call HR. And, since we love to feel needed in HR, we swoop in and handle things. The manager’s problem disappears. Everybody wins, right?
Here’s the problem: “The Wolfe” in Pulp Fiction is not a good guy. In fact, he’s a very bad guy who helps other bad guys cover up the bad things they’ve done. He’s an enabler of really bad behavior.
When HR swoops in like The Wolfe to take over for a manager in uncomfortable conversations, we enable bad behavior. When we help them cover up that they aren’t managing their employees’ performance diligently, we enable bad behavior.
When managers don’t feel the consequences of their behavior, there’s no fuel for change. Bad managers continue practicing bad management, HR continues trying to fix it, and employees continue paying the price.