Hi, I'm Laurie, your resident human resources expert, with over a decade of experience at Fortune 500 companies. I'm here to settle an issue that has divided Lemondrop readers along every line you can think of for the past week. I promise this won't be nearly as dull as your orientation session, so allow me to explain.
Last week Lemondrop wrote about an editor at Brides magazine who was fired for baring her sports bra to fellow employees in a private office
. The employee had had her breasts augmented. Two of her colleagues asked to see the results, so she closed the door to her office and unbuttoned her shirt to reveal her improvements, happily ensconced in a sports bra.
"It was within the confines of my office, behind closed doors," the ex-employee told the NY Post. "There was no nudity involved. They were personal friends who I had known for years."
The story, however, lit a fire under your collective mouse pads. With more than 200 comments on the original post
, you gave us your none-too-subtle observations on workplace relationships, made snarky remarks about the ex-employee, and a few of you -- you know who you are -- whined about why we didn't offer up pictures of the fake boobs.
I am here to tell you that you shouldn't be using your company's computer while asking to see those ta-tas, and you shouldn't believe much of what has been reported on this story either. In fact, everything that comes out of the world of magazines is a bit suspect. Remember, these are the folks who removed Demi Moore's hip and asked us to believe that the picture was real. Now they want us to believe that they fired a woman simply because she bared her sports bra at work.
Give me a break -- and I say that in my professional capacity. There are a few reasons this story doesn't stack up.
As many of you reminded us, there is no way to verify the facts. We will never understand why the employee didn't wait until she was off the clock to flash her friends. We will never really know why HR tried to deny her unemployment benefits. As one reader noted, "My guess is they probably wanted her gone anyway so they looked for anything they could use to get her fired."
It's easy to say that this editor should be fired for not doing her job, but really, very few of us do our jobs for the entire day. Work happens when we're not on the Internet, addressing our real lives, or paying our bills.
One of the readers of the original post wrote a comment that spoke to me: "There are no friends in the workplace."
I'm not sure I agree with this. Work is emotionally tough and taxing on the soul, especially in this rotten economy. Telling someone not to have friends at work is like telling a thirsty person not to crave water. We're not robots; we seek out connections and meaning. Sometimes we confide in our colleagues, sometimes we share secrets, and sometimes we show one another the results of our going under the knife.
I work in human resources, a field known for being cold and distant, and yet even I was once asked to look at an ingrown hair in my co-worker's nose. Another colleague vomited on me. People aren't fired for sharing intimate moments, so it's unfair to say that we shouldn't have friends at work.
That leads to the final observation made by many readers of Lemondrop: Some of you suspect that gender politics are behind this story. Case in point: "This is so typical of the way women operate in the workplace. The grudges, the backstabbing, the sabotage. No wonder there's a glass ceiling. No wonder, behind closed doors, men say they can't trust women in the office. We can't be trusted!"
If there's one thing you need to know, it's that the "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" does not exist in your office. Unfortunately, passive-aggressive, woman-on-woman behavior is the third rail of human resources and
modern-day feminism. Books are written to explain office politics and drama in the context of years of male oppression and sexism. Feminist scholars debate it. No executive leader or HR department wants to touch it.
Women aren't backstabbing banshees who sacrifice friendship in the interest of their careers. Women are people, and in an environment where unemployment sits at 10 percent and there are six applicants for every one job, a woman will fight to protect her family, her income and her health insurance. When pressed, she will rat out another woman in a heartbeat. Just like a man.
On the other hand, HR departments know that, due to this economy, they are in a position of power, and they will leverage that power to achieve certain results. So, based on those facts, here's what I think happened:
• Brides magazine was dissatisfied with the performance of the employee with the fake boobs.
• The HR department probably caught wind of the over-hyped story about the sports bra.
• They corroborated the facts with a few co-workers who may have personally disliked the newly augmented employee.
• They made a decision to act.
It wasn't a great HR decision, and one Lemondrop reader wrote, "If there is one department at your company that you need fear, if there is one useless department above all others that has caused more misery for the employees and damage to the company, it is Human Resources."
The truth is, Human Resources is an extension of corporate management: They don't have your personal interests at heart, and they are in a position to fire you if you violate corporate policy -- whether or not you feel like you did anything wrong.
So, as of now, you are on notice. Don't show off your new boobs to your co-workers. That's probably the best lesson we can learn from this story.