I’m scared I’ll be fired for doing the right thing


When an 8(a) company contracted with me to create their affirmative action plan, the CEO liked my work and offered me a job. Since the offer included a good salary and company-paid medical insurance for my kids as well as myself, I said yes.

Soon after I accepted the position, I asked the CEO for his expectations and he said, “Take care of all that pesky HR paperwork and do whatever else it is you HR people do.” His company had been in existence for five years and the HR paperwork and files were a mess. It took me more than a month to clean up the personnel files because almost all of them lacked essential documents. This put the company at high risk should we have been questioned on a firing or pay equity issue.

Next, I implemented a hotline, not realizing at the time the trouble that would cause. The hotline thrummed with complaints, many coming from the North Slope personnel. I talked with the CEO about my taking a trip north so I could conduct an onsite review and then take the requisite action to fix what I found. The CEO shot me down, letting me know the North Slope project managers made money for the company and I was to support them, not be their monitor.

We began to argue, and I told him I didn’t want to work in a company that didn’t let me handle these types of problems, because I’d have HR liability if the problems remained unaddressed. That’s when he let me know there’d been a large number of complaints about me. Apparently, I’d angered field people by insisting they provide me necessary documents for the personnel files.

I don’t want to lose my job but am worried I’ll be fired for wanting to do the right thing. Help.


If you’re fired, it may be because you’re trying to do the right things in the wrong way. Here’s what you need to realize: You’re not in charge; you work in a support capacity. You need to drop words like “insist” from your vocabulary and ramp up your diplomacy skills so you can accomplish your work through other people.

Field people don’t view paperwork and personnel files as priority items. They will, however, comply with your requests if they like you and see you as someone who does things for them. Humans are wired to treat others as they’ve been treated and to return favors. If you shop at Costco, you see this in the numbers of people who buy products after they’ve sampled them. Effective internal HR people learn to say “Let me make this easier for you” and “Let me do the legwork on this so all you’ll have to do it finalize it.”


Next, I suspect your meeting with your CEO failed for three key reasons.

First, you’ve lost considerable credibility with him due to the complaints you’ve racked up.

Second, he may not realize the risk the hotline complaints pose to his company if they’re not addressed. HR professionals need to make the costs tangible when they identify problems created by managers who make money for a company. In a recent situation, I presented a CEO with a Los Angeles Times article that described a jury award of $464.6 million to two Southern California Edison ex-employees for sexual harassment and retaliation, and drew a parallel between that case and what was happening in his company. What captured his attention? The $464.6 million.

Third, he may see you as a technician who can handle “pesky paperwork,” but not as someone who can make the challenging judgment calls needed to determine and implement the right actions.

How can you improve how he sees you? Stop arguing, show him you can effectively assess problems, and handle yourself well by developing your skillset.

Lynne Curry | Alaska Workplace

Lynne Curry writes a weekly column on workplace issues. She is author of “Navigating Conflict,” “Managing for Accountability,” “Beating the Workplace Bully" and “Solutions,” and Submit questions at or follow her on, or @lynnecurry10 on X/Twitter.