Since the McDonald’s #leadership scandal involving their former CEO, Steve Easterbrook emerged months ago, I kept on pointing out that the VP of #HR was let go at the same time.  A coincidence? No.

We now know that the HR dept. was complicit in coverups of bad behavior and involved in their own not-so HR friendly behaviors. And now the McDonald’s board is investigating this clown show. It’s all detailed HERE.

But it underscores what happens when HR goes from implementing policies and helping instill culture to breaking policies and muzzling dissent.

It’s a downward spiral that, unless addressed, can hurt organizations for a generation.  Congratulations to Steve Hernandez, Chairman of the Board at McDonald’s for leading the board to take action.

In my book, The Arsonist in the Office: Fireproofing Your Life Against Toxic Coworkers, Bosses, Employees, and Cultures, I talk about my experiences with “H.R. Harry”, a corrupted and confounding HR leader who created and contorted as many H.R. issues as he covered up.  He was the problem because he had decided to purposefully not serve in his designated role of being an honest broker–and solution.

Also, I reference in this BLOG POST the Wynn Casinos scandal of 2017 caused  by their founder, Steve Wynn, but also a bullying HR leadership who silenced employees.

HR’s role is often misunderstood and they are in place, by design, to follow management’s direction.  But they should be expected to adhere to ethical, legal, and cultural guidelines established both by their company’s policies and their profession’s standards.  When employees lose trust in HR, they lose trust in the organization across the board. And it hurts morale and, as SHRM points out frequently, few things hurt the company’s reputation more than a CEO scandal.

For employees, fully understand when to talk to HR and when you shouldn’t.  Know who you can trust within your organization before you speak up to those who can help you–or hurt you!

For leadership in companies, understand that having an HR serve as your protective guard can work out well for a brief period of time, but can also destroy you if a scandal goes public.

For HR leaders who skirt the lines of the law, ethics, and policies, know that you’re more expendable than your leadership and you can quickly be thrown overboard if bad publicity emerges.

In the end, doing the right thing and building a great culture leads to a much better result–for reputations, shareholders, careers, leadership and people’s lives. The McDonald’s CEO scandal was preventable, but hopefully they’ve fixed it from here on out. G00d for Hernandez and their board of directors for doing the right thing.

Pete Havel is a speaker, trainer, and consultant on workplace culture and leadership. He speaks and consults for organizations ranging from law enforcement agencies to Fortune 500 companies.  He’s also the author of “The Arsonist in the Office: Fireproofing Your Life Against Toxic Coworkers, Bosses, Employees, and Cultures,” named as a #1 Hot New Release by Amazon. It’s available at Pete can be reached at and 214-244-7906. You’ll also find more information on him at



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