HR Issues derail start-ups Human resources and overall HR risk management is critical to any company’s success. Unfortunately, these matters often take a back-seat at start-up companies focused on getting to market. But overlooking HR issues is a surefire way to disrupt the business rather than the market.

This all too common story line recently played out at GitHub, a San Francisco-based start-up. As reported by the Wall Street Journal (by Evelyn Rusli) an unnamed employee using an anonymous messaging app sent a company wide message that, “The self proclaimed Queen of GitHub is leaving her throne. The masses cheer.” Shortly thereafter, the “Queen” a/k/a Julie Ann Horvath, unloaded a barrage of allegations that GitHub was a hotbed of gender based harassment. Among these allegations:

  • She felt harassed by the president, Preston-Werner, and his wife who was not a GitHub employee;
  • A developer altered/deleted software code Ms. Horvath developed in retaliation for rejecting the developer’s romantic advances;
  • GitHub generally fostered a hostile work environment towards women. 

These allegations made their way into the Twittersphere resulting in a 24,000 followers of Ms. Horvath boycotting GitHub. And the incident lead to the company’s president stepping down amid criticism that Ms. Horvath’s situation was mishandled.

The Take-Away

I recently finished up an employment investigation matter with a lot of similarities to the GitHub matter. The lesson to be learned from both is that human resource management is not a one-time event. It is a dynamic process. It is no longer sufficient to hand out a handbook to new employees and call it a day. Or wait for someone to come forward with a complaint. This is a recipe for disaster. 

Instead, HR management – whether at a startup or an established company – requires a proactive approach. And it requires a dedicated skill-set as opposed to handing it off to an administrative assistant or payroll manager with the expectation that he or she can become an HR expert on the fly.