HR Philosophy from the Trenches

I have 2 HR philosophies; “Keep It Simple” and “Deal With the Problem”. My that I mean that people always seem so scared of dealing with something going wrong because they see it as conflict and that they will upset the person involved. The way I approach it is, something has happened, and that is what we need to address. I’m not going to belittle them, or attack them, we just need to address the issue as soon as possible. ~Leeanne, a dedicated upstartHR reader

Recently I asked some questions of a few of my audience members as a way to learn how to provide content that is better targeted toward their needs. I received the comments above from Leeanne, and I got her permission to share them here. I absolutely love them and wanted to take some time to unpack the comments here for the benefit of the rest of you out there. As we say here in the Bible Belt, I’m going to step on some toes today, but it’s good for each of us to get that once in a while. Heck, half the advice I give here is to hold myself accountable for doing the right thing instead of the easy thing. Listen up, school’s in session…

Keep it simple

When people come to HR with an issue, they expect a complicated answer, whether one is required or not. I will never understand the unnecessary over-complication that many in this profession leap to, because it doesn’t do a single thing to endear us to the rest of the organization. Give a long-winded and unhelpful answer often enough, and people will stop coming to you for help, advice, answers, etc.

Look at the problem. Help dig up all of the potential pitfalls and snags. Ask good questions (be curious, not demanding or accusatory). Then help the person arrive at a conclusion, whether you provide it or they come to it organically.

Bottom line: stop trying to make things more complex because it makes you feel smarter. It makes people hate you. That might hurt, but it’s true.

Deal with the problem

If you’ve been in HR for any length of time, you know we run into conflict on some level fairly often. Probably every seven minutes on average. :-) Seriously, it’s just a part of the job. How you handle it (as with the suggestions above) can help to improve the situation or make it much, much worse.

Look back at the directions for asking questions above: be curious. Be genuinely curious. Detach yourself from the situation, pull the emotions out of it, and try to determine the response that will result in a winning solution for all parties involved. Sometimes there are situations where that just isn’t possible, but it’s amazing how often you can arrive at a solution that the “problem” person will be happy with.

Recently I had to help a supervisor counsel an employee, and the employee went out of their way to thank the supervisor for bringing it to their attention, showing them that they cared, and not giving up on them during their difficult times.Yes, a disciplinary action followed by a “thank you.” It can be done, if you and the manager care enough to make it work. That’s not to say the situation is immediately and permanently resolved, but if you give respect you’ll often get it in return.

A few more things to keep in mind: don’t demand answers immediately, be focused on the facts (instead of only opinions), and mentally put yourself in the position of both the “problem” person and their manager. How would you want someone to advise you if you were in one of those positions? Don’t just say, “This is the policy. Follow it.” Any idiot can point to a policy, grunt, and go on with their day. It takes courage and wisdom to handle these situations with more attention and care than that. These are the people that drive your business. Don’t they deserve at least that much from you?

Again, thank you to Leeanne for the input. Those were excellent comments, and I appreciate you taking the time to share. If anyone else ever feels like shooting me an email, I’m always happy to get them (even if I can’t always respond to everyone due to the volume!). Hit me here if you have ideas or comments. Thanks!