Some of these people have never had a good experience with an HR person. They are wary and a little cynical of the whole idea. A few of them have been burned and won’t be quick to trust someone.
Iâ€™ve had a variation of that conversation with three people in the past week. I donâ€™t know why itâ€™s suddenly become a hot topic, but I definitely understand where the sentiment comes from. For many people the whole idea of HR is a â€œnoâ€ function.
No, you canâ€™t do this. No, you canâ€™t do that. No, that would make us liable. No, we donâ€™t want to hurt anyoneâ€™s feelings. No, letâ€™s try to avoid that conflict. No, letâ€™s just put in a policy.
Really? Who goes into a career looking forward to being a master of disappointment and let-downs?
When Iâ€™m not reading fiction and other fun stuff, I like picking up books focused on service. Customer service, stewardship, etc.
Speaking of which, the book Stewardship is phenomenal. Some of the things Iâ€™m talking about today are discussed there in more detail, so feel free to check that out if youâ€™re looking for some ideas on how to serve others well.
If I had to boil what I do down to two words, those would be partnership and service. Probably not what most would expect, but they are mine nonetheless. What I do for my staff is partner with them in any way possibleâ€”career planning, compensation review, handling benefits for their family, etc. And the back end of that is serving them as well as I am able. This isnâ€™t about meâ€”itâ€™s a reminder for everyone of what this position has the potential to be.
If you are spending your time saying â€œnoâ€ to everything that is asked and looking for ways to reduce freedom within the organization (how many of us would put it in those terms?), then itâ€™s time to shape up. Make a change. Look for ways to partner with your people as a trusted, valuable resource. Find out how you can best serve each person to enable them to do their jobs better.
Beware the but
One final comment for today. Some of us are quick to say, â€œI do serve my employees well, butâ€¦ [blah blah blah].â€ Beware the â€œbut.â€ If you believe strongly enough in something, there are no exceptions, special rules, or alternatives.
It will be different, strange, and possibly even painful the first few times you remove the â€œbutâ€ from your vocabulary and move forward with your plan. But in the end, it will be worth it in the respect you earn.
Unfortunately, you can never completely rid the “no” part of HR–it’s part of the job. Keeping employees safe and happy means some things need to be off-limits (sexual harassment, for example). Leadership means making tough choices, not trying to be everyone’s friend, so if the future of HR is to be life coaches instead of rule-setters, that job is just going to fall to someone else.