Monthly Archives: October 2014

Is HR Shifting From Neutral?

IMG_0611There’s a rumor out there that HR is Switzerland.  We’re not your boss, co-worker or subordinate.  We’re unbiased and do not judge.  We have no opinions and are known for our finely made watches and chocolate.

Is this really true?  If we’re so neutral, why do we as HR have the reputation of being judge, jury, and executioner?

I think neutral was a word someone in HR used a long time ago to encourage employees to come forward with workplace issues without fearing for their jobs.  I also think this is a quality the best HR people have…initially, at least.  I say initially because we’re often tasked and required to shift from neutral and make a recommendation.   In fact, I’m asked to do this nearly every day.  Let me be clear, recommending that someone should be terminated is not a neutral decision.  On the flip side, recommending that someone receive an increase or promotion isn’t neutral either.  And if I stayed neutral during the recruitment process, it would be difficult to find the best candidates.

Of course, when someone comes in with workplace concerns, it’s imperative I stay neutral as I interview involved parties.   That said, once I gather all the facts, I am asked to make a determination.  But let’s be clear, that determination can and often does involve opinions.  I would love to stay neutral…I really would.  But I am often asked, what do you think?  What would you do?  What should I do?  For a department and profession that are supposed to remain neutral, it sure seems a lot of people are asking for my opinion.

What’s true about the best HR departments is that they are fair and have consistent practices.  We are the gatekeepers of labor laws and policy.  But we’re also here to help the business grow by maximizing productivity and ensuring the workplace is safe and that workers are engaged.   In the end, we are part of the business and are required to have business acumen.   In 2014, we’re being hired into HR based on our ability to make sound decisions on behalf of the business and its employees, which often requires us to shift into high gear.





Is a Job in Human Resources the Worst Job on the Planet?

Someone told me the other day I had the worst job on the planet.  I find that hard to believe, considering that our planet still has coal mines to mine and campground toilets to clean.  It did get me thinking.  It’s not that I feel I have the worst job; actually, the opposite is true.  But I can understand why others might feel this way.  The main reason is that HR deals with conflict.  With conflict comes confrontation.  And most folks are not on board with confrontation.

I think, however, the best HR professionals understand the necessity of confrontation, and they’ve mastered the hard conversation and tough decision.  It’s not like we started our careers looking forward to confrontation.  Years ago I wouldn’t even send food back to the kitchen if I didn’t like it.  Over time, however, I’ve learned that truth is vital in any successful organization, even if that truth is hard.  I have had to tell people they aren’t doing their jobs well.  I’ve had to tell people they aren’t succeeding at managing others.  I’ve had to tell people to use deodorant.  I’ve had to demote and fire.  I’ve had to say no to the C Suite and then explain why.  If I were afraid to do this, my organization would suffer.

Of course, there are HR people who relish the bullish side of confrontation and view it as a way to advance their own agenda.  But I’ve only met one or two of these folks.  Mostly, HR people are just very good at saying what needs to be said while maintaining the respect and dignity of others.

I’ve learned over the years that being unafraid of confrontation saves me oodles of time and has increased the quality of my life.  Nowadays, I will definitely send food back.  And I communicate my expectations and won’t hide what I really think.  I suppose it’s not a picnic being married to me, but my husband seems to enjoy it because he’s the same way.

I’m looking around my office right now.  Happily, there’s no elephant in the room.  My office is a nice size, but I simply don’t have enough space for something that large.

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