…So I’m at a point in my HR career where I’m starting to notice patterns. The same sorts of people problems crop up over and over again, and they often 1. It is a little dangerous to think this way. Specifically, it’s important to remember every situation is different. In HR as soon as you start applying heuristics to people challenges you potentially expose the organization(s) you represent to significant (legal) liability. You also begin to lose efficacy and credibility with your client group at the margins, which can get worse over time. I don’t think I’m doing that here, (or maybe I am… read on and tell me in the comments).have similar solutions. 1
This is more or less just a thought stream, but I want to share a few thoughts here and (maybe?) get some feedback:
- In workplace situations where interpersonal conflict is involved, a lot of times the problem can be solved by just getting the parties associated with the incident in a quiet room – first separately and then together – and actively listening to their point of view. As HR people we aren’t counselors… but sometimes we need to wear that hat. Wearing it well is the difference between quickly resolving a conflict and having it fester/eventually spiral out of control. To that point…
- A lot of effective people management is about making your directs aware that you’re there to support them. I would describe myself as a functional manager rather than a great one, but when I’m at my best it’s because I have credibility with my team. When people feel like you support them and have their best interests in mind they will give you much more 2. I used to give a lot of thought to what the “right” management style is, but that’s the wrong way to think about people management – the efficacy of a management style varies by the person you’re managing. But being an authentic person and having someone’s best interests in mind will go over well with that person over time no matter who they are.discretionary effort. 2
- It’s really important to be consistent. If you’re consistent/fair in the way you administer policies people can generally accept them. With that said, if you’re going to have a policy and then deviate from it that’s fine – sometimes policies aren’t perfect and need to be changed. Just know that if you make an exception for one person you will eventually be called on to make an exception for another. And that person will bring up the prior exception (or secretly resent you) if you aren’t consistent in your application.
One of the toughest parts of conducting a workplace investigation is preventing people from gossiping about it. Gossip about an investigation can often stir up controversy and even new problems. Having led or been involved with a couple dozen investigations across various roles at this point, I can say that the best outcomes usually occur when no one but the parties involved know the investigation is going on at all. If you can keep outside parties from becoming involved, a lot of situations can be resolved by utilizing the approach in my first bullet above… But as soon as news of an investigation becomes public knowledge then rumors start. At that point the employees involved can start to feel uncomfortable as their private situation becomes an office/site/interdepartmental scandal. So it’s best to keep these things quiet, which brings me to the importance of…
- …Managing by walking around, which is dramatically underrated as an HR/People Manager tool. I work at a chocolate plant, and I do several site walkthroughs a day. I talk to people out on the floor and make sure they’re doing well. Sometimes I make small talk. As such, everyone knows who I am, and (to bullet number 2) most of them know I’m authentic. So they come to me with problems. Because of this a lot of situations at the site that might otherwise devolve into grievances/controversies never even get that far; instead, often an employee will make a comment or express a concern to me, and then I’ll follow up on it with parties XYZ and identify a resolution to it. As an HR person you don’t get credit for this sort of stuff because you’re solving problems before they become problems, but who cares? Doing this makes your job easier in the long run and leads to a more harmonious workplace. So if you work in a manufacturing environment then do a lot of managing by walking around. Or if it’s an office environment have lunch with the client group you support. Getting to know people/making them comfortable around you is table stakes stuff in an HR Manager/HR Business Partner ole.
…This is getting a bit long so I’m going to wrap here, but as always please share thoughts/comments in the section below.