HR: Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place

August 26, 2011 at 3:18 pm Leave a comment

Workers share a lot of stories on the Web about bad HR departments. Many of those stories are true, at least from the workers’ perspectives. But maybe there’s another side to the story. HR professionals serve two masters: Their organizations’ leadership teams and the broader workforce. Sometimes HR’s actions may seem cold or illogical, but maneuvering the legal and human aspects of workforce management can be a tricky balance between rules and the realities of human nature.

A recent post on About.com spells out some of the constraints HR managers work under. “Please Don’t Let HR Be Misunderstood” reveals some important reminders about why HR operates the way it does. Two that stand out are HR’s need for documentation to take action on an employee relations issue, and the fact that HR can’t harm the greater good to make an exception for one individual. HR is an advocate for employees, but within the framework of the rules and regulations of the organization.

If workers had a better understanding of HR’s concerns, they might be able to use the department’s resources in more effective ways. Here are a few suggestions to promote HR and what it has to offer:

• Tell workers what HR can do. For example, tout your training and development opportunities. Publish announcements in the employee newsletter about your new portal for next year’s benefits enrollment. Anything that allows employees to take ownership of their work life is fair game.

• Be honest about what you can’t do. Understand your organization’s policies and why they are important. If you don’t believe in them yourself, you won’t be able to explain why the company can’t be all things to all employees. Clearly state what won’t happen, but end on a positive spin. Example: “Joe, we can’t allow you to telecommute full time. However, if you provide a plan for working from home three days per week, we’ll review it with your manager and give it strong consideration.”

Do you ever feel caught between your roles as employee advocate and keeper of your organization’s rules and regulations?

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Entry filed under: HR Management, Leadership, Uncategorized. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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