The Lonely HR Manager

Human Resources can be a lonely post; especially in smaller organizations where the HR department may be made up of one or two people.  We’re either formally or informally supposed to keep employees at a healthy distance because we help our companies with the following:

1. Employee relations including investigations and progressive discipline.

3. Performance evaluations (writing and reviewing).

4. Reductions in force and layoffs.

5. Terminations (all types).

6. Payroll and benefits

7. Leave of absence including sensitive health information.

As HR Professionals, we are privy to information so confidential it would make members of the Secret Service blush.  How do you go to lunch with a co-worker one day and then the next, help their manager write them up for performance issues?  Employees perceive HR as the policy police.  We’re the department that hires and fires people and it’s true that we do often play those roles but we offer our organizations so much more than that.Human Resources is the link between management and employees.  We need to form a bond with employees to gain their trust and not be seen as sitting on the “HR throne.”  But how should/can we go about building that trust without crossing the line?  After all, there is so much grey in the HR world.Can HR join their coworkers at a local happy hour gathering on a Friday evening?  Should we discuss our personal lives with employees?  After all, we DO have lives outside of our 9 to 5 personas.  Can we give an employee a Christmas gift?  How about sharing our dissatisfaction regarding another employee or new policy?

I think the answers to the above depend on the culture of your organization and the professionalism of the “friend” with whom you are socializing.  You really have to feel out the situation and some of our coworkers just get it–you’re in HR and you have to lead a bit of a double-life.  Others, however, can’t understand how you won’t spill the beans about all the juicy HR gossip–but they are pretty easy to spot.

In speaking with other HR Professionals, it appears the consensus among most is that you can deal with this challenge by connecting with other HR people outside your organization.  Have you ever been at an HR conference and heard HR Managers swapping war stories?  It can be pretty comical and sometimes it is what we need.  We feel a sense of ease connecting with others that do the same thing we do.  We all know what our fellow HR friends go through and it certainly helps to know that you’re not alone.

Every profession comes with its positives and negatives.  For Human Resources, it might mean a solo lunch hour but it’s well worth it when you begin to reflect on the impact your work has on both your organization and its employees.

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