Management Tip: Make HR An Ally, Not An Adversary

This is a simple tip, but it’s also a simple practice that helped me a great deal throughout my management career.

Make HR – Human Resources – an ally, not an adversary. We all know there’s a comical stereotype out there, popularized by Toby Flenderson on The Office: the bumbling, obstructionist bureaucratic HR staffer. And Toby was funny, for sure. Don’t let him scare you away.

For years of corporate management, I found my HR contacts (and I picked and chose them carefully, I wouldn’t just work closely with anyone) to be an invaluable sounding board. I’d get to know them and build a relationship. They’d get to know me and my management style. What would I work with them on? A variety of management matters:

A sounding board on delicate personnel issues where the answer wasn’t immediately clear (as is often the case).
For training and development ideas and suggestions.
Risk management (protect the company and yourself) during a termination process.
For general organizational insights, assistance with “reorgs,” etc.

For me, the most valuable help was definitely the first point – as a fresh perspective when delicate employee issues arose. It could be anything I wanted an additional objective opinion on – a dispute between two employees, interpersonal team dynamics, a performance problem, etc. My go-to HR contact was a management resource for me, and I wouldn’t hesitate to go to him or her to talk things over.

Like I said, I wouldn’t just choose anyone. I wanted an HR ally with experience and insight, whom I intuitively liked and trusted. Who knew our business and understood management. Sure, some HR folks are sharper than others, just like in any other field. But there are plenty of sharp ones out there, to be sure. Humorous as it is, don’t let the stereotype from The Office muddy the waters.

Your go-to person may change over time. During a 24-year Fortune 500 management career I had about half a dozen HR specialists I consulted closely with. Some HR people came and went. They changed over time. I lost some I liked; that’s just the way it is, people move on.

Did I always take their advice? No. But did I always listen to what they had to say? Yes. Over the course of a long career I never once regretted a conversation. People-management can be tricky; the best decisions aren’t always obvious. My HR go-to person was an added dimension, providing intellectual capital for me to consider.

I was always glad to have one in my corner as a welcome management resource.

My online Udemy courses help develop new managers, and help new and experienced managers meet the challenges of difficult employees.


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