So, here are some things HR shouldn’t be asked to do. It’s not HR’s job to stand by the time clock and discipline people
who show up late. It’s not HR’s job to figure out whether to hand out coffee cups or baseball caps to buck up a company’s crumbling morale. (Answer BTW: Neither) It’s not really HR’s job to fire people. We’re not the police; we’re not cheerleaders. It is HR’s job to analyze what about your culture might contribute to the crumbling morale and help you fix it. It is HR’s job to train managers to discipline and let go of employees from time to time, providing direction and coaching on the how to reduce the legal risks.
Basically, what is HR’s job is to understand how you want your company to work—from a human perspective—and help you get it there in a way that is both productive and safe.
As I sometimes tell clients, we’re not doing the surgery, we’re just doing triage. It’s HR’s role to take your organization’s pulse and tell the executive team what we found. Our job is to look at your culture, your processes, really everything about how people treat each other in the workplace and spot what’s working, what’s causing problems, and what can be changed or strengthened to get the results you want. When someone calls us in just to handle a problem—like a bully in the ranks—but doesn’t want to figure out what in its culture created an opportunity for a bully to thrive, that’s what I call Management by Duct Tape.
Dealing with the problem holistically might include leadership training. It might include assessing the culture and identifying that maybe an organization is rewarding people the wrong way for the results it wants. It might include calling out an ethics problem among employees. Once we help find a solution, it’s really management’s job to implement it.
Another job that really belongs to managers but organizations are happy to farm out to us is firing people. The manager, we are told, isn’t comfortable disciplining or firing people. Now, firing people is never fun. But it isn’t something a manager should dread, either. I mean, think about it: A manager who can’t discipline or fire people is helpless, and his employees know it. So we don’t want to come in and steal that responsibility and skill—yes, it’s a skill. What we want to do is work with the manager to understand what makes him uncomfortable and coach him through the process. We can even sit in with him the first couple times and give him feedback. As a result, he’s got a skill that makes him a more effective and confident manager and he’s empowered to do his job and not—as some managers do—overlook problems because he doesn’t want to face firing someone.
It reminds me of when I learned to ride my bike. I had my training wheels. My dad had his hand on the bike seat. But even though I was terrified of falling, of a face plant, he made me do the work. He was right there, yelling “Pedal! Faster! You can do it!” but I eventually had to let him release the seat, take off the training wheels and ride my bike on my own. Today I ride my bike with great confidence and rarely fear a face plant.
As HR, we’re there to make sure you don’t face plant and to teach you whatever skills you need to manage your team in the best way for your company.
If you want help figuring out how to do that…that’s what we can do.