HR de­part­ments aren’t all un­help­ful

Lodi News-Sentinel - - Business - MARIE G. MCIN­TYRE

Q: Al­though I usu­ally agree with your ad­vice, I’m skep­ti­cal about your sug­ges­tion that em­ploy­ees take their prob­lems to hu­man re­sources. Af­ter serv­ing as an ex­pert wit­ness in em­ploy­ment cases for 20 years, I have con­cluded that HR de­part­ments are sim­ply not very help­ful.

Based on the le­gal de­po­si­tions I have seen, most HR man­agers are ei­ther poorly trained or lack the courage to chal­lenge man­age­ment de­ci­sions. Some are merely pa­per­push­ers who had per­son­nel du­ties tacked on to their reg­u­lar jobs. Oth­ers au­to­mat­i­cally align with man­age­ment re­gard­less of the cir­cum­stances.

Be­cause th­ese peo­ple don’t seem will­ing or able to pro­vide sound guid­ance, my rec­om­men­da­tion would be that em­ploy­ees avoid them at all costs. What do you think about this?

A: Like any pro­fes­sion, hu­man re­sources has both screw-ups and su­per­stars, with many lev­els of abil­ity in be­tween. Un­for­tu­nately, your im­mer­sion in the le­gal sys­tem has prob­a­bly ex­posed you to an un­rep­re­sen­ta­tive sam­ple at the lower end, since bad de­ci­sions are more likely to be lit­i­gated.

At their best, HR pro­fes­sion­als care­fully eval­u­ate is­sues based on laws, poli­cies, or­ga­ni­za­tional goals, and sound man­age­ment prac­tices. They re­spect con­fi­den­tial­ity, share in­for­ma­tion ap­pro­pri­ately, look for work­able com­pro­mises and en­cour­age pos­i­tive re­la­tion­ships.

They are also able to bal­ance the in­ter­ests of man­agers and staff, while help­ing each group un­der­stand the other’s per­spec­tive. Con­versely, those who are spine­less man­age­ment lack­eys or knee-jerk em­ployee ad­vo­cates can’t be ef­fec­tive be­cause they will never be trusted by the other side.

Con­sid­er­ing all this, I typ­i­cally ad­vise peo­ple to con­tact hu­man re­sources if the HR man­ager is known to be help­ful and trust­wor­thy. Dur­ing em­ploy­ment lit­i­ga­tion, those are the ones you are less likely to meet.

Q: About 18 months ago, I was heav­ily re­cruited by one of my com­pany’s com­peti­tors. When I men­tioned this to my boss, I ex­plained that I would pre­fer to stay if cer­tain changes could be made to my job. Both he and his man­ager agreed to my pro­posal, so I de­clined the other of­fer.

Un­for­tu­nately, man­age­ment has failed to fol­low through with their com­mit­ment, even though I pro­vided sev­eral re­minders. Now an­other com­peti­tor is re­cruit­ing me, but I would still rather stay here. How­ever, I don’t know if the changes I want will ever oc­cur. What should I do?

A: Ac­cord­ing to a wise old say­ing, the best pre­dic­tor of fu­ture be­hav­ior is past be­hav­ior. There­fore, you can rea­son­ably as­sume that your bosses will con­tinue to avoid any mod­i­fi­ca­tions which they have pre­vi­ously re­fused to make. Of course, you can al­ways try again, us­ing the most re­cent job of­fer as lever­age.

If you have spe­cific wishes, like higher pay or a new ti­tle, you just need to be­come a bet­ter ne­go­tia­tor. In­stead of ac­cept­ing vague as­sur­ances, ask for a writ­ten agree­ment with a clear dead­line. But if your re­quests are more am­bigu­ous — for ex­am­ple, hav­ing greater au­ton­omy or less pres­sure — com­pli­ance will be hard to en­force un­less you have clearly de­fined ac­tion steps.

Ei­ther way, how­ever, there is al­ways a chance that man­age­ment will dis­ap­point you again. So in mak­ing this de­ci­sion, you should weigh the com­peti­tor’s of­fer against your cur­rent work­ing con­di­tions.

Marie G. McIn­tyre is a work­place coach and the au­thor of “Se­crets to Win­ning at Of­fice Pol­i­tics.” Send in ques­tions and get free coach­ing tips at http://www.yourof­fice­coach.com, or fol­low her on Twit­ter @of­fice­coach.

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