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Defining the Role of Human Resources

Defining the Role of Human Resources

Lisa Rosendahl | Simply Lisa

April 07, 2010

The workplace is stressful these days and people are on edge. If it’s not increasing demands, decreasing dollars and limited staff, it’s the human resource staff standing in the way of supervisors and managers doing what they want to do, how they want to do it, and when they want to do it.

The No-No Girls

Back in the day, me and my HR team of two set out to redefine a vision and goals for human resources in our small, but growing, organization. We sought feedback from our customers. One message came back loud and clear. . .we were the “no-no girls.” Oh snap is right.

In the world of impactful learning experiences, this “no-no girls” experience tops my list. While I very consciously attempt to frame my role and that of my staff to not be that of the enforcers, I know it’s only a matter of time before it sneaks up on us and resurfaces again. It’s the nature of the beast.

HR and Formal Authority

The role of a supervisor or manager is to supervise and manage people to meet desired outcomes and basically, the role of the HR practitioner is to support and advise the supervisor or manager on how to do so effectively.

HR practitioners and leaders have very little, if any, any formal authority in supervisor-employee relations. Knowledge? Yes. Expertise? Yes. Informed Opinions? Yes. Not so informed opinions? Yes. Informal authority? Yes. Influence? Yes. Formal authority? No.

It’s when HR leaders and professionals use knowledge, expertise, and experience to develop guidance and that guidance becomes a directive that the the “no-no girls” are on the job and problems arise. HR professionals across the globe wonder why our noble efforts to ensure that a disciplinary action is irrefutable or a manager’s decision has a snowball’s chance in heck on being overturned on appeal are met with such resistance.

What HR Specialty Fits You?

The shift from advising to directing, as big as it is, can actually be a very subtle one. In fact, it can be so gradual a shift that HR professionals themselves don’t even realize they’ve crossed the line and started exerting formal authority where none exists – until they find themselves in the eye of the tornado.

Defusing the Tension

All the best intentions aside, if you or your team are filling a role your customers do not want or need you to fill, there will be tension. If there’s tension now when there wasn’t before, something shifted in your relationship, or your team’s relationship, to your customer or the organization.

Defusing the tension doesn’t require anyone to lose a head. HR professionals could respond to the tension in kind or they can identify the situation for what it is – an opportunity to clarify expectations through role negotiations. Role negotiation is a perfect way to clarify expectations of individuals, teams, or departments; understand what they need from each other or are expected to deliver; determine how, when and why they interact; and to build in necessary personal or procedural accountability.

So, get out there and negotiate a role today.

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