We are our own worst enemy.

Human Resources is a broad heading covering a wide range of disciplines and responsibilities. Make sure you have agreement and alignment with your managment about what both include for you.

The challenge we face in HR is the looseness of our boundaries.

While some of us are expert staying within one of the sub-disciplines of HR the overarching model is that of a generalist wearing many hats some often, some periodically.

If we're not careful, people give us hats we don't want

Many of the technical aspects of HR – compensation management, 401k administrartion, benefit offering, etc – are legislated, mandated and controlled. The body of work contains guidelines and parameters as well as a common language. Salary studies are done and interpreted in only so many ways for example.

Yet when we move into recruiting, employee relations and organization development we find less stricture: everyone has a point of view. Again, some of our clients assume we do things we really can't.

Or shouldn't.

Role clarity and boundary is important to your success. Know what you do and what you don't. And don't let yourself and your clients down by forgetting them.

Some common traps?

Boundary Creep

  • Practising psychiatry without a license – People are complex. We wonder sometimes how they ever manage their lives. Yet remember there are many underlying causes for behavior not related to work. Its not your role to counsel employees beyond workplace policy and practice. Don't try to diagnose behavior without an MD in an effort to explain it. Seek first to understand
  • Becoming judge and jury – You are not in a court of law unless you are. Don't act like a tv lawyer. While knowing applicable statute is important it's not enough. Intent is paramount in most actions so its the spirit as well as the letter you need to honor. Advise your clients, but don't adopt the prentense of legal status even if you have a JD. You are HR, not a counselor
  • Acting as management proxy – By far the biggest challenge to HR is being seen as a proxy – or stooge – of management. Its a tough job: we partner with leadership to weigh options, make decisions and then develop communications. Yet we need to retain independence to fulfill our role as advocate for all employees. We truly need to be willing to stand alone to be effective. Its hard but HR has to be an island

Human Resources is a demanding role, yet to borrow from Harry Truman, if you can't stand the heat get out of the kitchen. No one told you to become HR.

The work we do can add tremendous value if we set and maintain good boundaries. Know what's in your scope of practice to make those boundaries meaningful and helpful for you and your clients

Then you can stay in the kitchen with the Rock and cook something up.



7 thoughts on “Boundaries

  1. Christopher,

    Another terrific snapshot of the inherent perils of being an HR professional, particularly your warning about not “acting as a management proxy.” The challenge of working as a service department that supports the business and advocating for an employee-friendly culture often overwhelms some HR folks. It takes courage to do HR jobs well…the courage not to bend to the whims of employees and/or the leadership…the courage to take on big issues and bring them to satisfactory closure…the courage to do what’s right and not what’s expedient, particularly when you put your own job on the line. Thanks for these great insights! ~Dawn

    • Thank you Dawn for your telling remarks.

      Yes, I absolutely agree: HR is a demanding role and one that relatively few practitioners can get right. The temptation to acquiesce and agree for the sake of getting along or being liked is tremendous and it does happen. So yes: apply for HR roles if you believe you are courageous and have a moral center. Otherwise, its a very damning and daunting experience.

      Thank you for sharing your perspective Dawn!

      • How right you are, Christopher…damning and daunting. I spent a 10 year stint as a sr. mgr. in HR at a Fortune 500 where you see and experience the good, the bad, and the ugly. Many just rolled over…that just wasn’t for me. Thanks for being a voice for what’s real! ~Dawn

      • I guess you can roll-over or be rolled-over, but I still choose integrity and believe there are many firms where that is not just needed, but honored! Thanks for sharing Dawn!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s