As a kid I never realized the challenge and dilemma of parenting; from outside it always looked so easy. Once in a while you shout and once in a while you pamper, that basically summed up the whole process ofparenting. As the days passed, one journeyed into becoming a Parent and then the challenge was in the face. It was clear that shouting and pampering are probably the two pillars but when to shout and when to pamper, how much to shout and how much to pamper, how to express the anger and how to express love and so on so forth were the challenges which still continue to confuse and perplex.
The scenario at a workplace also isn’t much different, with HR as the guardian of the organization ethos, values, policy sticklers etc. having to do the job similar tothat of a parent(shouting & pampering not in literal sense but in spirit). Thus the dilemmas of parenting continue to be a way of life at work also.
Over the years as one has evolved into being a parent, the realization has dawned that Parenting isn’t about being rated in a‘Popularity Contest’ at the end of the year. It is about laying firm ground rules which help the children and empower them to understand what is right and what is wrong, what is acceptable and what is not . . . In short the END cannot be compromised because the MEANS to achieve the END aren’t popular among the children.
Organizations have always consciously or unconsciously chosen HR as the prime mover to set the Culture and ethos, which is in fact quite similar to parenting (cultivating the next generation). To make matters worse, in the organizational context the employees perceive HR as Peers unlike at home where there is a clear cut hierarchy drawn between the parents and children.
So how does HR balance this dilemma of being perceived as a Friend, Philosopher and Guide while at the same time ensuring that the basic principles are not compromised? Some situations which give rise to conflicts most of the times are . . .
Saying NO isn’t being Rude- Saying NO isn’t rude. It is absolutely OK to go back and say NO when required to the employees for their stated or unseated needs / demands. The only challenge in here is how do we convey this message? Are we supporting the NO with data and facts, with rulebook clause, with precedents etc. or are we coming across as a unilateral decision making authority conveying the message? Many a times it is the later which is a cause of heart burn.
Saying NO with a firm logic will surely enable to move the mood toward being seen as reasonable and fair and thereby negating the fear of being unpopular.
We can’t survive more than a day by living in deviations and exceptions – Many of us believe that giving an exception or deviation will rest the matter and solve the problem at hand. This approach is very short sighted and will help us survive only for that day and nothing more, as famously quoted in Mahabharata by Bhisma–“Following Dharma (Rulebook) isn’t easy”. When we stick to the rulebook and process, the decision making is like ‘SUN’which means the process will generate lot of heat and dust but eventually lead to brightness while when we take a short cut (deviation / exception) for decision making the process is like ‘Moon’which means it will easy and calm but eventually leads to darkness.
Staying firm with the rule book and not living by deviations and exceptions is ensuring that we follow the Procedural Justice; which in the long run builds credibility.
Escalation is end of the world syndrome – We all have bad days where things are bound to go wrong. Any and every escalation from the CxO or Management cannot be Gospel from the God to be acted upon. Judicious call has to be taken by HR and thereafter acted upon to ensure that there is some method to madness.
It has to be accepted by HR that escalations need not mean that we are not doing our job as expected. Parents will eternally remain unpopular between children (employees) & grandparents (CxO / Management)
Can’t compromise because of year end Internal Satisfaction Surveys – Many organizations’ have yearend internal satisfaction surveys where in the employees rate the various Support & Strategic functions on their services, offerings etc. These scores are considered for appraisals, bonus payouts,promotions etc. of the HR team members. This gives rise to the dilemma of passing tough messages and at the same time ensuring to be in good books of the ones giving the scores.
It is critical to understand that we need to educate the employees to appreciate that the Role played by HR is as advised by the CxO / Management / Organization and they cannot be penalized for the same.
Can’t have Hole in our Soul- As a function it the duty of HR to ensure that the Soul of the organization remains intact and to ensure the same, it is quite possible that many a times decisions have to be take that are unpopular with some sections of stakeholders.
Any such situation has to be discussed openly with the CxO / Management and a consensus has to be built to shield HR in those times, to ensure that any irreversible damage doesn’t happen to the credibility of the function. Draw a parallel to the times when the Grandparents tell the stories of the parents to their grandchildren and share why they are doing what they are doing or how it is normal for a parent to that.
In short like Parenting, HR needs to focus on ‘What is Right’ and ‘What is Good’ rather than ‘What is Easy’ and ‘What is Popular’.
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