How many Human Resources departments contain people whose ability to communicate on a human level is close to or less than zero?
I have friends who see themselves as leaders of people and therefore, the ideal material for a career in HR, when they would be better suited as guards in a prison camp.
Just recently a local school was in need of help from the Local Education Authority due to problems that have arisen through poor leadership. When things came to a head, the messenger of doom from the LEA HR Department advised the staff that the problem was in hand but they were no means out of the muck so they’d better not rest on their laurels.
Excellent! Why not just say, “You bunch of incompetents! You need our help and we are going to be watching every move you make.” Like Boris in Golden Eye, “We are invincible!”
Had the problem arisen through shortcomings by the very experienced staff who taught at the school, fine; but they weren’t! They were the result of rules imposed by a rather single-minded head, who had little regarded for advice by teachers, parents or the LEA and who ruled with an iron rod in a velvet sack.
Separating out the issues from the emotion, this situation did not need a social incompetent from the LEA HR department to exercise their authority. It needed and still needs someone to say, “You know what? This is a pretty sticky situation you’re in but you have the experience, we have the expertise so let’s work together and we’ll sort it out.“
HR departments are no different to any other. They are run by people and need (perhaps more than ever, because of the weight of authority they carry, good, basic, grunt level human interactive and social skills.
(As a quick aside … Why do they deny this authority? In case of legal comeback? Smoke and mirrors? Deceit? I can still remember being told by one HR Commandant that they can only advise and not tell … hmmm!)
It’s not about power (though I think for many it is about getting a kick/security from being in control and influencing others; not necessarily for good). It’s about empowering; giving people the tools and support they need to achieve the tasks and overcome the threats, barriers, hurdles they face. Poor leadership says much more about the leaders than those they lead.
There is a flip side to this …
There is a saying that “where the darkness is darkest, the light shines brightest.” I want to thank those seemingly increasingly few members of HR departments who really do stand out as being people who fit the job like a silk glove (rather than a boxing glove). Those who
- Are a source of inspiration, support and common sense in a quagmire of ego
- Really are the personal side of a department that purports to be about people
- See themselves as having a personnel role rather than just a project manager
Those people who prove daily that HR does not stand for Human Remains.
Surely, if HR is going to be effective they have to communicate and interact effectively with the people for whom they have responsibility/oversight.
If they do, great.
If not, then they are potentially rather a waste of time!