Does Your CEO Get Upset When You Tell The Truth?

Whether we practice HR in the rank of VP, Director, Manager, Business Partner, Officer, Specialist or Generalist, Consultant or Coordinator, we are all familiar with our critical but thankless role as truthsayers. Part of the HR function is relaying unwelcome news or unpopular views to employees and management. Many of us report to CEOs, who sign our cheques and determine our career progress. One of the challenges that we as HR professionals face is, do we file only good news reports to keep the hand that feeds us happy, or do we risk our necks by discussing topics that make the CEO uncomfortable? For HR to function optimally, there needs to be a professional and mutually respectful relationship with the CEO – a partnership. To build this partnership, the CEO needs to respect HR, and HR needs to work for that respect.

Not every CEO appreciates the truthsayer function of the HR Department, which becomes more of a challenge when personalities diverge. HR professionals can earn the respect of executives, especially the CEO, by being knowledgeable, by serving as a resource for internal clients, by guiding managers through processes and by influencing without authority. For me, this was made easier by the fact that I have reported to people that acknowledged the truthsayer aspect of the HR role and understood the necessity of dealing with unpleasant or controversial issues. When I felt that my boss had to be briefed on a certain topic, I did. I will admit that I was guilty of timing the presentation of bad news, and I have made the wrong call in determining whether the CEO needed to know, but I never shied away from delivering unwelcome news, in the organization’s interest.

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by Evert Akkerman


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not of The HR Gazette or its team members.
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