How Employees Can Have a Good Relationship with their HR Department
I have friends who have said to me, “I never go to HR because they aren’t helpful.” While I know there are some HR people out there that warrant such a statement, I have worked with and met a number of HR professionals who dedicate themselves to improving the workplace and advocating for employees. It may be easy to see HR as terminators and rule enforcers, but we do a lot more and can become a support for employees. Here are some tips for making the most out of your relationship with HR.
Know What You Want From HR
I have listened to employees vent about problems with coworkers, a micromanaging boss or other workplace issues and at the end of such conversations, I always ask, “How do you want me to help you?” As an employee, it is a good idea to have a sense of what you want from HR when you approach them with a problem. While those of us in HR can be good listeners, we also want to find solutions. For example, if you are having problems communicating with a manager, let HR know if you want them to speak directly to your manager or mediate a conversation with your manager.
Think about how you want HR to be involved in the solution. Plan out what you want to talk to HR about, so you can make the most of your meeting. If you are nervous about the meeting, talk it through with a friend beforehand. Approach the conversation knowing what you want, and your HR person will be much more likely to help you find a solution that works.
See the Relationship as a Partnership
While it would be nice if we could wave a wand and solve everyone’s problems, the reality is that solutions often take work. Fixing workplace problems often involves multiple people, so be prepared to see the relationship with your HR department as a partnership.
Back when we were in school, it was common to run to the teacher when playground trouble arose. We wanted the teacher to step in and make everything better. This is not quite how things work in the business world. When an HR person asks how they can help, be prepared to be a part of the solution. A good HR person will support you through solving a problem, but they cannot always step in and magically make things better on their own.
If you have prepared for your meeting with HR, building a good partnership will be easier. The HR person can make suggestions and help you come up with ways to solve things. In the example above, they can support you through the process of improving communication with your manager by mediating a meeting or talking to the manager on your behalf.
Avoid Thinking of HR as the Enemy
Some of the most unsuccessful employee meetings I have had start with an employee who approaches the conversation thinking of me as the enemy. Such meetings rarely end well. Let the evil HR stereotype go before you enter the room, and do not treat the conversation as a battle unless the HR person gives you reason to. As I said, most of us want to be helpful. If you end up talking to an HR person who is a bad egg, see if you can speak to someone else in the department.
Sometimes employees avoid going to HR even though they are dealing with a serious problem. They fear HR will not be helpful, so they allow the problem to get worse. It is much easier for HR to help if they get involved as early as possible, so do not hesitate to step forward. If need be, bring a coworker for moral support or to help explain the problem.
About the Author
Stephanie Hammerwold, PHR, is the owner of Hammerwold & Pershing Consulting and specializes in small business HR support. Stephanie is a regular contributor at Blogging4Jobs and The HR Gazette, and she gives presentations on a variety of job search and workplace topics. She specializes in training, employee relations, women’s issues and writing employment policy. Connect with Stephanie on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not of The HR Gazette or its team members.