I’ve given you a taste of employee-archetypes you’ll encounter as a HR Manager, but I really should have begun at the top. Specifically, what kinds of bosses will you encounter in HR, how will they aid or hinder you, and what you can do about it.
Firstly, a trope. It’s often said that “people leave managers, not companies” and while there’s some truth to it, the reality is infinitely more complex. Speaking for myself, as a starting point I always fixate on my boss’s ratio of leadership to management skills. They’re like the push/pull forces exerted by a magnet: Leaders pull you along behind them, managers push you ahead of them.
HR need to identify what kind of boss they work for — is she a strong leader/weak manager? If so, you’ll end up doing ALL the paperwork, because she’s too ‘big picture‘ busy and/or impatient to sweat the small stuff (that ends up getting you sued). The opposite (weak leader/strong manager) are systems-oriented type who leaves the ship drifting in the current while she counts cannonballs below decks.
Second, it’s about stretch. If your boss fails to create a culture that develops employees, they will eventually leave you, or worse, stay forever and become POPO’s. The passed-over and pissed off. The correct acronym is actually POPOP, because they’re all the above and poisonous. Stretching your employees means cultivating ambition, encouraging growth, and realising potential.
HR need to identify whether the boss is an opportunity-giver or an opportunity-withholder. Is she all-carrot-no-stick, no-carrot-all-stick, or somewhere inbetween? Hope for the latter, because the extremes both suck for HR. I’ve suffered both types of fool. In this metaphor, HR’s job is to be the string. Make sure the worker gets the carrot. Make sure the shirker only sees the carrot.
Third in second-installment of HR gold is what to do with a toxic boss. While a shallow grave may seem a fitting end, it’s illegal to kill your boss. Don’t do it! A subtle HR Manager foments insurrection among the workers which eventually leads to insurrection, union involvement, industrial action, and the dreaded culture-survey. Who needs a garrote when you have a culture-survey!
But sometimes (albeit rarely) you need to save a good boss. While history and Shakespeare point the finger at Brutus, it was Caesar’s actual best friend Decimus that beytrayed him. Just imagine how conflicted he felt. Go find your wavering Decimus and turn him, drive a wedge into the conspirators. Then when their coup fails, stand alongside your victorious boss and pink-slip them all. Because greater glory no HR Manager haveth than to set the unworthy on fire.
Here ends Lesson #2.
In Lesson #3 we’ll examine the dread tools of the HR Manager’s craft. How to really sharpen a pencil, and how to turn that spreadsheet into something unholy.