Did you get into HR because of your love for helping people, but now find yourself so bogged down with compliance and processes that the “human” part of human resources feels like it’s almost gone?
If so, you’re not alone. With all the rules and regulations that are part of your day-to-day workflow, it’s easy to lose sight of the human part of your job.
When that happens, you might find yourself headed straight toward burnout.
Managing People Was Never Meant to Be Easy
Imagine if everyone you worked with had a great attitude, exceptional talent, worked hard, and played well with others.
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In that world, HR wouldn’t be needed at all. Work would just be throngs of motivated people working diligently and happily while you sat around twiddling your thumbs.
Of course, our reality is a lot different. To put it mildly, some employees are easy while others are, shall we say, “Difficult.”
These hard-to-manage employees come in many forms. Some folks are very talented but struggle with working in a team environment. There are employees that get overly aggressive and attached to their ideas.
While some employees have the best of intentions but are high-maintenance, easily distracted or overly moody.
You get the idea.
So how can you manage the diverse set of personalities that make up your employee base?
If any of this sounds familiar here are 6 things you should keep in mind.
1. Accept that You Have a Complex and Difficult Job
Have you ever heard the Sheryl Crowe song, No One Said it Would be Easy? Sometimes after dealing with a particularly stressful employee issue I hear the chorus of that song looping over and over again in my head.
No one said it would be easy
But no one said it’d be this hard
It’s really important that you don’t fight reality or waste valuable time and energy wishing HR wasn’t so hard.
Recognize that when it comes to HR, difficult situations and frustrations go with the territory.
One thing that helps is to always tackle difficult employee issues with positivity, treating the issue like it’s a challenging puzzle that you’re trying to solve. Also remember that every problem has more than one solution.
2. Don’t Avoid Conflict but Don’t be a Bulldozer
If you hate conflict, chances are that this isn’t the right career for you. The best HR managers don’t avoid conflict. They also don’t “pull rank” or try to roll over employees when conflict happens.
Remember, you’ll probably be working with these people for a long time. Always look for fair, constructive solutions to any issues that arise. Taking this approach will work out much better in the long run than simply “getting your way.”
3. See Things from the Employee’s Perspective
It’s definitely easier said than done. But there are probably very specific reasons why someone is having difficulties at work.
Have they always acted this way, or are new factors contributing to the problem? If so, what are those factors and how can they be resolved?
Is it possible that a harsh management style is triggering pushback?
Have you ever had a manager who was micromanaged you and didn’t even realize they were doing it? While it may be hard to see, it could be happening to your employees.
Spend time looking into problematic situations with a holistic approach. Try to understand why an employee is acting the way they are. This will help you find practical solutions and avoid the mistake of always faulting the employee.
4. Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help
This is an easy thing to do, but it’s often forgotten. If your organization consists of more than just you, then help is out there.
Find someone whose judgment you trust and get a different perspective about a difficult situation from them. Of course exercise discretion and be careful that you never violate confidentiality.
This could be:
- An HR peer
- Your direct manager
- The employee’s manager
- A member of senior management
Just don’t be afraid to ask for someone else’s perspective on issues that arise.
It’s not a sign of weakness. However, it is a sign that you show reasonable judgment.
5. Set Clear and Measurable Objectives
Most employees want to know if they are performing well. However, feedback on performance is often clouded by too much subjectivity.
Well-defined objectives can be extremely valuable but are often completely neglected. Every business should also have milestones that managers and employees can refer back to so they can stay on track.
Clear, measurable objectives make performance evaluations more structured, measurable and ultimately more useful.
That way if an employee fails to meet their goals you can have a more productive discussion based on tangible data and not just sheer opinion.
6. Assets vs. Liabilities
A long time ago a friend of mine gave me a bit of relationship advice.
It went something like this:
When all is said and done, is he an asset or a liability? If he’s an asset, keep him. If he’s a liability, cut him loose.
While that’s a tad simplistic when it comes to HR issues, it still holds some water.
Does a certain problematic employee still add value to the company? Some of the most brilliant people can be difficult and non-collaborators tend to like to do things their own way.
But the benefits they bring to an organization can far outweigh any problems they cause. When that’s the case they are an asset.
However, on the flip side of the coin there are those employees that become so totally disruptive that the problems they cause far outweigh anything they contribute.
This makes them a liability and it’s probably time to let them go (in the right way, of course).
This isn’t a perfect lens to view employee performance through. But it is a method that can bring a level of simplicity and clarity to complicated situations.
Human Resources is Always Evolving
Wouldn’t it be great if there was a light switch you could flip and all of your employee problems were magically solved? While that doesn’t exist, certain fundamental approaches like the ones above can make difficult situations a lot easier to deal with.