The delicate balance of HR: Inside

This is part 3 of a three-part series about human resources.
Part 1:
Leadership | Part 2: Employees

Being an HR professional is often a thanklessly rewarding job. We work with employees through the best and worst of times and, regardless of what is happening in the company, must find a way to walk the line between employee advocate and management representative.

It is an exciting place to be, but the work is not always understood or appreciated, as discussed in the first two articles of this series. In this final installment, we will look at the department from the inside perspective to illustrate the delicate balance required to grow and maintain a functional department that contributes positively to the organization and its culture.

First, heal thyself

We love a challenge; if we did not, we would not be in HR. Regardless of our specialty or position level, our roles consistently require us to balance confidential information with clear messaging; delicate interpersonal issues with staff wide changes; and administrative, tactical and strategic work usually within any given workday.

It is no wonder we are not always loved for what we do — we do so much! So how do we balance all the work, deliver it successfully and keep everyone happy? We don’t.

The first thing we must realize is what we are up against. Are the scope of our work and the responsibilities or our department too great to be handled the way we would ideally want to handle them?

If so, then we must either stop trying to do it all or manage our — and everyone else’s — expectations of what we can do and when. Both options are tough, but without taking that step, we will continuously fight an uphill battle and everyone — the staff we are trying to help, the management team we are trying to support and our own careers — will suffer.

Second, being a good listener is one of the most important skills we possess yet often the one we forget to use. The grapevine, the employee in front of you and the executives in the weekly meetings are not taking our time away from the 50 things requiring our attention — they are things requiring our attention.

Being an active listener goes a long toward building rapport and creating good will for when we require our co-worker’s attention.

Finally, it is critical that we serve as a living example of what we are asking everyone else to do. Do we do our evaluations on time? Is our conduct consistent with what is asked of everyone else? Most importantly, do we balance our priorities — work, life, bosses, subordinates, career goals — the way we want staff to?

All of us can benefit from taking a few minutes to be realistic about the expectations put on us — by our co-workers, bosses and ourselves — and manage them accordingly. We must stop setting ourselves up to fail. Once we can do that, we are in a better position to balance our workload and be present for our employees.

HR is a service department. By ensuring we serve ourselves as well as we try to serve everyone else, we will be better positioned to grow a functional department that positively contributes to multiple aspects of the organization.