Thoughts about hr and management in the real world – extra information I couldn't fit in my books!.

I was being an HR lady!

Over the last few years I have trained, worked with or met thousands of HR people. Many of us working in HR are trying to transform what we deliver, grow our business skills, be innovative and deliver ROI so our senior leaders and managers engage with HR. These are the HR people who will change our future.

The HR people I meet that are not doing our profession any favours are process bound, risk averse, always saying no and being incredibly operational without understanding the big picture. While this is useful for some HR operational work, I’m meeting more and more of these people who have taken on senior HRM or HRBP roles and don’t know what they should be doing. Managers don’t respect them and they get the derogatory tag of being an ‘HR lady’.

An interesting thing happened to me a couple of weeks ago. Our MD pointed out to me that I was being a complete HR lady. And I realised that he was absolutely right.

What had I been doing?

  • I had put off sending out communications to our team, because I knew other things would be happening and we should wait.
  • I had stopped our Business Manager from contacting clients about further training because I felt that our clients were too busy.
  • I had tried to cram too much content into a training workshop for a client because they had asked (many clients ask to fit 3 days of training into one day to save money which just means managers get a lecture, cover too much information and don’t really learn). And I was busy complying, knowing that learning would be affected.
  • I was just saying no to too many things.

I had reasons for all of it, as well as the fact I had too much to do and not having enough time to do it in (familiar territory for most of us in HR!). But I didn’t like being called an HR lady, not one little bit. And I didn’t like that I was actually acting like the HR lady I described above.

So I stopped, and I changed back into the HR person I normally am and want to be.

  • I sent out the comms, even though – gasp – new information would be coming to hand in a few days. And you know what? All of our team valued being updated so they knew what was happening at the moment.
  • Our Business Manager followed up clients, who appreciated having the reminder as they had been meaning to get in touch to organise the next workshops.
  • I talked to the client about the workshop and explained that if we packed too many topics into one day, managers wouldn’t have the time to try out the tools and actually learn and build their skills. This is the difference in our training. The client understood and the workshop not only got extremely positive feedback but after running the managers assessment, a higher level of learning had taken place because we had focused on 4 key areas.

So why does it happen?

In HR we do have to be risk averse. We do have to consider what we’re delivering against managers workloads. We have to check processes will comply with law so we can minimise risk. We try and deliver what managers ask for. We try and make sure we don’t bombard managers or employees with information.

All of these things can be useful in HR.

 But any strength pushed to an extreme can become a weakness.

I was tired, and had too much to do so retreated too far into the HR mind-set that we sometimes need to have (and should sometimes have). The trouble was it can backfire if we become too negative, shut down information, don’t challenge ourselves and our managers and stop delivering things which in actual fact would be useful for our customers.

If you’re reading this, I’d like to ask – have you taken time recently to step back and review what type of HR person you’ve become? Is it what you want to be? If not, what changes can you make? Because I think it’s only when we stop being the ‘HR lady’ will HR be really valued and change our businesses for the better.


Note: just because it’s called an HR lady, doesn’t mean I don’t see the same behaviours from some of the men in HR. And I’m sure you guys really don’t like being called an HR lady!!

2 comments on “I was being an HR lady!

  1. Simon Jones
    July 23, 2014

    An excellent post. My only issue is where you say “In HR we do have to be risk averse” – I’d disagree. In HR we have to take a calculated approach to risk which might mean on occasions that we take the risk-averse option. But starting from a default risk averse position means we automatically tend to become the “HR says No” people you want us to avoid.

    • angelaatkins
      July 23, 2014

      Hi Simon,
      Yes you’re spot on. I actually had a bit of a revelation about that yesterday during a meeting with our employment lawyers (the fabulous team at LangtonHudsonButcher if anyone needs a great NZ employment law team). They said they had taken a number of cases where HR people had talked to the management team about the risks of someone taking a PG, and that it will take less time and cost to just plan to pay some money to settle. This can then make it harder to fight a frivolous claim as the expectations have been set as being risk averse at the start. I realised I’d taken this approach. Rather than if you’ve done nothing wrong, taking a stance of fighting it.
      I have been starting from a risk averse position (see being an HR lady again!!) but am now going to try and move to taking a calculated approach. Thank you – this is why I now find I get most of my learning from social media, blogs and discussions.

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This entry was posted on July 2, 2014 by in Uncategorized.
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