I'd appreciate any insight the comunity may have on a problem I'm having with the head of our HR department.

I have run afoul of HR a couple of times over the last year for not Cc them when attempting projects.  The first was when I tried to set up a management development discussion group amongst two other middle managers and was told this was HR's territory (they have run 2 management development sessions for our staff in six years).  The second was when trying to set up a staff satisfaction survery for staff in my region - (HR doesn't believe in these surveys - the main reason given is that they may have to tell people they can't have everything they ask for in the survey). 

Finally, I am supposed to head up local university recruitment rather than our recruiter who is another part of the country.  I informed the recruiter than I had a session upcoming and was using the company recruiting materials but I didn't inform the head of HR that I was donig this session. 

She has since complained to the rest of the executive team about my actions and I recieved an email from our company president that the recruiter should have been involved in delivering the recruitment session as per the head of HR.

I have previously appologized for my lack of including HR on anything that might be people related, but in this case I thought I was given authority to carry out the recruitment session.  I'm not interested in appologizing again for carrying out the task I had been assigned by HR.

Thanks for your thoughts.

afmoffa's picture

If HR is going to the company president about you, and if the company president is now chiding you over E-mail, then that's a very tense situation.

I advise you send two E-mails. The first one should be an apology. Apologize to the head of HR, to the college recruiter, to the president. Tell them you erred because you were not aware of the policies, and that you will do your best to find out exactly where all the boundaries are. Don't ask for guidance, for clarification, or for a chance to make your case. Much the way thank-you notes should never ask questions, apologies should never ask for anything (other than forgiveness).

The second E-mail should ask all the people who were involved if they would be willing to help you brush up on the policies/ boundaries/ rules. You would appreciate guidance from all of them. Tell them what projects you have coming up, anything that might conceivably have the slightest thing to do with HR, and ask everyone to chime in with any concerns.

It's entirely possible the rules you violated exist only in the mind of the head of HR. It's possible you ran aground on rocks that had no lighthouse. But there can't be a hint of a whiff of that suspicion in your tone. That's all in the past. What matters now is you document your eagerness to learn all the rules and guidelines.

42blue's picture

I appreciate you taking the time to give your thoughts on this.  I agree that keeping this relationship as civil as possible is in my best interests.  I'm not sure that an appology will be worth much at this point but I will try.

My feeling is that the HR head is quite teritorial about areas she feels are her domain.  I also get the impression that the rest of the executive group has been hearing the recruiting is going well when from the numbers I sent to my boss, we are continuing to struggle in this area.  When my boss took this to the HR head, that's when I got the call from HR.

Regardless, it's a fight I can't win and will do my best to smooth things over.


Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

If you're not interested in apologizing, don't bother reading my guidance, and good luck.

Forget about being right, and be effective.  In this case, that means living to fight another day.

While I'd love to understand how you could be given this responsibility without clarity (who gave it?  how did it come to you?) the bottom line here is to apologize and agree to keep them in the loop.

Then, don't do anything without letting them know what's going on. I'm NOT saying ask for permission, and I'm not saying you send them a note of everything in advance, but keep them posted.

I suspect they'll get tired of it...but don't stop until the process is done.


42blue's picture

Thanks Mark.  I've definetly started that process now.  It's frustrating but I see the long term rationale.

escott's picture

I joined the website yesterday and this message was the first one I saw. I don't normally blog, but I felt I needed to this time. As an HR guy, I see several HR problems that I'd like to address. I hope these comments help.

First, the human resources primary role to other managers is the role as a consultant or advisor. If a manager/Vp is interested in conducting an employee survey, HR should not shoot down the idea (especially with the lame reasoning given above.) carte blanc. If HR does not agree with employee surveys, then, that HR manager should explain the pro's and con's and let the manager decide. After all, it is your department and you need information to make various decisions. Speaking of the lame reasoning, if the HR manager is poorly fulfilling his/her mission of being the employee's advocate, then, employees will naturally be asking for many new benefits.

I am wondering if 42blue and the HR manager have actually spoken. You can't simply use email to resolve this conflict. The HR department should be experts at conflict resolution rather than conflict instigators/initiators. And, what is this about the HR manager running to the company executive team without discussing the situation with the manager? I wonder if the HR manager has a credibility problem with the majority of the management team.?.? The president should not allow that!

I can understand that territory managers are responsible for recruiting new employees in their territories. However, the HR Manager complained that 42blue did not keep her 'in the loop.' I wonder if the Recruiter that worked those recruiting appointments let the HR Manager know what was happening. Even if the Recruiter has only a dotted-line responsibility to the HR Manager, the HR Manager should have known and I wonder why the Recruiter did not inform her (Maybe, another HR Manager credibility problem?).

Yes, 42blue will need to apologize for not keeping the HR Manager in the loop. (Use the telephone or visit in her office, don't e-mail). However, it appears to me that the HR Manager has not developed a culture of trust, excellent communication, or teamwork. I believe that 42blue is doing what he/she can to run a department and a slow-moving and, maybe, bureaucratic HR Manager is slowing you down. I also, believe that 42blue can proactively develop MUCH comraderie with the HR Manager by submitting yourself to her and asking for a couple of hours of HR training. The purpose of this training is for you to understand what support HR needs from you in order for you to better run/support your department (Oh, and make profits).

Hope this helps.

Scott, MBA, SPHR

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

Glad to have a little HR input!

And, go back and read how many SHOULD's there are in the post.  Keep in mind that "should" and management rarely mix...and usually it's a judgment (implied in the negative) about past actions.   Should makes folks judge the past, rather than act in the present.  Regardless of what should have been done, the question now is: what to do.  And, glad you shared your guidance there.