It’s probably safe to say you steer clear of the Human Resources department unless you have paperwork to fill out. Or, unless someone on the team requests a meeting with you, leading you to fear you’re in trouble. After all, even if they say they’re on your side, you know they’re really only interested in the success of the company overall.
The fact is all of these things people think they know about HR simply aren’t true.
Like anything else, HR departments will vary from company to company. But in the ideal world, the goal is that they're trained to help you develop skills and navigate tricky situations. In fact, here are three specific situations in which they can provide valuable assistance.
1. When You’re Leading Your First Hiring Process
You’ve got a job, so clearly you understand how to participate in an interview as a candidate; but how do you manage it from the other side? The HR team can talk you through what to ask, what not to ask, and ways to make both yourself and the candidate feel less awkward.
Before you reach out, prepare a list of what specifically you’ll be screening applicants for. That way, your partner in HR can help you shape the best type of questions to ask (and even specific phrasing if needed).
Additionally, ask about the entire candidate experience so you’ll be ready to answer any FAQs outside of your part. For example, who else will this person meet with? Are those team members aware of what you’re looking for in the hire? If not, what might be the best approach to communicate this?
Your contact can help guide you through the overall strategy from start to finish so you’ll feel more confident and prepared (which’ll help you land and impress the best hire possible).
2. When You’re Not Getting Along With a Co-worker
You’re having a really tough time with one of your colleagues—and by tough I mean, considering quitting so you don’t have to deal with her anymore tough. But you love your job and don’t want to give up just yet. If you’ve tried speaking to the person directly, your very next step would be connecting with your manager. He might be able to provide you with solutions and that’ll be that.
But it’s also possible that after speaking with him, you still feel like you could use more help. You already know I’m going to suggest you lean on HR.
Set up a meeting and be armed with examples of exactly what’s going on. For instance, “This person is totally unreliable. She is late to meetings and often misses deadlines that impact my ability to get things done on time. Here are a few projects where this has occurred.” Or “He doesn’t respect me and often belittles me and my work in front of the group. During this meeting, with the entire project team, he called me unreliable. I’m noticing that people aren’t coming to me on issues that they used to and I feel it may be due to his actions” Talk about what’s getting in the way of you being able to deliver at work.
Be specific: If you’re vague (think: “We just don’t work well together”), it’ll be harder for to get actionable advice. Though we’re not miracle workers—we can’t promise you’ll become workplace BFFs—you can certainly expect an attentive ear, a person to brainstorm options with, and guidance on what the best next step might be. You’d be surprised at how talking things through with a knowledgeable third party can give you a different perspective (a.k.a., changes you too can make) and alleviates stress.
Note: We’re not going to take conflict on for you (unless, of course, you’re dealing with harassment or are worried about your safety)—rather we’re here to help you come up with a plan that you feel comfortable with.
3. When You Want a Promotion
You feel ready for the next step in your career. But, you’re nervous about having the conversation with your boss. Why not have it with someone in HR first? In many companies, there are people on that team who work with managers to set up career paths for their teams.
Meaning: Someone from human resources can help you consider your options more broadly. It could be you’re due for a promotion, or you may feel more challenged and engaged in a totally different department. HR knows about all roles within the organization, so they can be the perfect sounding board.
Be open in your meeting about what you’re hoping for in your evolution and why you think now is the time for change. He or she can walk you through the best approach for you to take with your supervisor. You can also depend on him or her to level with you about what’s reasonable, what might be a stretch, and what’s the most realistic timeframe based on organizational requirements or processes.
Too often, people believe what they hear and only visit HR twice: to turn in initial paperwork and for their exit interview. Steering clear of the office in between is a real missed opportunity. In many companies, the human resources teams can be useful career guides, but it’s up to you to actually ask for their help.
Photo of conversation courtesy of Caiaimage/Robert Daly/Getty Images.
Kelly Poluson has spent her career helping people become better versions of themselves. Coaching, training, recruiting – you name it in the world of HR, she’s done it in a variety of industries. As Vice President, Talent & Operations at Allen & Gerritsen, Kelly watches over the agency’s most important asset: its people. She is responsible for leading the company's talent acquisition while simultaneously developing innovative culture programs agency-wide. Outside of pushing to make people and organizations better, Kelly spends most of her time marathoning Netflix programming with her mutt, Dexter.More from this Author