HR Should Mind Its Own Business Sometimes

This article accompanies Strategic Resolve.

Monday, July 11, 2011
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One of the fallacies holding HR back from true conflict-resolution effectiveness is that HR tends to take on issues that shouldn't be in HR's purview, says Mark A. Hyde, a conflict counselor and the employee-assistance-program manager for the Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic.

"Too many companies," he says, "make the mistake of trying to sell HR as being all things to all people; in other words, there for [the company], the employee and the manager -- in essence, a neutral role.

"In fact, neither HR nor management is ever in a neutral role," he says. "They have to do their best to evaluate and judge based on the best of their ability; that's what HR and leaders do."

Hyde says HR leaders should have a very limited, but specific, role regarding workplace conflicts. They should be involved in the cases that truly impact the business, such as "when there is enough information or evidence presented by the employee to investigate potential legal concerns -- not in managing employee conflicts related to non-legal concerns."

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HR, he says, "should lead the investigation process for major disputes and conduct training programs for all those in management to understand a companywide, unified approach to managing employee conflict."

Getting involved in issues that should be handled by managers, says Hyde, "strips managers of their power and sends a message to that group of employees that their manager is not able to effectively deal with such issues and concerns."

This error in judgment, he adds, "paves the way for ongoing work-area conflict and a long line of employee complaints creating more chaos for all."

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