At Halloween, that time of ghouls, ghost stories and things going bump in the night, we wonder what the complaints and challenges are that contribute most to the HR nightmares?
Human Resources is no bed of roses, as any HR professional will testify, the kind of problems dealt with regularly can comfortably be covered once a procedure is in place. Even holiday requests are managed so effectively by leave management tools – but if you’re with us, you already know that.
Where the nightmare begins is with the unexpected complications thrown in, often created by nothing more sinister than a difference in perspective. But where tensions rise and parties grow more demanding, the task of finding a solution becomes so much more difficult.
So, what are the most blood-curdling complaints and which situations most drain the life-force from a HR professional? Well, we have put together a shortlist of just three (… it’s all the editor could take!)
- Playing Favourite
- Encourage communication and keep channels open to all employees.
- Ensure managers dedicate equal time and attention to everyone in the team.
- Make sure objective criteria is used to monitor employee performance.
- Ensure all employees feel comfortable sharing their opinion, especially if it’s negative.
- Workplace Bullying
- Be sure there is a detailed Anti-Bullying Policy and Codes of Conduct.
- Ensure trained HR professionals deal with cases.
- Train line-managers to implement the policy.
- Redesign Leadership training programmes.
- Raise awareness of bullying and its consequences.
- Unexplained Terminations
- Ensure everyone understands the benefits of feedback (building trust, morale and productivity), and that feedback is an ongoing goal.
- Normalize feedback sessions by holding them at regularly, not just on ‘special’ occasions.
- Vary the format: group and informal chats promote transparency and counters the ‘secrecy’ of one-to-one meetings behind closed doors.
- Promote efforts to help managers and employees to get to understand each other as individuals.
Harmless enough, you might think, but in a highly competitive working environment, the cream does tend to rise to the top. And managers sometimes find it difficult to hide who their ‘favourites’ are. Unfortunately, despite living in an era of employee engagement and wellbeing, favouritism is still a very real problem. According to one 2011 survey, 84% of senior executives confirmed that favouritism still ‘takes place in their organisation’.
Favouritism is not a good thing, more often than not leading to conflicts that HR Departments have to sort out. And with resentment and a marked drop in morale also in the equation, bottom line and performance rates are threatened, creating pressure from the top down.
A garish situation, certainly, so how do you deal with the problem?
Unfortunately, bullying in the workplace happens all too often. In the US, surveys by the Workplace Bullying Institute have highlighted how the mental impact on a victim of bullying can be extreme, showing that anxiety (80%), panic attacks (52%) and clinical depression (49%) are prevalent psychological ailments. There is also a physical impact, with hypertension leading to strokes and heart attacks, chronic fatigue and even the development of diabetes and skin disorders linked to bullying.
So bullying is a serious matter, but it is rarely a straightforward situation. In fact, it’s not unusual for bullies themselves to claim they are being bullied, while the genuine victims are not willing to report anything.
Meanwhile, where a manager is accused of bullying, research shows that employees see HR professionals ‘as inactive and unable’ to do anything. This is often because ‘bullying’ is denied by the manager and put down to management style.
It’s almost a no-win situation. So, what can be done? Well, mediation is the key. Meet both parties – the victim first – and return to each until a decision is reached. Depending on the situation, you might get them both into a room to work it out.
Admittedly, prevention is easier, so:
Finally, what could be worse than having to explain to an employee why their contract has been terminated? All too often, the news comes as a complete shock to employee and their reaction (understandably) is to lodge a complaint. But it’s not just the emotion of the situation; there could be legal implications and where situations were simply handled poorly by a manager, things can get . . . well, gory.
More often than not, the reason for a termination is poor performance, but the problem is created by a lack of communication. So, prevention is actually simple enough:
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