Strategic HR

5 Ways Frustrated HR Leaders Can Regain Workplace Sanity

“Sometimes I want to throw in the towel at work. Employees are looking to me for leadership and sometimes I just want to quit.”  As an HR leader, do thoughts similar to these ever cross your mind?

What I hear from Kathy Albarado, Founder and CEO of Helios HR is that, in many cases, there is a disconnect between stated expectation and actual performance, making the need for clear communication a key issue in the workplace.

She says, “In our most intimate and authentic conversations with HR leaders, many share that one of their top frustrations [is] their CEO. The CEO may seek a ‘strategic leader’, yet they feel that they are not empowered to operate in that manner. Or perhaps, there is even a misalignment in behaviors that are tolerated that do not support the vision for the organizational culture.”

So what can you, the HR leader, do about that? You must be empowered to do your job as well as have consistency in the performance management framework. This is not always easy if there’s a lack of communication or double standards in behavior and performance.

There’s Another Way HR Can Lead

Just because your CEO may not allow you to operate as the strategic leader she says she wants, doesn’t mean you are not a leader. You still have the employees looking to you for direction and answers. Having said that, it’s important to keep yourself from being dragged down by the aggravation that comes from running up against a brick wall.

You can’t get mired in negativity, anger, or resentment. (Tempting, though, isn’t it?) That’s the worst thing you can do, because it creates adversarial positions within the company, creates an “us and them” mentality, and creates unrest and chaos in the ranks, weakening your effectiveness.

The following principles will help you keep your edge, continue to shine as a leader, and maintain the respect of the CEO as well as the employees:

  1. Maintain your sense of grounding. Take time every day to be in the quiet, listening to the wisdom and calm within you. You can do this through meditation, or just a few quiet breathing exercises in the shower; but make it a priority.
  2. From that sense of groundedness, you can become secure in your true identity, which, as an HR leader, is likely one of compassion, creativity and wisdom. When you operate from this place, your decisions are clearer and more confident. You realize you are already OK and just because someone undercuts your authority or gives you a mixed message, it doesn’t throw you off balance.
  3. Take a deep breath and detach from the anger, negativity, drama. Don’t allow yourself to react like we see in the news these days, out of a sense of self-righteousness or fear or resentment. Viktor Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning, says, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” You become a more respected and powerful leader with just this one principle alone.
  4. Above all else, communicate effectively. Sometimes it becomes necessary to have some difficult conversations. Sometimes, you have to ask for a few minutes with the CEO, and use that time to tell her how you feel about the disconnect in principle vs. actual performance. Always start with what you appreciate or what you agree about, then, talk a bit about how you feel or what your question is and ask them to clarify.
    Always end the conversation with your assertion that you are a team player and want to make sure the employees get the message she really wants to convey, or use other similar language. Stay away from accusations, harsh tones and disrespect, no matter how aggravated you are–because, remember, you are a leader. Don’t let anyone, no matter what his/her position is, knock you off course or cause you to lose your authenticity or integrity.
  5. Let go of resentments. Holding resentment releases excess stress hormones in your body, leaving you with an ulcer or headache, depression or anxiety. That’s just going to limit your performance and make you less effective. Let go of the way things “should be,” and embrace what is, using your skill, insight and inner calm to be the guiding principles that help you navigate the sometimes choppy waters of corporate politics.

By incorporating these principles into their everyday interactions, HR managers can experience a place of calm confidence within themselves. Even in the face of conflicting messages from the company or unexpected crises, HR can continue to be a strong, steady inspiration and safe place for employees.

Marianne Clyde, LMFT, Licensed Therapist, speaker, and best-selling author of Zentivity™: How to Eliminate Chaos Stress and Discontent in Your Workplace is the founder of the award winning Marianne Clyde Center for Holistic Psychotherapy and Be the Change Foundation