HR Management

Tip for HR: Don’t Be a Management Tool

Special from SHRM’s Legal and Legislative Conference
Tip for HR: Don’t Be a Management Tool

In yesterday’s Advisor, SHRM’s top-rated speaker, attorney Jonathan Segal offered the first 10 of his “they won’t tell you but I will” principles. Today, 11 to 15, plus an introduction to the unique guide specially directed toward the smaller or even one-person HR department.

Segal, who is a partner with law firm Duane Morris LLP in Philadelphia, combined what he’s found in engagement surveys, discussions with CEOs and COOs, and his own observations in a well-attended session at the SHRM Employment Law and Legislative conference, held recently in Washington, D.C.

Here are the rest of Segal’s 15 principles:

[Go here for 1 to 10.]

11. Don’t Be a Management Tool

It’s not easy when you don’t agree with management. You should:

  • Advocate for best HR practices by linking to the bottom line.
  • Do not try to defend the indefensible, but do not undermine senior leadership, either.
  • Develop strategies for how to address areas where you do not agree with organizational change, policy, or practice without setting yourself up for termination.

12. Be Careful of Foolish Consistency

The law prohibits unlawful inconsistency that is based on protected factors, but it does not mandate foolish consistency. You can consider (and document) legitimate, nondiscriminatory factors. Ask, are there reasons that might warrant an exception?
Don’t just say “but policy provides.” If you act like you have a union contract, you may end up with one.

13. Don’t Lawyer Up Too Quickly

Do not assume every employee is trying to set you up, says Segal. For example, there is a risk in over-documentation (or documenting too early).
Talk! says Segal, but not like a lawyer. If you say to an employee, “This is to confirm that you came today and raised one and only one issue …,” you sound like a lawyer, and when they hear that, employees will call their lawyers.

Managing an HR Department of One was recently recognized as one of SHRMStore’s “Great 8” best-selling products. Examine it at no cost or risk for 30 days and find out what all the buzz is about.

14. Do Not Tolerate Mediocrity

Ordinarily, we want to provide employees with due process, says Segal, and we want to minimize (not eliminate) legal risk, but also need to hold employees accountable. When paralyzed by fear of litigation, we tend to retain mediocrity.

There are risks in terminating, but there are also risks in not terminating.

  • Employee relations risks: Failure to terminate can damage employee relations and foster resentment among those who have to work with the mediocre employee.
  • Business risks: The quality and quantity of products or services can suffer.
  • Legal risks:
    • Comparators. You’re setting a bad precedent.
    • Negligent retention when mediocre turns into violent.

15. Don’t Avoid All Personal Interactions

Is there a risk in being human? Yes, there is, says Segal. Here are some typical situations:

  • Disclosure of health condition of parent. (“My mom has breast cancer.”) You say, “My thoughts are with you. Is there anything I can do to help?”
  • Employee appears depressed. You don’t say, “You look depressed.” But you could say, “Are you OK? Is there anything you want to talk about?”
  • Pictures on desk. You don’t say, “Are those your children?” You could say, “Nice picture.”

Segal’s bottom line: Don’t let lawyers take the humanity out of HR.

Trying to be the best HR manager you can be? From hiring to firing, HR’s never easy, and in a small department, it’s just that much tougher.

BLR’s Managing an HR Department of One is unique in addressing the special pressures small HR departments face. Here are some of its features:

  • Explanation of how HR supports organizational goals. This section explains how to probe for what your top management really wants and how to build credibility in your ability to deliver it.
  • Overview of compliance responsibilities, through a really useful,         2-page chart of 23 separate laws that HR needs to comply with. These range from the well-known Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and new healthcare reform legislation to lesser-known, but equally critical, rules such as Executive Order 11246. Also included are examples of federal and state posting requirements. (Proper postings are among the first things a visiting inspector looks for—especially now that the minimum wage has been repeatedly changing.)

Feel as if you’re all alone in HR? Take on a partner—Managing an HR Department of One. Examine it at no cost or risk for 30 days. Get more information.

  • Training guidelines. No matter the size of your company, expect to conduct training. Some of it is required by law; some of it just makes good business sense. Managing an HR Department of One walks you through how to train efficiently and effectively with a minimum of time and money.
  • Prewritten forms, policies, and checklists. These are enormous work savers! Managing an HR Department of One has 46 such forms, from job apps and background check sheets to performance appraisals and leave requests, in both paper and on CD. The CD lets you easily customize any form with your company’s name and specifics.

If you’d like a more complete look at what Managing an HR Department of One covers, click the Table of Contents link below. Or, better yet, take a look at the entire program. We’ll send it to you for 30 days’ evaluation in your own office with no obligation to buy. Click here, and we’ll be happy to make the arrangements.

Download Table of Contents
Order or Get More Information