You’ve experienced it before. The tell-tale end of the road that marks the need for HR intervention. It appears as a complaint or as a claim of harassment, discrimination, or bullying. It may lead to a termination, or worse still, the voluntary resignation of a valued employee. And you wonder – Why am I (especially in HR) the last to know?
HR professionals are often the last to know about issues brewing in the workplace. Of the many hats they wear, omniscience about the rising tensions between employees isn’t one of them. And the employees aren’t talking. Or are they?
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All too often the complaints that lead to turnover, legal concerns, performance issues and more are not as hidden as they seem. HR may even be aware of some of them at an early(ish) state. But knowing what to do with that information can be just as challenging as knowing what to look for. Do you get involved when you’ve only learned about an issue through gossip? How can you determine if the situation requires intervention? What happens when the issue involves multiple people, a member of the management, or a part of the executive team? What role does confidentiality play?
Searching for the answer to these questions further slows the process of managing the issues at hand.
Here are the Top 5 Situations where Intervention is Necessary. And a hint – In each, the first step toward addressing the issue is getting more information from those involved:
1. Repeat Complaints. When a number of people share the complaint, the problem is widespread. If one person is making frequent complaints, the problem is most likely unbearable for them. In either event, recognize you’re likely hearing only the tip of the iceberg – and you need to find out more.
2. Frequent or Unexpected Turnover or Transfer Requests. Leadership issues, team or departmental dysfunction are precipitators of turnover and transfer requests. Waiting to see a definitive pattern sends an unfortunate message that either HR/Management doesn’t recognize the problem, doesn’t know what to do about the problem, or simply doesn’t care that the problem exists.
3. Legal Concerns. When legal concerns erupt HR or Management frequently start by getting in touch with legal, focusing on their departments’ record-keeping, and ensuring that all requisite training programs are up to date and documented. The problem is that time is being wasted. If the issue is minor, there is no need to perform an audit of all record-keeping; if the issue is serious – any delay means you are losing the opportunity to minimize damage or nip the potential problem in the bud.
4. Arguments or Tensions are Intensifying or Never-Ending. Perhaps you are aware of a problem, but no one has asked for help and there are no concerns about bullying, harassment, or other workplace violations. Whether there are complaints or not, on-going tensions will lead to lowered morale, increased turnover and absenteeism, and more. Realize, the longer these problems fester, the worse they get.
5. Tensions from Top-level Staff. Human Resource professionals often hit a brick wall when issues come from levels equal to or above their own. They may feel they lack the authority or simply find they lack the courage to step in. The concern being, problems at the top are like an avalanche, and can easily destroy all that lies beneath them. Communication between HR and the executive level team must be fluid and open, allowing for trust, transparency, and growth.
Knowing what to do is just the start of the journey. If you’re ready to begin addressing your organization’s issues of leadership, teamwork, or conflict, please contact us.