You don’t have to be a woman to be a good human resources manager—but, according to research, you are more likely to be. Women are the ones most likely to bring emotional intelligence to the table, according to a survey of executives, and emotional intelligence is vital to HR. In fact, at least one study has shown that almost 90 percent of leadership success comes from emotional intelligence.
Wondering what exactly emotional intelligence is? Not sure why it matters so much in human resources? Let’s take a look.
What Is Emotional Intelligence?
Think of it this way: In a room full of people, those with emotional intelligence continually pick up social and behavioral cues that others miss. Did that girl really mean what she said about her job, or was she exaggerating? Did that guy want to leave early, or was a conflict brewing with another person? Noticing and then understanding these kinds of situations typically come more naturally to women, although men certainly are perceptive too in varying degrees. Such insights are particularly helpful in HR, where person-to-person dynamics, perceptions, and emotions play such a pivotal role.
How Does Emotional Intelligence Benefit an HR Manager?
In recruiting, hiring, managing, and working with personnel, emotional intelligence is so important that it may actually be the determining factor between a fine HR manager and a great one. As proof of that idea, consider the following benefits that come from emotional intelligence in HR.
An HR manager who understands the ways emotions operate is an HR manager better equipped to respond to an employee’s frustrations and concerns. Nobody wants to talk to an HR manager who belittles or ignores his or her complaints. When upset staff members come to an HR manager, they respond better to the person who shows empathy for what’s bothering them.
Because emotional intelligence means being able to discern the difference between real and fake behaviors, emotionally aware HR managers have a leg up in terms of perceptions. A manager who can tell when an employee is giving lip service is better able to avoid being manipulated or deceived.
Many, if not most, personnel conflicts happen because of misunderstandings. Being able to articulate emotions—both your own and your employees’—is incredibly helpful in working towards better understanding.
The truth is, managers’ and supervisors’ interactions with employees go a long way towards determining whether or not those employees are satisfied with their jobs and willing to stick around. HR professionals who can be both firm and caring build trust with their staff members. A happy staff means reduced turnover, which is good for everyone.
In your experience in human resources, have you seen ways in which emotional intelligence is an asset? What other benefits come to your mind besides the ones outlined above?
About the author: Shanna Mallon is a writer for Straight North, a Chicago Web design firm providing specialized SEO, Web development, and other online marketing services. Follow Straight North on Twitter and Facebook.
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Given the amount of advice available on how to be an effective leader, one would think that those who lead would have it down to an art. Nevertheless, it can be difficult to parse through the wealth of sometimes paradoxical information, and I’m sure we all encounter leaders that believe that doing anything to get their own way is the only way to lead. While everyone has a natural leadership style, the potential leader may not know how to deliver this style effectively or compassionately. I’ve found that the following five attitudes, in addition to being easy to remember, help those tasked with the charge to be in charge get in touch with their inner leaders and exercise their skills towards achievement and outer peace.
1. Meditate. I’m not necessarily talking about literal meditation here, but establishing a daily practice can help you achieve the self-awareness that is at the root of genuine confidence. Simply paying attention to your breathing for merely five minutes a day can boost your ability to focus on both the task at hand and the way you present yourself to others. Self-awareness is one of the most desirable qualities in a leader because you need to know your strengths and weaknesses in order to build a team that best complements your skillset. Of course, there are other ways to get to know what kind of a leader you are, such as personality tests, 360-degree assessments, and journaling.
2. Concentrate. A focused leader is an effective leader. Concentration, while supported by practices like meditation, is much more than just tuning out distraction while you work—it also involves believing in a cohesive, coherent vision. Effective leaders know what their goals are, and are able to articulate what they need to achieve that end. Leaders often fail when their main motivation is to be liked or be everything to everyone, and a failure to set boundaries will allow the execution of your vision to become diluted. For instance, if you have an employee that you feel consistently takes projects in her own direction to the detriment of their completion, take the time to respectfully listen to her ideas but be able to restate your clear goals. Be willing to tell your employee how she can best serve these, and what the consequences will be if she does not follow through.
3. Relate. Nevertheless, it is important to treat your employees as people, not pawns in achieving your clear, stated goals. Effective leaders listen and make an effort to understand behaviors and reactions that may not appear to make sense on the surface. Even habitual lateness may have its roots in something understandable. Just as you are motivated by things that are unique to you, others—your employees, your clients—have their own unique life circumstances and deserve to be treated with compassion and respect. People who feel seen, heard, and understood are much more likely to see, hear, and seek to understand when you communicate how they can help you achieve your goals.
4. Communicate. Especially when you find that you were wrong or that you need to change course, be open and honest. Share your vision or strategy with your team, and be clear about what your plan is to see it to its completion. Too much secrecy may make those you work with feel disconnected from your mission and less likely to meet your expectations (especially if they don’t know what those expectations are!) Additionally, it is helpful to establish a standard for communication. Know how you will communicate with those you lead, and stay consistent. This will keep everyone on the same page.
5. Motivate. Provide tangible rewards for your employees’ efforts. People are much more likely to feel like they’ve made a positive contribution if they have something to show for it. Incentives can come in many forms, such as awards, lunches, or even monetary bonuses. It is also helpful to remember that it is motivational to offer five positive comments for every piece of negative feedback, not because you’re sugary or a pushover, but because we’re more likely to remember the negative. Both negative and positive feedback can motivate those you lead towards greater self-awareness. Positive feedback and tangible rewards will let your employees know that you appreciate their willingness to participate in a larger vision.
About the Author: Anna McCarthy is an HR specialist who writes primarily on topics ranging from business relationships to employee satisfaction for Able Trophies, a supplier of glass awards and acrylic awards. She spends her free time going on weekend hikes and writing short stories.
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When it comes to maintaining order in the workplace, negotiating employee discipline can seem like a high wire balancing act. On the one hand, we need to retain authority and some modicum of control over subordinates, but at the same time, dealing with personalities is an inherently touchy issue. After all, especially in the case of a non-fireable offense, the point is rehabbed behavior and not resentment, right?
Moreover, in this day and age of rampant lawsuits and claims of workplace discrimination, even if you have at-will employees and independent contractors making up the majority of your workforce, you need to handle discipline delicately to ensure a safe and functional work environment for everyone.
So here are some things to keep in mind when navigating the potentially murky waters of maintaining order at work through employee discipline.
Keep the issue on a “Need to Know” basis
In high pressure environments where time and money are at stake, emotions run high. Accordingly, if you believe an employee is taking advantage of the company or otherwise not living up to his end of the bargain, it can be easy to fly off the handle without taking a step back to assess the situation.
Likewise, if an employee is approached from a place of accusation or similarly confronted by multiple parties, your actions can trigger a defensive reaction rather than a willingness to engage in a calm, problem-solving discussion.
Accordingly, do not discuss your concerns about your employee with anyone else before ensuring their involvement is absolutely essential or their knowledge of the situation is necessary. You cannot un-ring a bell so don’t sound the alarm lightly.
Stick to the current, relevant facts
Yes, that means you should incorporate all three when you address your employee:
- Current: Don’t bring past issues up that have been dealt with before, unless they are prior examples of the same type of behavior.
- Relevant: Keep the discussion centered on the task at hand and avoid incorporating unrelated information that has no bearing on the current situation.
- Facts: This is the most important aspect of your disciplinary action – do not mention feelings, thoughts or emotions at this point. You need to tell her what she has factually done or not done to warrant “the talk” and be prepared to back up your position with actual proof if necessary.
Once you have set the stage for the discussion, allow your employee to fully respond to the current, relevant facts you have presented.
Perception may be reality but that doesn’t make it true
It is often said that there are 3 sides to every story: mine, yours and the truth. Unfortunately, most of us stop the investigation after we mentally process our own perception of an event – what we see is what we believe is actually going on and we make assumptions about a person’s motivation for acting in a certain way.
However, one of the most important things to remember is that the way we perceive an event is not the whole story and we need more facts to truly, accurately and fairly judge a situation. Be willing to listen and do not enter into a discussion with your mind made up one way or another.
As a final note, by establishing clear and unambiguous guidelines and expectations up front, you can avoid many issues and misunderstandings before they develop into full-blown problems.
What are some of the ways you have effectively handled employee discipline?
About the Author: Allison Rice is the Marketing Director for Amsterdam Printing (www.amsterdamprinting.com), a leading provider of custom and promotional pens and other promotional products to grow your business and thank customers. Allison regularly contributes to the Promo & Marketing Wall blog, where she provides actionable business tips.
Being a leader is much more than organizing resources, executing on plans or knowing where to squeeze out the latest profit. A person responsible for positional leadership has the arduous task of managing their team’s contribution to overall profits and sustainability while supporting the roles and individual needs of their employees. If you’re doing it well, it shouldn’t be easy. In fact for most of us it will be a role that we never quite master, we will always be a student on some level. Along the way though, we can observe other leaders, learn from personal experiences and discover our own genuine way of navigating the work days of the teams that have been entrusted to us. Hopefully in turn, we will pass on what we know, like being part of a sharing community. As you think about your leadership role, here are some concepts worth contemplation:
Don’t Let Profits Be Your Sole Driver
Doing anything solely for profit is an empty pursuit. It leads to compromised business decisions and a bad case of burnout for both yourself and your employees. Going into business exclusively on a profit based agenda isn’t sustainable. It will cause you and your employees to eventually wonder what you’re really working for. Instead, let purpose and meaning drive you. These elements will give you the required endurance and camaraderie you need when times are tough.
Keep Your Promises
If your employees can’t rely on you to be true to your word, their natural default is to question all of your actions and motives. Just think about it, when was the last time you felt immense respect for someone you couldn’t rely on? Don’t make promises to your employees or partners that you can’t keep, and when you do make promises, do everything in your power to be true to your word. Not doing so kills your credibility, making it harder for people to respect you. As a leader you can’t operate business effectively without trust and respect.
Be Competent, Be Committed
The job of today’s leader isn’t to place oneself in a distant, hierarchy based position. People want to believe in the person they report to and we know that one can only truly believe in what they know or understand. As a leader, we owe our employees three main things:
1) Competency in our role
2) Commitment to relationships with our folks
3) A communicated vision for what our teams are working toward
Remember, your job is to protect and serve your employees so they can be as productive as possible. Keep a “people first” mentality and your employees will remain hard working for you and for themselves.
Focus on Development
Everyone is capable of continuous growth – even leaders. Hopefully for all of us, the day we slow down learning about our profession or business is the day we retire. There is nothing that will benefit you, your employees, and your company more than a focus on development. The key consideration here is to provide a variety of options and opportunities for learning. The more varied the offerings, the more likely your success rate will be. Some folks would love a lunch and learn on one of your new product offerings, others would prefer a book study and still others would like seminars or certification courses. Point being, you want to do everything you can to get your employees revved up about their professional and personal development. It’s another way to show you care, and that you are truly invested in them as an employee and an individual.
Of equal importance is your own development. Don’t ask folks to stretch and grow if you are unwilling to do so yourself. When you show that you are committed to your personal betterment, your employees will be likely to do the same.
Do Not Wait For Feedback
Don’t wait until one angry employee finally shows up at your desk with a list of complaints. By the time your employee has reached your desk, you can bet that the poison of poor morale has been permeating your office for weeks or months. Instead of being reactive, choose to be out ahead of it. Ask your employees what they think of you, the direction of the company, office politics, etc.
Keep the doorway to communication open. Expect respect while allowing for dissenting views and opinions. Sometimes that’s where the healthiest outcomes and decisions derive from. You want your team to understand that their input isn’t an effort in futility, but rather a respected opportunity for them to express their creativity and problem solving abilities. You are not bound by a contract to implement every suggestion or solution, but you can show you are committed to listening with an open mind. Granted, this kind of cross-status communication takes a lot more effort on the part of the leader. But, your willingness to explain your business rationale, to listen to others perspectives and deal effectively with differences allows you to reap the benefits of having a more genuine work life and relationships. And after all none of us, leaders included, wants to park their personality or opinions at the door. We all want to be heard.
Continually learning as you lead can mean the difference between mediocrity and excellence. Leaders of substance propel their businesses and engage their employees. They realize that they are meant to serve their folks, not lord over them, and because of that mindset they can rally an entire workforce around their purpose and brand. Leaders of substance aren’t just born; they are taught and actively work to train themselves. If you want to lead a company, and do so as effectively as possible take the time to help build your employees up. Perhaps Lao Tzu sums it up most eloquently, “A leader is best when people barely know she exists, when her work is done, her aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” If you ask me, that’s something really worth striving for!
About the Author: Amanda Andrade is the Chief People Officer for Veterans United Home Loans — Fortune magazine’s 21st best medium workplace and one the fastest growing companies in the United States according to INC magazine. Amanda has led human resource organizations in both public and private sectors, serving employees in diverse work settings, focusing on environment and behavior in the workplace. Connect with Amanda on Google+.
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In a the male dominated world in which we live, it becomes increasingly important that strong women leaders take charge and make themselves known. They should use their strong personality traits to be a role model to other women and young girls. What, you ask, are the personality traits that tend to make a woman a good leader? Take a look at these personality traits and see if you, or someone you know possesses these traits. If you or someone else does possess these traits, encourage that person or challenge yourself to become an outward role model for other females.
A strong woman leader is confident in the person that she is and the decisions that she makes. So many women and girls today are insecure and unsure of themselves. They need a female leader who can show them how to be comfortable in their own skin. They need to find themselves and be confident that the person they are is good enough. As a woman leader, you should outwardly display your confidence to other women, and encourage them to learn how to “own it”, rather than be intimidated by confidence in other women.
Female leaders are people who make a difference in the world, and to do this, they need to be intelligent. This is important because women leaders need to be taken seriously, and this will be a struggle if their intelligence is questioned. To develop intelligence, the first step is schooling. Encourage young women to stay in school and learn all that they can. The second part of intelligence is awareness. Be aware, and well-versed in the world that is going on around you. This will allow you to more adequately assess a situation and intelligently decide what you should do about it. Being intelligent and prepared in every situation will inspire women, young and old, and will draw positive attention to women as a gender.
An attribute of any leader, not just a woman, is the ability to talk to others and convey a message. This does not necessarily mean, however, that a leader has to be outgoing. Outgoing leaders can lead by preaching their cause and talking to people about the important things that they have to say. This can often be very effective because you are spelling things out for people. A woman can also, however, be a quiet leader. Quiet leaders lead by example, and this leadership tactic can be equally as effective. Leading by example is simple: practice what you preach and if people believe in what you are doing, they will model their actions after yours.
Pam Johnson is an HR professional in the furniture industry, as well as an adjunct professor for her local community college . She is constantly seeking out people with leadership qualities to fulfill management positions. She obtained her MBA in Human Resources Degree.
There’s so much on the blogosphere about how to motivate and retain your High Potential employees and top performers. This is great because you do want to retain the lot of them if you want to maintain and increase your competitive edge.
There is research to show that employers will actively seek out and reward their top 10% or 20%, because it is believed that that select group will be responsible for the bulk of their productivity and will outperform the rest of their counterparts.
This brings to mind the Pareto Principle which states that …roughly 80% of the effects will come form 20% of the causes.
Therefore it does make sense to nurture the top 20 %. I definitely agree but will add a note of caution that while we must nurture and recognize the 20% it should not be to the detriment of the remaining 80.
Do not ignore the 80%.You still need the rest of the team to achieve a comprehensive output.
The focus should be on elevating the team to All star status via mentoring, knowledge sharing, and recognition. There is value to be gained from moving the 80% progressively from good to better and then best.
It involves investigation, digging deeper to discover the root causes and seeking out customized solutions. Are they in the wrong jobs ill-suited to their skills and competencies? Is mentoring and coaching required? Is it a case of a lack of awareness and ignorance? These are pertinent questions to consider in the quest to bridge the gap.
We are the sum of our parts and when there is a weak link, inevitably we are less than we really could be.
The goal should be the continuous improvement of the whole rather than just the visible parts. When the average moves a notch to become great, and the great becomes exceptional, then everybody wins.
We recently had an employee return to work and after a lay off and if there was one thing that I found really remarkable, it was the new found zeal and dedication to work that was exhibited second time around.
There was an increased appreciation for the opportunity to work and also a willingness to learn and succeed second time around. Plus there was less training required as she was familiar with the work flow and hit the ground running with little to no adjustment required.
I’d like to see more career comebacks in the work place. There are so many benefits to be accrued for all concerned.
While I fully agree that by injecting fresh blood into the system provides access to new ideas and innovation, managing or “loving the ones you are with” beats expending time, energy and resources to engage a new hire.
I am of the opinion that everyone has the potential to be a high potential. I admit this might seem overly simplistic but under the right conditions and circumstances, employees will excel and progressively improve on competencies and abilities.
In work environments, past experience or performance are usually great indicators of future performance but there will always be the exception. One person’s career slips and challenges can make them a better person and can produce a stronger and more valuable team member.
Sometimes, we just need to take a step back and pause, and with keen eyes, seek out ways that we can improve on the existing rather than discarding. So, develop other potentials and every now and then, look past the obvious to find talent hidden in the unlikely. Finally, create an all-star team where everyone can be on the winning streak.
Would we all benefit? I believe so.
I was poking around on an HR message board the other day and happened upon a discussion regarding a recently promoted manager who is ‘struggling’ in her new role. It appears this new manager continues to experience difficulties after moving from being a peer to being the leader of her work group. A fairly common scenario.
In her explanation the HR lady posting about the situation stated: “…we believe she needs to ‘come over to our side.’”
Implied in all of this, and based on some details the HR lady had supplied, was the fact that the new manager continued to maintain friendly relationships with her team members and worked to solve their problems and frustrations. She had, as her staff members knew, walked in their shoes. She got it so therefore they trusted her.
The Powers That Be, however, have decided that this manager must make a 180-degree switch and disentangle herself from personal friendships/relationships. They believe she needs to join the pod people other managers and become one of ‘us’ because, naturally, she is no longer one of ‘them.’”
But is that really the answer? Surely there are ways that a newly promoted manager, coming from within the ranks of the company, can successfully transition to being a leader without turning into a soulless robotic drone? Well yes, there are. The new manager can:
- Understand that relationships will (and must) evolve. The newly promoted manager has the opportunity to establish a NEW style of interacting with employees. While she cannot forget a shared history of confidences and (perhaps) communal misery, it’s critical she begin her era with a different focus. This includes having discussions with former peers about performance and career aspirations with the goal of establishing a different level of rapport. Jokes, fun, shared lunches and camaraderie is great but developing work focused relationships with subordinates is also necessary to enable any future performance-related discussions.
- Listen. Think. Then listen again. The new manager needs to determine how best to keep her ear to the ground, tune in to the organizational happenings and sort the wheat from the chaff. She needs to realize she doesn’t know all the answers and can no longer jump to the same conclusions and rally the troops around those conclusions as she may have done when in her previous role. No longer Norma Rae but not quite the crusty Plant Manager either.
- Realize that what got him here won’t get him there. Upon being recognized for competence, performance or potential the newly promoted manager may believe he’s demonstrated his specialness – and been suitably rewarded. But it’s critical that he seek out opportunities to participate in leadership training because sometimes organizations set people up to fail. Scratch that – quite OFTEN organizations set people up to fail. Newly promoted managers are often expected to learn their job by trial and error and sadly managers promoted from within are often given less direction than external hires. It’s assumed, after all, they ‘know’ what needs to be done and it’s certainly assumed they understand the organization’s culture, norms and values. In order to eliminate the risk of not understanding his new role though, the new manager needs to take the initiative to seek out opportunities for learning and development.
- Develop a Personal Style. Every new manager has the ability to blend her unique personality with her authentic self and add in a dash of the attributes she most admired from previous leaders. Empathetic? Coaching? Authoritarian? Could be any of the above – but it needs to be real.
Being promoted at work to a leadership position over former peers can be challenging and organizations need to provide appropriate support to employees who have made this transition.
Gladiatorial combat in the organization is not the answer. Please – I implore you – eliminate us vs. them.
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With 25 years of HR Management experience, Robin Schooling, SPHR, has worked in a variety of industries. In 2013, after serving as VPHR with a Louisiana based organization, she left corporate HR to open up Silver Zebras, LLC, an HR Consulting firm. She blogs at HRSchoolhouse and you can follow her on twitter at @RobinSchooling where, on football weekends, you can read all her #whodat tweets.
With the qualified talent pool shrinking across the globe, the pressure on businesses to retain talent grows. In hopes of retention, companies across most industries are accommodating for generation X and Y’s desires by building a flexible, fun, informal environment that includes summer Fridays, remote work days, casual attire, and more. Start-ups are going to great lengths to mimic the Google and Facebook environments that attract and retain talent across the globe. I benefit from, and am a proponent of these environments. Some companies, however, particularly start-ups, must be mindful of, and guard against allowing informality to result in a lack of accountability, misalignment, and ambiguity. Now more than ever, it is critical to keep talent aligned with a clear company mission and hold them accountable. The flexible, fun, informal environment can only keep talent interested for so long. There must be something deeper for talent to identify with.
Talent must first identify with a company’s mission and core values. It is critical that veterans of the organization all understand, communicate, and embody the same message. Remember, Millennials look for guidance from those above them and as we know, businesses are constantly evolving to remain competitive. It is imperative that managers and executives keep these messages consistent. We cannot expect talent to feel secure and have the desire to commit to an environment that has a mission that continually changes, or a list of core values that is adhered to only when convenient.
Secondly, there must be a “fit to role.” When talking about a fit to role, most people will identify with qualified talent fitting the role; however, the fit to role actually starts with the role being appropriate for the department, division and company. Does the role benefit the company, and can it be successful within the current confines of the environment? With the ever-changing business environment, talent acquisition should ensure that an assessment of true business needs occurs or has occurred with each and every job requisition. It would be extremely challenging, if not impossible, for someone to remain engaged in a role that doesn’t make sense for the organization and is not aligned with its mission.
After identifying the appropriate role for the company, the appropriate candidate should be determined for the role. Many companies focus on the technical skills of the candidate and hope for a plug and play that will ensure the business doesn’t miss a beat. However, hiring managers cannot omit the importance of assuring alignment and engagement with the role by determining what the potential hire enjoys, doesn’t enjoy, and what drives her to achieve. This can be accomplished through conducting a personal assessment (such as the Harrison Assessment), as well as through technical assessments that assess her technical skill sets for the role.
Hiring the candidate is just the beginning of ensuring engagement and alignment exists throughout the talent’s tenure. There must be a clear relationship among the talent’s job description, career path and development. As soon as talent does not have clarity and understanding around their job descriptions and career paths, one can expect highly desired talent will begin their search for the next step in their career elsewhere. Generation X and Y have had information at their fingertips that allows them to learn; however, simply learning is not enough. It must have a purpose. Aligning short-term, tangible goals to reach the mission at hand will help ensure long-term engagement. Managers should anticipate the need for feedback and the desire to know how this newly acquired knowledge helps talent get from here to there in a career path.
In this fast-paced, ever-changing world, it is more important than ever to keep your talent aligned with your business and working for a greater purpose. Increased retention rates will be accomplished by creating an aligned environment that is buttressed by accountability across the organization. In addition to the fun, flexible environment that is permeating business places across the globe, leadership must establish and maintain a clear path and hold the talent accountable for accomplishing the plan. After all, how can they be recognized for their accomplishments if their objectives aren’t being established and tracked?
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About the author: Amanda Papini, Recruiting Director at Response Mine Interactive started her career in recruiting at Medical Staffing Network in 2005, and moved over to a corporate recruiting role at BKV and Response Mine Interactive in 2007, where she built an internal recruiting practice for both companies. Amanda has since staffed over 250 full-time employees within both companies; an average of 50 hires per year. After assisting with RMI and BKV’s growth over the last 5 years, Amanda decided to move over to focus solely on RMI’s talent acquisition and take on a role more dedicated to employee development.
With social media, what you don’t know can seriously hurt your organization. One 2010 survey found that employees estimate spending roughly four hours every day checking multiple email accounts, with up to two hours spent on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. A 2012 Salary.com survey found that 64 percent of employees visit non-work related websites daily. And don’t think blocking employee access to social media on company networks is the answer; personal smartphones and tablets are ubiquitous, and easily fill the gap.
The rub for today’s organizations is that while social media use at work has definite risks, it also is one of the best ways to empower and engage employees. Increasingly, in our connected 24/7 businesses, the line between work and personal time is blurring. This is especially true for Generation Y employees; as long as they meet deadlines and deliver, these employees don’t feel that it’s particularly useful to distinguish between time spent updating Twitter or engaged in team meetings. Organizations may beg to differ, especially when an offensive or inappropriate blog post or tweet can damage their brand, lower employee morale, and even lead to workplace lawsuits.
Yet, most organizations don’t really know how their employees are using social media, either personally or professionally, let alone what impact it’s having on employees’ overall levels of productivity.
That’s why it’s so important, before you set policy, to know how your managers currently handle social media use at work, as well as how its use by employees is effecting their management. Get at these fundamental issues by asking managers five key questions:
- Have your employees’ use of social media ever triggered a workplace lawsuit or regulatory investigation?
- What impact have your employees’ personal use of social media during work hours had, if any, on their productivity?
- How do you use social media, if at all, to help manage your projects and employees?
- Have you reviewed all applicable federal and state laws governing electronic data content, usage, monitoring, privacy, e-discovery, data encryption, business records and other legal issues in all jurisdictions in which you operate, have employees or serve customers?
- Could you comply with a court-ordered “social media audit”, by producing legally compliant business blog posts, email messages, text messages and other electronically stored information (ESI) within 990 days?
Social media can speed innovation and collaboration, but ONLY if your employees know how to both use it as well as steer clear of its many pitfalls. Start by asking managers these simple questions; they often surface extremely important information that, especially in larger organizations, you may not have been aware of. Finally, remember that for reasons of both confidentiality and fear, getting access to this sort of information is not always easy. It’s therefore important that organizations create mechanisms by which examples of social media use (and abuse!) can be regularly shared with the broader employee base.
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About the author: Steve Miranda is Managing Director of Cornell University’s Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies (CAHRS), a leading partnership between industry and academia devoted to the field of global human resource management. He is also a faculty author of the new eCornell certificate program,Social Media in HR: From Policy to Practice. Prior to CAHRS, Miranda was Chief Human Resource and Strategic Planning Officer for the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the world’s largest professional HR association, serving over 260,000 members in over 100 countries.
It happens to all of us in HR at some point in our lives. We find ourselves caught in an awkward position at work and we ask ourselves, “What is the best response here?”
I am talking about situations where compassion is needed, but with extenuating circumstances. You’ve encountered the scenario before. An employee confides something deeply personal:
- A health issue
- A break-up
- An unexpected pregnancy
She is coming to you not really as a friend, but as someone who she thinks can help her. She wants:
- A break
She doesn’t know or understand the awkward position this possibly puts you in. The information she provides may or may not be true. You know that:
- Her supervisor is at his wits end because her performance is so poor
- She was late again three times this week
- The organization doesn’t have a warm and fuzzy culture with flexibility
- There are impending layoffs and her employment is at risk
What are your responsibilities in this situation? How involved should you be? How do you protect company interests while being a human being?
Human resources practitioners are not registered psychologists or social workers. We are not “Mother Theresa”. For most of us, our employers do not want or expect us to be advocates for the downtrodden, but we are expected to be kind, helpful and looking for the win-win. We do not have a magic wand. Therefore suffice to say that there are no clear cut answers about the level of compassion we need to provide in these tough situations, only possible approaches.
Here are some things you can do:
- To the extent possible, help her find professional help. Does your benefit plan offer an EAP? Are there help lines or government services available? Is counseling a covered benefit? Keep abreast of the resources available to a person in need and share them freely. Short lists are better than single resources. Encourage her to make the call. That way, you don’t have to give advice or get overly involved.
- Are there small things you can do? Can she borrow your office for 20 minutes to get her composure or to make a private call? Is there some small token you have that you can give to her to show her that you and the Company care?
- Be clear about what you can and can’t keep confidential and your channel of communication within the organization. For most employees, the role of HR is unclear, which in many cases leads to the risk that an employee won’t come and see us out of fear or mistrust, even when it is prudent that they do so.
- Encourage her to be discrete about whom she confides in about the circumstances. The workplace is full of people who are your frenemies. Your Company has policies regarding fair treatment but you can’t control everything. While it has become commonplace for stars to rise out of their personal meltdowns, it is more difficult for the rest of us to do so. Also a privately-managed issue will likely result in less workplace disruption.
- Be clear about the conundrum created when personal information like this is shared with someone in HR. Ask for clarity on the reasons she came to you and what she expects your involvement to be. Be clear about what you can and can’t do for her.
- With regards to how the personal situation impacts her job, encourage her to speak with her Supervisor and to be open to possible solutions. Offer to open the discussion with the Supervisor if you feel there may be a risk that the Supervisor may not handle the situation in a manner appropriate to the circumstances. If it is possible, try to create clarity about the continuing performance expectations and work through strategies to address them. Try to keep to as much of a third-party approach as possible.
- Get legal advice as needed. There are a myriad of potential challenges that could present themselves if down the line she is terminated. It could be construed that you used the knowledge gained in the circumstances inappropriately with undesirable consequences.
Above all, be genuine. The success of the outcome is in direct relation to your ability to:
- Be compassionate
- Think on your feet
- Keep your head
- See it through
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