Being a human resources manager is a lot like working in customer service, except the customers are your own employees, Jonathan Segal, a partner at Philadelphia’s Duane Morris, LLP, told the HR practitioners in attendance at the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2013 Employment Law & Legislative Conference. In his session, “Tough Love II: What Your Employees Won’t Tell You About HR, But I Will,” one of Segal’s main points was that employees need to see a softer, human side, some non-tough love.
“What you don’t want your employees to say is, ‘I only see HR when there’s a crisis,’” he said. “You want to be seen as problem solver, not a crisis manager.”
Segal said HR/benefits professionals have an obligation to advocate for employees without actually falling into the role of constantly being their advocate. “The balance is you want workers to feel like they can come and talk to you, but not expect you to always be on their side,” he said, noting that while it’s important that pros maintain distance, legal fears can work against the “human” in human resources. Don’t take the risk of avoiding risk, Segal said repeatedly. “Don’t treat employees as plaintiffs waiting to happen,” he cautioned.
Still, Segal said, for all your care and understanding, there should be a hard and fast line on performance. “Do not tolerate mediocrity,” he advised, as he said it builds resentment among employees, diminishes work quality and increases legal risks.
“It’s where the legal, the human and the business come together,” Segal said. “Be clear on your role.”
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