“The Choice is Clear” — A Lesson in Conflict Resolution

Posted by Sarah Williams on August 13, 2014 in Employee Relations, Progressive Discipline |
lesson on conflict resolution at work

It’s never easy for a manager to resolve conflict between employees. And we are often the most unprepared for handling it when we start out. Many managers never gain the skills needed to successfully manage and resolve conflict.

Mike was one of those managers.

Two of his employees, Kim and Tina, just could not seem to get along. It wasn’t a big deal when they were just co-workers in the same department — but it became a huge problem when Kim got promoted and became Tina’s boss … Within a month, Tina was in Mike’s office to complain about Kim and request a transfer to an area outside of Kim’s supervision and influence.

And, of course, Mike came to my office for advice and guidance.

Did Kim violate a policy as it relates to her supervision of Tina?

No, Kim hasn’t done anything in violation of policy. It’s more that Tina doesn’t like her and isn’t responding to her management style

How’s Tina’s performance level?

Tina is just OK. She’s not top of the group, but she’s not the bottom.

Are you in favor of moving her to another area?

I don’t really have another place to put her. And Kim’s still learning the other areas so I can’t move her. At least not right now. I have 3 other people that have put in to be moved when an opening comes.

I gave him a blank stare.

I know this sounds silly to you. But it’s hard for me. I don’t want to choose!

It’s too late for that. You’ve already made your choice.

When an organization promotes someone into management, they agree to have that person’s back. The organization is saying they trust this person’s decision-making and behavior to represent and lookout for the company’s interests. And barring a violation of this trust, the organization agrees to support this person’s choices.

Mike chose Kim when he promoted her over Tina. Since Kim had not violated any company policy, we had no cause to discipline her. Tina’s request for transfer was duly noted but we would not process it at that time because there was no opening — and we weren’t going to push a transfer through for a mediocre performer just because she didn’t like her supervisor. The real world of work doesn’t operate that way. Tina’s request for transfer would eventually be processed alongside all other requests according to procedure.

When I shared this story with some of my HR friends, they gasped and criticized me. They said the decision not to move Tina was leaving the company at risk … Perhaps they’re right. However, I believe HR is responsible to mitigate risk not eliminate it. There will always be risk. No matter how good the leadership and HR is at what they do, risk will never go away.

When issues are brought to our attention, HR has a duty is to investigate, determine if a violation of policy has occurred and correct the problem. We are not fairy godmothers, pixies or genies here to make every employee want, whim and wish come true. If the investigation finds no violation, there is no problem to correct and no additional action to be taken. Conducting a complete, thorough investigation which exonerates the person accused of wrong-doing is the best and correct answer.

The choice is clear.



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What HR Is To Me … Now

Posted by Sarah Williams on July 24, 2014 in HR Wisdom, Leadership, Passion at Work |
buzz on hr 3rd anniversary

Each year, on the Anniversary of the launch of my The Buzz on HR, I look back at my very first post and reflect on how my views on the profession have changed.

This is my very first post ever.

Here’s the post for my 1st bloggiversary.

Here’s the post for my 2nd bloggiversary.

Sadly, I missed my 3rd bloggiversary because I was in a bad head space and y’all really didn’t want to know what I was thinking then. It was nothing nice!

Instead, I’m going to take this day to reflect. Because it is my actual birthday — and there’s no better time to think about where you’ve been and where you’re going than on the day you’re born.

So here goes … What HR is to Me – the 2014 Edition

I still believe the function of Human Resources is to balance the rights of the employee with the needs of the employer in order to ensure the protection and productivity of the employer. As hard as many have tried to tell me otherwise, I just don’t think that will ever change for me. The reason any job exists is first and foremost to enthusiastically excel the goals of the company. If you can’t deal with that, find a way to become self-employed. You’ll be much happier — and so will your boss.

I still believe in sharing knowledge, caring about our companies and the people in them, actively practicing, proper timing in our planning as well as professional development/networking. These are crucial things for any professional who wants to stay positive and progressive in their career. Nothing and no one benefits when you don’t put forth effort to get better and help others.

Now I’m ready to add these items to the list:

  • Metrics … It still baffles me to see HR professionals fighting against providing detailed reports and data to back up their recommendations and requests surrounding trends and department needs. It befuddles me when we get shocked and disappointed when we don’t get the approvals and support because of this. It’s past time for HR to show and prove our stuff through tangible, irrefutable data.
  • Money … This one is two-fold. First, HR needs to pay attention to how much money is being spent. The initiatives and projects we propose, create and maintain cost thousands and thousands of dollars. We should know these costs and whether this is a good or poor investment of resources. We should be as involved and enthusiastic about budget decisions as any other in our function… Second, HR needs to look out for compensation. Both the people in the organization — as well as their own. Far too often, HR fails to fight to the battle for fair, appropriate wages across the board. Money talks; HR needs to holla back!
  • Mindfulness … HR has a responsibility to speak up and out when appropriate. We must be direct and candid. We should be guard our reputation and impressions we make without losing our authenticity. We should not hide our criticism and disappointment in sarcasm. We should share our truth while still being considerate of others, the environment and the situation. The day of the uptight, handbook toting, policy quoting, condescending, aloof HR person is dead. Rest in peace.

As I start a new journey, I am excited to put these things into practice and see success. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. I will learn, I will grow and I’ll be better because of it. And I will share the wisdom nuggets every step of the way.

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This Is What I Think About The SHRM Certification

Posted by Sarah Williams on July 16, 2014 in Education and Learning, SPHR |
how to get the shrm certification

I was on my unscheduled blogging sabbatical when the announcement about the HRCI and SHRM certification split was made, sending shockwaves thru the HR profession and social media.

In case you’ve been out of the loop, here’s some links I found really informative about the change.

- Check out the SHRM Certification website

- Ben Eubanks’s “SHRM to Stop Supporting the PHR, SPHR Certifications”

- Matt Stollak’s “New #SHRM Certification Raises More Questions Than It Answers”

- HR Cloud’s “8 SHRM Certification Questions Answered at SHRM14″

The gist is SHRM has decided to establish an additional HR professional certification of their own which will start in 2015. The HRCI Certification will continue separately. HR pros will be able to obtain both or either and attend HR events to get continuing education credits to maintain certified status for both through 2015. Beyond that is still up unknown.

Offline, I’ve had a lot of people ask me how I feel about this change, especially since I just took the HRCI test for my SPHR earlier this year. After my SHRM14 Conference wrap-up post, the questions started again. So I’m weighing in.

Do You Really Think HR Needs TWO Certifications?

Sure. Why not? Other professions have more than one! If you don’t believe me, google “Accounting Certifications” or “Marketing Certifications.” HR is not alone in this. In fact, it is arguable that HR has had more than one certification for awhile now when you consider the specialty certifications in Payroll, Recruiting, etc.

Do You Think This Is Just A Ploy By SHRM To Get Money?

SHRM is a business. Businesses like to get money. So do I, for that matter. There’s nothing wrong with getting money! However, I doubt seriously that SHRM spent years developing an exam and all that goes into that as well as forever changed their long-standing connection with the HRCI just for money … But if they did, that’s not my business, I don’t care and I’m not the least bit upset, offended or alarmed.

What’s The Difference Between the SHRM Test and the HRCI Test?

From what I’ve read, the difference will be that the SHRM Test focuses on the ability to practically apply their knowledge of the Body of Competency & Knowledge (BoCK).  The hardest part of the HRCI testing was turning off my 15 years of practitioner brain to study the ideals and memorize the associated vocabulary. The book didn’t match what is done in real life in the majority of instances. Hopefully the SHRM exam will get closer to measuring HR reality. Since it hasn’t started yet, no one truly knows.

Are You Going to Take the SHRM Exam?

According to the SHRM Certification website, I won’t have to. Because I am already certified and in good standing, I only have to provide my HRCI documentation, sign the Code of Ethics and do a tutorial. And it won’t cost me a dime. Free is always in the budget so count me in!

For the record, even if I did have to take some kind of test or pay a fee, I would still do it. Maybe not right away, but eventually. Getting my SPHR has made a difference in my career opportunities. I am a card-carrying, t-shirt wearing, hashtag repping cheerleader for professional certification. When the job market is so competitive and candidacy can be cut short for the most minor things, it’s not wise to leave any room for doubt or question about your qualifications or commitment to your profession.

What Do You Think of the Certification Name?

SHRM named their certification SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP … Womp womp. I am admittedly underwhelmed by the name. Other than “Certified Imperially Awesome Kick-Ass Badass HR Professional”, I don’t have any better suggestions to offer. So unless they decide to change to the CIAKABHRP, I’m going to have to roll with it.


That’s all I got … Any other questions?

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No More And Then! (A Lesson in Employee Relations)

Posted by Sarah Williams on July 9, 2014 in Employee Relations, Just Buzzing |
no more and then

I really try not to use my blog to air my personal gripes … I can’t remember the last time, if ever, that I have … So forgive me for this one …

I’ve had the same living room furniture since like 2002. I decided it was time to upgrade! So I headed off to a local furniture store to pick out a new set. Delivery was scheduled for about a week later so I could setup junk pickup of my old stuff in the meanwhile.

On delivery day, they couldn’t get the furniture into my house, which was hard to believe because we’d measured twice to be sure. The delivery team really didn’t propose any alternatives except sending everything back … And then we sent it back. And then I had to go back to the store, which is 35 minutes away, to pick out something else. And then, due to issues with their computers, it took a week to clear the old furniture and schedule the new. And then, on delivery day 2, no one called or showed up. And then I called to learn the delivery had been cancelled. And then the store blamed me for the cancellation error. And then the person on the phone got rude. And then I put a cape on — and I got SUPER rude!

Don’t judge me. I’m only human.

So as I write this post, my living room still has no furniture in it. And I’m waiting to see if and how the store is able to turn this around. Because, as pissed off as I am, I really don’t want to go thru the hassle of starting this whole process over again and being without furniture in the meanwhile.

I’m hoping to turn this from an “and then” to a “but then” situation.

Another “And Then” would be just one more negative tale, one more bad experience added on top of the already really poor experiences I’ve had. Another “and then” would prove the company doesn’t care, leaving me no choice but to go elsewhere … However, a “But Then” would be a different, better experience to stop the craziness and end the story on a positive, mutually-satisfying note.

What does a “but then” look like? Hmm … But then the manager got a UHaul truck and delivered the furniture himself. But then the manager offered to expedite my delivery and refund my delivery fees. But then the manager waived my first 3 months of payments. But then the manager gave me an extra lamp and end table. But then the manager took 20% off the price … But then someone stepped in and made it right, once and for all!

In my fury over all these mishaps and mishandlings, it dawned on me that this is what our employees are feeling when they have issues in our workplaces. They start work in our organizations with excitement and good intentions … And then something inevitably goes wrong … And then someone tries to fix it but doesn’t really … And then something goes wrong again … And then they bring the issues to HR … And then they wait to see what we’ll do with it, to see how and if we will make it right and fix it once and for all. Because, as pissed off as they are, they don’t want to hassle of searching for a new job or separation litigation.

So what are we gonna do, HR? Another “and then” — or a “but then.”

The choice is yours.

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What I Learned at SHRM14 … Even Though I Wasn’t There

Posted by Sarah Williams on July 3, 2014 in HR Conferences and Events, SPHR |

I’ve never been to a SHRM National Conference.

So I was really excited when I was selected as a blogger for the 2014 Conference, which was going to be in one of my favorite places and feature some of my favorite people as speakers. I dreamed of eating in Disney World with my BlogFFs and other social media friends — and I plotted how I would snag a selfie with Robin Roberts.

Then I got my new job and had to cancel … If I’d pushed, they probably would have allowed me the time off since it was pre-planned. But I just didn’t feel right about it … So I made the decision to work instead — and now I set my sights on fabulous Las Vegas for the 2015 National Conference!

Even though I wasn’t there, I still got a good idea of all the happenings thru social media. Lots of great Twitter posts, Instagram photos and Facebook shares were flying around using the SHRM14 hashtag. Many of the bloggers on the official team, vendor partner sites and other bloggers wrote and shared articles from the event. It was great to see — and hard not to have bittersweet feelings about not being there.

Here are the 6 posts I think best sum up the lessons from SHRM14

And I have to give honorable mention to my friends at SHRM – We Know Next because they did a phenomenal job of grabbing, sharing and syndicating most of the blogs out there with coverage or mention of the SHRM14 conference.

But, in case you don’t want to read all this stuff, I can summarize the SHRM14 lessons in 5 words: change, care, certify, create and count.

Whoomp. There it is.

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