Your Development is NOT HR’s Problem

Recently, I was chatting with one of my HR friends about an issue she was having. She manages a small HR department of 4, including herself. Because the team is small, everyone on the team has to be a generalist of sorts. As the leader, she is often pulled into strategy meetings plus she does a lot of training and presenting as well. 2 of the team are fairly new HR practitioners and she often vents to me about feeling guilty that she isn’t able to spend more time with them, working on their learning and development.

We hadn’t talked about it in awhile. She’d stopped mentioning it so I thought the team had turned the corner. I was wrong! Things were worse than ever for her, as one of her team was not making the development strides expected or necessary …

She won’t do anything I suggest to help her development. She keeps saying how busy she is with her everyday duties. She says she doesn’t have time to do the extra things I’m suggesting. I don’t know what to do about it! Her work is fine; she’s not missing deadlines or anything. But I can’t rely on her to take on more; eventually, that’s going to limit her advancement and her earnings. She’s falling behind the rest of the group — and everyone can see it. It’s embarrassing to me. I don’t know what to do.


My advice? Let her fail.

I believe in the importance of development. Once a person is trained and operating optimally in the essential duties of their job, a good manager should be looking for ways to further develop that individual. The ability to cultivate the potential of others is what separates good managers from great ones. Development is what keeps people engaged and enthusiastic about the work and the organization. It is the win-win of the employer-employee relationship.

Yet, while I believe in creating enrichment opportunities, I believe just as firmly that management is not solely responsible for development. The initiative and ambition required for development are not something management can teach. Those are things the individual has to bring with them … Unfortunately, not everyone has those skills or desires. Some people just want to come to work, complete the tasks they’ve been trained for and go home. No more, no less. Some people simply cannot be developed because they are unwilling.

As managers, we have to accept that and adjust accordingly. Not everyone on our teams will want the sage wisdom we have to offer. Not everyone will take our advice on how to improve. Their development is not your problem. Let it go — and invest your time into the people and projects where your insight is welcomed.

This isn’t the same as an employee who isn’t following directives or who isn’t completing their work. Those kinds of issues should not be ignored. They must be addressed through the normal course of coaching and, if necessary, progressive discipline.

But if the person doesn’t want to learn more than the aspects of their current role, don’t push. If the needs of the role grows and changes but the person cannot change with it, eventually he/she will kick in and catch up — or they will have to move on, by their own choice or by yours.

Set the expectation and create the opportunities — but don’t take on the burden of someone else’s development. It’s not your problem.

1 Comment

  1. As a manager, I think it is important to recognize that not everyone has the same ambitions and goals. All you can do is provide the environment for someone to excel. If they are not interested, that is their business/problem, not yours.

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