Flip the Script on HR Skeptics

HR skeptics are still among us. When skeptics band together, they can push HR out of the strategic landscape and devalue HR’s input and proposals outright. So how do we flip the script when we feel unsupported and possibly insecure in our role?

Through trial and error. I fought through a web of skeptics at a prior employer. The previous HR director had enjoyed wielding power and demanding compliance. She kept her door closed except when you were summoned via the loudspeaker to “report to HR” to be berated, disciplined, or terminated. I knew I had a lot of work to do to make the staff feel like HR was not their enemy, but what I hadn’t anticipated were the roadblocks from management.

As a new hire, I attempted to be friendly, professional, funny, knowledgeable, and hardworking. I was building relationships with some co-workers, but other people were too busy to engage with me. In strategic meetings, it was obvious that HR policy was a sore subject with a few executives who were almost aggressive in their refusal to collaborate with HR. I found myself staying quiet during meetings or hiding in my office sulking in my frustration. I couldn’t figure out if they didn’t trust HR as a whole or if I was the issue. When sulking didn’t move the needle, I gave myself a pep talk and plotted my re-emergence.

I came up with the simplest of schemes: I needed to build a relationship with everyone on the management team.

I scheduled a meeting with each skeptic in their office and came ready to listen. I got them talking about themselves, their work and their department. This gave me insight into who they were and what was important to them. I asked about larger projects and the biggest challenges they were facing and took copious notes. I also asked what I as HR could do differently.

Then, utilizing the information they shared, I picked one thing I could change or impact quickly. I offered creative recruiting ideas for a key position, resolved an ongoing employee benefits issue and updated an interdepartmental process to avoid duplication. These quick wins were like a peace offering. I addressed issues that were important to them as often as I could and asked for their advice, as well. In other words, I became an HR partner.

After a few months of hard work, I could see progress. I was gaining the trust of the management team. I could now anticipate many of their concerns and arguments, and I would often pre-empt them with data or address them individually before a meeting. I gained the support of my peers and slowly dissolved the skepticism management had with HR. I had flipped the script.

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