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To me, or not to me……

04/11/2009

Having read the excellent post by HR Good_Witch about dealing with the toilet habits of an employee I started thinking about all those funny little tasks that get pushed the way of the HR team.  Regardless of where I have worked from the biggest companies downwards, there are those little gems that always seem to find there way to me and my team.  Things that can only be described as “not nice stuff” or NNS.

How many times have I been approached by a Manager for a “private chat about Bob”, to be told that poor Bob has a body odor problem?  My first question, “Have you told him?”.  Now the response to this is normally something along the lines of, “I thought it would be better coming from HR”.  Right, lets stop and think about that………………………………………………So the message could come from the Line Manager who has worked day in and day out with this person, reviews their performance, buys them a beer at Christmas (and sometimes more often if they are generous) OR it could come from HR person who doesn’t really know them, bumped into them once at the Christmas party (and can’t remember the smell being that strong….actually can’t remember much….but we all need to let our hair down at times).  I’m thinking the former kind of seems more appropriate….don’t you? 
So I sit the Manager down look deep into their eyes and using a combination of NLP, reverse psychology and Jedi mind tricks (“these aren’t the droids you are looking for”), prompt them to tell Bob, be honest, understanding, explain that you are aware of their body odor and they might want to think about doing something to sort it our, stronger deodorant, a more frequent change of clothes.  That Bob will actually probably be really grateful because they would rather know and be able to do something about.  And you know what, 100% strike record the Manager comes back and says “you were right”.
NNS comes in many shapes and sizes.  Recruitment always brings out some of the classics.  My team is young and in their twenties with many of them having only worked for the one company, unlike the wily HRD (!).  A little while ago Dan, a senior manager, was in the department and I overheard, “so if you would just go back to these candidates and tell them its a no, I’ll give Sue the great news she’s got the job”.  My NNS radar went into overdrive.  “Hey Dan” I say coming out of my office, “Great to hear you’ve finished the recruitment.  I was thinking, why don’t I have a chat with Sue and tell her about the promotion, the offer and the development opportunities that we the HR team will be putting in place for her.  That would give you more time to talk to the people that haven’t been successful and explain your decision?” (now this is one of the peculiarities of the english language – I have to end that sentence with a question mark – but trust me it wasn’t asked as a question)
Cue much spluttering and  uttering of random words.  Dan it should be said is also the manager that once fed back that a candidate was “very pretty, but very stupid”.  Although to give him his dues he was using this as a reason to reject her and I know many managers that would have seen that as a core competence.  Anyway, he came into my office and we both agreed after a while that it was better if he spoke to the unsuccessful candidates and explained his decision and as a trade off I would let him speak to the successful candidate Sue.  Genius at work…..
And there are numerous examples of NNS that come to us on a daily basis, from bogeys on the wall of the toilets, to changes in reporting lines, to redundancies (here its often “I don’t want you involved in the planning, but you can tell the people they are going” – yeah right!).  In most cases it just takes a few mind tricks and some assertiveness and before you know it Manager is gaily skipping off to do their duty.  But on the other hand there are some categories of NNS, like the example given by HR Good_Witch, I wouldn’t let a Line Manager near – I mean can you imagine someone with so little skill, dealing with a subject like that……..?
One Comment leave one →
  1. HR Good_Witch permalink
    04/11/2009 10:56

    Thanks for catching my post! I agree completely with you about NSS that gets dumped to HR. This is the first time I’ve accepted to do it myself and you are exactly right – because it is such a delicate topic (and the manager not being capable of providing easy feedback at the best of times). I’m with you, normally I turn it into a coaching moment and put it back to them.

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