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The natives are restless

12/07/2009

 Years ago I was doing a grunt role, out in the field, looking after about 80 sites and working with three different Area Managers, all of whom were difficult and had, shall we say, peculiarities.  But the one thing they had in common was the desire to make NNS “go away” and make it go away, “today”. 

 I worked with them for two years and we had our ups and downs as I taught them that sometimes they would be told no.  As in “no I won’t let you fire them, because they got up your nose today when they have 20 years of exemplary service” or “no, it’s not fair to move that person to the other side of the country with no support or warning because you have a vacancy you can’t fill because you’re an ass”.  There were times when we banged heads but there were times when we were totally aligned.

I left, when I was promoted to a job in Head Office, which meant leaving my friends and family behind as well as my three wise monkeys.  It was after a few months that I started to hear rave reviews about my replacement.  How the three stooges loved her, how she was really making things easier for them, how she was a really “commercial” HR person.  Now either out of the desire for continuous improvement, or just pure jealousy I had to find out more.

I still had my contacts there and so I asked one of them what was going on.  “She’s their puppet” they told me.  “If you see her coming onto site, you know the shit is going to hit.  Last week she was even bossing me around like she was my boss.  People hate her”.  And then it all made sense.  She’d gone native.

There always needs to be a tension between the line and HR.  That’s what they pay us for, to challenge, to question, to think and to support.  Good leaders and managers recognise this, they want it, and they know that they need it.  Bad leaders and managers fear it.  And good HR practitioners don’t mind throwing themselves in front of the odd train every now and then.  We are not paid to be liked, we are paid to make a difference and sometimes that means standing up and being counted. 

On joining my current business I was told of a particularly fiery relationship between two very senior individuals, “you don’t want to get in between them” was the advice.  And of course the first thing that says to me is, “that is the place I need to be”.  (For the record, it wasn’t so bad……….although I still bear a few of the scars – but you should see the state of them!) 

Being commercial isn’t about doing what a manager wants all the time.  We are not the modern-day lackies or bully boys.  But neither is it about hiding behind policies and procedures and “the law”.  It’s about having a voice and a conscience, about putting forward your views and staying true to your gut feeling.  Once you go native, you’re gone for good.  That’s not commercial, it’s just easy.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. 12/09/2009 08:47

    This is fabulous! A real test of an executive is whether they listen when the HR person says no. The smart ones do.

  2. 12/09/2009 11:11

    @mkeeffer – I think it is often about taking every view into account and then making a decision. But HR have to have a view and not sit on the fence or worse defer to line managers on every occasion.

  3. 12/10/2009 23:00

    I have only found this post later. I note that you immediately realised that you had to get in between two senior workers. May I suggest that you change your name to ‘Lucky Pierre’?

  4. 12/11/2009 08:43

    @Fernando – I had to look that up. Your knowledge of sexual deviance is clearly greater than mine!

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