Why Lack of Respect for HR Managers?

Why Lack of Respect for HR Managers?

Lack of respect; that was the issue! They spoke hesitatingly but their problem was evident to me. How to earn respect of colleagues?

I addressed a group of HR functionaries in an organization. This is the brief and edited, yet a true account.

Q. “Why is it that HR functionaries are not respected in an organization?”

Ans. Why do we respect some persons? We respect people for various reasons. Some may have fought very adverse circumstances and reached where they are today. We respect some people for who they are, for the values they practice or for what they have done for us. In an organization where people focus on work, you are respected for performance of your role.

Typically the ‘operating functions’ of HR [like recruitment, training, compensation, talent management, employee engagement etc.] are such where everybody claims to have deep insight, although this may be often a tall and unsubstantiated claim. A production manager thinks he knows how to interview, a sales manager thinks that he can design a training program or a variable pay scheme. Every manager thinks that he knows how to build relations with people and manage people. These claims are usually made to tell the HR Manager that ‘I am better than you.’ And the trouble is that the HR manager is unable to counter these effectively. Why so?

That’s because usually HR Managers do not see that their role is that of a specialist or an expert. Moreover the designations are given to keep HR Managers away from perceiving his role as an expert. Take ‘HR Generalist’ role for example. Even in that role he is an expert. Or he must be.

Can he tell the Production Manager ‘I know how to interview people; I am skilled in BEI [Behavioural Event Interview] technique. Something you do not know.’ Can he tell the Sales Manager ‘I know how to design a training program; I can apply ‘Knowles’ Andragogy’ principles.’ If he can, he will earn respect.

The problem is that most HR functionaries try to crack problems on sheer common sense or rational thinking – both these are available in abundance in the population. There is no differentiator for HR manager unless he demonstrates that he has skills or knowledge others do not have.

When it comes to understanding people, it is important for HR functionaries to view people through a frame of reference. Or a model. This is essential so that we understand them better; a model always helps. My ‘frame of reference’ is Transactional Analysis model. When I meet people I classify them as Critical Parents [they are everywhere!], or as Adult who are in terrible short supply, or other types under Transactional Analysis.

Recently a friend who is a well-known trainer remarked to me – ‘You must be an INTP.’ He was referring to Myers Briggs Type Indicator – MBTI Personality types. [A confession here: I do not know my MBTI type but I did not deny his suggestion. Albert Einstein, Abraham Lincoln, Carl Jung were thought to be INTPs! So if I too belong there….. Cheers!!]. The point is that he was trying to understand my personality by classifying me. If HR managers can do this with any ‘frame of reference’ then they engage in a very insightful conversation with others, and earn respect.

And it is not difficult. But one must invest in learning.

So whatever be your designation, if you are an HR functionary, you have to be an expert. You must possess skills and knowledge others like the Production Manager or Sales Manager do not have. Only then you will earn respect.

Vivek S Patwardhan