Wednesday, June 1, 2011

I Learned the Hard Way...Again

I hate saying no.  As an HR professional and leader it just never makes sense for me to refuse anyone.  After all, they're reaching out to me for support.  I'm supposed to be there for them, right?

Getting Played
One of the major pitfalls of having "can't-say-no syndrome" is that some people will take advantage; and, despite doing this type of work for years, I sometimes don't recognize it when it's happening.  Shame on me.  I've learned that I have to stay focused so I can be the "player", and not be the one getting played.  I hate it when I learn the hard way.

And I sure don't like getting played.

Lots To Do
I also don't like falling behind with my workload.  Sure, I'm busy just like everyone else but I find that if I never set any boundaries, I'm the one that ends up being too far behind.  In effect, I learn the hard way - again.

I really don't like learning the hard way.

Trust and Verify
Am I contradicting myself?  Should HR professionals start saying no to those in need?  No way.   I'm advocating that we trust everyone who comes to us for support, and then verify the facts as quickly as possible.  We have to deliver world-class service...and we also have to make sure we hold others accountable.  This is hard for me to do.  

How About You
Do you struggle with how much of yourself to give to others?  Do you find yourself falling behind because you haven't managed your boundaries effectively?  How did you solve this dilemma?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

pic courtesy of East Side FM


  1. All too familiar… The stories I could tell…

    I’ve been there myself and I am sure many others. In HR we are often people pleasers and want to help everyone. However, sometime helping people is not what they need nor what’s best for the company. Yes, of course a harassment claim is something to take very seriously, but what about the whining about a boss or co-worker?

    I’ve learned to take a “help yourself” first approach, then if that does not work we’ll talk. When we talk there will be two rules – First, I won’t say no, but rather explain what I can do (like it or not) and second, you need to present me a solution.

    We talk a lot about empowering people, but we usually enable them. We need to be there for guidance, but ultimately the problem solving has to come from them.

    In my experience, this approach has resulted in benefits for all. The individual becomes a better problem solver, I reclaim my time, and I only deal with serious needs.

  2. Great perspective, and thanks for sharing it here. Your empower v enable message rings true for most, if not all, of us!

  3. HR or not, any employee may find it difficult to say no to a request. Typical example: coordinating a United Way campaign or preparing for a visit from a high level officer of the company. Does it make the most sense to assign it to HR, or to find someone who could benefit from the development opportunities these kind of projects could be?
    In the times where I felt I needed to say no, I also felt obligated to offer alternatives.
    At the end of the year, what will prove to have been more important - advancing the agreed-to objectives, or supporting all the additional "break-in" work that happened through the year?

  4. As I see it, you have two choices.

    You can be the guy who is there for others, who tries to help out, and strives to be the best person they can be. You will get burned on occasion, you will be taken for granted on occasion, and you will get in over your head on occasion.

    You can also be the cynical type that doubts everyone's motives, avoids being sucked into anything that might not benefit you. You can be withdrawn, stand-offish, and defensive. And you will miss a whole lot of great chances to connect with other people.

    In the end, we choose who we want to be. There is a cost either way, we just have to decide which one is worth paying. I know which one I prefer.

  5. Tim - I love your idea of transitioning projects from another item on the to do list, into a development opportunity. At the end of the process, everyone wins!

    Dwane - Both options are clear, and I suspect you'll have plenty of us following you. Perhaps it's just a hazard-of-the-trade that we have to juggle these issues.

  6. I read a good piece recently from a VC that has relevance here :

    I also agree: always start with trust.

  7. Thanks Laszlo...great piece on implied it!