According to Merriam-Webster, a friend can be defined as “one attached to another by affection or esteem.” A friend can also be defined as “a favored companion.”
In business, the role of Human Resources can be tricky.
HR partners are often asked to lead through change and to mitigate risk. HR partners are expected to expose issues to leadership and develop solutions for those problems, whether it involves people or processes. HR partners are asked to build positive, genuine relationships with their peers and employees. Sounds like friendship right?
Often times, HR partners have to teeter the line between business relationships and personal ones; everyday that line is crossed.
I once had an employee that I enjoyed speaking with regarding music. We had similar taste in rap/hip-hop, so it was easy for us to form a relationship. Unfortunately, this employee made a decision that cost them their employment. Along with the employee’s manager, I was a part of the termination conversation. This conversation was awkward for me. I knew this employee pretty well and I didn’t want to see their employment end, but it was my responsibility to move forward with the termination.
That situation was difficult for me, but I learned a valuable lesson: HR partners work on behalf of the business. They must closely monitor their relationships with their employees and vice-versa.
If you are a business leader, you can greatly benefit from working with your HR partner. In my experience, I have worked with some phenomenal leaders. There is power in being able to bounce ideas off of each other and brainstorm effective solutions.
A good HR partner is willing to get their hands dirty and work with you and your team to find success. Often times HR is looped into hiring and promotion decisions,which means that you can benefit by discussing your career aspirations with your HR partner. Most importantly, a good HR partner acts as a coach—a guiding resource for leaders and individual contributors.
A good HR partner is fair and consistent. They don’t fold into pressure that could sway them from being impartial.
But remember! This person is not your “friend,” but instead an absolutely necessary part of the business. When you excel, the business excels. With this comes a need for HR to be invested into the success of the employees.
When I think about my friends, I think about the people that I want to see on the weekend. I think about the people I go to basketball games and brunches with. I expect my close friends to accept my flaws, allow me to vent, and refrain from casting judgment when I make a poor choice. Instead, they must be supportive, honest, and able tell me the truth even when I don’t want to hear it.
Ideally, your HR Partner cannot play all of these roles for you.
Remember that the role of HR is complex and not always straightforward. One day you may find yourself working with your HR Partner to write up a coaching plan for an underperforming employee. Later in that same day, your HR partner could work with your manager to write up a coaching plan for you! (I’ve seen it happen.) If your HR Partner is fair and consistent, this is in no way personal but simply a function of their role.
In closing, you can greatly benefit from working with your HR partner. In my experience I have met some honest, intelligent, hard-working, consistent, and fair HR professionals. Many of these people don’t enjoy terminating employees or giving coaching to their peers, but they understand their job and what is needed for them to be successful.