Transformation in Human Resources – Rule 3

Transformation in Human Resources – Rule 3 150 150 Jason Lauritsen

In too many organizations, HR has become the “Department of No.”  We write the policies that box people in.  We create the guidelines the define what is appropriate and inappropriate at work.  We make sure managers tow the line of the law when it comes to employee discipline.  We color the world in black and white with little room for gray (much less any other color).  And, sadly, too many of us have become convinced that our job is risk elimination.

We need to stop it.

Remember back to when you were a child.  If you were fortunate enough to have two parents in your home, you knew which parent was most likely to say yes to a request to do something a little out of the norm.  So, you always went to that parent with your request and you did your best to avoid the other because you already knew their answer would be “no.”

Nobody wants to hear “no.”

That’s why so many people, from the front-line employee to the executive suite, avoid us in HR.  They hate hearing that word.  They prefer to go to someone who at least has an open mind, someone who might at least consider the merits of an unusual request.  And, that’s not how they see HR.  Frankly, we’ve earned that reputation.  But, it’s not too late to change.

If you really want to start shifting the role of HR in the organization, start seeking out ways to say “yes.”  

That doesn’t mean throwing out the policy manual or encouraging people to break the rules.  It means listening to requests and being open to creating a solution that meets the needs of the person in front of you.

Sometimes, it’s a form of yes to say, “I understand what you are trying to accomplish.  I think I can help.  Unfortunately, we aren’t going to be able to make this happen the way you described for these reasons … but here’s an alternative that we can consider that might get you to the same place.”

Finding ways to say yes, to be a solution creator, can dramatically change how you are viewed in the organization.  If you become someone who works to find a way to say yes as often as you can, then people will start to seek you out.  You become the parent who the kids always want to ask.  And, being in that position is a source of legitimate power within the organization.

For those of you thinking right now, “but I can’t say yes to everything,” you are right.  There are stupid people who are going to make stupid requests and do stupid things.  You don’t need to say yes in those situations.   Rather, I’m talking about the executive who has a personnel situation that involves some risk to accomplish what’s in the best interest of the company.  Or, the employee who has a recommendation about how to improve a company policy.

The key is to slow down, listen, consider the intent of the request, consider the business implications of the intent, and then see if you can offer a solution that sounds more like yes than no.  Give it a shot.

  • Scott Boulton

    Jason – great post. I have really enjoyed this “series” so far. This one in particular caused me to reflect…and admit I have been a bit guilty of this from time to time. I now consider myself more “self-aware.” Thanks!


    Scott Boulton, CHRP

    • Jason

      Thanks for that comment, Scott. This is a really easy trap to fall into as an HR pro. Saying no is easier in almost every case. Saying yes takes more effort, but it’s also more rewarding.

  • broc.edwards

    It’s funny, really. Businesses make money by figuring out how to say “yes”. HR supports business. HR’s thinks that it’s supporting the business by saying “NO”.

    Business thinks in terms of results. HR thinks in terms of checkboxes. Why does HR miss the connection? Why is HR baffled when business dismisses the potential value of HR?

    Another great post. Thanks for the fantastic, insightful series.

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