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End waiting game

HR problems don't go away, they just get worse

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Have you ever heard of the concept of a psychological game? This usually refers to a conscious or unconscious communication tactic that plays out like a game with real live winners and losers. It's really a type of psychological one upmanship that people engage in while trying to gain the upper hand in a situation. You can recognize you've been inadvertently involved in a psychological game because at the end of it, you'll probably feel angry, annoyed and/or simply exhausted from your efforts.

At the same time, when this happens, an individual often won't know why they feel so down, yet if someone pointed out the gamesmanship strategy, it would be recognized right away. For instance, how many times have you made suggestions to someone at home and/or work only to be bombarded with, "yes but, yes but, yes but, yes but?" Did you feel exhausted at the end of it all? You bet!

It's been said that psychological games are so prevalent in society they've become institutionalized into our communication both at home and at work. In the workplace, managers in particular often play a psychological waiting game by deliberately attempting to gain advantage by delaying a decision or an action. I'm sure you've experienced situations where a solution was presented to your manager yet as time passes, nothing is done. Do you recall your feelings?

I suspect you might have experienced frustration but at the same time, I'll bet that you probably learned it wasn't worth your effort to present solutions to your manager. If that did indeed occur, you more than likely also made great efforts to change jobs.

As we begin our journey into the new year, I must say I'm very disappointed to learn that many of our organizational leaders are continuing to play a psychological waiting game, especially when it comes to human resources. In other words, they wait until they are in real trouble.

For instance, organizations need to keep an up-to-date policy manual, yet a proprietary HR survey demonstrated that only 50 per cent of respondents had upgraded their harassment prevention policy to include the recent addition of psychological harassment. What are you waiting for? Why play this psychological game of putting off human resource practices until there is a complaint? It's too risky.

Just ask the leaders of the Canadian Mental Health Association, a local high-profile agency how it feels to be headlined in a January 2013 news release for discrimination against an employee. Not only that, the Manitoba Human Rights Commission was directed to monitor this organization for the next two years. Now, what does this unfortunate situation do to an organization's ability to attract and retain good staff?

How could this situation and others like it be avoided? The answer is, by not playing the psychological game of waiting until you get into trouble. Frankly, there's no organization that's too small for good human resource advice. That's because as soon as you have employees, you need to abide by employment legislation and to treat employees appropriately. The rule of thumb is that if you have 75-100 employees, you need on onsite human resource professional. Otherwise, secure access to a service that is available on an on-call basis.

Let me share with you how a human resource professional can assist your organization and/or corporation.

Staff resource planning -- HR professionals can assist with staff resource planning at any point in your business cycle be it startup, growth, downsizing and/or succession. Your human resource professional needs to sit at the strategic table and be part of management decisions so that they can prepare and protect your organization at all times.

Recruitment and selection -- most general managers and supervisors are not aware of the many legalities of interviewing. This leads to complaints of discrimination. HR professionals on the other hand, have the skills to build competency and skills maps, job descriptions, job ads and interview questions that ensure the right person for the right job at the right time while adhering to appropriate legislation.

Compensation and benefits -- let's face it, employees want to be paid fairly for the amount of effort they put in. Human resource professionals can set up a pay structure that ensures fairness and equity between all jobs in your organization. Otherwise, you'll soon find new employees are paid more than established workers while an employee salary raise might be based on a manager's emotions of the day.

Employee relations -- employee complaints and concerns brought forward but not addressed and/or not dealt with according to employment standards and/or human rights legislation is frankly what causes employers the most pain. A human resource professional understands these requirements and can assist you to resolve complaints before they result in a formal complaint, a financial penalty or restitution and all the bad publicity that follows.

Policy manual development and training -- every organization needs an updated policy manual and a method to keep it current with changing legislation. Supervisors need to know how to apply the policies while employees need to know what their rights and obligations are. A human resource professional plays a key role in developing a policy manual, conducting the needed training and is always available to answer questions on procedure.

Training and development -- staying ahead as a leader in your industry sector requires continually upgrading of equipment. The same strategy applies to employees; they must become continuous learners. A human resource professional can assist by developing a training plan, help managers to identify competencies, assess and develop training strategies, evaluate programs and search out training vendors.

Personnel records management -- personnel records is another area where employers frequently encounter complaints and subsequent legal issues. Human resource professionals know what specific items are to be included, who has access, when and how employees are allowed access and how to protect individual privacy. Poor record management significantly increases organizational risk.

The profession of human resources has grown by leaps and bounds over the past 25 years. Today, human resource professionals are highly trained and apply strategies to protect your organization in the complicated world of employment legislation. So, take my advice, avoid playing the psychological waiting game where you just won't make a decision while hoping your human resource issues will resolve themselves. Believe me; they'll only get worse without professional help.

Barbara J. Bowes, FCHRP, CMC, CCP, M.Ed., is president of Legacy Bowes Group. She can be reached at

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 19, 2013 H1

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