Guest Post: Keep your Head | HR Fishbowl

Michael Mullady, PHR  has over 10 years of HR experience and currently provides HR Business Partner Support for the American Cancer Society’s National Office in Atlanta, GA. Mike has – like many of us – intersected with a Hot Head or two along the way. And he reminds us that we have to be on the cooler side of that intersection when it comes up. Thanks to him for sharing it through the following guest post. And after you’re done reading it, make sure you connect with him on Twitter (@atlscgrad) and LinkedIn.

“If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs …”  This wonderful beginning of the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling often seems to fit our jobs in Human Resources, and most specifically when employee relations issues arise.

I still remember the first time I told a Senior Vice President that she could not fire someone.  I had only been an HR Manager a few months, was supporting 1000 employees –  including senior leadership of the department – on my own and she calls me out of my office very upset because an employee had made a mistake that caused an outage in an application that had just gone into production. Her exact words were, “so can I fire him?”  And before I could really think about it, the word “no” shot out of my mouth.  The look on her face was most certainly one that ‘made me’; I realized she hadn’t heard that dreaded word very often.

Thankfully, I managed to have a rational conversation with her (honestly, I think she respected me for saying no to her.  I remained calm, asked questions and we worked through the issue and came to an acceptable solution). I am sure all of us have experienced a harried manager or executive who simply wants to “get rid of” an employee. And I realize that for all intents and purposes we really CAN fire just about anyone we want to; but it’s a matter of how much risk the organization is willing to incur while doing so. Our job is to help our clients understand that – because most of the time it’s not about whether we “can” fire someone, but rather whether we “should” fire them.

The only way we can really help them get on-board is by staying calm…keeping our heads. We are, after all, the “experts” in the eyes of the manager. We cannot rise to their level of panic or reaction or snap judgment. Ask questions, engage them in a discussion, let them experience the virtue of your cool-headedness. Doing so will produce the best answer for you, the manager, and the employee you’ve got laying there on the chopping block…every time.

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