Whose responsibility is it to ensure people in management positions have the skills they need to handle the people they supervise?
Is it the hiring committee? Is it the person’s immediate boss? Is it the human resources department?
The answer is yes to all of the above.
It’s also the individual’s responsibility to improve their people management abilities on their own initiative.
How well they do in this area reflects on their own performance as a manager.
My experience as a consultant and coach has shown me that many people don’t agree with me on this last point.
I often hear comments about how the HR department should handle this or that workplace issue, including things that are clearly performance-based concerns.
Conflict in the workplace is a performance issue. Who should take the lead on resolving that? What role does the HR department play in handling it? What about the managing supervisor?
Of course the answer is, “It depends.” Sometimes it’s one or the other, and sometimes it’s both.
If there is an employee, for instance, who is continually at odds with his or her co-workers, the manager has a duty to address that directly.
While conflict is rarely one-sided antagonizing behaviour from one individual gets in the way of everyone being able to do their jobs.
It also affects the work climate which can easily turn toxic if it isn’t handled quickly and well.
There are a surprising number of managers who simply don’t understand how to respond to difficult behaviour in the workplace.
Maybe they’ve never been trained, or perhaps no one told them it was actually part of their job.
It may also be because they have personal discomfort with conflict and would just prefer someone else (i.e. the HR manager) handles it.
We know that avoiding difficult conversations is not a long term solution.
Managers need to brush up on their skills in this area.
It is their responsibility to address bad behaviour among their employees directly and ensure expectations are clear about what will not be tolerated in the workplace.
If an employee’s behaviour borders on bullying or harassment, then yes the HR department needs to get involved.
Knowing what not to do in a sensitive situation is just as important as knowing the proper way to proceed to avoid stepping into a legal minefield.
The role of an HR department is to be a resource on employment legislation, company policies, training and employee development practices.
The intention is to support managers when people issues arise by providing advice and guidance that will empower them to resolve things effectively.
It is in every company’s best interest to hire and develop competent managers.
Those individuals also have responsibility to hone the skills they need to manage people with confidence. Building better managers is a joint effort.