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Jan 27, 2015

If there’s one thing HR pros can count on, it’s that difficult employee situations will never end.

It doesn’t matter how experienced and educated we are, we’ll always have to handle another different and difficult situation — and do it just right.

We can all agree that people really matter. And really, employees are HR’s customers. You want to help them be successful at their jobs (because that makes you successful) and you want them to be happy. That gives you an emotional connection.

Doing what’s best for the company

At the same time, you’re protecting a company. And your company is your employer. Without a functioning company, you — and all those employees you want to help — don’t have the chance to do meaningful work or even have a job at all!

You must always be doing what’s best for the company.

At times, it’s difficult to serve both your employees and the company. Often you sit on the fence or are pulled in different directions. How do you provide the best level of service to both?

Here are five (5) key things to consider when handling difficult situations:

1. Be (wisely) open and transparent

Your doors must be open, and people should feel free come to you with those sticky, messy problems that can’t be solved anywhere else.

But it’s also important to be professional and manage the expectations of what you can and cannot be expected to do for the employee. Sometimes employees don’t know your purpose and role, so tell them! Let them know what they can share with you, and when they’re crossing the line. Being open and transparent also means being candid and firm.

Also, be wise! Use your experience to help your people but know the limits. You’re likely not a certified therapist.

2. Assume the best

This applies to many things. We assume that our employer will always move forward with the best intention of being fair and reasonable in reaching a solution. It also means we assume the employee will be honest about issues and move forward with good intentions.

Assuming the best helps position issues with employees and the company to reach the closest possible “win-win.” And please note that HR is likely both judge and jury. The assume-the-best principle helps us frame actions and questions nobly and with the right intention, where we can try to see things from both sides and move towards the best possible outcome.

Assuming the best also maintains trust between parties. If trust disappears, it’s dog-eat-dog and bound to be painful and difficult.

3. Check with someone you trust

Use your network to find the right resource for help. Find that mentor, friend, industry expert, even an attorney if needed, to make sure you’re looking at the problem from all angles, asking the right questions and moving in the right direction.

Of course you need to be discreet and keep confidences, but asking “How would you handle a situation like this?” can be very helpful. You can decrease the risk of unintended mistakes and increase the likelihood of positive results. After you’ve dealt with enough issues yourself, you’ll be in a great position to help others as well. And that can be rewarding.

4. Do the right thing

There will always be hard and difficult decisions to make so if perfection is your goal, you’d better give up.

We just want to get as close as possible to what is right and best for everyone. Please realize that what is right may often lead to pain — and sometimes a lot of it. However, you’ll likely realize that the pain is much shorter term that what happens when you do the wrong thing!

Make decisions firmly with integrity, even if it hurts. We all make mistakes, we all pay the price, so pay it fast and get it over with.

And sometimes there is no right answer; you can just do what you feel is fair and right.

5. Be confident

You are the best person at your company to make these decisions. You should know more about the situation than anybody and have the clearest picture of the proper path to follow.

So, don’t second guess yourself! You’ll make the best possible decision that you can for both the employee and the company.

Use your heart, use your gut, use your brains, and use every other resource you’ve got, and you can trust that you’ve taken the right steps to make the best choice.

Yes, you have to do and say hard things that aren’t fun. It’s part of the job. But even if employees question the outcome or answer, they should never question your true intent.

Balancing those loyalties to both your company and employees takes finesse. I’ve found that rarely are both sides 100 percent satisfied, but make those hard decisions as quickly as possible and move on knowing you did your best.

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