From Adversary to Advocate: Three Ways HR Officers Can Make Employee Interactions More Proactive and Positive


As an HR manager or compliance officer, do you sometimes feel that most of your job is telling people what they cannot do, what they cannot have . . . and even worse, what you cannot do for them?

If so, I would like to recommend three positive ways of leading that can help turn potentially negative encounters into opportunities to solve problems, boost employee satisfaction – and achieve better outcomes for both your organization and the employee.

Go Beyond “Good Listening” and Really Hear What the Other Person Is Saying

Traditional “good listening” skills include fighting interruptive thinking (when you are formulating an answer while another person is still speaking), turning off your phone so it will not ring during your talk, and adopting open body language. All good ideas. But really hearing what the other person is saying also means avoiding the tendency to listen only for what is incorrect, so you can then argue against it in favor of your own position. Instead, strive to listen for nuggets of what is right or valuable in what the other person says, then respond to them. This is the path to arriving at shared solutions.

Resist the Temptation to Make Assumptions

Let’s say, for example, that you have a meeting with an employee who is a new parent. Because you believe this worker wants to request family leave, you begin to focus on that alone in your conversation. But is your assumption correct? If you listen openly and ask open-ended questions to confirm or disconfirm your assumptions, you might find that the employee’s real goal is explore options to simply spend more time with a new member of the family. If that is the real goal, you might be in a position to proactively suggest solutions like flextime, partial telecommuting, or the company’s childcare facility.

Invite Employees to Suggest Solutions

Even though you are in the position of supporting company policies and even laws, you can still be a problem-solver, not an enforcer. If you invite an employee to suggest solutions to issues that you are both trying to solve, you might arrive at more win-win solutions than you expect. After all, if the employee is confronting a question about like sick leave, maternity leave, or even a bigger issue like harassment from a boss, he or she has probably spent more time thinking about the problem than you have. Strive for an open exchange of ideas and a search for joint solutions.

About Ingaged Leadership

Ingaged Leadership is a new approach to leadership that is based on the belief that when you align people and promote an atmosphere where everyone works together in partnership, your organization becomes vastly more successful. I hope that this article has suggested some ways you can apply it effectively in HR to help lead your company to excellence.

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