Posted on 30 Oct 2019
A survey recently published on HR Resources Online found that 79% of HR professionals were negatively impacted by their job. The results suggested that working in HR is more stressful than working in IT, the legal profession, and the healthcare sector.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) cited that the requirement to multi-task, regularly discussing negative issues with employees and finding solutions to difficult problems all added to the stress of HR professionals.
All jobs can be stressful some of the time and, occasionally, the stress levels can feel off-the-scale, leading to sleepless nights. However, that’s precisely when HR professionals and others like us earn our money. If the job were as easy as a walk in the park, it would be unlikely that a company would need an experienced HR professional in the first place!
Some degree of stress in an HR career is normal and to be expected, and working through that stress to achieve objectives can massively accelerate our personal development. Here are my six top tips to help HR professionals manage stress.
Don’t allow managers to offload their problems on you and assume you will come up with “silver bullet” solutions. Engage managers and work with them to determine the best possible outcome. Managers need to own and be involved in shaping the solution because they will play a huge part in making it happen.
Avoid becoming a shoulder to cry on
It is important to be accessible and highly visible in the business because HR, at its best, is not done from behind a desk. However, this can be counterproductive because a minority of employees might see you as a shoulder to cry on. There will be times when employees are struggling with major problems in their personal lives, and it would be inhumane to expect them to leave those problems at the door. However, you should not allow yourself to become the first port of call for every employee who feels hard done by. More often than not, their manager is the one they should be talking to.
Don’t shrink from difficult conversations
Constantly avoiding a potentially contentious conversation can be more stressful than actually having it in the first place. Perhaps the most difficult conversations of them all are those that involve dismissing an employee or having a without prejudice discussion to end their employment via a Settlement Agreement. Make sure you are well prepared for the meeting by having all the facts and relevant documents to hand, and plan for the discussion with the line manager to make sure you don’t get in each other’s way or contradict one another. By doing your homework, the conversation is less likely to become emotional, your communication will be clear and, very importantly, the employee’s dignity will be preserved.
Focus on the detail
Regardless of the task in hand, it is essential to put the work in up front to get the details right. This might involve checking and rechecking redundancy figures, making sure you have captured the correct information for long-service awards, communicating salary reviews or confirming changes to terms & conditions of employment. Ask a trusted fresh pair of eyes to help you review the data and involve line managers in verifying the information for their direct reports as a final fail-safe.
Projects must be executed flawlessly, but you are unlikely to achieve this without a sufficiently detailed and well-communicated project plan which is fully understood by all stakeholders. It needn’t be complex, but it should identify all the components of the project, who is accountable for implementing them and when, and the plan must include regular reviews, normally after the completion of project milestones, to keep it on track and enable adjustments to be made in light of new information or experience. All supporting documents such as draft letters to employees, FAQs and company announcements should be prepared in advance and released to all stakeholders, so they have the complete picture before the launch date.
Use sounding boards
HR can be a very lonely place, so make sure to use your network, both internally and externally, to bounce ideas off before embarking on a new initiative or introducing change. You will find that people really appreciate being asked their opinion and their ideas may help you to avoid some less obvious pitfalls. Remember to include your direct reports and other long-serving employees, as they will be able to give you the inside track about what has happened in the company in the past in similar situations. Their insights are particularly useful if you are relatively new to the business and are unaware of the history.
Anymore questions? Please don’t hesitate to get in touch!