The top 5 discussions HR managers do not want to have with employees (but have to, because it is part of their job)

The world of Human Resources (HR) is not as easy as some people say. Difficult conversations with employees are one of the things that no one wants to do.

In this article below, I will be talking about the difficult ‘Discussions’ HR (Human Resource) Managers do not want to have with employees but have to because it is part of their job duties.

  • POOR HYGIENE: Mustaches aren’t a big deal in most work environments.  Even the deli-counter guy can sport a full, mountain-man beard with a facial-hair net. But… what if you’re a woman? Dealing with female facial hair within the office ranks up there with B.O. (aka Body Odor) or maybe bad breath. Hygiene issues rank as one of the most difficult HR conversations to have and there are legal aspects to consider.  Sometimes an underlying medical condition could be the major reason of the Body Odor and as an HR professional, it is your job to address the employee.  When dealing with a hairy or stinky person, remember to be candid, sensitive, supportive, considerate and understanding.
  • FIRST TERMINATION OF CONTRACT: As a HR Manager, You’ll never forget your first time. This is especially true when it comes to termination.  HR or otherwise, there comes a time in almost every manager’s career when you have to give the order.  A termination should never really be a surprise to the employee. Constant feedback and a clear understanding of consequences should provide them enough insight to their performance, and that the end road at this company has a high probability. Managers should talk with HR before initiating the termination process. As the HR professional, it’s your job to guide the process. Role playing how the meeting will go and what points should be made are helpful as you navigate your first termination. During the meeting, it is important to empathize with their situation and be professional.

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  • LAYOFF ANNOUNCEMENT: This one might also bring the Public Relations team into action depending on the media backlash. It is very important not to sit on this announcement because no matter how tight-lipped you think this is, it isn’t. The fact is that even in a sound proof room, the information in some form or other has gotten out and the rumor mill is churning before you open the door. Be direct.  Be honest. And don’t sugar coat. It’s best to take ownership of the announcement.  Don’t say it is someone else’s decision.  As a representative of the company (HR Manager), it’s your job to accept the role as the messenger, and it is best to deliver such a message in person versus over the phone. Email is a last resort of communication. Follow up all conversations with a formal memo or letter to ensure the communication was clear and understood.
  • LIFE & DEATH:  Sharing news can be a perk of the job for an HR Manager. Except when it’s a sad news to deliver. I recall hearing a story from a printing plant whereas a gentlemen called the customer service line and asked for a specific floor supervisor. It was an unusual request, but he told the employee (customer service rep) it was urgent. The customer service rep knew the supervisor and ran out and to get her. Little did either of them know the urgent news was that the floor supervisor’s husband had suffered an unexpected heart attack and died.  It was a difficult situation for everyone involved.  Dealing with difficult news in the workplace is one of the most challenging parts of being a manager. If the death is an employee, then it might be the HR manager’s role to communicate the death to all staff. Sometimes, bringing in experts can help HR provide the extra counseling and support needed to get through such a crisis, especially if HR is among those deeply impacted by a loss.
  • WORKPLACE INVESTIGATIONS:  As if doing all of your job wasn’t difficult enough, now there’s an investigation into an employee’s behavior. Depending on the nature of the complaint, this one could quickly escalate to bringing in a legal team or your friends in public relations again. Dealing with investigations, whether it is fraud or embezzlement claims or allegations of improper relations, it is important to document all conversations and request legal counsel for your protection and your company’s. A discussion about a workplace conversation can halt everything you are working on and turn your HR world upside down.

Having difficult conversations is a part of the HR manager’s job. Dealing with the unexpected is really tough. But, anxiety can weigh in heavy when rehearsing for planned conversations like that of body odor or a termination of contract. Reviewing best practices before situations arise can help the HR manager navigate these challenges and emerge a stronger and bolder leader.

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