This weekend I had to get my HR Nerd on and go see The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies. It was phenomenal and you should absolutely see it in the theater for the best experience. You may not be a Middle-Earth/Lord of the Rings fan, but I think the movies did a great job capturing the essence of the books that I have read multiple times.
In the final Hobbit, the main character, Bilbo Baggins, is in an uncomfortable predicament because he has the key to make everything “right,” but he keeps the treasured jewel that the King wants to himself. Now, don’t panic. This isn’t an in-depth review filled with a myriad of fantasy terms and characters.
During a key scene in the movie, Bilbo stands up against Thorin, the King, and tells him that the reason there is conflict is because of the King’s behavior. This was not a popular stance to take in the least. In fact, Thorin threatens to throw Bilbo over the castle wall to his death !!
In HR we are in a unique position that others don’t share. We need to remember that we represent both management and employees. Too often, it is perceived that we only represent management. This perception is from employees who only see us take the side of senior management. In many cases, companies only want us to represent management. This is where you should go against the flow !!
Our role is to represent the Company. That means that there may be times where you will be like Bilbo and confront the “King.” It’s not easy to be the person who stands up to management, and it doesn’t make you popular. The key to deciding if you should make a stand is that your action is to make sure that the company is doing the right thing.
It’s an incredible position to be in by being able to represent both management and employees. It shouldn’t be daunting, but it usually is. We fear that if we take a position that is contrary to the normal flow of things, it will damage our status within the company or we could even lose our jobs. I’m not here to encourage you to take a stand regardless of your fear, but you should take a look at how management is treating HR. If you aren’t able to have those tough conversations when they’re needed, then I contend that HR will be limited in its effectiveness.
As we wrap up another year, you have a chance to reflect and see if you are someone who goes with the flow, or if you are someone willing to go against it. When I’ve had those tough conversations, I actually gained more access to the senior management. They are looking for us to give them an objective viewpoint so that decisions can be made for the greater good of the company and also the situations you’re facing.
It’s not easy to be a contrarian, and it’s not something you have to do all the time. Just be willing to step in when you need to. It will be uncomfortable when you’re in the midst of tough conversations, but in the end you, and the company, will be better for it.