In The Workplace

I was pirated by our CEO to help in rejuvenating the Human Resources as an equal function of other departments. When I came onboard three months ago, I was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the former HR manager’s ineffectiveness and incompetence in coming out with engagement programs resulting in poor employee morale. About 7% of our workers are habitually absent and tardy that we would normally incur additional costs in terms of penalties due to late delivery of our products to customers. Many times, department managers refuse to implement disciplinary action against workers due to personnel shortages and fear of ruffling the feathers of the union. I tried to change things, but the department managers, except for one, are very much against the changes. I told the CEO of my problem and he told me it’s my job to handle everything, including my own problem with other managers. What can I do now? — Prince Albert.

Friends come and go, but we’re always stuck with our enemies, no matter how good we try to appease them. It becomes doubly difficult when we are constrained to work with our colleagues and the CEO is reluctant to help you. This is the pressure that goes along with being in HR.

Most people try to cope with these problems by limiting their dealings with anyone who is habitually disagreeable. Unfortunately, you can’t do that when you are in HR. Therefore, rather than trying to duck people, which you can’t avoid anyway, you can minimize, if not totally eradicate opposition by exploring the following tactics:

One, redefine your authority and responsibility with the CEO. Find out about his expectations and the things that you can and cannot do. Act and think like a CEO. To do this, you have to fully develop a good working relationship with your boss that could be done by a constant, active communication, preferably on a one-on-one basis, even for short durations. If not, you can settle by sending him an e-mail on major issues, but not trivial ones that could encourage the CEO to become a helicopter boss who would micromanage your every move.

Two, exceed the clear and defined expectations of the CEO. Don’t settle for an average work performance. If you can show a consistent above-average performance, it would be difficult for your boss to withdraw any support from you. Many people, including those with unpleasant dispositions, are willing to appreciate hard-working individuals. However, all of these can only happen if the target, standards, budget, and timeline are mutually-agreed upon between you and your boss.

Three, impress everyone with your technical competence. “Continuously sharpen the saw,” counsels Edgardo A.M. Mendoza, Jr., my former HR colleague in the banking industry. “Master your craft to the point that when someone challenges your position, even your boss, you can confidently say (using nice words of course) “I can bet my job on that.” Do this by mastering the Labor Code, its implementing rules, applicable Supreme Court decisions, and other pertinent materials on people management.

Four, respect other people’s ideas, even if they contradict your views. Never offend anyone, regardless of their union affiliation and job title. Learn to understand the personality quirks of those people, including the informal leaders who could influence other workers to sabotage your plans, policies, and procedures. Conversely, identify people who are predisposed to giving their almost perpetual “Yes” to your ideas, but never come through to support you when the time comes.

Five, learn the corporate buzzwords, culture, and language. “Communicate at their level,” says Mr. Mendoza. “This is easier said than done, because we all have a tendency to speak using our own lingo, words we’ve been accustomed to. (You need to) make an extra effort to go up or down (to the other person’s) level… Use analogies from life to simplify your explanations.” Ask questions, if necessary. They should welcome it. Just the same, supplement what you learn from your colleagues, by reading as much as you can about the company’s business.

Six, start a regular consensus-building exercise with all managers. You may have already started on the wrong foot, but it’s not a futile exercise for you to make amends, even if everyone appears to be wrong. Regain everyone’s trust by having a one-on-one, no-holds-barred meeting with each manager, starting with the most friendly figure in the office. He or she could give you tips and techniques for dealing with other department managers. Inform your CEO about your plan. He could give you some tips as well.

Last, grit your teeth and concentrate on doing the best job possible. If things appear to not be working to your advantage, one of the most practical approaches against nasty people is to stand your ground. Simply ignore the unfriendly demeanor of the managers. At least, you don’t have to live with them 24/7. If there’s no way out, think of exploring other job opportunities. If you’re not happy, it’s not worth it to stay in the company when the CEO doesn’t support you.

In general, however, as with so many other facets of your role as HR manager, you must be the first one to set the example in dealing with people in a courteous and pleasant manner. There could be hardliners at times, but you don’t have to go down to their level. Otherwise, if you react angrily, you may be the first one to be in trouble.

ELBONOMICS: Confuse your enemies by forgiving their acts or omissions.


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