Saturday, October 24, 2009

HR asked to snoop around!

Got a question from a reader. It’s a lengthy one and so I’m posting a gist of it here.

Manager at a midsized Company is worried that he might lose talented team members to competitors, citing various reasons including better opportunities, performance reviews, higher salary, promotions, etc., He approaches the HR rep and asks her to snoop around and give him some information on who is going to/is contemplating whether to quit and by when. He claims this will help him plan his projects better and start looking for potential replacements.

The HR rep hasn’t been asked to do such a thing before in her role (or career) and is wondering what should be her approach to this request?

First, the manager’s just being a jerk. If your role has enough authority to take decisions, then its time to have a candid discussion with this manager regarding his future in a managerial role. Or maybe even in the Company. Harsh? Absolutely. Such a request is a red flag for his managerial abilities. That’s off course if you have the authority. Understandably it’s not going to be easy. But having the discussion isn’t just an option, its mandatory.

On the other hand, if you don’t have the authority, you must still go ahead have a candid discussion with the manager. Assuming your role may require you to interact with this manager on a daily/weekly basis, saying ‘NO’ now will set expectations for the future too. Here’s something that you could tell him, “I would not be able to do that. It’s against the ethics & integrity of my role.” No, you don’t need to be apologetic. That’s generally the thing that people say when they are asked such requests. When you start by saying, “I’m sorry…”, it gets understood as, “I may help you, but I don’t know what to do. Give me sometime.” So don’t give room for assumptions. Be assertive.

Next, it’s time you set things straight with this manager. His fear of losing talented folks from his team may stem from many facts, including bad managing skills, not being proactive, having issues with feedback (taking & giving), not in sync with business decisions, or plain fear to communicate any type of news that might impact the team, among so many other things. For one, he should be taking control of things that can be controlled from his end. Exploring opportunities within the team/Company, honest performance reviews, transparency in dealing with issues, etc., Instead of trying to control factors that are not within his reach. Get this manager to attend a training program to help him manage better, if you have the budget. Else, it’s time you nominate someone internally within the Company to train him, like Karen Wise suggests in this guest post.

You cannot control /avoid external recruiters from reaching your employees. Period. Trying to do that will result in you wasting your time & efforts. Asking the HR to snoop around isn’t going to resolve an issue that has deeper roots in his managerial traits.