Can HR have friends beyond its own team?

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HR cannot afford to remain aloof in an organisation nor can it toe the line when it comes to maintaining professional boundaries.

Human resource is one function in an organisation that cannot be confined to a role within its own department. It cuts across verticals, which calls for a personal connect at the employee level. Be it talent acquisition that may require generating leads within the teams, compensation management or redressal of employee grievances, HR holds critical and sensitive information about various departments. However, the proximity or friendship of the HR personnel with employees in the organisation can raise questions around its objectivity.

Considering its inherent human role, HR cannot afford to detach itself from its counterparts. Most HR leaders do not subscribe to such boundaries.

“HR should closely work with business, design people practices and also champion the cause of employees. HR has to remain part of the larger goals and requirements of businesses. HR in isolation is useless—a mere admin function,” says Richard Lobo, executive vice-president & head-human resources, Infosys.

HR leaders believe that being friendly with the employees helps them open up, thereby making it easier for HR to handle employee grievance. Also, employees feel more comfortable and free to discuss their work-related concerns.

Richard Lobo

HR should closely work with business, design people practices and also champion the cause of employees. HR has to remain part of the larger goals and requirements of businesses. HR in isolation is useless—a mere admin function.

During performance management, in the presence of a friendly HR, employees are better prepared to take work-related feedback more positively. Such constant feedback provides them a sense of direction and boosts motivation.

HR is also a trusted partner to business teams. This means, they have to bring empathy, warmth and expertise into their association, which is seen as friendship. However, there is a need to maintain the professional boundaries even if an individual is likely to be inclined towards friends.

“HR has a role to play, which at no point can be compromised. So the line needs to be drawn when a friendship at work leads to a compromise in the core ethos/sanctity of the HR role,” says Geethaa Ghaneckar CHRO, Raheja Universal.

While HR can and should develop friendships with an aim to increase productivity and corporate belongingness, drawing the limits can be slightly tricky.

Geethaa Ghaneckar

HR has a role to play, which at no point can be compromised. So the line needs to be drawn when a friendship at work leads to a compromise in the core ethos/sanctity of the HR role.

HR also acts as a moral custodian of human values. There can be checks and balances in the system, where seniors can step in to counsel and train employees on their behaviour and how not to be perceived as too casual.

“It is important to guide young talent in the HR team and groom them on this critical aspect of HR. Just as we know our limits with friends, similarly, we need to draw a line with our colleagues at work, and be well aware of what information to share and what not,” said Rachan K, associate director-HR, Markelytics Solutions.

Anil Misra

HR carries out a critical function of maintaining confidentiality of information. Breaching that line by leaking salary or increment-related data is a fundamental violation of its code of conduct. Such behaviour is deemed irresponsible and attracts zero tolerance. Appropriate action is required in such cases, which can also lead to termination of employees in extreme cases.

There is a strict conduct pertaining to behaviour of HR professionals, wherein employees cannot toe the line. In an office setup, politics can’t be ignored, but HR professionals are expected to demonstrate the maturity required to create a distinction between their personal and professional lives. The personal relationship with colleagues at the workplace and the values as an HR professional should not clash at any time, believe HR leaders.

“HR carries out a critical function of maintaining confidentiality of information. Breaching that line by leaking salary or increment-related data is a fundamental violation of its code of conduct. Such behaviour is deemed irresponsible and attracts zero tolerance. Appropriate action is required in such cases, which can also lead to termination of employees in extreme cases,” says Anil Kumar Misra, CHRO, Magicbricks.com.

Some believe it is all about managing the boundaries in one’s own mind; that it all depends upon how an HR professional implements the practices, policies and experiences without being partial, and while staying true to work.

Normally, business experiences a love–hate relationship with HR. It is never a loved department in any industry. But can it be trusted? Yes, it can certainly be.

 

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