Walking the tightrope is part of the everyday reality of human resources work. It occurs when the human resources professional tries to serve both managers and rank-and-file employees with the same passion. Especially when adversarial relationships exist between employers and employees in an organization, the dual allegiance of the human resources professional can lead to conflicts and push him or her into a tight spot. If the situation does not get managed properly, it can turn one's career into a mess. While employees may hate the human resources professional because they consider him or her a puppet of management, managers may feel disgusted with the human resources professional for giving in too easily to employee demands.
Neither of these views will bolster the career of the human resources professional. So how should he or she tackle this key challenge?
Research shows that to walk the human resources tightrope successfully it is necessary to gain self-knowledge, which involves defining one's values and setting boundaries.
For the human resources professional, there are two easy ways by which such knowledge can be gained: through introspection and by continually asking for honest feedback from peers and superiors.
Gaining self-knowledge will assist the human resources professional with avoiding actions that displease either employees or managers. The human resources professional consciously needs to develop a yardstick that gauges the extent to which values can be compromised.
However, clarity comes with experience and with the understanding that one is expected to do one's job and not expected to please everybody—that may be desirable, but it is not part of the job. To perform well in human resources, one must be ready to deal with value conflicts and to deal with them properly. To avoid damaging your career, you will need to:
- be knowledgeable about your own values
- understand the priorities of your organization
- determine how well the priorities of your organization match your own values, career goals, job goals, and preferences
- work around personal priorities to align them with organizational priorities