HR = service. Good service = happy customers. Good HR = happy customers. Unhappy customers = bad HR.
Are you buying it? Don't. You can't make all of the people happy all of the time and if your expectations are any different, take my advice and lower the bar. In the myriad of interactions in a typical day, with competing demands, unreasonable time lines and conflicting expectations, it is unrealistic to expect that you will be able to make everyone happy.
It is realistic, however, to expect you to consciously choose which relationships you manage and how. Whether you are aware of it or not, you are already making these choices. I was and I was not aware.
An employee requests advanced sick leave. Supervisor and service line director recommend disapproval of the request. I receive the request to verify the technical accuracy of the request on it's way to the Director for approval or disapproval. I do not agree with the recommended disapproval. I share my concerns with the supervisor. We agree to disagree. I consider speaking with the service line director but I choose not to. Union chooses otherwise, service line director was not aware of the whole story and now recommends approval. HR Officer kicks herself.
Why? I knew the same information the Union did yet did not take it beyond the first line supervisor. If I had gone further, management could have done the right thing without the union having to get involved and without unnecessarily upsetting the employee. Not a lot of smiles going on around this.
Why did I accept us agreeing to disagree on the issue? Well, I told myself, I had no reason to doubt that a set of informed decisions was made and felt that it was not appropriate for me to go above her at that point. I had my say and a decision was made by a person with the authority to make it. Well, I told myself, I was managing relationships and I was managing them properly by following the chain of command. Blah, blah, blah, my self explanations were just not doing it and this reasoning was not quieting the inner voice that kept nagging at me. What was I missing?
From out of the blue, there it was, my AHA in this. I was not managing relationships, I was managing a relationship. I was managing my relationship with a first line supervisor. I was not managing my relationship with the service line director, the director, the Union, the employee, or really even myself. Inner voice is quieting so I must be getting closer . . . . did I choose this relationship over any of the others? I didn't make a choice, did I? You know what? I think I did. Hence, the kick. And the learning.
In the face of interacting, colliding, competing, and complimenting relationships it's about being aware of what lies before you. It's about making tough, conscious choices about which relationships you will manage and just how you will do that.
You can't make everyone happy. It's all about managing the smiley face and there simply are not enough smiley faces to go around. Use them wisely and remember to keep one for yourself.