The HR Juggler

International Influencing

Posted on: November 26, 2010

This week I was present during a tough conversation with an internationally remote team of three people, in which the UK manager told them their roles would be made redundant.  For a number of reasons, everything that could have gone wrong in the lead-up to this conversation did: a local Finance colleague took it upon himself to email the most senior person affected to say he was sorry she was leaving (she didn’t herself know at this point….!), the local HR person got held up and was late for the meeting, which meant we had to go ahead and explain the situation without her.  And the process felt brutal delivered over the phone, with the members of staff having to leave immediately, hand over all their work assets and be gone out of the building with immediate effect.  All in all it was shabby and both the manager and I knew it. That the individuals concerned accepted the news and did not berate us, was a credit to their professionalism and conduct.  The values we tried to bring felt shallow, inadequate and insincere in this context.

So, what to learn from this? People are people and should be treated consistently and humanely, regardless of where their office is based and how many of them there are there.  Sure, we have to adhere to local employment law, but if we as HR can’t find a way to influence the process so that it is done compassionately and appropriately, then shame on us.  More homework should have been done, more consideration given to how the news would be delivered and what the follow-up would be and whether there was room for negotiation in influencing the local HR team’s guidelines to bring them more in line with our own.

Influencing remote HR teams is one of the hardest part of my role, as I have no direct management control over them and they often sit in entirely different divisions.  The basics such as payroll and benefits happen smoothly and well, but there is so much room for improvement in sharing best practice and building closer relationships to truly understand how each other work.  The simple truth of this is that you don’t know what you don’t know…until you put it to the test and find out the hard way, as I did yesterday.

2 Responses to "International Influencing"

Ahh when things go wrong…..if you don’t feel for people in circumstances like this then you should get out of the profession….in fact get out of humankind. But then the experience is also one that makes us better and stronger in the long run regardless of how senior we are. I always tell my teams that making mistakes will make them better even when it isn’t their fault. God knows, I’ve made and continue to make them.

Thanks for commenting Theo. You are, of course, right. It’s just always sobering when you know it could and should have been so much better. But seniority is no gurantee of getting things right, and it doesn’t do any of us any harm to be reminded of that from time to time… 😉

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