• Mike Burke

Have you ever had an employee issue that's been brewing, blow up in your face at the exact wrong time?

When your boss or Human Resources found out about it, was this the first time they were aware it was going on.

Spending time getting to know your Human Resources people and having them know you and your challenges can make or break your management career.

Early in my career, all human resources activity went through my boss.

He would filter everything and work with HR for all my issues, good and bad.

The bad was that I didn't get to tell my story.

Did you ever get the feeling a situation wasn't explained in a way that benefited you?

I wanted my Human Resources people to see what my challenges, and also my successes were firsthand.

It wasn't easy because Human Resources always has a lot on their plate.

Plus, I was always afraid if I did let HR know what was going on under the surface of my department, they would judge me.

One day, my boss was meeting with Julie, our Human Resources manager, in his office with the door open.

Sammy and Billy were two of my employees that couldn't agree on anything.

On that particular day, and at that specific moment, they decided they needed to have a screaming match in the middle of the office.

It was humiliating.

When I saw Julie leave, and with my tail between my legs, I tiptoed into my bosses office and asked for a favor.

I said, "obviously, you heard the commotion between Billy and Sammy."

He grimaced and said, "it was hard to miss!"

I said, "yea, I know. I'm wondering if you'd support me on something?"

He said, "what?"

I said, "as part of my development as a manager, I think it would help my growth to work with HR more closely."

With a perplexed look on his face, he asked, "how will that help your development?"

I said, "well, in a couple of ways."

"First, I'll be able to get advice before something like today happens."

I could see he was thinking, "so, you're saying my advice doesn't work for you?"

So, I pivoted and said, "Plus, I'll have an opportunity to get to know what Human Resources goals are, and how I can help support them."

There was an uncomfortable dead silence.

It was like he is looking straight through me.

Then he jumped up and said, "OK, I'll call Julie and tell her you'll be in touch."

I made a list of my most pressing people issues, and when I met with Julie, I went over the top three.

That's when she offered to do something that changed everything.

She said, "You know what Mike, my boss is all over me to get out in the field more."

"Would you mind letting me get to know your people a little better?"

"This way, we can start working on your issues, and I'll get a firsthand look at what you are dealing with."

In the back of my mind, I thought, "this could make me look horrible."

But I had to trust that Julie was looking out for my best interests, so I said, "sure, what do you have in mind?"

I'll admit, at first, when my team saw human resources in our department regularly, they didn't know what to think.

People would come to me and say things like, "are you OK? Why is Julie here so much?"

Then they would ask, "am I OK? Why is Julie here so much?"

But here's the great thing that happened.

Julie not only became someone I could confide in; she also became my biggest supporter to upper management.

Plus, together, we fixed problems that had been going on for years once and for all.

I wouldn't have had half the success in my career without the advice and support of Julie, and other exceptional Human Resources people I had the opportunity to work with over the years.

When I was given responsibility to turnaround divisions of International Paper, Human Resources wasn't just someone that gave me advice; they were a partner in my challenges and successes.

©2020 by Mike Burke Management.