Blog: How I made my first employee cry!

Managing people is easy… right? HR blogger Angela Atkins ponders some of the big questions in HR, with some surprising insights.

Blog: How I made my first employee cry!
If I had a dollar for every time a person, on finding that I’m a published author says ‘I could write a book!’ then I’d probably have more money than from actually being published!

The thing is, anyone could write a book. You just have to pick up a pen & paper/laptop/tablet/phone and put words down. It’s as easy as that but also as hard as that. It does take a lot of time and to write a good book? Think 10,000 hours of practise.

And so in fact while you could do it, it’s not so certain that you will do it, or should do it.

The same thing applies with managing people and I think to a lesser degree, working in HR. Managing people seems like something anyone could do. We’re all people right? How hard can it be?

I made my first employee cry.
I’m not proud of it. In my first HR manager role I was able to employ a full time HR Advisor but I had very little experience of managing. My HRA made lots of mistakes I kept picking those out and telling her to correct them. It ended in me writing a memo and her in floods of tears. I’d completely undermined her self–confidence by not seeing the things she was getting right.

I have improved drastically since then. Will managing people stay as part of my responsibilities? Yes probably. Should I continue to do it? No, despite writing the book on it, I’m not very good at it. At Elephant we’ve structured our business so that our team report to Lisa Hunter and only have a dotted line to me. Lisa was my manager many years ago and is brilliant at it. It’s definitely something she should do and will continue to do!
Working in HR also seems like something anyone could do.

I had no idea what HR was when I got into it!!
I recently presented a two part webinar series on HR for non-HR Managers. In two hours I covered off all the operational HR things that you need to know (none of which I knew when I started in HR) but that doesn’t take into account all the other skills you need – communications, problem solving, relationship management, strategic thinking etc. Those things take much more time to develop.

So yes, you could do it but there’s a lot more to it than it looks like (although if you’ve read my previous blog you’ll know one of the issues with HR is that it’s a type 3 role – it seems like anyone can do it and you can’t see the results). And whether you should? Luckily by chance, I’m good at HR but I know many people who don’t even like the profession they’re in and shouldn’t be doing it.

So what’s the point of all this?
Next time you see or hear about something that you think ‘I could do that!’ just step back and ask yourself: “Will I really do it?” (Do you have the motivation when it gets hard?) and “Should I do it?” (Are you suited for it?)

These are questions I don’t think we ask ourselves enough and have certainly changed how I work – for the better. And if you’re the next person who tells me you could write a book – I’m going to ask you to pay me a dollar. You have been warned!

Angela Atkins is the general manager of Elephant HR. The published author has worked in HR for more than 17 years in a variety of sectors. This blog posting originally appeared on Atkins personal blog hrmanagementbites. To read the full posting click here.

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