Working With HR Clients From Hell? Here Are Two Quick Tips For Dealing With Them…

Working With HR Clients From Hell? Here Are Two Quick Tips For Dealing With Them…

By Alan Collins | successinhr.Com/hr-clients-from-hell

On a few occasions, I’ve had the delightful privilege of working with the client from hell.

You know the type…

The client that doesn’t think HR can do anything right.
The client you dread getting telephone calls from.
The client, who when his or her name pops up on your phone, you feel like throwing up before answering the call.
The client that you lay awake the night before trying to figure out a way to avoid meeting with the next day.
The client that no matter what you do, no matter what HR heroics you pull off, will find something to beat you up for.

You feelin’ me?

As an HR professional, you’ll work with a lot of clients. Obviously, 95% of them will be terrific and won’t have horns or carry a pitchfork.

Here’s the point: One of the best things you’ll ever do for your HR career is to seek out and work with the Tonys of the world. There are lots of them out there — in all organizations, at all levels — from Warehouse Manager to CEO.

These clients are looking for great HR folks also. They want to partner with those who share and can help them realize their own visions for their organizations.

But make no mistake about it, clients like Tony are very demanding and won’t hesitate to kick you in the butt too…but in the process will also grow you, stretch you, challenge you, inspire you, nurture you and give you tough love along the way. And that’s what you want.

Now, having seen Tony, let’s get back to the original point of this article: What do you do to address clients from hell?  Two quick tips.

1. Avoid them in the first place.

When you’re interviewing for that new HR job, interview the company as hard as they are interviewing you. Ask insightful and tough questions to the business leader of the client group you’ll be supporting.

If the business leader or your main client is too busy to meet with you, that’s a big red flag.

And, again, a poor match will make your HR life a living hell. If you don’t know what to look for when interviewing your clients, it’s easy. You want to try and get as close to a Tony as you can.

2. If you’re already in a bad client relationship, start your exit strategy.

You want to pull the plug on this assignment ASAP. Your options: Transfer. Post for a new job. Have a candid discussion with your boss about another client or assignment. Leave the organization. Or offer to job swap with some other unsuspecting HR colleague (hey, just kidding!).

Either way, whatever you do, don’t fall in the trap of trying to fix this person. Research conducted by the Center For Creative Leadership reveals that trying to change your client is a waste of time – especially if they’ve been around awhile and their behavior has been tolerated. So stop wishing he or she will change and put your own needs first.

If your exit from this role is going to take some time, don’t be vindictive. Be patient and bide your time. Continue to give this jerk the same responsive, professional, value-added HR support that you always have. Just because you’re getting crapped on, is no excuse to return the favor.

However, don’t plan to stay in this role long. In volatile times with downsizing still occurring in many organizations, you never can tell how much weight this madman’s perceptions will be given in HR layoff decisions.

Let me be clear: the “personal development,” “character building” and the +5% compensation bribe…er, increase you might get to work with bad clients is overrated. It may sound great at the time, but isn’t worth it. Whatever you gain developmentally is offset by the hit you take to your HR reputation, your personal self-esteem and your mental sanity.

Life’s too short.

Avoid toxic clients at all costs.

You deserve better.

Onward!

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