II am an engineer responsible for exercising the Human Resources (HR) function for our small company. Obviously, I have no technical training to carry out my current mission. The HR departments of our client companies are run by people with degrees in psychology, business management, accounting and law. I’m cold-eyed knowing this, even though I try to do my best, except I don’t understand how psychology can be applied to managing people. Could you please give me some examples? – Round ankle.
Psychiatrists say that during the thinking process blood is drawn from the feet to the brain, which suggests that this may explain why, when we think very long and hard about something, our eyes are cold. Some people like you may quibble about doing something that is not appropriate for your training. There is nothing wrong with it.
As long as you have an interest in learning, unlearning, and relearning, there is a lot you can do to understand and even excel at your job as an HR manager. It’s just a matter of time. This is if you want to continue doing this work.
One of the best approaches to leading an HR department is to read as much as possible about general management. You don’t have to limit yourself to HR topics. If you have taken any management engineering courses or similar courses, I think this is a good place to start.
I’m not going to confuse you with psychological terms to avoid intimidating you. I am not a psychologist either, but I prefer to be practical than theoretical. Not only will this prepare us better for learning, but it can also help you identify areas where you want to improve your performance as an HR manager. You can explore the following uses of psychology in managing people:
First, promote and practice employee empowerment. When your employees come to you with an operational problem, let them know that you know the solution (even if you don’t know it) because you don’t want to spoon feed them. Ask for their top three recommendations in order of priority. This way you will teach them to analyze the problems. You might be surprised to see your expectations exceeded while identifying workers you can rely on.
Two, admit you don’t know much. When you accept a weakness, people will understand you and respect you for your humility. If a worker comes to you to challenge the logic and practical application of a long-standing management policy, accept that you don’t have a ready-made answer. Then promise to review the contested policy, validate your findings, and with senior management’s consent, provide the requester with the response.
Third, be energetic and happy to talk to workers. If you usually do this, your employees will see you as an approachable and positive person, instead of the company police. When you’ve established a relationship and are aware of your body language, it should be easy for you to establish two-way communication, which is essential for uncovering potential issues.
Fourth, enlist the help of your shy workers. Such an approach will help you build their self-confidence. This way people will feel valued. It’s a good way for you to fatten up your emotional bank account with them. Ask for help even when you don’t need it. It’s also a great way to show your confidence and break the ice with difficult personalities. It may be difficult at first, but it’s not exactly impossible.
Fifth, recognize that a person has recognized their mistake. When a worker voluntarily comes to tell you information about a mistake they made, say something like this: “Thank you for your admission. It is a sign that you can be trusted and that you are ready to correct your mistakes. Such an answer is better than saying “it’s okay” when deep in your heart and mind it really isn’t. Your style will also encourage people to take calculated risks, instead of being reluctant to explore other things.
Six, encourage people to challenge your ideas. When giving instructions, don’t just ask questions. Instead, ask them if they have a better solution than the one you are presenting. Or, ask workers about potential problems they foresee. Some workers may feel uncomfortable giving an opposing point of view, but others may take the opportunity to shine. Whatever they do, they will accept you as an effective HR leader.
Finally, allow people to choose their work assignments. Give everyone plenty of options to suit their ability, style, taste, and schedule. Say something like this: “Here is easy task A with a tight two-day deadline and hard task B with a one-week deadline.” Feel free to choose which one and then let me know. They will feel in control; in reality, they don’t have a lot of choice because you have limited their options.
Managing people is an act of kindness with an expiration date. You have to be kind to everyone until they show that they don’t deserve it. Every step of the way, as a human resources specialist, you should be the first to create and maintain a work environment in which everyone respects everyone. You can’t go wrong with this basic premise.
A good example is Toyota’s “Respect for People” mantra, which is founded on the fundamental belief that they must “train good people first, before building good cars”. Even without Toyota in mind, you can easily figure this out by allowing workers to routinely share their ideas, suggestions, or even complaints with management.
If you really want to be successful as an HR professional even with your engineering degree, one of the basic tools you need to practice is active listening. It is an imperative element of participatory management which eliminates the traditional one-sided top-to-bottom leadership flow in some organizations. This is because you cannot have proactive, two-way communication unless you become an expert at actively listening to people at all levels.
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