I like to solve puzzles and work out problems. Sometimes (okay, more than I want to admit) I even tackle those that don’t belong to me…I want to be that resource, that person that comes up with the obvious solution to an issue that others are struggling with.
And I do this at home. Especially with my kids.
My first reaction when they tell me about a problem they have is to offer suggestions or, at the very least, try to give them direction in how they can find the problem. This of course is not the right thing to do. One, because I’m a parent and as such, pretty much know nothing. And two, because in reality, they aren’t telling me so that I will solve their problems – they just want someone to listen to them.
Zip it. Check.
Then there is the matter of playing referee. Parents of more than one child will recognize that it’s really not fun to listen to bickering. All. The. Time. My kids are four years apart and in all honesty it might as well be 400 years. We are talking different worlds…boy, girl, pre-teen, teen….Yeah, no shortage of witty banter in our household.
My son in particular is a less tolerant of his older sister. He takes great pleasure in pointing out all her flaws, quirks, and things that generally annoy him. It is not unusual to hear them arguing and that is where I generally join the fray. Diplomatically, of course.
One evening I was at a loss with what to say and just asked my son what would help him potentially get along with his sister more. His response, “When we are arguing – just let us be. Let us sort it out. It makes it worse when you step in”.
Ouch. That was the feel of the obvious slapping me across the face.
So simple, so obvious and yet it was someone else who made the suggestion. Someone who was a participant, someone who was much more involved in the situation and understood the dynamics at play. Me? I was an outside person who was just mildly irritated by the noise and so sure that I knew how things should be. After all, I am the parent.
And how often do we do this at work? We have managers that come to us to talk and we assume that we need to take on the challenge of resolving issues in their department. Or when we become aware of tensions between employees/managers and assume we know the best course of action, we jump in uninvited. After all, we are in HR.
HR’s role is not to sit in the ivory tower and dole out words of wisdom, nor are we meant to put on the striped shirt of a referee. We are there as a sounding board and resource so that everyone else can deal with their own issues. As a parent, I need and want my kids to be capable of dealing with stuff on their own…as HR, I should expect no less from the managers/employees I work with.