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by HR Guy | March 10, 2009

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Dear HR Guy:
Our company has an HR Director who comes from a strictly full-time employee type of HR environment. However, our company is a contracting firm whose consultants work for on projects that last no more than six months and sometimes on short-term projects of two to three months.

As a result of these different HR environments, she is trying to implement policies that do not fit the industry we work in. We are becoming less competitive with other consulting/staffing firms in our industry and we are losing many of the incentives used by our recruiters to attract candidates.

Because she has over 15 years of experience in HR, she feels she knows what she is doing and does not take our issues into consideration. The situation has caused a lot of conflicts within our organization. What would you suggest that we do to get her to understand the difference between the two types of HR environments? Her policies work out wonderfully for us (internal employees), but are detrimental to our large consulting staff.

Sincerely,
Stuck in the middle

Dear Stuck:
The gist of this seems to be that the manager in question is not being flexible enough--she is applying rules and policies followed in a typical office environment to a class of people, who while employed by the company, do not work in a typical office environment. These employees--or more specifically, contractors--are used to working in environments that change constantly. This calls for a manager who can be adaptable.

Rules that may work well in the office with the internal employees will not always work with the contractors because their needs will vary depending on the project they're currently involved in. It sounds as if you will even have to allow some leeway regarding how you deal with indiviual contractors' circumstances. What works well for one contractor on one job many not work for another. Basically, dealing with the contractors requires an understanding of the type of work they do and the environments they work in. Knowing your clients well is also important, in case the manager is ever in the position of having to mediate a dispute between the contractor and the client.

Now, as for your problem with this specific manager, have you told her all the things I just said? Don't be afraid to sit her down and, in a non-confrontational manner, explain what the problems are. To make sure you all are on the same page, give examples, such as, "While it makes sense for the internal employees to be in the office by 8 a.m., it is inconvenient for the contractors to check in by this time because most of our client sites don't open until 9 a.m." She is probably already aware of the tension in the office, so let her know that not being more flexible regarding the needs of your contractors is causing problems internally and taking away from the growth of the business.

If after talking to her about improving the policies for contractors, things don't change, you have two options. You can either relieve her of duties, or if you really feel she's doing a great job aside from the contractor issue, you can give someone else the job of managing the contractors, while this HR manager remains in charge of the internal employees.

Good luck,
HR Guy

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Filed Under: Workplace Issues

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