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Of all the departments in an organization, human resources is one that many employees and leaders hold to a higher standard concerning relationship-building, internal and external customer service and respect in the workplace. An HR manager whose behavior doesn't embody the company's principles can be devastating, because it doesn't just affect retention of current employees and interdepartmental relationships. Inappropriate behavior from HR department leadership can make it difficult to attract qualified applicants and sustain productive alliances with everyone from outsource service providers to legal counsel. How you handle a rude HR manager largely depends on your role and position.
Relationships with peers often are based on shared business principles and values; working for the same organization in similar roles fosters a connection that you might not have with employees above you or staff that report to you. Provided you can speak candidly with your peers, you could be the ideal person to talk to an HR manager who others consider rude. Constructive feedback from a peer often is easier to swallow than feedback from a director and definitely easier than hearing criticism from a subordinate. Use your shared status, position and philosophy to tell your HR counterpart that her discourteous behavior is offensive to others.
Telling your boss that she's rude can be a difficult conversation, especially if you don't believe your relationship with her is a mutually respectful one. But if her rude behavior is directed toward you, you have an obligation to stand up for yourself. In a private conversation with your boss, explain that you're a contributing, valuable member of the HR team and that your expectation for being treated respectfully isn't unreasonable. Avoid accusatory language and confrontation and be able to provide concrete examples of times when you've sensed her rudeness.
Holding employees accountable for their behavior and actions is challenging, especially when your employee is a manager who's supposed to know the proper code of conduct and workplace guidelines. Directors and executive leaders -- anyone who supervises the work of department managers -- have just as much of an obligation to provide constructive feedback as managers do for their staff. In private, talk to the HR manager about how her behavior can affect employees' attitudes about HR, which often is shaky to begin with, and encourage her to embrace a pleasant disposition that's in tune with the company's values and business philosophy. Back up your constructive feedback with ways she can improve, and explain that she's responsible for molding others' perceptions of HR.
Being a trusted subordinate has its rewards and its responsibilities. When you're in a subordinate role to an HR manager who others complain is rude and if you're truly interested in your boss's success, describe how HR department staff and the rest of the organization interpret her actions and behavior. Refrain from sharing information with her about department employees in a tattler-like manner -- your goal is to help your boss improve, not to expose your co-workers for complaining about her.
Ruth Mayhew has been writing since the mid-1980s, and she has been an HR subject matter expert since 1995. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry," and she has been cited in numerous publications, including journals and textbooks that focus on human resources management practices. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Ruth resides in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.