3 Ways to Strengthen Relationships with Human Resources Partners

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Over the last 10 years, I’ve talked with many healthcare leaders about their attempts to hold employees accountable for professional behavior. When they FINALLY decide to terminate an employee because of disruptive behaviors, they hit a brick wall in the Human Resource Department. HR often tells them that they don’t have enough evidence to support termination or haven’t counseled the employee enough.

However, it’s not always HR’s fault.

I’ve talked with a lot of HR representatives and learned that what you think is a brick wall, isn’t necessarily put there solely by HR but rather, it’s built, brick by brick by the leader who doesn’t present a strong case and doesn’t understand the process involved in actually terminating an employee.

How can we do better?

The Human Resource department plays an integral role in supporting a healthy workforce. However, it’s rare to find an organization that fosters building relationships between their HR and healthcare leaders.  Yet, you need both the leader and HR to address disruptive employees and hold them accountable.

If you truly want to cultivate a healthy workforce and hold employees accountable for their behavior, follow this process to strengthen your relationship with your HR representatives:

1. Grab a cup of coffee

Schedule a coffee meeting with them to start building a relationship. Let your HR representatives know your goal is to create a healthy workforce and that you want to partner with them to do that.  Your HR representatives can be a valuable resource to you when facing complex situations involving employees.

While sipping your favorite latte, you can engage in a conversation, as colleagues, about the type of culture you’re trying to create in your department. It’s about inspiring a shared vision together of what your department COULD look like.

2. Agree on a process

Discuss when you’ll let your HR representatives know about an incident with an employee. Do they want to know about every incident or just wants a heads up after you’ve given a verbal or written warning? What are some of the behaviors they want to know about immediately and which ones aren’t as important (physical violence versus eye-rolling and gossip)? Make sure you all agree to how and when you’ll communicate about employee behaviors.  View your HR representatives as an extension of yourself.

3. Ask what they need from you

ASK what your HR representatives need from you to ensure that IF you want to terminate an employee for disruptive behavior, they will support you. Don’t wait until you’re ready to fire the person to let HR know about it. Partnering early with HR works!

This is where you can ask them about policies, how to document, and what to include in the employee’s performance review related to behavior, especially if the review doesn’t specifically include behavioral elements. The key is to ask them what they need from you IF you’ve decided to therapeutically extract an employee for bad behavior.

Success Example

Becky, one of the leaders in my online program followed my recommendations for partnering with her HR representative. They met for coffee, talked about a process for addressing incidents of disruptive behaviors, and made collaborative decisions about when Becky would give her HR representative a “heads up” on an employee issue.

This partnership came in handy when dealing with a nursing assistant (NA) who was extremely disruptive in Becky’s department. This assistant had worked in her department for about a year, but Becky really didn’t address her behavior. Becky followed the recommendations I taught in the course for how to address incidents of disruptive behaviors. She set behavioral expectations and documented her conversations. However, the NA misbehaved again. So Becky counseled her, reinforced expectations, and documented again. However, this time, she contacted her HR representative to give her the heads up. Becky shared what she already documented and the conversations she had with this employee and asked what she would recommend.  “What would you suggest I do as a next step?” Becky asked. Her HR representative recommended an action plan if she misbehaved again. Sure enough, just a week later, the NA misbehaved which prompted Becky to contact HR and together, they created an action plan. As partners, they both delivered the plan to the employee, and both documented. Two weeks later, the employee misbehaved and they were able to terminate her on the spot.

Had Becky not involved her HR representative until she wanted to terminate the NA, she may have had some difficulty. However, by bringing HR in earlier in the process, the termination was expedited – less work, less stress for all!!!

Sometimes it feels like leaders and HR are oil and water – we don’t mix. However, when you think about it, healthcare leaders and HR representatives are on the same team; we want the same things – for employees to bring their best selves to work every day. It’s just that we each play a different role in an organization and see employee behavioral issues through a different set of lenses.

It’s time that we SEE ourselves as partners and support each other to ensure a healthy workforce culture.

To find out how you can enroll in the Healthy Workforce Academy’s Online Program, Eradicating Bullying & Incivility: Essential Skills for Healthcare Leaders, please contact us at:

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