Are you HR or an employee? The answer is yes.

A family member recently had a health scare that had me worried, and for a moment I thought I might be needing some time off to care for them. As I was working things out in my head, I suddenly realized – this could qualify for FML! I am a DOO in a small organization, and I’m the one who administers and tracks our FML. It doesn’t seem ethical, however, to approve or track that for myself.

Thankfully my family member is fine, so FML isn’t an issue for me right now. But it still got me to thinking about how it would work should I ever need it. I reached out to my colleagues on SHRM Connect (a great resource, by the way) and got some good advice. I’ve identified someone in finance/payroll who is not part of my reporting chain, and I’m giving them a crash course in FML requirements so should the need arise, they’ll be able to cover me.

As a DOO, there are lots of things I’m solely responsible for when it comes to the employee lifecycle, employee relations, and engagement. Sometimes it can be easy to forget that I’m also an employee that needs to be engaged and taken care of. I suspect I’m not alone in this. When you spend your time thinking about your staff’s professional development needs, do you include yourself? When you do an engagement survey, you certainly want to consider the results from an organizational perspective. But do you take the survey and answer as an employee? Your individual feedback is as important as anyone else’s.

How do you remember to consider yourself an employee who has the same right to benefit from HR as anyone else that you are serving?

On the flip side, sometimes it can be a challenge to put your own needs as an employee aside. I’ve been in meetings discussing changes to health benefits or leave policies that are going to negatively impact me, even though they are good changes for the company strategically and good for most of the workforce. It takes a conscious decision to set my own situation to the side and make the right decision for the good of the rest.

How do you separate your needs as an employee and do what’s right as the voice of HR for your organization?

While these issues might be more apparent to those of us who are sole practitioners, they are true for all of us who are both employees and HR pros. It’s impossible to fully integrate yourself as an employee separate from your HR hat, but it’s equally impossible to use that HR hat to hide your own interests as an employee. It’s important to remember that you are a real person under that hat, but equally important to remember the responsibility you’ve taken when you put the hat on. There’s no perfect answer to this tightrope we walk, but it’s important that we recognize the tension for what it is, and thoughtfully respond to situations in a way that acknowledges our whole selves.

One thought on “Are you HR or an employee? The answer is yes.

  1. I’m seeing this myself from the opposite end of the table. I’ve received plenty of calls from employees whose health benefits applications take 4-6 weeks to process, but who need coverage immediately – they’ll get it retroactively. In an organization with 140,000 employees, and perhaps half a dozen benefits specialists, I understand why there’s a waiting period. But when someone has a new baby or is awaiting a lung transplant, my advice to pay out of pocket and file for reimbursement doesn’t go over well, though it’s the only option. I’ll be applying for coverage shortly in the middle of dealing with an issue, and I also don’t want to pay out of pocket. Sometimes, there’s no work-around. It reminds me of a line in The Godfather, when Michael asks the Don how to say no to someone. Don Corleone says you mustn’t say it often, and try to make it sound like yes.


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