Once upon a time, I thought I had to do all the work myself. Asking for help felt like a weakness. I learned the hard way this is a sure-fire way to stress out, burn out and completely overwhelm myself. Now I am all about delegating tasks! In the end, as long as the work gets done and the goal is met, it doesn’t matter who does it.
Late last year, we made some changes in our department that required me to take on more work and delegate tasks to other people. One of the things I gave up was responding to requests for information on terminated employees. I used to get a subpoena for something, request the file from storage, make copies and send it wherever it needed to go. Now, the administrative assistant for the Payroll department does all that.
Also late last year, we had an employee who was in a serious boating accident and ended up running out of FMLA time before he recovered so his employment was terminated. The guy is still disabled and now suing the person that caused the accident. We got a request for a letter and some time sheets and schedules to help him prove lost wages and hardship. The assistant requested the info from storage to put it all together for him.
A few weeks later, the guy calls me, asking for help with the information again. He said what the assistant sent him wasn’t helpful. I asked him to send me what she’d sent him — and he was right, it wasn’t helpful. When I asked the assistnant what happened, she told me it was going to take too much of her time to try to put all that data together.
I was mad.
This is how HR gets the reputation for being unhelpful and useless in organizations. We get lazy and annoyed at the routine, little things so we begin to take shortcuts or find excuses not to do the work — and the disdain shows in the outcome.
What we have to keep in mind is that routine, annoying request isn’t little or annoying to the person on the receiving end. To that person, it means everything. We have a duty to honor that. This guy’s survival was dependent on getting complete, accurate information from us. We failed him. That isn’t ok.
The likelihood for errors go up even more when we farm out our duties to 3rd parties and HR Fauxs. True HR professionals understand the importance of being thorough, accurate and compassionate to keep integrity in the work we do to establish and maintain a positive, productive reputation for our department and our function.
With all this on the line, we have to go the extra mile. Honestly, the extra mile isn’t that far! A few more minutes of time and a couple more boxes from storage and we could have given that man all the information he needed and then some! So I sent the assistant back to finish the job and followed up to make sure it was completed properly this time. Part of me wanted to take it from her and do it myself, but I didn’t. Because I can’t do everything myself and she needs to understand the level of work expected from her when assisting the HR department.
Initially, she was mad that she had to go back and request the information. But in the end, like all of us, she was glad she was able to help the person get what he needed. That’s what going the extra mile is all about!