Setting Boundaries as an HR Office

The customer is not always right! I repeat the customer is not always right. This adage may have some truth to it as customers can point out gaps in service. However, customers (and I mean employees that are serviced by your HR office) can be a bit unnerving and downright rude at times. A great way ahead to mend broken relationships and set a new standard of behavior for your office is to set boundaries. The goal here as an individual and a team is to be assertive, not aggressive.  To stand up for ourselves while remaining professional, not giving in to human emotion.  Setting boundaries can address the lack of accountability, teachability, and consistency on all sides.  As Human Resources, we are the internal consultants of our organizations as we should always be active participants in positive change and enhancing the culture. Here are ways to set boundaries in your environment;

  1. Set Customer Service Hours:  setting customer service hours helps the office take care of customers in the most efficient manner. Customers should know what time the HR office can assist them. It helps our staff prepare mentally for those times and to help prevent burn out. It is not your job to be accessible all the time, but when you are, you will be attentive, energized, and ready to complete all tasks. Don’t you hate when someone comes to take care of essential matters during lunchtime or when you were getting ready to leave for the day? If their concerns are significant to them, employees will speak with their supervisors to set aside a time during set customer service hours to take care of it. 
  2. Educate: update all policies, forms, and Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and provide them to all employees. These updates inform everyone of the new standard and implement the correct expectations for requests and deliverables. Before you can hold anyone accountable, educate the organization on the new expectations and their responsibilities. Customers should know what forms and documentation they should bring for each request as well as where to locate those documents. The timeline for how long it takes to process each action should be provided as well. There will be a learning curve, old habits take a while, and change will always bring out frustration. We know the reason for the process, and we will always be ready to explain and hold to our guidelines moving forward.
  3. Say NO!: as internal consultants, we assist the staff of the organizations in making legal decisions by sticking to the regulations. When something should not be done or cannot be processed by the HR office, the correct answer will always be NO. Regardless of the rank/title requesting said actions, if it is wrong, unethical do not do it! For the budding stars, being a people pleaser will get you but so far. Handle the duties that are within your scope and forward everything outside of it to the appropriate party. The best way to advance in your job is to do precisely that. By over-delivering, you are taking on another department’s responsibilities, you are over-stepping and creating an unfair expectation for your counterparts who stick to the newly set standard.
  4. Absolutely No Favors!: this is probably the biggest obstacle in a lot of offices, but moving forward do not do any favors. Once a favor has been rendered, it is no longer a once in a lifetime thing, it becomes the new way of business. You have unofficially set a new SOP and new expectations. Employees are like kids they remember and will always come back and ask for more. Save yourself the headache later and deal with the problem in front of you and stick to guidelines. Favors also have a way of coming back to bite you in you know what!

Once these boundaries are in place, there is no going back. If the office is closed when someone comes and asks for help, you tell them the office will be open for business at a specific time, and they can come back then.  Establishing and publishing new customer service hours means you must be in place and ready at those times PERIOD! We must be accountable first before we hold our customers to any standard. We will lead from the front with action!

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