New book about tackling HR issues as a manager2021-05-10
A manager’s ability to successfully navigate problems in a way that inspires confidence can be crucial to how the solution turns out. Cooperation with HR specialists is key.
In their textbook “Chef och HR – att möta personalproblem tillsammans” (“Manager and HR – tackling personnel issues together”), Kristina Palm, visiting research fellow in Working Life Science at Karlstad Business School, and Dag Calminder, work environment and labour law consultant, use a new approach to put managers and HR consultants in complex situations.
- Parts of our textbook take the form of a novel, explains Kristina Palm. We’ve got these long sections of dialogue where we try to convey a sense of distress on the one hand and the possibility of turning a bad situation into something positive on the other. This approach opens to the door to more nuances in the conversation, especially in HR issues.
“Chef och HR – att möta personalproblem tillsammans” is based on five comprehensive cases, previous research on leadership and HR practices, and the authors’ own experiences.
- We spotted a gap for in the market for this book, says Kristina Palm. It takes a more hands-on approach to what kind of support management can get from HR while examining the HR perspective too – what kind of support do managers need and how can HR help?
Modern education on the subject is based on active students. This book uses cases that are described for up to 20 pages instead of confined to the more conventional info boxes usually featured in student literature.
- We want to strike a different chord, Kristina explains. For the students, it’s like being in the room and hearing different approaches to something that is sometimes perceived as a tough conversation. The authors prefer to call it a good conversation.
The name change from personnel office to HR office came with another change. Focus shifted from the individual to something that more closely resembles working with organisational business strategies. Kristina and Dag want HR offices to return to working more with people and thus create positive work environments.
- We can see that many organisations do not handle HR issues in a productive way. That tells me that the need is there. HR and leadership literature are two separate fields and there are few if any suggestions for how to fuse the two together. Basically, we want the book to encourage cooperation.
Examples from the book
One case features a person struggling with alcohol addiction. While the addiction itself is part of the problem, the story can also be viewed from a wider perspective. The person may have been allowed an excessive number of short-term absences without triggering a reaction from anyone.
- This is a common occurrence in many of the cases we highlight. Individuals are allowed too much freedom with no reaction from management or HR. That is often what makes these situations difficult. We also discuss ethics and the importance of standing up for those who are weaker.
Another example from the book is a person who, as far as the managers are concerned, is a high-performing, super-skilled employee. But in reality, the person’s duties have actually been performed by other people.
- This is another case of a situation being allowed to go on for too long. This particular instance also pushed a person to the brink of exhaustion. This type of matter is possibly the hardest for managers to handle, because it can be difficult to pinpoint the problem initially. For a manager, a good rapport with the staff members is essential when something like this happens. You often find out what’s going on through word of mouth and a manager has to be perceptive.
How does the book contribute to the research?
- The content about leadership is not news. However, we develop the HR content. We spent years developing a model called Utvecklande HR, which is largely built on Dag Calminder’s experience as an HR expert. That is one contribution of ours. Another is the link we create between HR and leadership. We haven’t hitched our wagon to a new trend but rather tried to see what already existed and worked off of that.
Kristina Palm emphasises the book’s significance as a textbook for students and source of knowledge to managers and HR specialists.
- I will always champion fearless managers, and University leaders especially should read this book. Supervisors in academia usually serve terms of a few years, and then one of their colleagues takes over. That can skew the power relationship. The way I see it, academia has far too many managers that are afraid to tackle personnel problems.