The “Human” in Human Resources – Treating Employees with Respect


“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou

This is one of my favorite quotes. It encompasses the spirit of the HR profession. No HR professional is perfect because we are human after all. Employees certainly assume that our department will never miss a beat. Most HR professionals I interact with put an enormous amount of effort into accuracy and timeliness. Yet, every so often, mistakes are made and the impact is colossal. Our mistakes affect a person’s paycheck, promotional opportunities, performance evaluation, medical benefits and the like. Major life stuff, right?

Surprisingly, I’ve also found employees to be very forgiving if after a mistake is made the response is timely and the communication to the employee is handled with genuine concern for the employee’s well being. Remember we are in the HUMAN resources business. Liking people is the main job requirement. Caring about people is welcomed in this profession.

Once an employee I released from employment saw me out at the grocery store. I tried my best not to make eye contact but that didn’t work. I decided just to speak and said hi. Although somewhat uneasily, he engaged me in conversation and actually thanked me for talking with him about the behaviors that led to his termination. He said that no one had ever explained things quite that way and he plans on doing better if given a chance to land another job. On another occasion I had a coworker tell me that I was the first person she worked with that made people feel positive following a disciplinary conversation. There really is no magic to any of this. It’s simple. Our parents, teachers, religious leaders and other authority figures have drilled this simple principle into our psyche forever – Treat others (employees) the way you would like to be treated. They will always remember HOW you made them feel.

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