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Focus on the Elephant, not the Poop, to Improve a Shaky HM or HRBP Relationship

Along with all your other recruiting responsibilities comes the need to have what could be called “critical conversations” with your HMs and/or HRBPs when they do not seem to be ignoring you, going around you, leaving you out of important meetings, etc.– in other words, not treating you like a business partner.

That somewhat dysfunctional relationship is the elephant. The situations that are a result of the elephant are the POOP. But if you only talk about the poop, people get to ignore the elephant.

When you focus on just the situation, it is unlikely that the elephant gets addressed. YOU may think you addressed the elephant, but the other person is probably thinking you made a big deal over a little poop.

Of course the relationship won’t fix itself. And the longer you wait, the more difficult it will be for you to do more than vent when you finally do talk to the other person.

Katie’s story may help.

Katie knew that one of the HRBPs (let’s call her Joan) with whom she worked didn’t seem to have much respect for her. There was marginal cool politeness but the HRBP’s behavior relegated Katie to an order taker, not a partner. You know how you get that feeling where it feels like someone is cutting you out of the relationship? Trust that feeling!

The situation that finally drove Katie to want to take action occurred when Joan told Katie one of the HMs was unhappy with Katie. Probably because the HM had a stronger relationship with Joan, the HM had gone to her and never did talk to Katie. Joan had told him she would take care of the situation. Yes, HR people are often eager to resolve issues and not think about the implications on the relationship of the two main characters.

If Joan had been on the same team with Katie, she might have encouraged the HM to talk to Katie first, or perhaps had Katie join the conversation. But to talk to the HM without Katie made it feel like Joan was going around her and cutting Katie out of an important meeting—and subtly subverting Katie’s relationship and credibility with the HM.

So after we talked, Katie was ready to talk to the HRBP. My advice? Don’t focus on that one meeting with the HM. Yes, it was the catalyst, and wasn’t the preferred way, for Joan to handle the situation. It was more important to keep the conversation focused on the bigger picture of how they could function as a team.

If Katie just talked about that one situation, the HRBP may not see that this was about more than a HM talking to her about Katie. And after that conversation, can you just hear the HRBP saying “Wow! I cannot imagine why she’s so upset because the HM didn’t talk to her about that situation. That seems so ridiculous.” Or something along those lines?

When you talk about the poop, people get to ignore the elephant. It’s difficult to resolve the larger issue of the relationship/respect between the two of you when the conversation becomes just about the one situation.

Go ahead and set a time to talk to the other person. I bet you’ll be able to make a lot of progress and I know you’ll feel so good that you finally took the scary step right over the poop!

Check out my updated book on Amazon: The Consultative Recruiter

For more techniques to meet 17 challenges recruiters face—and build a reputation as a consultative recruiter at the same time.


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