intimidating boss

Every HR professional has their expertise challenged at some point in their career.  Its a hazard of a profession that many managers in other disciplines feel they know as well as their own.  I once reported job misclassifications (and the plan to correct them) at a recently acquired business that created FLSA exposure for our parent corporation to the president of the acquired company as well as to my CEO and the COB.  The president of the acquired company took issue with my finding and argued to both senior executives and me that I was wrong because “we don’t have the FLSA in our state.”  Granted, this was foolish of the executive, but in his defense he genuinely did not believe that I knew what I was talking about despite SPHR certification and twenty plus year’s experience in HR.

He had started his company out of his own pocket and grew it sufficiently to warrant acquisition.  As a young manager, before he was on his own, he said he learned to distrust HR because “all they want to do is boss you around and say “No” all of the time.  They can never help you with the business”.  He had given all HR duties at his company to his secretary because “anybody can do HR.”

But here was the thing.  If his perception of me was to change, and it had to for both of our sakes, it was going to be up to me to change it.  Using the compliance stick and making him the pinata at my HR party was not going to cut it.  Unless I could convince him I could be a business partner, it would not work.  This was how I functioned at the corporate level, so it was a short putt, but respect had to be earned with him.  Was this fair to me?  Wrong question.  Was it my accountability?  Yes.  Here is short video by Harvard Business Review featuring Deepa Purushothaman, principal at Deloitte Consulting speaking to this topic.