How You Can Become the Most Liked HR Pro Ever — in Five Easy Steps

The old adage “I’d rather be respected, than liked” was made up by people who didn’t have any friends!

And, it’s been perpetuated for centuries by HR Pros who didn’t think it was professional to have friends in their organizations. “I’m not their friend, Tim. I’m in HR – there is a reason we lock the doors to our department.”

I look it this a bit differently – make friends first. That is all. No, “then” or “after that” – just make friends.

More friends means more influence

Do you know why HR Pros don’t make friends with employees? Yes you do, because “We don’t want to fire our friends!” or “We need to remain impartial” or “I’m stupid” (I made that last one up – which, if you’re stupid, you probably didn’t know).

The reality is that we do things attempting to stop stuff that probably will never happen. When is the last time you truly had to fire a friend? “Never – because I don’t have friends that work for me!” No really, when? Most of us would say, “Never.”

The problem with not allowing yourself to be friends with non-HR employees is that you lose a major source of influence within your organization. Also, it sucks eating at your desk every day. And, you decrease your eventual dating pool. But, really it’s the influence!

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5 steps to be liked and make more friends

So, here are five (5) steps you can do to be more liked and make more friends at work:

  1. Stop being a know it all. HR people act like they created Congress; everything is legal this or legal that. Stop it and be normal, because 99 percent of stuff HR thinks might happen, doesn’t happen – and trying to mitigate 100 percent of risk in your organization makes people hate you, and it doesn’t help you do your job better.
  2. Make a fool out of yourself once in a while. You’re not that important that you have to act like Miss or Mr. Manners all the time. Having employees laugh at you because you did something silly, foolish and/or crazy, will help them believe you might be normal.
  3. Hang out with the smokers! Let’s face it: smokers are cool and know everything that goes on in your organization, so you want them as friends. I don’t smoke because it’s gross, smells and will kill you – but I love hanging with smokers, especially if they have one of those voice boxes they talk out of!
  4. Go out to lunch. Preferably, not with the smokers, because that isn’t appetizing at all.
  5. Kiss another employee on the mouth at the office Christmas party! Kidding, just making sure you were paying attention. Don’t do this, unless you’re really drunk and want to leave a legacy. Here’s the real No. 5: Spend 50 percent of your time away from your desk visiting employees and hiring managers – even the ones you don’t like. This will change your professional life forever.

Being liked in HR is important it allows you to do your job in a much more efficient manner than when people don’t want you around.

It’s not about respect – you can have both – and given the choice of having respect and being hated, or having respect and being liked, well, let’s just say I hang out with the smokers.

This originally appeared on the blog The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.


2 Comments on “How You Can Become the Most Liked HR Pro Ever — in Five Easy Steps

  1. Tim- I fully agree with you. And if you can’t make friends, at least be friendly.
    I absolutely like point 2. I lead Compensation & Benefits at my companies, and in the past some people became friends with me *after* I left the organisation, saying : “I liked you already back then, but I was worried you may know personal stuff about me and it would go in my file…”…. Well, hear that one : I act goofy sometimes too, or laugh too loud (often), or am clueless about certain things, and if I was worried about my credibility as HR inyour eyes as employee or manager, I would never speak to anyone. So – don’t worry, you can be friends with your HR person. We are normal people just like you 🙂

  2. HR doesn’t fire people, supervisors/managers fire people; HR assists them by making sure all the papers are in order, the documentation supports the action.  But we don’t fire people.  That is a myth.  Hang out with the smokers???  If you don’t smoke because “it’s gross, smells and will kill you..” the same reason applies if you don’t smoke.  Unless, of course, you stand up wind and then you may never be part of the conversation.  I had no trouble fraternizing with those outside of HR….they are my customers, I need to know how they are doing, what’s going on in their part of the work environment.  I don’t pretend I know it all and have no trouble letting people know if I don’t know I will find out.  Some good tips here but now what I was looking for, I must admit. 

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