I have a confession to make.

But before I do, I want to talk about partnerships at work. No matter what you do at work, others will influence you, and you will influence others’ work. And it is up to you to decide on what type of relationship that will be.

Will it be adversarial? In some of the departments I worked in, we saw any department that wasn’t us as them and treated them as the enemy. Holding back information. Bad-mouthing them to the executive team to build our team up.

Will it be Cooperative? In other departments, I had great leaders who saw the big picture and made sure we supported all the teams we interacted with daily. Most of the time, the support was reciprocated. Most of the time.

The other day, I led a workshop with about fifteen managers for a small company. And one of the participants said, “That is an HR Thing. Why do we have to follow it?”

At that moment, I knew there was an adversarial relationship between the Human Resources Department and the managers in the room. It wasn’t the first time I have heard this from a manager, and yes, it won’t be my last.

In fact, confession time, as a manager, I said this more than once. Human Resources would always get in our way, from increasing the documentation we were responsible for completing to developing more steps in the hiring process to changing how we tracked employees’ time.

It was such bullshit.  And we would resist. (Sorry, Brian and all the other HR Managers out there.) 


I started working in Human Resources, and then I got it. I learned that Human Resources was not trying to put barriers up but was putting mechanisms in place to protect the organization. They are responsible for making sure that the organization is in compliance with the hundreds if not thousands of employment laws, and if I, as a manager, aren’t following the company policies and procedures, I could be opening the company up to a lawsuit.

And most likely the unemployment office.

Both HR and Managers must work together. As a manager, HR didn’t do a good enough job at explaining the reason behind what they do, and I didn’t seek understanding. I just figured it was a stupid HR policy and would only follow it if it benefited me. (Again, Sorry, Brian).


A partner is a heavy timber that strengthens a ship’s deck to support a mast. Oh wait,… a different type of partner, but kind of apt as well. As Partners, we strengthen each other so that we can lift each other up.

So, how do managers support HR?

First, to know that anything they are putting in place, no matter how aggravating, is because they are trying to protect the organization. Second, ensure that you, the manager, understand employment laws impacting your organization. A good place to start is to listen to The HR Stories Podcast, in particular, Episode 46 and Episode 47, which focuses on Employee Rights that all Managers need to know.  Third, build better relationships with the HR Folks; you will find out that if you meet them halfway, they will support you and your goals.

Wait – HR people don’t leave; you also have work to do.

First, know that your managers are doing their best to meet the organization’s demands. They are focused on business outcomes and sometimes break policy or procedure because they believe it is best for the organization. Second, spend time with your managers, get to know them, their challenges, and how you can support them. And finally, if you meet them halfway, they will support you and your goals.

It’s about relationship building, and that starts with communication.

On October 25th, 2023 – The Team at HR Stories is presenting the Workshop: The Manager and HR Partnership: How to Build Relationships That Matter. In it, we will discuss how HR and Managers can work together to meet the demands of both roles, how communication is critical, and how small changes build better working relationships.

Click to register.

John Thalheimer

CEO Partner at The Team at HR Stories

Guiding Excellence

PS: In a world of conflict, be the listener.

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