I am an Army veteran from my home country, India. I remodeled my resume to make it suitable for a career in HR and was granted a work visa as an HR Manager.
Since then I have been working for a small-to-medium family owned enterprise. They haven’t had a dedicated HR department all this while and looked upon me as someone to bring in the required changes in policies and procedures. They were even willing to accept the fact that I shall be learning mostly on the job. I put up a brave front and have been trying to cope ever since with myriad laws and regulations practiced in USA.
There is, however, a major point of irritation between us, bringing in discipline amongst the employees. I do not think that any of our 45 workers across four locations need any major overhaul. I fired all the trouble makers right in the beginning. But he keeps needling me on the fact that he had hired me because of my Army background and that I am not justifying his beliefs. Dealing with mostly disciplined combat soldiers from the other end of the gun is far different than dealing with corporate employees. I consider myself good at people to people communication and exercise this trait of my personality to the fullest extent but I can’t become an Army Colonel all over again, try as I might. I have led a disciplined life and I try to lead this bunch of young and talented people by personal example. That seems to be working, but somewhere there is a mismatch between my employers expectations and my way of working.
I shall appreciate any gems of wisdom on how not to become a menace/evil at work and have all my colleagues shun me. I don’t like eating my lunch alone. I would like to remain who I am and do the right thing.
My guess is this is a matter of mismatched expectations and visions of what successful looks like. To him, successful is military precision. I bet he’s not a big fan of telecommuting or an outcome based workforce, either.
So, while you see talented people creating results (and good job in firing all the troublemakers at the beginning), he sees chaos and rule violations.
Have you said to him, “Dealing with mostly disciplined combat soldiers from the other end of the gun is far different than dealing with corporate employees”? If so, how did he respond? Anybody that is remotely rational should realize that the environment in a military unit is different from an at will workforce.
So, you need to manage his expectations and work on developing him. Usually, we focus on developing people to become managers, but this time you’ve got to develop the manager. (This isn’t uncommon in a family owned business, by the way. (Or any business, actually–parentheses inside of parentheses!))
Have a goal setting session with him–not where you talk about his personal development goals or your goals, but what his goals are for the company. Then help him (that is let him think he’s doing it) figure out the best way to achieve those goals.
You are going to have to be able to show him results from these goals. So make sure they are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and have a time frame). Also make sure they are not trivial (I want everyone in their desk by 8:00! If they come in at 8:05 that is a failure!).
This is not going to be easy. (Is any thing easy in HR? Well, yes, creating new forms! Paperwork is where it is at!) In fact, he may completely reject you and say, “I hired you because of your military background. Now, get everyone in order!” You’ll have to counter with WHY, specifically using business language and data, this is a bad idea.
Not that some companies don’t run tighter ships than others. That’s fine. Company culture varies from company to company. But, if his people that are already on board don’t fit his vision you either need to change his or change the workforce. The latter will cost him an awful lot more.