The root cause of the conflict between supervisors and the HR department can be explained by the misunderstanding when it comes to function of each department. The HR department falls into the category of staff function, while the supervisor falls into the category of line management function. When it comes to the staff function, the HR manager must realize that the primary responsibility of his department is to “enhance and support the organization’s work” (McConnell, 2012, p.254). As a result, “the presence of a staff function should make a difference to the extent that the organization’s work is more effectively accomplished” (McConnell, 2012, p.254). The primary function of line management can be seen in this statement: “operating decisions belong to operating management; they must be made within the chains of command of the line departments” (McConnell, 2012, p.254). Conflicts can be avoided if the supervisors and HR department learn to respect the boundaries provided for them.
As a staff function, the HR department is expected to help the company achieve its goals in terms of the contribution of the personnel. Thus, the HR department examines the rules and regulations of the organization and finds a way to implement the same. But they are limited in an advisory role. They simply provide insights and feedbacks in order for the managers to identify the weakness of the organization as well as to determine how to resolve said issues.
In an ideal situation, the HR Department works closely with the managers and supervisors. The HR Department will provide the necessary training and the materials needed to educate the people. The partnership with the HR Department can create the necessary corporate culture. Still in many cases, the HR Department goes beyond what is required. Since the HR Department is considered as co-equal with other departments, there is the mistaken notion that they can intervene any time they see a problem related to human resource management. It is true that they have to intervene, but it has to be done by following the chain-of-command. In other words, the intended action should be coursed through managers and supervisors.
When HR intervenes with operating decisions, the department is perceived as doing the dirty work for the organization. As a consequence, the employees cannot consider the HR department as a neutral party (Werner & DeSimone, 2012, p.324). Thus, the employees are also in conflict with the HR department, because they can have the wrong perception that they cannot seek assistance from them. It is unfortunate, because HR personnel are expected to act as advocates for the workers and not for management.
Supervisors must learn to work with the HR Department (Roper, 2011). The first thing that has to be done is to clarify the roles of these two departments. Once the HR Department understands the significance of a staff function, HR personnel and the HR manager will never bypass the chain of command. Thus, it reduces the incidence of conflict between the HR department and line management. On the other hand, line management must coordinate with the HR Department, because they play a significant part when it comes to their ultimate goal, which is to achieve organizational success.
The conflict between the HR Department, supervisors and employees can be traced back to the failure to understand the core functions of HR and line management to which the supervisors belong. Once there is a clarification when it comes to the staff function of the HR Department and the need to maintain the independence of supervisors when it comes to operations management, conflicts can be lessened and resolved. Furthermore, conflicts can be avoided if line management works in partnership with the HR Department. The CEO and other corporate leaders must persuade all managers on the importance of the HR Department’s role when it comes to organizational success. However, it is also imperative that HR personnel must always respect the chain of command and not go directly to the employees when it comes to human resource management issues.