EconomyEditor's PickA temporary boss takes over HR

November 10, 2022

We’re a small enterprise. Our accounting department manager has been assigned temporarily as an officer-in-charge (OIC) of the human resource (HR) department, which was previously headed by another manager who migrated. We were told by the chief executive officer (CEO) that an external replacement is forthcoming. That was more than 10 months ago. Today, it appears that the CEO is no longer interested in hiring a replacement. The OIC has told me he’s not interested in managing HR for life as he knows nothing about it and refuses to learn anything given his heavy accounting workload. As a senior HR clerk and long-time employee, how do I convince the CEO to take a chance on me? — Curve Ball.

It’s not easy. It depends much on the consistency of your performance over the years. Meritocracy takes precedence over seniority. In many cases, long years of service does not guarantee you a promotion. You must prove your competence as an HR person. But first, let’s explore why the CEO has not hired a full-time replacement.

It could be that there were no external candidates for reasons like the low pay being offered by your CEO, who may be taking care not to upset internal compensation equity. If he violates that, the first person to raise a howl would be the OIC who, I suppose, is managing the company’s payroll.

Also, there are many job hunters who don’t like to work for a small business, which suffer from image problems like the perception of limited opportunity. At times, small companies also don’t provide enough training.

Keeping those possibilities in mind, I would consider you as the best person to fill that vacancy given your interest and long experience with the company. But that’s me. In my view, meritocracy takes priority over seniority. I know nothing about your accomplishments in that company that you can use to convince the CEO to give you a chance to prove your worth.

RIGHT TIMEFortunately, many things are in your favor. You already know the technical side of HR work, the company’s policies and regulations, plus a lot more that are not yet documented. It’s all in your head. I suppose you know the basics of social and labor legislation that could help you navigate the job’s intricacies.

You may have already established yourself with the employees and other managers as the go-to person on HR matters. And the OIC is not interested in HR work. It’s a letdown if you’re not considered even for a supervisory position by the CEO. So, what’s the cure? Take stock of everything in your favor. 

First, prove your worth to the OIC. He’s your best ally in getting the promotion. If you can convince the OIC of your competence and integrity as an HR professional, he’ll give you a favorable recommendation when the time comes. Maybe earlier than you imagine. You must first prove that you’re not a threat to the OIC, who could change his mind anytime, particularly if the CEO offers him a substantial pay increase to handle both departments. This is the only issue that I can think of that will prevent you from assuming a higher post.

Second, understand the OIC’s style. It’s not enough to prove your competence. You must manage him, which doesn’t mean licking his boots. This means understanding his strengths and weaknesses. Does he want to be apprised of all details despite his apparent intention to remain hands-off? The sooner you understand this, the better for both of you.

Last, find out as much as you can from the OIC. Talk to other people at the accounting department. Find out what to expect without sounding worried. You need all the background information you can get. However, don’t rely solely on other people’s opinion. Form your own conclusions based on your personal experience with your boss.

PROACTIVECan you go directly to the CEO? No, be patient. It’s dangerous if the OIC discovers you’re bypassing the chain of command. It’s always possible that the CEO will confer with the OIC should you ever overstep. Remember, he trusts the OIC more than you. If you want to be noticed by the CEO, there are many ways of doing that.

Become a high-performing achiever. Be proactive in solving HR-related issues including the reduction of waste or inefficient hiring procedures. Reduce the attrition and tardiness rate by installing engagement and empowerment programs. You can learn best practices from major companies without spending much money in the process.

Remember that management is usually allergic to additional expenses when the return on investment is difficult to prove. Make it easy for the employees to love the company by teaching department managers how to perform regular engagement interviews with their workers so they can understand their common interests. In other words, learn to make HR a profit center rather than a traditional cost center.

There are many things to do if you’re focused on your career aspirations, which could be pursued inside and outside of your current employ.

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