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In most of my career I’ve worked in small office settings but my current role is the only one in which my company didn’t have an HR department or contact person. I’ve been very fortunate that my colleagues and I don’t have too many issues and that the HR committee from our Board of Directors is very diligent in creating process for us. I’m well aware that this is not the case for many, so if you’re considering employment with a company without HR or already there, I’ve compiled a few tips for surviving!

  1. Track Your Time

It really doesn’t matter if you’re paid hourly or if you’re salaried, people make mistakes and you don’t want to be on the negative side of human error without some kind of documentation. Without an HR department, tasks like this may be divided amongst supervisors who have a host of other responsibilities, so the accuracy of how much you’ve worked may not always be their priority. Also, just like getting paid correctly is important, so is making sure you get the time away you’ve earned. This leads to my next point.

2. Know The Rules…and the law

While I’m sure a glass of wine and a Netflix binge is much more appealing, your best bet is to read your employee manual as soon as possible. If any questions arise, you should request a meeting with your supervisor to ensure you are clear on what will be expected from both parties. If you work in a slightly more complex workplace, it may not hurt to meet with an HR consultant or lawyer. I work for a faith based non-profit organization and learned a lot from my time with a consultant and have used her to help guide me through some difficult work situations before bringing them to my boss.

3. Avoid Gossip

This honestly is a given whether you have HR or not. In my role, many of my colleagues come to me with “closed door conversations” requiring my discretion and zero judgement. Some handle these talks with grace, others have a bit more difficulty. In an environment without HR it is easy to turn to your peers for advice but DO NOT fall into the trap. They likely aren’t trained to handle conflict and are not bound in any way to keep your conversation private. Learn to deal with difficult situations immediately and to speak directly to the parties involved.

4. Documentation & Communication

When disputes arise there’s nothing better than the tried and true CYA method. Pay stubs, hiring paperwork, performance reviews, you name it! All all valuable when dealing with sticky workplace situations but be careful to only document facts. Emotions or interpretations are hard to fall back on for reliable evidence. Also, communicate timely and effectively. Don’t let things linger or issues develop to the point of no return.

Much to my surprise, people are moving away from HR departments but that doesn’t mean HR can be thrown out the window. If a company chooses to forgo that department, they should disseminate HR tasks amongst the supervisors and ensure that they are properly trained. Nothing is sustainable without order. Remember that!

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