Seven Things that belong on every HR Manager’s TO-DON’T List

by Michael Haberman on February 24, 2014 · 3 comments


Seven things for your "To-don't" list

Seven things for your “To-don’t” list

I came across a post written by Marc Chernoff on a blog about tips for a productive life. Chernoff’s post entitled 20 Things that Belong On Everyone’s TO-DON’T List. Just about three years ago I wrote about the importance of having a “to-don’t” list based on the work of Daniel Pink and Tom Peters, but I did not put anything in particular on that list. Now using Chernoff’s list as inspiration I have listed seven things that I feel should be on every HR “to-don’t” list.

#1 Don’t cower from the necessary challenges

Recently in Atlanta the chief HR officer for the Atlanta school system agreed to a plea deal in a case in which she was implicated as participating in a test cheating scandal. She agreed to provide evidence that the cheating went all the way to the office of the superintendent. Her life and the life of many others would have been much better if she had not cowered from her responsibility of reporting what she knew to be wrong. Many of us in HR are placed in the position of having to report about and face up to things in the workplace that we know are wrong. The worse disservice you can do to yourself, your career, your company and to your reputation is to cower in front of a challenge.

#2 Don’t hide your humanness

Being in HR is a tough job. It can often be a lonely job as well. Because of confidences that must be kept HR people often isolate themselves from others. Unfortunately as a result of that isolation many of our fellow co-workers don’t necessarily get to see the “person.” We hide our humanness because we feel it may make us more vulnerable and it may if not dealt with correctly. But that is a better alternative than coming off as cold and calculating. Having some humanness, some warmth and empathy, can go a long way in achieving some occasional unpleasant results.

#3 Don’t wait for the perfect time

There is no such thing as the perfect time. We often wait to hire someone, or fire someone, or change a policy or make a move because right now is not the perfect time. This slows you down and results in a missed hire, or keeping someone around to do more damage, etc. Do it! Don’t wait for that “perfect time.”

#4 Don’t wait to do documentation

This is a common error made by many people. Nobody wants to sit right down and document a situation. Yet we let it slide and then forget about it. We all know the importance of documentation but often ignore it. Study after study has shown that memories fade or change. To get the truest picture the picture needs to be record as soon as possible. As an attorney once told me “I would rather have one page of documentation rather than 10,000 words of testimony.”

#5 Don’t let people intimidate you

I made that mistake one time. I swore it would never happen again. Speak your mind, speak the truth. It may be hard and your voice may quaver. But if you know your facts, you know what is right then have the backbone to stand your ground. I had a boss once who is probably the person I have ever had the least respect for in my career. I used to joke that I could not understand how he was able to stand since he had no spine at all.

#6 Don’t focus on past problems

Even though in HR we deal with what has occurred in the recent past it is healthier to help your organization focus on the future. A good performance system focuses on potential and the future and makes short work of the problems of yesterday. Quick correction will take the attention away from the past.

#7 Don’t ignore you network


There are two kinds of networks internal and external and neither should be ignored. Working on internal relationships is key to your success in your current company. Don’t isolate yourself.

Your external network is important as well. In fact if you pay attention to some of the things in this list you may find yourself in need of this external network. With the tools of LinkedIn, Twitter and Google +, among other social media tools you can keep a professional network of contacts active and accessible to help you solve a myriad of problems or provide needed resources. Many people play the networking game when they need it and then ignore it once they have secured a position. That is poor networking management. Always be reaching out to people you know and seeing how you can assist them in some endeavor. It will pay off in the future, often when you least expect it. See last Friday’s post.

What else needs to be on this list?

Image courtesy of ddpavumba /

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Wayne Kurzen February 24, 2014 at 10:44 am

Great article Michael. See you soon at Speakeasy.


Suzy Carnecchia February 25, 2014 at 8:40 am

Another great article. Your articles have been so helpful in my new role as an HR Director for a smaller company who has never had HR. Thanks!


Michael Haberman February 25, 2014 at 9:21 am

Thank you for the very kind comment. I am glad I have been able to help.


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