I’m sure you've heard of the Miranda Warning. Television crime dramas like Law and Order have told us: “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law …”
Well, when it comes to our work environment, I've got the “The Marshall Warning: At work, anything you say or do (or anything you should have said, but didn’t) may be held against you!”
Although I meant The Marshall Warning to be somewhat as a joke, unfortunately, it’s also very true. In fact, I’ve seen many people run into problems (sometimes big problems) at work because they weren't aware how HR really works behind closed doors.
In this article, I’ll share 3 HR secrets and what you can do to avoid getting yourself into hot water at work.
1. If you're having trouble with your manager or having personal problems you may not want to turn to HR. Why not? Because the primary job of HR is to protect the company, not you. Certainly there are times when what’s best for you may also be best for the company, but other times that might not be the case.
Fix? When you’ve got issues either at home or with your boss, your first step should always be to seek help externally. Find someone outside the company as your sounding board. Talk with either a close friend, or professional coach, or even a trusted mentor. It’s best to get an objective opinion and advice on the situation before possibly jeopardizing your situation at work by sharing your concerns with HR.
Depending on the severity of the situation, you might even need to consider moving on entirely or hiring a lawyer. If that’s the case, it’s best to wait until you understand what you're facing and ensure you are fully prepared before you approach HR.
2. Don't expect HR to keep anything you say confidential—even if you ask. That’s not so say that some HR professionals might keep your concerns private if you request it. But an HR professional is not a lawyer, a priest, or a doctor and he or she is not required to keep your concerns private. She can and will share your information as they see fit—particularly in cases that might lead to legal issues, that individual must report what you say to senior leadership.
Fix? Assume that if you share something with HR it will be repeated to other people within the company—including your boss. And by the way, you should also assume that HR may not be sharing everything they know with you. Again, I know I might sound like a broken record, but the function of HR is to protect the company. Always keep that in mind.
3. Good work does not "speak for itself.” Specifically, working extra hard is not enough to get noticed or promoted. I’m going to repeat this one because it’s so important. Working extra hard is not enough to get noticed or promoted.
Why? Hard work often goes unnoticed because most managers are too busy focusing on problems. And by the way, although research suggests that this advice applies more to woman, it certainly applies to both men and women.
Fix? Even if you are uncomfortable, you need to toot your own horn and also have colleagues tout your latest accomplishments. Also it helps to be part of the “in" crowd through effective internal networking.
If your goal is to rise to the highest levels within an organization, it’s important to carefully and properly call attention to your expertise, claim credit for your victories, express your informed opinion, and speak-up. Don't focus on how hard you're working or how late you are staying. Instead focus on quantifiable results and qualitative kudos received from others. And when you receive praise, always ask if he or she is willing to send something to you or your boss in writing. Finally, increase your overall exposure by volunteering for cross-functional teams, professional organizations, and committees. The more people who can speak to your skills and accomplishments, the better for you.
Here’s the bottom line: it’s important to know when to shut-up and when to speak-up. Seek outside help when you have personal issues, and remember that HR is not required to keep your words confidential. And on the other side of the spectrum, when things are going well and you are achieving great results, take steps to ensure that many others within your organization are aware of your successes as well.
This is Lisa B. Marshall, helping you move from information to influence. If you want to learn more about communication and leadership, I invite you to read my bestselling book, Smart Talk, and listen to my other podcast with the same name, Smart Talk. Remember, your success is my business.
HR image courtesy of Shutterstock.