The Role of HR in Changes in Executive Management

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executive management conflict

The recent internal turbulence at the White House has America (and the world) anxiously awaiting the next public airing of their dirty laundry; unless of course it’s all fake news. Just as in any new presidential administration, virtually any business that is adapting to a change in leadership may experience difficulties between managers and executives.  Change in corporations can come in the form of a new CEO or an acquisition/merger or to a lesser extent, a division head.

New management styles and philosophical differences are just a few of the factors impacting leadership; not to mention political maneuvering for a more favored status with the boss. Until the team is settled in, the game of musical chairs will be the norm. Infighting may unfortunately become the status quo.

What is the role of HR in such circumstances? HR could easily become a pawn in the game, being caught up in the whirlwind of management changes themselves — or they could potentially become part of the solution. When it comes to the general employee population, the less they know and see about internal strife in the C suite the better. HR can facilitate keeping private conflicts private, as conflict does not promote a healthy working environment for any business. The general well being of the employee base is within the purview of HR.

Executive management can and will dictate the role of HR and the role of every other department, but HR truly has a special function within the organization — one that impacts literally every employee, regardless of rank. Just as HR is there to arbitrate and resolve employee-to-employee disputes, who better to assist in mitigating manager-to-manager issues, albeit with greater sensitivity to the seniority positions of the antagonists?

At the very top of the corporate food chain is the Board of Directors, whom the CEO technically reports to. The board oversees and addresses the big picture with the CEO. Below the board level is corporate management — CFO, COO, VP, Director, etc. It is at this level that HR can address conflicts within the new team. Senior management should call upon the great resources in HR to assist in transitioning from past leadership to new. And more than simply resolving internal management issues, HR can prepare employees in a positive way for the “new guard”. Change can always create stress, particularly for the rank-and-file, and this is where HR can lead in the transition.

When a new executive team takes over the organization, expect change and conflict as a fact of corporate life. Whether or not the company is ultimately improved will remain to be seen. But what should never be seen by employees is anything that could negatively impact their performance — and that is where HR can lead.