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Help! Do You Need Somebody?
By: Ann Potratz

In HR, even the most seasoned professionals need help sometimes. Asking for help can be hard in a work setting, especially if you tend to be shy, or stubborn, or cocky, or Ö human. It's often in our nature to push ahead anyway, assuming we'll eventually sort out whatever problems arise, and that kind of perseverance can be an admirable trait. But do you know when it's time to call in backup? Whether it's from coworkers or legal experts, it's important to know when to ask for help.

Consider the following three scenarios. If you think you're equipped to tackle them alone, you might want to think again.

1: An employee sounds the alarm Ö again
You probably know the sinking feeling that comes along with employee complaints all too well. And, if the employee is a frequent flyer in HR, you might even be inclined to dismiss the concerns outright. But don't let the squeaky wheel fool you ó underneath those rantings might be grounds for a valid complaint of legal discrimination.

If you're constantly hearing the same complaints from the same person, it might be time to call in backup. Ask a colleague to hear the employee's concerns to get a fresh perspective. This approach can help you identify any valid underlying issues you might have missed, especially if you've grown accustomed to tuning out the complainer.

2: Youíre about to try something new
Thinking of rewriting your handbook? Considering installing biometric scanners at entrances? Pondering an outside-the-box policy? Great! The world needs envelope-pushers and big thinkers, and someone's got to take the first step. No matter how confident you are in your plans and your ability to execute them, however, you should probably call in backup.

Even small changes, like a new attendance policy, could have big ramifications if you donít think them through. Have you considered the impact on employees with disabilities or workers over 40? Will there be a disparate impact on different genders or races? What about employees with family responsibilities? A seasoned professional or an employment lawyer can help provide the context of complicated federal and state laws that you might have overlooked, giving your exciting new plans the best chance of success.

3: Uncle Sam comes calling
Have you received a letter, phone call, or other communication from a government agency? If it's not presented in the form of an official audit, subpoena, or lawsuit, you might think contact from an official agency isn't a big deal. But remember, "where there's smoke, there's fire," and this first contact might be the tip of your nightmare iceberg.

Before you panic (or respond), take a step back and assess the communication. Get second and third opinions, if necessary. What are they really requesting? If you think this simple clarification letter might turn into something bigger, donít delay. Call your companyís counsel or consider enlisting a consultant to help you get your ducks in a row before moving forward.

Bonus: Your gut tells you something's up
Honestly, sometimes a situation might just feel off to you. Whether you call it your intuition, your gut, or your Spidey sense, itís important to trust it. Even if itís just a quick chat with a coworker to confirm your suspicions, if youíre wondering whether you should call in backup, you probably should.
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