The Unhappy Marriage between Operational Managers and Human Resource Professionals: Sources of Tensions, Compensations and Harmony - Essay Prowess

The Unhappy Marriage between Operational Managers and Human Resource Professionals: Sources of Tensions, Compensations and Harmony


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The Unhappy Marriage between Operational Managers and Human Resource Professionals: Sources of Tensions, Compensations and Harmony


Historically, human resources management and operations management have been two distinct and separate fields. Practically, human resource professionals and operational managers primarily interact on an administrative capacity. Among academics, these two fields are the focus of studies by separate scholar communities preparing different academic papers from distinct disciplinary foundations. Nonetheless, human resources and operational managers are closely intertwined on a fundamental basis. Operations management offers context which ideally explains and moderates human resource management functions outlining remunerations, staffing, training and communications. Human responses towards systems adopted by operations management often serves to explain for anomalies or variations which in a traditional operations management research model would be treated as random or erroneous variances. This paper seeks to provide a literature review explaining the unhappy marriage between operational managers and human resource professionals. This paper will also seek to offer insights as to the sources of tensions, compensation initiatives and the realization o harmony between these two management fields.

Sources of tension between Operations & HR

Tension between operations managers and human resources professionals is not new phenomenon. These two departments always seem to disagree on one issue or another. For instance, differences often occur with regard to what operations managers also referred to as line managers are responsible for relative to the role of human resources department. In spite of reasons behind such conflict an organization’s business model should clearly delineate responsibilities and duties for these two departments.

Tension between operations and human resources is in most cases founded on allocation of responsibilities and the organization’s defined line of authority. This is such that for organizations where the human resources management is tasked with offering consultancy to operations managers, the organizational structure is such that operations managers have more control of their staff and exercise more latitude with regard to labor related planning and staffing initiatives. This organizational structure can however easily result in disagreement or ruin especially in cases where operational managers are not fully informed of human resources processes. This also the case where operational managers have greater authority in staffing matters than they normally should. Such a level of authority should be granted to operational managers with regard to human resources issues should be dependent on their ability to employ acceptable employment practices and development in leadership skills.

Administrative policies

Human resources professionals are always insist on consistent application of administrative policies. Operational managers who tend to veer away from enforcing adopted administrative policies within their departments tend to have tense working relations with human resources professionals as they are at continuous odds with them. For instance, operational managers at times ignore employee tardiness or absenteeism on the basis that such employees are excellent employees. Employee absenteeism and the failure to put into effect administrative policies that minimize absenteeism negatively impact on the output of other employees. This also serves to diminish an organization’s ability in maintaining accurate records. Workers who observe supervisors selectively overlooking or ignoring absenteeism of fellow workers tend to eventually show signs of diminishing morale and poor motivation. Low worker morale and poor motivation translates to challenges for the HR staff to resolve, forming a basis for tensions between the HR department and operational management.

Performance Management

Performance management is an organizational tool used to assess employee potential, strength, weaknesses, training and development needs, and aids in the appraisal of employee compensation. Employee termination and performance appraisals are some of the tasks that operational managers perform poorly. This is because operations managers tend to have several challenges when adhering to performance management systems. These arise from poor preparations for employee appraisals, failure to accord employees with consistent, candid and honest feedback that enhance employee output. The time invested by the human resources professionals in formulating performance management system thus appears to be time lost in cases where operational managers fail to adhere to such a system. This results tense relations between operations and human resources managers.

The responsibility of HR professionals

The primary source tense relations between operational managers and human resources professional however does not always stem from shortcomings of operational managers. It is important to note that human resources professionals tend to take their duties and responsibilities far too seriously when effecting administrative policies, managing staffing structures and giving consultative advice to operational managers. At times they take their duties and responsibilities to far such that they tend to assume duties and responsibilities designated for operational managers. To solve this, HR professional should institute strategies which can accord training to operational managers on the appropriate performance of employment-related obligations. More so operational managers should be taught more on how to carry out some human resources functions. For instance, training operational managers on how to conduct interviews so as to enable them make the most appropriate recruiting decisions. This can go a long way in enabling HR professionals to employ more focus towards strategic HR management and less on the functional and transactional roles which are traditionally assigned to operational managers.

Resolving tensions between HR and operational Management

Simplification is an indispensable tool for all organizational modeling and as such operational management researchers as well as managers are well aware that these models are indeed simplified presentations of human behavior. However, operational managers may not be always aware on the impact such simplified models may have on the decision making process. To gain more insights on this issue, it is essential that one considers general assumptions applied in representing employees in such operational management models.

In many operational management models, people are not the only fundamental factor of production. For instance, in most operational management models, machines and equipments are considered without incorporating the human factor. Secondly, operational management models consider employees as predictable, deterministic or identical. As such, operational managements tends to view employees as factors of production with perfect availability leaving no room for anomalies stemming from sick offs, absenteeism or physical incapacitations. Task times are thus considered in a deterministic manner where mistakes are not factored in and all workers work at the same rate, present the same level of output and as such are motivated by the same incentives.

Thirdly, most operational management models consider employees as being independent variables such that the actions, absenteeism or output of one worker does not affect the output of other workers.  Fourthly, operational management models perceive workers as stationary factors of productions. As such they do not consider such issues as training employees improves output, tiredness negatively impacts on output or the possibility that similar circumstances affecting them as human beings also affect employees.  As such, problem solving is hardly considered in operational management models. Workers are not part of the product or service.

For some incidents of workplace conflict, training and development are key factors in resolving issues between departments and their managers. The conflict that often occurs between human resources staff and line management may not be easy to resolve by simply holding professional development workshops, however. It’s critical to create a business model that considers the organization’s products, services, structure and the expertise of both human resources and operations managers. The business model should focus on organizational strategy and goals, and then clearly lay out the roles and expectations of human resources versus operations.

There are numerous means with which the human factor affects operational management models. Some of the observable human resources variables that tend to affect conventional operational management systems models include; individual productivity levels are affected by such variables as incentives, and workload influenced variables such as fatigue, learning and forgetting, boredom and age.  Retention or staff turnover also tend to have significant effects on employee performance as well as HR initiated system training costs. Agility and flexibility also significantly affect an employee’s aptitude towards dynamically adapting to organizational changes. Motivation as a psychological reaction by a worker towards his or her working environment influences positive behaviors which can translate to better productivity. Motivation has been proven to positively influence speed, quality as well as other diverse aspects related to employee output. almost every other aspect of worker

Team structure also influences the performance of employees as well as the overall effectiveness of the overall operational management system. In a team, output by other workers can result in a positive outcome among other employees such that this can facilitate learning or in other cases raise worker morale. However, teams can also negatively affect employee output such that some can take advantage of the high output realized from fellow employees to slack of while on duty.

Team setting allow for more experienced workers to offer new employees assistance on a need be basis thereby facilitating training on the job thus seamlessly integrating new employees without compromising on productivity. Teams also facilitate communication thus decreasing delays in production. This relay of information is thus a significant design variable which can positively improve the expectations of operational managers by increasing output by diminishing delay times.

Realizing harmony between operational managers and human resource professionals


The effect of goal setting on employee performance is one of the strongest and most widely researched attributes in human behavior research (Knight, Curham and Locke 2001). This implies that concrete, specific goals are optimize employee motivation. Goal settings serves to describe processes in which employees tend to positively receive externally suggested aspirations and more so how they can set their own goals. For operational managers, performance towards the achievement of certain goals takes precedent over other set objectives. Human resource managers engage operational management professionals to address the fact that specific and concrete goals tend to influence higher levels of individual performance. As such, both the operational managers can work towards strategies which make behavioral comparisons in workers when tasked with executing concrete and specific objectives against team output, individual performance and operations informed objectives reflecting essential process parameters.


Historically training research has offered crucial insights into the necessary conditions

Appropriate towards creating conducive environments which allow creative learning, allow the transfer and application learning in the workplace. This research has also enabled for insights into the relative effects of various training programs, such as simulation, experiential, and expository (Goldstein 2002). Operational management models offer specific contextual attributes which influence traditional training queries. Training research enables for better understanding on how HR and OM can work towards building on knowledge that can be utilized and line manages can then suggest where such knowledge is most appropriately applied.

For the HRM training is considered as presenting more effective results where individual employees are in a position to perceive success that is self-efficacy. As such, HR professionals recognizes that employees contribute positively towards organizational goals when they have the understanding and opportunity to apply knowledge gained in the workplace.

Operational managers should advocate for cross-training targeted for roles that translate to optimized worker role sharing. For instance, in a loop training whereby each employee is trained on more than one skill can ensure that skills are shared by more than one worker thus enabling the sharing of tasks among employees. This not only minimizes training costs but improves efficiency by incorporating the human factor in operational management models.

Both HRM and OM can thus compare training transfer levels with the resultant process effectiveness under conventional approaches which emphasize common standards of self-efficacy and transfer to approaches where self-efficacy and training transfer is targeted towards the optimization of training application in the workplace.

For the HRM training costs and accruing benefits can be calculated as a subjective rate in the application of training and the subjective estimates in monetary terms in the realized improvement in an individual employee’s output (Morrow, Jarrett and Rupinsky 1997).

For line managers, training presents the greatest effect in roles that occur at a high rate or in such situations where role sharing offers the most valuable outcome. For instance, call center models usually allow for predictability where task elements arise for a specific call and when task sharing optimizes output through the elimination of persistent bottlenecks.

Both the HRM and OM can integrate line manager predictions with regard to role frequency and role sharing impacts into estimates of training return-on-investment.

Attraction and Retention

Numerous research studies in HRM and input output psychology provides for the possibility of a connection between employee attitudes toward their work and the likelihood that they may opt to leave their current employment. Research by Levering and Moskowitz (2002) suggests that an opportunity for the employee to learn is critical towards employee satisfaction as well as in attracting and retaining workers. Therefore it can be a prudent practice for HRM professionals to engage in training employees broadly in an effort towards attracting and retaining them. However, operational management models can reveal where there is a probability for any particular employee to gain meaningful skills is low.

Cross training on rarely applied skills result in greater frustrations rather than satisfaction. The HRM in this case can gain reports from employees on their levels of their satisfaction and the level of attraction to an organizations employee related policies relative to training. This can play a great role in enabling an organization to determine on the provision of learning opportunities such that training can be accorded to the most ideal employees towards a lower staff turnover and higher productivity.


For workplace related conflict, training and development are crucial attributes conflict resolution between departments and their managers. Tensions often occur between human resources professionals and operational managers which may be difficult to resolve by introducing professional development workshops. It is however important to incorporate organizational models that consider an organization’s products, services, structure and the expertise of both human resources and operations managers. Such a model should primarily aim on organizational strategies and objectives so as to have clear policies on the roles and expectations of HRM and OM.


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