Virtual Teams

Providing support and exercising control

A number of functions in complex organizations combine providing support with exercising control.

In HR, for example, people spend a lot of time supporting line managers but sometimes also have to act as the control mechanism on legal or ethical matters.

Combining these roles can be a challenge, particularly when the control part is infrequent. If HR people send much of their time responding to the needs of line managers, they can easily fall into a ‘supplier’ role where most of the power lies with the line.

When the tables turn and the HR person has to step in and exercise their control role, perhaps to stop an unwise recruitment or other management action, then this abrupt change in the nature of the relationship can cause problems.

In some cases, it can damage the relationship; in others, line managers may think they are free to ignore the advice. It’s a delicate balancing act but service and control people do need to be clear about where the boundaries are.

If line managers do not understand the legitimacy of some of these control levels then they may need some education about the consequences.

Ideally, internal service and control functions need to maintain a ‘peer to peer’ relationship rather than being seen as a just service function.

What are your experiences in balancing service provision and control within your role?


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