HR professionals don’t have it easy. They’re responsible for the voice of the business and the voice of the employee, they are usually pulled thin, responsible for a wide variety of projects and people. They have to get everyone to work together, and they have to do all that within a time frame and a budget.

The successful HR leader is one who can stay focused and build effective professional relationships across the business. The world of work is full of so many distractions that we’ve lost our ability to concentrate on just one thing for more than a few minutes at a time. There is an expectation that HR people are "people people" and when we don't invest the time to cultivate winning relationships we can inadvertently sabotage our success.

So how can we cultivate winning relationships at work, rather than undermine them? The key is in sending out the right message. Here are five behaviors to avoid and a few ideas to ensure you are focused on the right things.

1. When you’re super-focused on your work, it’s easy to convey a message that tells people to “mind their own business.” You’d have to be pretty insensitive to say it like that, but when you ignore others, it amounts to the same thing. Take the time to step away from your desk, your email in box, your phone and talk to the people around you.  Find out what makes them tick, what their challenges are, and identify one way you can help build their success. 

2. If you do stop to listen to what others are saying, you can still make them to feel that they ought to mind their own business by failing to answer their questions. In most cases, those who stop to talk to you either have a vested interest or are interested in you. If the former isn’t the reason, then you must assume the latter; and if you don’t answer them satisfactorily, then they’ll feel embarrassed for having talked to you.

3. Although HR managers spend time working with others, it is still too easy to become isolated.  Don't just visit with, or talk to, the usual suspects (other managers and leaders), take a few moments to connect with employees at all levels in the organization,  Spend time interacting with as many employees as you can.

If you create the impression that you’d rather be left alone, or that you only work with a certain managers, and you do it for long enough, then you’ll get left out of everything, whether you want it that way or not. You’ll simply drop off the radar of others.

4. Another way to sabotage your relationships is to give people the impression that your work is too complicated, or too confidential, for them to understand.  Even if your project really is complicated, you need to make a special effort to explain it simply without patronizing those who ask. You need to make them feel good about taking an interest, instead of stupid for doing so.

5. The last way is to create the impression that you’re too busy to talk to them. Maybe you are; but there’s a way to do so. You can always say nicely that you need to stay focused for now, but that you will catch up with them later, or that you can’t talk right now, but that you’ll call them in an hour or so. Just make sure that you do, however, otherwise they’ll think that you just said that to get them to go away, and that you really don’t care about them.

Think about the impression that you make on others when they try to communicate with you. If you do that, then you’ll strengthen the relationships you already have and encourage others.