Operations managers, also referred to as line managers, work on the front lines of your business to increase productivity and reduce costs. This is their focus and what drives them. Human resources professionals engage in protecting both the company and its employees (including management) from employment blunders that could be costly to the business. It might be assumed that these two enterprises would converge at a mutual rallying point, but that is not necessarily so. When personalities and egos are thrown into the mix, collisions are bound to occur.

Delineation of Duties

In many small businesses, human resources personnel are considered the equivalent of office administrators, while operations managers are working directly to increase productivity and profitability. Conflicts occur when job duties become blurred. For example, when a sensitive issue arises involving an employee, the line manager may feel compelled to expediently deal directly with the problem without consulting human resources. The ensuing conflict could be attributed to an absence of understanding on the part of the manager for the scope of the HR department's responsibilities.


When an operations manager finds himself short staffed, he may feel pressured to fill the shortfall by over-scheduling employees without regard for basic employment law regarding hours and days worked. Friction occurs when HR staff members, obeying job directives, halt inappropriate scheduling. This type of conflict can be avoided when line managers understand the limits of employment law regarding hours and days worked, conscientiously review business levels and plan accordingly for possible staffing deficiencies.

Performance Appraisals

Both operations and human resources managers want employees to develop into top performers. Human resources personnel use performance appraisals as tools to monitor the level of performance possessed by each employee and to quickly recognize and remedy any problem areas. Clashes arise when HR insists on operations managers writing appraisals for their employees. Managers may believe they do not have time to spare for this important aspect of employee management. This conflict can be reduced if human resources staff members devise a tracking and reminder system for operations managers.


Managers who work daily with their employees may be the first to witness employment law compliance issues. For example, an employee may file a complaint with his manager involving being harassed by a co-worker. Training managers in recognizing and handling these potentially litigious issues is critical. Busy operations managers may not believe they have time to engage in HR-provided training, may believe they do not need the training or may have other duties they consider more pressing. Conflicts appear when the HR department insists that managers attend these important learning sessions.


A lack of communication between operations and human resources managers may be the simplest explanation of the reason for conflicts. The nature of their jobs -- one occurring at the front of the house and the other at the back -- may preclude seriously discussing resolutions and even may exacerbate conflicts. Managers and human resources personnel can create opportunities for communication with the goal of understanding they are on the same team, hired to help each other and your business.