Warning: Long post ahead. #sorrynotsorry
The countdown has already begun for the 2019 SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition - in Las Vegas! I am giddy with excitement this year! Of course, I’m giddy every year. (Ok. I’m giddy every day… Don’t judge.) I’m particularly giddy to attend this year for good reason. I was invited to participate as an official #SHRM19 Blogger! How fun is that??
Before I dive too deep into this post, I invite you to meet and connect with this year’s #SHRM19Blogger squad: Creating Better Workplace - Meet the #SHRM19Bloggers.
There are a hundred reasons why I look forward to attending every year. But let me take a step back for a second and paint a picture for you. I’ve been attending this conference for years. And every year I see and hear things that make my heart sad, and make me wonder why some people choose HR as their profession. I hear things like “the session was boring” and “there are too many people” and “the coffee line is too long”.
I find it incredibly ironic that we HR pros for years have been trying to unlock the secrets to creating positive workplaces. And yet, here we are, complaining. We know better than anyone in our organizations that you can’t please all the people all the time. So why are we choosing to be on the negative side of the coin. Stop it. Just stop. Let's first make sure our attitudes and behaviors support our efforts.
I’m reminded of a quote from the movie Wyatt Earp. Doc Holliday (played by Dennis Quaid) said to Wyatt Earp (played by Kevin Costner):
For some people, this world ain’t ever gonna be right.
Check out the clip here.
Listen up, HR Pros. The conference is what you make it. It isn’t every speaker’s job to ensure that you walk away with 10 golden HR nuggets – at every session. At the end of the day, this is your career. Your development. You take away what you choose. I’m sure you can find just one thing useful in every session you attend. But that is up to you. It is, indeed, a very large conference. SHRM18 in Chicago broke attendance records, and drew 22,000 attendees. So you will have to navigate through crowds, which I realize is a challenge for many people. And, yes, the coffee line is super long at the conference center. So plan ahead and don’t wait to purchase your coffee there. But if you do, don’t be a grumpy butt. See all those people in front of and behind you? They want coffee, too. And, likely, they want it pretty tout suite. Wouldn’t it be something if you started some conversation and helped make the long wait more pleasant?
I know that for many people (like myself), it’s energizing to think of all the possibilities that a conference this size holds. The vendors. The speakers. The bookstore. The Smart Stage. The learning opportunities. The networking opportunities. Connecting with old friends. Hopefully making new ones. All the awesome HR gear. And. So. Many. People. I mean, com’on. Just soak that up. For some of us, when we enter a room of hundreds (thousands) of people, we just revel in the goodness of that energy! (My giddy is showing!)
For many others, especially as a first time attendee, whether it’s 160 attendees or 16,000, it can be quite overwhelming.
In order to prep you for a conference of this magnitude, I want to share a few action items that can help you make the most of your conference experience - before, during and after. Here's a countdown of 5 ways you can gear up, have a great conference, make amazing life-long friendships, and continue to build that momentum long after the conference is over.
#5: Be courageous.
I have thought a lot about fear and courage lately. We all know people who let fear dictate their next move – or lack thereof. Fear, if you let it take hold, will stunt your growth. Franklin D. Roosevelt once said:
Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.
Think about that for a minute. Courage is not the absence of fear. That means you can be fearful, and yet still be courageous. (**mind blown**)
A couple of weeks ago, my family and I watched a documentary called “Free Solo.” (Highly recommended.) It’s about Alex Honnold who climbed Yosemite’s 3,000 foot granite cliff El Capitan without ANY ropes or safety equipment. None. I watched the whole thing between my fingers. I wasn’t even there and it scared the poo out of me. (Not literally…)
People like him have a different perspective of fear. They are able to control and use fear - become hyper-focused, confident and prepared. Sure he was scared. And he did it anyway.
If I’m being honest, I spent a good portion of my early career hanging out in fearful places. Rather than let fear act as cement, I learned to use it as a source of motivation to continue to stretch and explore the unknown. I’ve learned that fear is usually my guide. If I feel fearful, that usually means I’m on the right path and something extraordinary is about to happen. Sometimes fear can be exhilarating! (I call that the “Wee Factor.” It’s that moment when you realize how FUN fear can be!) But it does take courage to keep moving forward.
It is not unusual to be fearful of large, unfamiliar places, filled with unfamiliar faces. I get it. Many people are simply uncomfortable around strangers – even more so 16,000 of them.
Do it anyway. Use that fear as a motivator for you to try something new. Embrace the fear, and step out with courage.
The moment that little voice inside your head starts throwing out fear statements, or tries to convince you not to do X, shut it down. YOU are in control of your thought pattern. If you live your life in a place of fear, it’s high time you start writing a new narrative.
#4 Build Your Professional Network
It took me far too long to understand the power of a strong network. For some, networking comes naturally (**ahem** Steve Browne). For many others, networking is terrifying. (Please refer to #5.) There are a ton of books, blogs, articles and podcasts you can read and listen to to learn how to network. The big aha moment (and the moment networking became fun) is when I learned that the more I give and serve, the more I get back. The kicker is that I never give for the purpose of getting. It’s that this miraculous thing happens when you give: You receive.
A starting point prior to heading out to SHRM19 is to log into SHRM Connect, click on “Groups,” and then find the SHRM19 Annual Conference Community. If you are traveling to Vegas solo, this is a great place to start making connections NOW. You will find people posting as a first time attendee asking to make connections. Post one, too! Make plans to meet up – for coffee, lunch, dinner, cocktails, dancing, site-seeing, WHATEVER. Plan a dinner somewhere and post how many dinner partners you’re looking for. You will be shocked (and pleasantly surprised) at how many others are in the VERY SAME PLACE you are! The reality is that people want to connect. Let’s not do this introvert/extrovert labeling BS. The most introverted people in the world still want connections with other humans. And the most extroverted people in the world still need down time. Everyone wants to belong. Be intentional about those connections. How many times have you attended a conference or a Chapter meeting, you sat at a table of strangers, introduced yourselves, exchanged business cards, and then the moment you return to the office, you either throw the business cards in a desk drawer, or worse, in the trash? Spoiler alert: That’s not networking.
If you do some networking prior to the conference, once you get there, intentionally connect with those people you’ve been networking with. That conference center jam-packed full of thousands of people will feel a whole lot smaller when you see a familiar face or two.
During and after the conference, follow through on the connections you made (and continue to make) with others. Be sure to exchange contact information. Make a plan to connect in person (if local), or by phone call, or better yet, through Zoom or other video conferencing. (Claire Petri is a master at this! Anytime I connect her with someone new, I know that on the short end of that introduction is a Zoom call. It’s brilliant!) I’m not suggesting that you need to make every person you meet your new BFF. What I’m saying is be the kind of person that others know they can count on – whether for great content, sound advice, knowledgeable counsel, or another connection. One of the most powerful tools in your HR toolbox is your network. The HR Community is chalk-full of amazing, smart, innovative, experienced professionals. On top of that, most people want to help others. We want to see others succeed. Be the kind of professional that helps build others up. What a legacy!!
#3 Find a mentor
We have so much to learn. Wherever you are in your career, there is zero chance that you know everything there is to know. Sometimes we all need a nudge. We need someone to impart wisdom – to help us make decisions (which very well could be life or career altering), to help guide us when we find ourselves in unfamiliar territory, to share experiences and knowledge where we lack one or the other, or both.
I am not a teacher, but an awakener.
Mentors are teachers, or as Robert Frost said, awakeners. (Ooo, I love that!) We all have greatness inside of us. Mentors can help to unlock and unleash – awaken – that potential. Mentors can be the conduit between mediocrity and extraordinary. They can be the boost we need to be courageous in the face of our fears (see #5). They are the ones who lead us to truth. Or in some cases maybe just encourage us to recognize the truth we already know and give us just the right kick in the backside to muster the courage to do something with it. (Future blog post on this topic...)
#2 Be a Mentor
One of the best ways to learn is to teach. You do not need to be someone with 20 or 30 years of experience in order to teach others more junior than yourself. All of us have experiences we can share with others. That is one of my favorite things about the HR profession. I am continually impressed by the number of young professionals entering this field, and the level of passion, creativity, innovation and knowledge they already have to share. Find one that you can mentor and help guide and shape, and in return, you will learn oh so much.
The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.
#1 Intentionally Find And Build Your Community
Life was meant to be experienced together. We aren’t meant to walk alone – personally or professionally. Iron sharpens iron. It takes a village. Community is a natural result of consistent presence and intentional relationship building (see #s 4, 3, and 2). When we build relationships with the professionals in our network, when we teach and are taught, connections begin to have more meaning. We build friendships. We find the people with whom we share more intimate details of and the struggles in our lives. Community isn’t limited to a number, or to a certain radius of miles from your work or home, or to the individuals with whom you have the most in common or happen to be most like. Community is what you make it. It can be as large or as small as you feel comfortable. I have found that the more I invest in people, the more I am intrigued and interested in who they are, and the more excited I am to draw them into my community– like gravity.
Choose your community. Choose them well. Choose to pull closer the people who make you better. Nurture those relationships.
The SHRM Annual Conference is an opportunity to expand your community, be challenged and stretched, and take purposeful steps towards a more meaningful career. This year, decide ahead of time what you plan to get out of your attendance and how you plan to bring all of that back with you to help create better workplaces. Start now. Even if it scares you, do it anyway. If the thought of 20,000 people in one spot stresses you out, come anyway. If you don’t have a mentor now, find one anyway. If you feel like you have nothing to teach, mentor anyway. If you prefer to keep your community small, build relationships anyway. Then follow through - during and after the conference.
After all, we are in the business of people.
For another great list of conference tips, I want to give a shout out to fellow #SHRM19Blogger and #StatelineCrew #HRTribe pal – and dear friend, Jeff Palkowski. Jeff and I met in person at #SHRM18 in Chicago. Prior to heading out, he had created this super fun Bingo card, which he enthusiastically branded SHRM-O. I don’t want to steel his thunder, so head over to his blog: HR Sushi Bar. He does a wonderful job of providing great tips for attending #SHRM19 in Vegas. A Case of Déjà Vu All Over Again.
PS – My #1++ conference tip is to wear comfortable shoes! Ladies, this is NOT the time to sport your brand new 4 inch pumps. You will regret it within the first 30 minutes....
Sometimes technology isn't all it's cracked up to be. Texting can be a challenge.
On many levels.
Autocorrect can be a nightmare. (If you want a good laugh, visit Damn You Autocorrect! Disclaimer: Website may contain content that may not be appropriate for all audience members. Viewer discretion is advised. Additionally, please follow your company's policies on appropriate use of the internet. Ideally, you should be off the clock, off work premises and off your company's wifi/server, as well as not using your company's devices. You have been warned.)
I cannot tell you how many times I have experienced text missteps. And a few doozies! ("Deck" sounds awfully like another word that starts with "d" and ends in "ck".) Luckily, I generally ("generally" is the key word here, folks) work with people who have a sense of humor, don't take things personally, don't get easily offended and otherwise have a pulse. So I have yet to find myself in a professional predicament due to texting failures.
And before you ask, yes, I have experienced some work-related trouble for really stupid non-work related things, like boxed wine and photobooths. (Ooooo, feathered boas are so offensive!) Those are for later posts. #HRShenanigans)
I really enjoy the people I work with. We have so much fun at work (and outside of work, I might add) - which is very refreshing after having experienced some pretty dismal work environments in the not too distant past. We laugh. A lot. And this is supported by leadership.
I know. I know.
One of the things I find myself looking forward to are the emails and text messages from my boss. He frequently uses the talk to text function on his phone, which creates some really interesting content. And what's better is when he sees it, but rather than correcting it, he leaves it as is, and more clearly enunciates so you get the original translation, followed by the corrected translation.
This amuses me. Here's an example:
(I didn't get his permission to post this. I hope I don't get fired.)
People, listen up. I don't care what industry you work in, what title you hold, or what professional standards you feel the need to adhere to. It's ok to make mistakes. And it's ok to laugh about them. I really feel strongly about creating a work environment where people can be who they are, and where laughter is a prominent characteristic of the work culture. If you're so uptight that people can't share in laughter for fear of the punishment that follows (i.e., the "talking to"), I encourage you to re-evaluate your work culture.
Bunny Trail: Remind me to tell you about the time my husband received a verbal warning for "being too happy at work."
I'm not kidding. That sounds like a fun workplace, doesn't it? "Welcome to Fuddy-Duddy Insurance Company. We're glad you're here. But not too glad. In fact, we prefer that people aren't too glad about anything. Grumpiness and frowning are encouraged."
Please don't be a stick in the mud. Be the kind of person, and more specifically the HR practitioner and/or business leader that people look forward to interacting with. Positivity and joy are contagious. Feel free to spread fervently.
From there to here, from here to there,
I’ve always been a fan of keeping options open. I like choices.
Just because you may not actively be seeking other employment, if you’re contacted by a recruiter, what does it hurt to explore the opportunity he/she presents to you? You can always say no. But what if it’s a fantastic opportunity? Or your dream job? How would you know unless you looked into it a little further? Recruiters and hiring managers may be reaching out to you hoping to woo you away from your current position with a more challenging role, a different type of role altogether, better compensation, a more robust benefits package, retirement plans, stock options, and/or additional perks – such as a more flexible work schedule, the ability to work from home, unlimited vacation, paid volunteer time off, etc..
Maybe you’re working for a great company, but you're not so happy with your current position and/or duties. You don’t feel challenged. The work doesn’t inspire you. The duties are just plain tedious and aren’t working your strengths. Or maybe you’re really great at those duties, but they make up 90% of the job, and you just plain hate doing them.
Maybe you would be happy in your current position if it weren't for _____ (fill in the blank). Your supervisor/manager is a narcissistic, egotistical jerk. There are toxic people on your team that the company seems to hold on to for far too long despite your sound advice and counsel. There is a complete lack of accountability, integrity, transparency. Leadership doesn’t behave in alignment with company values. The compensation isn’t aligned with the competitive market range. The benefits package is lacking. The work impedes on your ability to be present in your life outside of work – lack of flexibility and/or paid time off. Literally, this list is endless.
If you’re in this type of situation, I think it’s time to really consider whether or not you’re in the right position and/or right company. First, you can’t control others. You can only control yourself – your thoughts, feelings, behavior, responses, etc. Second, with that in mind, you have a decision to make. Here are your options:
If you’re that unhappy in your current role/company, take the necessary steps to look for a role that better suits you and meets your needs. There is absolutely no point in continually complaining about the company, the team, your boss, the position, the whatever. Notice that there wasn’t a third option: Stay and complain. This is not an option. I totally get that there are often a lot of things to complain about. But the question is, can you do anything about them? If you can, what’s stopping you? Maybe you have done everything you can to influence positive change, but in the end you aren’t the decision maker, and the decision has been to keep things status quo. Bummer. Or maybe the direction of the company just isn't a direction you want to go.
What are you going to do?
HR Pros, I implore you. Do not get sucked in a negative space. The role of HR is critical in a company. Your job is to demonstrate appropriate behavior, positive interactions and attitudes, and be supportive - whether through change or staticity. It’s super easy to vent. But BEWARE. Your attitude, disengagement, frustration and anger are felt by those around you. They’re little seeds that you’re planting. Your garden will grow accordingly. The seeds you plant affect others’ ability to work and engage in their respective roles. Negativity breeds negativity. Toxicity breed toxicity. Don’t be a part of that cycle.
I’ve seen people so angry and frustrated with their manager or company that they throw gigantic fits. They tell people off. They purposefully try to sabotage the work of others, or possibly destroy documents or their own work product because they don’t want the company to have it, or the manager to take credit for it. I don’t understand this whatsoever.
Several years ago, I worked for an organization that was wrought with toxicity. People were horrible to each other. Leadership was secretive, immoral and unethical. Rumor-milling, bitching and drama were the norm. I found myself increasingly frustrated with the lack of accountability and the lack of alignment between the values posted on our walls and accepted behavior and performance. Why was this even allowed? One of the senior leaders said it best: “We all have choices.”
Yes, we do.
If you choose to stay in your current role with your current company, with all of the things that you disagree with, stop complaining. Stop the drama. Stop fault finding. Stop blaming others. Look at yourself. Be disciplined enough to be self-aware, self-reflective, and accountable. Your fits of rage and the words you spew ultimately reflect more poorly on you. Sure, you could get in the last word and hurt others in your revenge. What does this accomplish? I’ll tell you: Nothing. Nothing except a sad tale that others tell. (Remember the "Who's coming with me?" scene from Jerry Maguire? Yeah…. Don’t do that.)
If you choose to stay, accept what it is, and continue to put in your best effort in influencing the positive change you believe is right for the employees and the business. And do so with joy in your heart. You are not a victim of your work circumstances. You can, in fact, choose to engage with a positive attitude and encourage others to do the same.
And if you choose to leave your current position – for whatever reason – leave well. Don’t burn bridges. (After all, it’s a small world. Word gets around if you’re a pill.) Don’t make it your duty to write a long dissertation about everything that’s wrong with the company, the boss, your supervisor, your team, other employees, etc. The words you choose are a reflection of YOU and your character. Take what you have learned, and use it to help refine who you are as an HR professional and as a person.
People, there is enough negativity in the world right now. We each have the ability to choose the thoughts we indulge, our behaviors and our response to others and our circumstances. No one can make you do anything. It is your choice. If you are indulging negative thoughts, which lead to negative behaviors, stop it. Please. Stop.
Your choices are a reflection of your character.
Think about that.
Your choices are a reflection of your character.
Who are you? How do you want others to perceive you? How do you want others to feel after interacting with you? What legacy are you leaving? What do you want to be remembered by?
Whatever your answers are to those questions, leave in a manner that agrees with them.
Every once in a while, you meet someone with whom you instantly connect. Someone who just "gets" you from day one. Sure, you may meet a lot of people, but not everyone is a kindred spirit, someone you feel you have known on a transcendent level for far longer.
I met John Jorgensen at SHRM17 (New Orleans), in the SHRM Bookstore (of course), and I knew instantly that we would be buddies. Maybe it was the grumpy exterior but twinkly eyes. Maybe it was the bear hug he gave me 10 minutes after we met. Maybe it was the deliberate way he stayed in contact with me throughout the conference that year. Whatever it was, from that day until now, hardly a day goes by when we don't have contact - even if it's just a wave on Facebook Messenger. Literally. Every. Day.
Today is John Jorgensen Day. And for right reasons. John has been instrumental in the HR community for... I don't know... since TRex and the Personnel Office. He's been around the block a time or two thousand. He's an avid SHRM volunteer, and was even referred to as the "Godfather of the modern HR movement." (I love Laurie's post because it demonstrates the impact knowing John can have on your professional career. I also love Mary Faulkner's post because it highlights some of the more personal aspects of John.)
Growing up, my grandfather (Pappy) referred to himself and his group of theologian pals as The Curmudgeons. Pappy was full of joy and laughter, always looking for an opportunity to play a joke on someone, and always a source of kindness and love for his community and those around him. Some of my earliest memories are of him whistling everywhere he went. When I was a wee lassie, I thought “curmudgeon” was a word he made up.
I eventually learned the definition of curmudgeon in maybe Middle School (I’m guessing). It confused me. Pappy was far from grumpy and surly. To me, “curmudgeon” has always been a term of affection.
As curmudgeony as he may appear on the surface, John is one of the most kind, tenderhearted and sincere people I’ve ever had the privilege to know.
Today, I won’t go into detail about John’s wealth of HR (and life) experience and wisdom. I won’t pontificate about his incredible intellect, love for knowledge, history and music. What I want you to know about John is he is an exceptional friend, and a remarkable human. We can talk about football (although he’s a college fan, I’m an NFL fan), puppies, yard work, insomnia and beer. We can argue about whether beans in chili redefine it as soup. We have supported one another in sadness and loss of loved ones. We have celebrated successes and coffee. Every once in a while, something will get him going. And I love being on the receiving end of those rants. He is genuine and marvelous.
John is the kind of guy I wish was my neighbor. Sincerely. I imagine scenes from Home Improvement in the back yard having conversations over the fence. He’s someone I have come to deeply appreciate and adore on so many levels. He has strong opinions, and is happy to share them with you. He’s a straight-shooter, and calls ‘em like he sees ‘em. Most importantly, John is a giver. A giver of his time, resources and insight.
Today, we celebrate John Jorgensen, for all he has done, and continues to do, for the HR profession and our community. And we celebrate John for being the kind of friend we admire, trust and respect. A lovely curmudgeon.
Happy John Jorgensen Day!
Employees face some hard things in their personal lives. Somewhere along the line, we decided that people need to leave all of that at the door when they report to work. I have no idea where this became the expectation, but this is just silly. You cannot expect your employees who are dealing with incredible personal challenges to be able to switch all of that off when they walk in the door. To think that we can pretend that all of that isn't happening for 8-10 hours a day is ridiculous. Especially in this "bring your whole self to work" movement, we need to understand that the stuff going on in personal lives will, in fact, affect the work life to some extent or another.
Failing marriages. Miscarriages. Drug use. Elderly and ill parents. Car accidents. Deaths (family members, friends, pets). Financial hardships. Cancer. So many tough things that we all face in our lives.
If you're practicing HR well, you should know by now that you need to be present with your employees. This requires abandoning your office frequently, and working where your people work. Belly up in an area where employees basically have to interact with you. And, ya know, talk to them. If you haven't been doing this, start now. It may seem weird at first, and certainly employees will wonder "WTH?" But over time (and it happens quickly), as you engage in chit-chat, employees will start to open up to you, about their business concerns, their opinions about the company, coworkers, managers and leaders. They will also open up to you about their personal challenges.
And here's the kicker. Don't just ask, "Is there anything I can do for you?" This is a very well-intentioned question. I would like to believe that when people ask this question, they really mean it. The problem is that when people are dealing with incredibly difficult, emotional issues, the last things they are thinking about are ways that others can help them get through it. In fact, most of the time, people don't even really know what they need. On top of that, if they are even remotely Type A, they would never dream of asking for help because this shows some sort of weakness and they are accustomed to pulling up their big-person pants and just getting through it. (Although, in secret, they are struggling, stressed out, losing sleep, crying in the bathroom, etc..)
Want to know how you can help? Show up. Be there. Offer some flexibility in their work schedule. Help them get connected to the right professional (counselor, financial adviser, elder care resources, fill in the blank....). If the issue is related to a medical challenge, talk to them about FMLA and/or the other leave options they have available to them. Explain whatever other benefits they have available - short term disability, bereavement, etc. Allow them to emote without fear of losing their jobs. Bring them a token of kindness that shows you empathize and you're there for them. If you have a close relationship with your team and employees, maybe even consider showing up at their house to help mow the lawn, clean the gutters, do laundry, drop off a few freezer meals. The ways you can show up are literally endless.
And, shhhh, you can even offer them a hug. **GASP** I know... crazy talk that we in HR would ever think about physically touching an employee. (You really do need to know if this is ok. Because there are people who do not like to hug, and that needs to be respected.) There are ways to do this that don't make people feel uncomfortable or make you look like a creeper. But let me tell you, I've had grown men who seemingly have their shi.... stuff together in my office crying like a baby. And, yes, I offered a hug. Yes, they took me up on the offer. And, yes, I've had a shoulder full of tears. (And, no, there wasn't anything inappropriate about this.) Personally, I think this is a beautiful moment. It demonstrates the impact you have on others when you just listen, empathize, and give them a safe place to express the mess in their heads and hearts. It's amazing to me just how many people need a hug, as evidenced by how they lean in, and how tightly they hold on. I think we need to put our constant fear of being accused of sexual harassment aside to allow ourselves as humans to offer a very human expression of empathy - if you are comfortable with it and it is appropriate. (I feel like I should write a disclaimer, but you know what I mean.)
The point is, be present and available. Be the HR Pro that your employees know they can trust and with whom they can share their personal struggles. Don't steer clear. Show up.
A Word About EAPs
These programs can be very valuable. HOWEVER, you need to know and understand your employee population. Not all EAPs are created equal. In fact, if you're in a first-responder environment (firefighters, police officers, paramedics, EMTs, ambulance responders, rescue workers, emergency room and/or trauma-related medical teams, etc.), likely you need to really evaluate the EAP offerings. I could write several posts on this topic alone. This is a population that deals with things that most of us will never see in our lives - and they see it on the daily. Refraining from going into graphic detail, these employees have different needs, and require a completely different level of emotional/mental support. Not only is this population even less likely to ask for help, they are exposed to horrific, awful, terrible, violent, unfathomable situations. This is an environment where you may want to consider a formal peer support program where employees are trained to identify certain behaviors, and become a safe place for peers to turn as a bridge to mental or behavioral professionals. If you are an HR professional in one of these environments, and you're interested in learning more, please contact me. I can provide you with several resources to help you develop and implement a peer support program that very well could mean the difference between life and death for your employees.
Recently, the question was posed on Twitter... "Why do you work in HR?"
This is an important question for everyone to ponder. (Side note: Everyone should consider this question, not just those of us in HR. I think everyone should know why they work in a specific field.) Many of us landed in HR as a freak accident. Some chose it specifically. Some slowly dipped their toes in the water somewhere along the way, perhaps they were responsible for some basic ancillary HR duties as part of another role, and eventually made their way out of the kiddie pool. Whatever the reason you're here, the question isn't necessarily why do you work in HR, but why do you continue to work in HR?
HR isn't for everyone. Working with people, their choices and behavior can be extremely exhausting. Let's face it. We've probably all had conversations with grown adults that sound eerily similar to the conversations we've had with our four-year-olds. "There are consequences for your actions... We all have choices to make... Stop hitting and biting."
At some point in our careers, many of us come to the moment of truth. That being the moment when we become so dismayed, disappointed, exhausted, and, frankly, hurt by our organizations (leaders, co-workers, peers) that we just don't know if we want (or even can) continue. I came to this place a few years back. The environment I worked in at the time was incredibly toxic. Unethical and immoral behavior, it seemed, was rewarded. The culture was so toxic that everyone had this "every man for himself" mentality purely for survival. Complete lack of transparency, accountability and honesty. Employees were mean-spirited, spread malicious gossip solely intended to harm reputations and destroy credibility. The CEO would make comments like "100 people are standing in line for your job. If you don't like it, leave." Working in an environment like this takes its toll. (I'll spare the sordid details... but many of you, I'm sure, can relate.)
Every year I could, I would attend the SHRM Annual Conference. This particular year, I decided that if I didn't come away from the conference feeling reinvigorated for my field, I would change careers. I decided to dig in, be present, make connections, and really think about the field I had chosen for my profession.
What happened was actually quite amazing. Not only did I come away feeling energized and refueled. I also came to the realization that while we may have every good intention to be an advocate for employees, develop and implement amazing onboarding, training and development programs, and help build a culture of trust that allows employees to bring their whole selves to work every day and be highly engaged in the mission, vision and values of the business, the truth is that not all organizations are healthy enough to allow you to operate that way. This particularly year, I realized that the employees of my org were basically taught that "to eat our own" is the MO. THAT was the culture. So... I made a plan and eventually resigned. And it was one of the best decisions I have ever made for my career (and my sanity). I realized that HR wasn't the problem. Even the employees weren't really the problem. The organization and it's leaders who allowed that type of culture to exist were the problem.
Why am I in HR? I’m in HR because it’s the one place in business that I believe we can have the greatest positive impact on people’s lives. We spend the majority of our time at work. We have the opportunity to make the work experience not just good, but GRAND!
Do not let others steal your joy. In other words, don't let other people, situations, or organizations rob you of the love you have for your chosen field. I urge you to consider that maybe the environment you're in is the main culprit, and not the field of HR. I'm not suggesting pointing fingers or blaming others for your choices. (I mean, really, maybe you're part of the problem.... Self-reflection is a really good habit to get into.) What I'm saying is this: Take ownership over your choices. You know when you're in a toxic environment. Humans have this really cool thing called gut instinct that, if we listen, can tell us a lot. If you are simply unable to rise above all the crap that is around you, don't give the org any more power over you! If you know you're in the wrong environment (like a toxic, abusive relationship), then start taking the necessary steps today to find another position and resign. Think back to the reasons why you got into HR in the first place. Write them down. Ponder them.
If, after all of that, you do decide to leave HR, that's ok. Again, maybe it is not an ideal field for you. But if you decide that HR is where you should be, then make a plan to leave your organization. And when you do, choose to leave well. (We'll talk about that in a future post.)
HR is an incredibly rewarding field. Everything we do impacts people. Don't let toxic environments determine your future.