Why Do you Work In HR?
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.