This morning as I was driving into work, I stopped at a red light when I caught a glimpse in my rearview mirror. I realized the driver in the car behind me was crying. If you weren’t paying close attention you’d miss it, her face was absent of any real emotion but there was definitely a steady stream of tears falling down each cheek. After a few moments, I realized I had zoned out while still maintaining a constant gaze into the mirror. I knew I needed to adjust my gaze knowing what I would feel like if I noticed the driver in front of me staring as I cried.
Nevertheless, watching this woman cry at the red light moved me. I couldn’t help but wonder what was happening in her life that caused this emotional release during her morning commute. My mind wandered from thoughts of her losing a loved one, to a marriage that is falling apart and then it landed on what if she is crying for what lies ahead. What if those tears are a needed release to prepare for a work environment that is cold and unforgiving? What if she was preparing for a place that she must survive for eight to twelve hours feeling completely alone? It instantly brought back vivid memories of commutes where I would do the same. The tears were all I had as I coped with the reality that there was no end in sight and possibly no place where it could be better.
I’ve developed a fairly common practice of reviewing HR job postings for the local area. This is predominantly driven by my desire to assist individuals in transition as well as my students at the college that are seeking post graduation employment. However, I also use it as research to watch for trends as well as hints of what could be happening within an organization. So if I stumble upon a recent HR vacancy that was previously filled by a colleague, I reach out for some insights. More and more, I am learning about individuals transitioning out of HR and into other business functions. I struggle with these transitions because the people leaving HR are the people we need now more than ever in HR. Yet, I can’t argue with their decision knowing that for many years they were that woman in the car.
HR is touted as being a powerful department of one. It is a powerful department but a lonely one. It is this isolation accompanied with the constant questioning of credibility that creates a storm of frustration that eventually evolves to hopelessness. Where the light at the end of the tunnel presents itself as an “anything but HR” opportunity. As someone who has the privilege of working with individuals at both ends of the spectrum, the new HR management graduate that believes they can change the world and the decades old practitioner that has given up on the world, it is critical that we begin to break down the bridge that transitions one into the other.
Therefore, I want to leave you this week with some wisdom on how to begin to stop this active progression of disengagement:
1. Dissolve all challenges with trust. Your greatest strength as an HR practitioner lies in your ability to build bonds that limit resistance. During times when decisions must be made that cannot be validated or determined by traditional business criteria and evidence, it is these relationships that will carry your credibility.
2. You are appreciated all around. You are HR but you are still human, meaning it is natural to want to be recognized, appreciated and valued by your superior. However, sometimes your greatest work is evolving and expanding that leader’s mind. As you do this work, notice the appreciation for your hard work as it is recognized all around. You are one of the few practitioners that is able to reap the benefits of 360 degree organizational love.
3. Have fun. There’s a reason why HR sometimes has the informal title of party planner. We are typically the leader that is expected to encourage workplace fun. This includes you having fun, find the joy again in your HR position and prioritize those activities. Find the happy balance by listening to my friend, Jeff Harry, he calls these activities play values and shares how to find them on this podcast episode.
Whatever you do, don’t stop and don’t give up. We need you and your team needs you. You are not alone in this work and please don’t hesitate to let me know how I can help.
p.s. This blog post was adapted from the From the HRart fortnightly newsletter. I invite you to subscribe!
Cover Photo by Brittany Colette