Over some time, my lawn has been getting a little full. Issues and people have been crowding my lawn like the signs in an election year. So I have decided to take a walk out on my porch and address those things cluttering my lawn. It’s fall and the leaves need to be raked, bagged, and taken to recycling. I’ve had versions of this post sitting in my drafts for quite some time. And after thinking on it and reflecting, I have seen enough to finally post it. Sit back and relax, and feel free to totally ignore, this HR guy’s rant.
HR is constantly seeking approval and validation from our corporate peers. We are learning the business, building a positive employee experience, and trying to cultivate meaningful relationships. But along this journey, there is always a roadblock. Of all the departments in organizations, HR seems to be on the outside looking in, but held accountable for protecting and preserving a culture of respect and inclusion. In many aspects, HR is the ultimate department of one.
What do I mean by this? Let me present a lovely post like this from a contributing editor at Inc. There’s nothing that makes my day more than when someone sends these articles to me. Let’s just make up some baseless claims about HR and put it in a major publication. What is this, 2005? And I’m curious what all the HR people at places like Fast Company, Inc., and Business Insider think when their own publications post articles like this. Do they even get a chance to be interviewed? Do they care?
I think it’s cute when business/sales consultants write posts about organizations or departments they’ve never stepped foot in except to sign their new hire paperwork or collect their severance check. By the way, that rarely happens anymore. We have technology for you to complete your pre-hire paperwork online and we will just direct-deposit your severance. And we don’t have offices anymore because your “business and culture expertise” thought open concept office spaces were a great idea to improve teamwork and collaboration.
Why has HR built the reputation as the policy police or the office of No? Because people discriminate. They harass. They can’t behave like decent human beings and treat others with dignity and respect. So employees need an advocate. HR is supposed to be that advocate for all employees. Yes, we have the best interest of the company in mind because companies are made up of people. At all levels. And there are many instances where HR fails. We are not perfect.
We are supposed to be the stewards of culture but are seen as outsiders that struggle to find their place in the organization. I work at this everyday. And there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t hear something like, “Uh oh, HR is here. We better not do this or say that.” Really? You act like I’m a priest or your dad. I can joke with the best of them, but those statements get old. They’re misinformed. If you want to come to work and act like a jackass and get upset because some places actually have boundaries or try to provide an environment where employees can show up and feel safe, you’re just the person who “blames HR.”
You get upset when HR calls you on your bullshit. “HR won’t let me do this. They’re so lame.” Your damn right. I won’t accept the fact that you want to behave like a college frat guy at company functions. I won’t accept that you want to continuously bully and mistreat employees in the name of revenue generation. I won’t accept that you want to fire someone on the spot because you failed to coach and develop your employee and provide them the feedback needed to succeed along the way.
If you think I’m lame for taking that position, then I’m the lamest bro you know.
And let me be perfectly clear. I do not like that part of my job. I’d rather be spending my time coaching leaders on how to be their best selves. I’d rather be building employee development programs to help employees get the most out of the employee experience. I’d rather be working on the strategic workforce initiatives and fiddling with all the new cool tools like AI and machine learning like all the consultants claim are the next big thing. I’d rather be whipping up a batch of pancakes for employees and discussing their career goals and dreams.
But when indecent human behavior steps in my path to being a strategic HR professional, it can be isolating. Because when in this mode, people only see the investigator. They only see the “hatchet man.” And I don’t enjoy those parts of the job.
So what can HR do to break down the walls of isolation in the organization? Show up and don’t let the stereotypes become a reality. Treat others with fairness and respect and be an example. Listen to each employee when they have a question and don’t immediately answer with a link to your policy manual. Take a stand when something isn’t right and let your voice be heard. You’re not going to change everybody’s opinion and that’s ok. Find the work that brings fulfillment to you.
Now that I got that off my chest, I’m going to get back to work. I have to make sure there’s enough napkins for the corporate picnic. Also, somebody’s complaining about bagel emojis. Good grief. That lawn is starting to fill up again.