Leaving My HR Self at the Office

There’s been a lot of discussion over the years around inclusion and diversity and the concept of “bringing your whole self” to work. We talk about authenticity and vulnerability and creating a space where all people can show up, have psychological safety, and do their best work. I fully support this concept. Hell, there’s not a day that goes by that I’m not preaching integrity or authenticity. But I’m not really practicing what I’m preaching. And that’s probably a good thing.

I write a blog, post some pictures on Instagram and throw out some tweets all around what some see as my “personal brand.” If you ask those I work with and support, or those I interact with in the HR space, you’ll hear things like, “he’s the HR guy who makes pancakes!” Or “John’s not your typical HR guy. He’s super cool and just ‘gets it.'”

And that’s what I bring to work. I bring an HR perspective that’s practical, sometimes welcoming, and centered around one of my company’s core values of “do what’s right, always.” I listen with intent, promote and model healthy conflict resolution, and put others first.

I’m always willing to take a phone call or meeting with peers in the HR space to help with an issue they may have. I volunteer my time in the HR industry and try to give back as much as I can. I’ll drop everything and move mountains to be a guest on a podcast or offer my opinion for a publication.

But that is not always the person who shows up outside of work.

If I were to do a 360 assessment with those closest to me outside of work, I’d get a totally different picture. The corrective feedback would look something like this:

  • Selfish know-it-all
  • Terrible listener
  • Grumpy
  • Short-tempered
  • Lacks patience
  • Insecure
  • Fraud
  • Lacks attention to detail
  • Procrastinator
  • Irrational

Everything on that assessment would be true. I treat my colleagues and co-workers better than I do those closest to me. I exhibit more patience and understanding within the HR space than outside it. I truly leave my work at the office or on the blog or in social media.

If I brought my whole self to work, I’d fire me in a heartbeat. No PIP, no verbal warning, no severance.

Employees struggle to bring their whole selves to work because sometimes, they’re not happy or proud of what that looks like. So they cover it up. They mask those behaviors and try to show up how they want to be. Not because they feel that’s how others think they should act or behave, but because that’s who they want to be when they leave work. This I know to be true.


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