It’s incredible how many people shutter when I say, “I’m a Director of Human Resources.” Their response is often, “WHY. Why would you go into that profession? That sounds like a soul-sucking job” I usually tell them that I spend a lot of time coaching managers, encouraging employees, training them on harassment/bullying, and answering the same question 10 times. Much like my former life when I was a teacher at a Discipline Alternative Education School. They wore uniforms, I guided students to make the right choice, disciplining by losing points for the day, I coached them to stay on task and “stop touching each other” for the 10th time, so it’s not very different. I do believe that it takes an extraordinary person to choose to go into the field of Human Resources and willingly try to be different than the stereotypical dreaded Human Resources person.
“OH NO HERE COMES HR”…
Why do people scatter when we come out of our offices? I’ve often heard the Darth Vador march played when I would go into the warehouse office area. Really?! Darth Vader??
I mean, there was a time that I did wear a lot of long flowing sweaters and knee-high boots, but I don’t think that warrants the Darth Vader March and I certainly don’t walk around wheezing **HOOPRRR** in a mask. A lot of our employees tell me they hate getting a phone call or email from Human Resources. I love when I send an email or text that says “See Me”. You’d be surprised how many of my employees tell me their heart sinks. I would be lying if it didn’t make me giggle a bit when I send one that looks like me that says in my most amazing HR Voice, “You’re being summoned to the HR Office.”
Typically its not the dreaded conversation they have built up in their head by the time they’ve walked to my office but I do grin when they visibly relax and breathe a sigh of relief. Don’t get me wrong, yes, a lot of the time if something has made it to my desk, somebody violated a policy, an injury has occurred, someone needs coaching or terminated. However, I feel that my primary role as a Human Resource professional is that of a work-life coach. One whose suggestions, policies, and RULES have been put in place to protect the employees AND the company.
We’re in such a different climate in the world today. Trying to navigate the fast pace of technology, short attention spans, social media, effective communication (active listening is the most critical part), legalization of marijuana, #metoo, a lot of us in Human Resources has been trying to figure out where do we start? What is the most important thing we need to tackle? Honestly, I have no idea, but I’m strapped in for the ride, and I genuinely love what I do.
My boss posed a fascinating question to myself and my HR Manager this morning. “When was the last time you remember not being negative about employee relations?” I couldn’t think of a day that I wasn’t pissed off at some point in the day about something. You know what I’m referring to, whether it was a hiring issue, new hire not showing up on their first day, discipline issues, medical issues, generational differences, personality conflicts, quitting via text message, workers comp, fraud, etc. When was the last time you didn’t complain about something related to employment? OR when was the last time you didn’t complain at all? For 24 hours?
I am ashamed to say that my HR “Days since Incident” wall would probably say ZERO. His question made me reflect on what I’m focused on daily. It made me think about 95% of my employees, who are absolute superstars. The group of employees who come in every day and give their 110%. Why do we focus so much on the 5% that bring us down? Our COO came into our New Hire On-Boarding this month and did a participation exercise. You can participate right now while you’re sitting here reading my blog. Go ahead- Raise your hand in the air. Keep it there. Now, Raise it as far as you can. Why didn’t you raise it all the way the first time?
Why do we come into work and only do the bare minimum? I was challenged that day to think about the kind of HR Director I wanted to be. Do I want to be the one that is pissed off because of one situation or the one who enjoys the entire rest of my 10-hour workday? I strive to coach everyone to raise their hand the highest. You know what I mean, raise it as you did in school when the teacher asked for a volunteer to do something fun, like cleaning the chalk erasers. (Chalk, yes I just dated myself)
We’re all struggling with the same thing. The unemployment rate is down, so it’s an employees market. We’ve had employees leave for huge promises from other organizations only to find out they were empty promises. Others have left because they were upset about something trivial, and instead of reaching out and talking to someone, they just quit. Ironically some of them are still unemployed. We’ve had employees go for 2 dollars more an hour but didn’t consider the increase in their healthcare costs and commute.
A LESSON FROM THE AIR FORCE CORE VALUES
Yes, people leave. We’ll never tell someone they shouldn’t find a better opportunity. It’s costly to hire people. The recruiting, the time spent training, and getting them up to speed is a considerable cost. When you have so many new employees, and you’re focused so much on what they are doing wrong, you fail to see what they are doing right and coaching the rest. Having the right personal attitude has a direct correlation to how we think about others, including employees/coworkers. What can we do to retain our talent? I feel we need to shift our perspective. Celebrate and connect with our employees every day.
Remember the definitive rule that “You don’t build business. You build PEOPLE, and then PEOPLE build the business”. We need to give our supervisors and managers the anonymity to make choices, celebrate their employees, and not fear repercussions for making a decision that may not have been executed the way we may have wanted it to happen.
I want to coach our employees strive to operate with integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do. When we do this, we all will find happiness in our careers. Yes, those are the Air Force Core Values, and they are solid foundations for your work ethic. Work in a way that everyone knows they can depend on you (integrity), help others (service) and raise your hand as high as possible (excellence)
Here is a hard truth. We may be expecting too much from people. What I mean by that, is that we EXPECT people to do things the way WE want them to do it and if they don’t WE’RE disappointed and typically pissed off. Gary John Bishop is an author of two of my most favorite books. “Unfu*k Yourself: Get out of your head and into your life” and “Stop Doing that Sh*t.”
Yes, he curses a lot, but have you ever been in HR’s office when the doors closed?! So do we, sorry mum, it’s true. Gary divides the book into a series of seven assertions:
- I am willing
- I am wired to win
- I got this
- I embrace the uncertainty
- I am not my thoughts; I am what I do
- I am relentless
- I expect nothing and accept everything
I highly recommend these books, and I’d start with Chapter 8. Expect nothing and accept everything. You’ll be amazed at how the simple act of losing your expectation of how other people are supposed to behave and agree that no matter what happens, you’re going to be ok. This book will change your whole perspective of your day.
Some quotes from the book
“The true measure of who you are won’t be found in your circumstances but rather the way in which you respond to them.”
“found that positive self-talk can dramatically improve mood, boost confidence, increase productivity, and more. Much more. In fact, as evidenced by Professor Hart and his studies, it can be one of the key components to a happy, successful life. The bad news is, the reverse is also true: Negative self-talk can not only put us in a bad mood, it can leave us feeling helpless. It can make small problems seem bigger – and even create problems where none existed before. Here’s the breaking news, your self-talk is fucking you over, and in ways, you can’t even begin to imagine.”
― Gary John Bishop, Unfu*k Yourself: Get Out of Your Head and Into Your Life
I certainly don’t have all the answers, that’s why I’m often found listening to podcasts, reading books, and applying new knowledge every single day. Find a resource that works for you and run with it. You don’t have to run with a rucksack full of ideas either. Pick ONE thing a day, focus on that, and shift your perspective. You’ll feel a difference in that one moment of success. Human Resources can be stressful at times, without a doubt, but it doesn’t have to be a blow-up Alderaan because it’s not working exactly the way we want. (See what I did there, Darth Vadar reference) I embrace the sentiment warehouse dept. I embrace it.