No Joke: Your HR Lady is the Funnest Person You (Don’t) Know

mom_jeans-1I’m going to let you in on a secret; those aloof stern-faced bureaucrats who work in your human resources department are, quite possibly, some of the most engaging and enjoyable people at your company.

I’m not kidding. They’re probably a lot of fun.

Naturally you scoff. It’s highly likely you’ve never witnessed your HR leader displaying much wit or wisecracking in the employee cafeteria. Greg in Sales has the reputation as the comic genius in the organization who can always be counted on to liven up any meeting or company party. Linda from the Employee Relations team? Not so much.

It’s a peculiar phenomenon that’s hard to understand unless you’ve toiled in a human resources department. Most every HR practitioner, when embarking upon her career, was indoctrinated trained by an older experienced HR professional. Much like my grandmother taught me to cook and bake (well, attempted to; I failed miserably), there’s usually a nice older HR lady in every HR department who teaches the ways-of-HR to the newbies under her care. She might be the HR leader or just the one who has hung on the longest at the organization but, especially if it’s a small or mid-sized HR shop, her HR practices are plucked from some Hot Tub Time Machine alternate universe.

Due to this unique-to-HR rite of passage we’ve spawned thousands of 32-year- old HR ladies who act like your 55-year-old mother. You know the type. She wears mom jeans on Casual Fridays. Every conversation she has with you, even in the bathroom for Christ’s sake, sounds like a lecture. She hounds you for forms and checklists and does everything short of rifling through your backpack (looking for notes or homework assignments!) when you walk in the door.

It’s really not her fault.

This whole situation is outlined very accurately, in my estimation, by Peter Cappelli over at HR Executive as he points out that (1) HR is charged with making people behave, and (2) HR often finds itself in a position of responsibility for an issue or task while often not possessing the authority to do anything about it. Some heavy burdens to bear.

This, gentle readers, is why HR ladies drink.

So here’s the deal; we often remind HR practitioners to be more approachable and get out in their organizations to connect with employees on a human and personal level. But it’s a two-way road; not a one-way thoroughfare.

If you work in any other part of the company, I encourage YOU to get to know your HR team. I’m serious here; no snark or smart-ass commentary intended. Pop in to the HR Department for a visit – not just to pick something up or because you “have to.” Linger at the communal coffee pot when Barb and Mark from HR are there chatting about their weekends. Invite them to join a group of co-workers at Happy Hour. (Note; they may not come because, well, HR bullshit. But trust me – they’ll appreciate the invitation and be incredibly flattered).

Yeah, I get it; your HR lady may seem detached and standoffish, but I promise you; she’s a lot of fun.

I am!

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A Different Twist on HR Networking

martini with a twistOver the last week I’ve read just about every #SHRM15 recap post. In 99.9% of them (ok, I just pulled that statistic out of the air but it’s pretty close) the author opined something like “networking is one of the greatest benefits for attendees of the big show.”

I do have to say, after attending the conference for well over a decade, that I’ve seen a marked increase in the interactions, meetups and blossoming relationships that occur amongst peers and professional colleagues. I certainly give some credit to the increased usage of social media channels and technology platforms that allow people to connect before, during and after the event. Jan tweets Carol during a session, they meet face to face in the SHRM bookstore, grab a cocktail together at some law firm’s networking event that night and BAM – next thing you know they’re LinkedIn connections and Facebook friends.

That’s a good thing.

Here’s the issue though…often times this “let’s network!” mantra only gets trotted out at events or conferences. People turn the idea of connecting into a 4 day goal as opposed to an ongoing dedicated belief that there is inherent value in continuously meeting new people, learning new things and indulging in new conversations.

Obviously the thought of purposeful networking is as horrifying to some people as is the idea (to me) of encountering a spider in the bathtub or a clown at my front door. The fact that articles about its importance continue to be shoved down their throat just makes them even more reticent and unwilling to indulge in activities that appear to be about mindless chit chat or conversations with strangers.

I get it. But I also find it disheartening when members of professional organizations don’t take advantage of networking opportunities; especially in a small community where, for better or worse, everyone will some day either work or collaborate with everyone else.

I’m a member of two SHRM chapters; New Orleans SHRM (NOLASHRM) and Baton Rouge SHRM (GBRSHRM) and the approach to networking is strikingly different between the two chapters. The NOLASHRM chapter holds monthly evening networking events and earlier this week they hosted a get-together at a wine bar/store/restaurant. 50 HR ladies and gents showed up to enjoy a cheese and charcuterie spread and, of course, wine. This attendance number represents but a fraction of the members but the events are held whether 5 people attend or 100.

The GBRSHRM chapter, on the other hand, hosts no dedicated networking events nor is anything done in the evenings except for the annual Holiday Party at which spouses/guests sit awkwardly, watch HR ladies line dance, and silently vow to never attend again no matter how much their wife/husband pleads. There’s a little history to this that I can speak to (having been chapter president 7 years ago); even though chapter members regularly state in survey after survey that they want networking opportunities, whenever events are held attendance is dismal.

It’s become abundantly clear that HR professionals in Baton Rouge don’t want to attend anything outside of work hours. Reasons I’ve heard have ranged from “the Baton Rouge traffic is so bad that I just want to get off the roads and get home” (understandable) to “I use my evenings to spend time with my family” (I get it) to “I really don’t want to spend time with any of these people.” I kid on that last one. Sorta.

Over the years the BR chapter has attempted numerous times to get local HR people together; we’ve done crawfish boils and picnics (zoo and water park). We’ve done a golf outing. We’ve put together a walking team for charity events and volunteered at the Food Bank (6 people showed up). We’ve done “meet ups” and “tweet ups” and post-seminar happy hours. An HR friend of mine started a non-SHRM affiliated “HR Special Interest Group” a few years ago and built an email list of 100 or so HR folks to whom she mails monthly invites to gather at Venue A on a given date. Over the course of almost 2 years we have had about 20 different people show up with a core group of 6-8 regular attendees. At this stage it’s merely a gathering of friends that, while fun, is not a networking event.

Sigh.

Is it a local community thing? Perhaps. When I lived in Milwaukee we did all our SHRM chapter meetings at night and they were packed. I spoke at a Cleveland SHRM DisruptHR event last year and there were 40+ of us who first descended on a local bar at 9PM (well past the bed time, apparently, for Louisiana HR ladies).

Is it an HR thing? Maybe; although one certainly doesn’t run into this reluctance with the HR Technology crowd or with Recruiters, subsets, to some degree, of the greater HR world. No wonder I like recruiting conferences better than HR conferences; the best conversations, learning, and information sharing happens at the bar after the day’s activities have concluded.

Maybe purposeful networking isn’t for you. Maybe a mad dash once a year to grow your professional connections seems like enough effort. That’s OK – go ahead and stay home. Resign yourself to hanging out in the same circles, with the same people, talking about the same stuff.

But I’ll be over there having a conversation.

With a twist.

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Do Something Awesome Every Day

it-is-ok-to-be-awesomeI recently had lunch with a woman I worked with several years ago; she and I had interacted somewhat frequently to attend to business but we also genuinely liked each other. Simpatico and compatible.

After catching up on the phone lamenting the fact that too much time had passed, we decided to get together, have a cocktail, laugh and giggle (yes…I admit to actual giggling), and swap war stories.

At one point during this lunch she said to me (paraphrasing a bit) “you’ve been my favorite HR person at any organization. You kept me sane. Remember when I told you that you were the first HR person who actually acted “human?”

I did indeed remember that.

This story is not, of course, unique to me. I’m sure many of you who work in human resources have heard this, or a variation of it, from employees. “You’re not like other HR people.” “Thanks for helping me through that situation.” “I appreciate you.” “You’re easy to talk to.” “You’re fun.”

Sometimes, when we hear those sorts of things, it makes our crazy jobs in HR a bit better.

That lunch conversation also reinforced something I have long believed and staunchly advocated for: it’s OK for human resources professionals to have a personality. In fact…it’s preferable.

HR ladies are people too. We drink, smoke, swear and tell dirty jokes. We’re the parents of rebellious teenagers and rambunctious toddlers. We have dogs, cats, horses and hamsters. We wonder how we’re going to get the car repaired because finances are tight. We have tattoos and piercings, we do inappropriate things, and a fair number of us like to sing karaoke after one too many margaritas.

Yet, for some reason, many an HR professional trudges off to an office building and erects an invisible shield in an attempt to sanitize and remove all personal uniqueness. He dons his blue suit, she buttons up her jacket, and both of them go about their daily business with all the personality of a come-to-life corporate stock photo. Soulless bureaucrats.

Afraid to be human. Afraid to do something awesome.

I’m not talking about doing something in order to add it to the resume: being strategic, adding value, or successfully navigating a major change management initiative.

I’m talking about doing the human things:

  • Taking someone from another department to lunch
  • Writing a Thank You note to an employee
  • Keeping your door open … and meaning it
  • Eating lunch in the company cafeteria
  • Going to Happy Hour with the Sales Department
  • Singing Karaoke

Being human. Being vulnerable. Being awesome.

 

“Do one thing every day that scares you.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

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h/t for the image

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Celebrate Others with Random Tweets of Kindness #RTOK

thank_you_pink_and_blue_love_birds_post_card_postcard-r5d63853a7bdd4f678c5cfcd5b5b32499_vgbaq_8byvr_324Last March my friend Lars Schmidt (@ThisisLars) chose a day and dedicated his timeline to “Random Tweets of Kindness.” He spent the day tweeting to people who had helped, supported, and inspired him over the years.

And we’re going to do it again!  As Lars wrote at Amplify Talent the other day:

Random Tweets Of Kindness Returns

The original #RTOK was conceived as an experiment. I had no aspirations beyond that day for this day of recognition, but when friends began suggesting we make it an annual event it was a sell. I’m excited to announce Wednesday 3/11/15 will be the next Random Tweets Of Kindness day (#RTOK). 

How To Participate

If you’d like to join us this year, here’s how:

  • Help spread the word with your networks ahead of 3/11
  • You can share this post, or even better write your own, and promote it using the #RTOK hashtag
  • On 3/11, send tweets throughout the day to anyone you feel deserves recognition for their work – or just some kindness
  • Keep an eye on #RTOK throughout the day on 3/11, RT any tweets you feel compelled to share

 

I’m in. Are you?

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image: zazzle

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Write a Thank You Note

original_set-of-12-handmade-thank-you-note-cardsI don’t know about you but I still like holding an actual book in my hand. I enjoy the pleasure of flipping through a glossy magazine. I don’t mind being handed a sheath of papers and having the ability to sit down and read, mark it up, and curl the pages. I’m not a fan of newspapers though; I don’t think I’ve sat and read a printed newspaper for years.

But I like love hand written cards and notes.

A birthday card received in the mailbox. A note left on my desk. A post-it note slapped on my monitor.

Nice little reminders to stop for a moment and appreciate human connections.

So here’s something awesome you can do today.

Take a few minutes, sit down with pen in hand and compose a thank you note to someone who’s made a difference in your week. Surprise your co-worker in the next cubicle, the hard-working receptionist who manages the flow of visitors to your office, or a colleague in another department.

Deliver it yourself…or support the USPS. Your choice.

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image: (and cards available at) notonthehighstreet

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