I’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.