why so serious, HR?

The Killer HR Robot, destroying fun in the name of credibility!

The Killer HR Robot, destroying fun in the name of credibility!

HR has a credibility gap. We just don’t get the respect we deserve. Or, at least, it seems HR likes to think HR has a credibility gap. There is no shortage of HR folks who think they don’t get the respect they deserve. Maybe they don’t, but it’s interesting to see what they think will create credibility.

I attended the Illinois State SHRM conference recently (a great conference that’s worth crossing state lines for) and a participant, fairly new to HR, expressed concern that we weren’t allowed to have fun in HR. Um, pardon? Apparently her boss and other HR leaders in their community felt that having fun destroys credibility. They believed executives wouldn’t respect HR if we were ever viewed as having fun.

A significant part of my career has been in leadership development and I’ve traveled around and spoken to and worked with leaders in many companies, in many industries, in many countries. Never once did any leader say, “You know what destroys leadership credibility? Fun! I hate it. When I’m looking for strategies to get the most out of my employees, forget someone who can link selection, development, and retention to solving business problems, I want an HR leader who is bitter, dour, mean, and boring. Get me someone who can put fun to the side and make this a culture where our employees hate being here. That’ll solve our business problems!”

Fun doesn’t have to mean frivolous. Fun doesn’t have to mean silly. Fun doesn’t have to mean you don’t know what you’re doing. Fun doesn’t have to mean you don’t take serious issues seriously. Fun can mean that people create significant results and enjoy doing it; that although they take their jobs seriously, they don’t take themselves too seriously. It is entirely possible to be outstanding at what you do AND have fun.

Work isn’t always fun. Often, it’s difficult, complicated, and unpleasant. Which is why I think it’s doubly important to bring fun to it when we can, to find ways to make it more enjoyable, to find the joy in our work. If nothing else, to have fun working together. To look forward to being around our teams. HR can’t make every day a great one for each and every employee, but there is so much we can do to create a positive culture, a great employee experience, and a strong employment brand.

It saddens me to think about the culture and employee experience and business results these anti-fun HR managers are creating. No one looks forward to going to work, giving it their all, and staying around year after year in a miserable environment. I can only imagine the recruiting, retention, and performance problems these companies have.

And they think “fun” will ruin their credibility? Too late.


who do you think you are?

In the business world authenticity and transparency are getting more and more attention. As customers, employees, friends, and spouses, us humans don’t like fake, hypocritical deception. We want the people we deal with to be straight with us, we want to know that what we see is what we get. We want to be around people who are real and comfortable in their own skin.

Spin that around, now. The people who deal with us want to know that we are authentic, that they can trust that we are who we present ourselves to be. They want us to like who we are.

SCREEEEEECCCCHHHHHHH…. and that’s where it grinds to a halt. We spend so much or our lives  learning how we need to be that we never learn who we are. How can we authentically be who we are if we don’t know who that is?

WHO ARE YOU? Chances are you don’t know. I can’t tell you who you are, but I can tell you what you’re not.

You are not your nationality. You are a citizen of your country, but it isn’t you. Move to another country and you are still you.

You are not your job. Your job exists independent of YOU. If you leave the company, your job will still exist – it’ll just be done by someone else. If your job gets eliminated, you don’t disappear.

You are not your accomplishments. Trophies and certificates acknowledge and authenticate what you’ve done, but not who you are. Who you are does not change if you get a degree, renew a certification, or win the softball tournament.

You are not your material goods. Although we often try to define ourselves by aligning ourselves with the brand image of the products we buy, it’s not you. You are not Red Bull Under Armor Levi’s Sprawling McMansion. Your house? Your car? Oversized TV? Storage shed and garage full of stuff you never look and but means too much to get rid of? It might be a reflection of your taste or priorities or income, but none of it defines you as a person.

You are not your income. Yawn.

You are not your family, friends, or relationships. I hope you’re a great friend, fantastic partner, and even better parent, but that’s not who you are.

You are not who your parents, teachers, bosses, and friends said you are. Their opinions are not you.

You are not your favorite sports teams, musicians, authors, TV shows, or movies.

You are not your hobbies.

You are not your manners or social niceties.

You are not you clothes or haircut.

You are not your “brand”.

Notice the pattern. When we strip away all the things we use to define ourselves, we still exist. Underneath all the layers we pile on, all the costumes we wear, all the things we distract ourselves with, is our true self. Tear it all away and we are what’s left: our hopes, dreams, fears, insecurities, and humanity.

WHO ARE YOU? What are your hopes and dreams and fears and insecurities? What are your gifts and talents? What is the humanness that propels you and compels you and makes you laugh and cry and shout and tremble? Only you know, only you can define it, and only you can be real about it.

Can you be real about who you are? Can I?

Your thoughts?