HR is a complex field. There is no denying it. You have to be a mix of a strategist, psychologist, culture champion, trainer, and lawyer every day. On top of all of those hats, you’re never sure which role you’ll need to jump into because your days are never the same even if you do your best to plan them out. Why is that? It’s simple. We are the people who work with people.

People are unpredictable, messy, talented and passionate. They yearn for acknowledgement, recognition and a chance to do their best in their own particular role. Often, these basic areas mean more to people than monetary incentives or prestige. When they are neglected, that’s when things start to go awry. What we find as HR practitioners is that many employees tend to float because they aren’t anchored to either their supervisor or the organization as a whole. This is true at all levels of the company. When that occurs, people look to HR as well to be the function that pulls everyone together. The challenge is that no one has the same definition as to what “together” looks like.

To try and make sense of this constantly moving workplace, HR often decides that its best defense mechanism is to add layers and layers of systems. We have fallen into a trap believing that the more steps we establish to address the various nuances of how people behave, then we will be in control and a smooth flow will apply to all that our people do. We need to come to terms with the fact that this just isn’t true. The other step we take is to hide behind our legal shield when things get icky. (Yes, that is an official HR term). We are quick to instantly add a policy or procedure in response to situations instead of leaning in and addressing what’s actually happening.

This approach leads to more burnout and frustration of HR professionals than anything I know. You can never keep up with the structure that you continue to build. It’s like adding another brick in the wall of work (all credit to Pink Floyd). Is there anything we can do? There is, but it takes a reversal in how we currently practice.

It’s time to Deconstruct HR!! Here are some steps to consider that will help you get things back to where you can enjoy Human Resources once again.

Just Breathe and Slow Down

It sounds simple, but we rush around too much and we feel that we can’t keep up with all of the items on our plate. You can’t – and you never will. Does that help? You need to understand that if you look at your job as someone who constantly puts out fires, you’re a firefighter, not an HR pro. Nothing happens that truly sets the world on fire. By stepping back, assessing situations and then acting, you’ll take a huge step to improving HR for yourself and for your organization.

Be a Businessperson

HR has to understand that just being “strategic” isn’t enough anymore. It honestly never has been. When we have to encourage people to “be” something, it infers that they are lacking. Organizations need businesspeople, not just people who understand the business. We can’t keep operating from the outside in. We have an obligation to be integrated throughout the company. Keep this as your new mantra – If there are people in a department, then they need HR. We need to jump into the mix of what is going on instead of being a spectator.

Give Context

It seems simple, but we don’t do it. When you give people a framework of why you’re addressing things in a particular way, you’ll calm them down and you can resolve situations. Resist the urge to create yet another policy that you know people won’t follow. You can thrive in what you do by being a connector in your organization. Pull people together instead of trying to corral and correct them. This calls for an alternative approach to HR, but it’s what organizations deserve.

Be Intentional

We’ve become a profession that prefers to be asked to participate. We don’t want to offend anyone so we wait our turn. The reality is that when we take that position, people pass us by. HR is responsible for humans. No one else. It’s us. Since that is an organizational truth, we need to own it and be the champion of all employees. You will bring great value by being a resource and a voice for all instead of being the person who’s expected to correct behavior and fix ugly interactions. Trust me. If you turn this around, you’ll thrive in what you do.

Be Passionate and Positive

Having the ability to work with people is a gift. It really is. To see the beauty in our differences as well as to see people grow and develop in their strengths is amazing. We have the choice to either believe in people or not. I choose to know that people are spectacular. Yes, they may be difficult at times, but so am I. Yes, they may fail and disappoint others, but so do I. People rock because they aren’t perfect. We need to live our lives positively because that will yield results and define a culture better than anything else we can do.


By Steve Browne (Special Guest Blogger)

View the related webinar that we hosted with Steve Browne to learn more about “Putting the Human Back in Human Resources.”