Halloween costumes are great. You get to pretend to be somebody that you're not.
You can be a famous character. Maybe you like to dress up as somebody spooky, or like me, maybe you get roped into dressing up like one of the Adam's Family, so your wife is happy with your costume contest chances...
Or the time my wife made me dress up as "Aunt Lydia" from the Handmaid's tale.
It's all great.
One of the challenges in human resources is that we constantly face is the fact that we have to put on a mask or a costume in order to do our job at times. A lot of times people perceive us as the company representative, or the principal's office, and in order to do their jobs, many HR professionals have to compartmentalize the work that they do.
There's a lot of stress in our jobs. A lot of times, we have to make decisions that are very, very challenging. Sometimes, it doesn't feel like there are a lot of winners at the end of the day. In order to compartmentalize, a lot of us put on a mask or a costume when they walk into work. I can't tell you how many times I've had a conversation with an HR professional who comments that they feel like they can't be themselves at work, or that HR is simply the job that they do.
But the HR work they do doesn't reflect the choices or the decisions that they make within their personal lives. So my question for an HR professional out there who feels like they have to put on a façade, or a costume or a mask, when they walk into work is this: WHY?
If your employees don't feel like you are authentic, human, understanding, and empathetic, they won't come to you. You won't be a resource for them. You'll just be another person in a role that makes decisions about their livelihood, that has a huge impact on them.
A lot of times I hear the argument that HR is supposed to be on the side of the people, or I hear HR is supposed to be a representative of the business. HR is supposed to be a part of the business strategy to improve culture, improve the people, and support the business and all of its success.
That means that if an employee brings a complaint to HR, HR helps support that employee and the business to come to a win win solution. It's not about which side are you on, it's about the perspectives you support.
HR's job should be to review these things in an empathetic and humanistic way. That means you can't be wearing a costume or a mask in the workplace. You can't compartmentalize human resources in your real life. It's all intertwined. Eventually, if you put on a mask or a costume at work, every single day that you go to work, you're going to burn out, you're going to crash and burn and it won't be fun. You'll either end up leaving the profession because you just can't handle it. Or you're going to be a really terrible HR practitioner.
We ask our employees to be authentic, we ask our employees to bring concerns to us. Human Resources needs to have that outlet as well.
Get connected with other professionals, either within your company or outside of your company. Learn about how to be appropriate and authentic, but also reflect your role. Ask yourself when you walk into work. Are you being true to yourself? Are you being authentic? Is your headspace in the right place so that you can hear somebody's concerns and have empathy for them?
You need to understand the concerns of the business and some of the decisions that are really challenging for a business to make. Then you need to support and help an employee understand and then connect those two things together. Help an employee understand the logic of a business decision. Help a business understand an employee's concern in an empathetic way, and then work to address and build trust and respect within your organization and within your team.
The best way to build trust is two words, competency and character. The only way to have competency is to practice and learn and get better. And the only way to have character is to be authentic and real.
And in the spirit of Halloween. It never hurts to have a jar of candy in your office.
I'm the Vice President - Human Resources for CPM Holdings, Inc. In this role, I oversees the aspects of Human Resources for 27 domestic and international locations in 11 countries. I've previously held progressive HR roles for Fortune 500 organizations.