Almost eight years ago, I found myself in my last year of undergrad searching for my niche in the world of psychology. I started out in clinical psychology and decided I didn’t want to diagnose and counsel for the rest of my existence so I set out on my quest to find my new niche. In searching, one of my mentors at the time told me to look into industrial psychology … I was hooked immediately!
Since dealing with mental issues was no longer an interest, I figured I would endeavor to diagnose and prescribe solutions for the issues in the workplace instead.
Every class I took excited me more than the last. By the time I graduated I felt a superhero sense of empowerment to go out in the world and right all the wrongs in the workplace or maybe at the least understand them. By the time I landed my first HR job, my hopes and dreams were quickly deflated. They neglected to tell me in school that HR wasn’t superman and didn’t always save the day by saving poor employees from the wrath of their employers. They also neglected to tell me that sometimes HR was the problem and didn’t have all the answers.
What a blow to these hopes and dreams I had of conquering all and leaving companies better than I found them. Several stints in HR into my career, I had been the victim of antiquated processes, bullying, sexual harassment, ill-equipped bosses, ridiculous schedules, deficits in resources and poor HR models. What the heck was my mentor thinking? Now I need a couch and a psychologist to speak to for all that I’ve seen and endured in this profession. I didn’t aid the company in resolving these issues; this became my HR reality. I actually lived these atrocities in a company’s HR department. I reached a point of feeling that my hopes and dreams had been naïve and perhaps misguided now that I realized that HR wasn’t the Immaculate Conception I thought it was.
All of a sudden, I had to find a renewed purpose in a profession that hasn’t lived up to the fairy tale I was told in undergrad. Instead it was a nightmare — but I didn’t want to escape completely. I wanted to fix it and I knew eventually I would have other profound realizations and find my purpose in this profession. If there is one thing that is essential to your HR toolbox it is purpose. Without a sense of purpose, I think one cannot endure the sordid happenings that are all too common in HR for long.
As I have progressed through my career to date here is what I have realized … HR is not the savior of any business or one employee and I’m not sure that is a job that HR wants. No matter what your religion, this idea of an omniscient being or beings swooping down and saving your company is a huge burden to carry. Being omniscient is best left in religious texts not for the world of work. The other thing is sometimes HR has to make unpopular decisions whether it is seeing an investigation of sexual harassment through to the bitter end or handing down a termination of someone in the C-Suite for shady business practices. We are the face of these unpopular decisions and should wear it as a badge of honor. We are not the police nor are we the Dalai Lama. We are simply a group of individuals equipped to develop and administrate the programs and initiatives that assist your company in thriving fiscally, ethically, and legally by managing the “human capital” facet of the business.
Assist, advise, assert, administer, and advocate are just some of the words that are synonymous with the purpose of Human Resources. We assist leaders in managing the “people” business. We advise employees and leaders alike on everything from career development to workforce planning. We assert the business imperative to do the right thing even when it’s not the lucrative thing. We administer policies, programs and initiatives that enrich the business. We advocate on behalf of the employee and for the company- it’s a fine line to walk but we understand how to balance it all.
It is apparent that HR and I share the same journey in that we know what has to be done, we have the tools to do it, we certainly have the business savvy and intelligence to advise the C-Suite yet we are still in a place of trying to find our “niche”. Here’s a thought — our collective niche is ever evolving. It is true that we are the core of the organization and in being that there are some things that will remain the same. However, as our businesses evolve so should we. That is taking what we know and everything we are and putting a new spin on it. We will never be perfect or be all things to all people. What we know is good enough — and that is people. Happy people equal happy and thriving organizations. Once we realize that this is the area where we really shine we will find that we have found our niche and possess a power unmatched.
Good, bad, or indifferent this is my profession and I am proud of it. This is my so-called HR reality.
This post was written by Janine N. Truitt.
Janine is a Senior Human Resources Representative for Brookhaven National Laboratory. Her expertise and interests are in Talent Management, HRIT, Employee Relations, and HR Policy/Compliance and any other endeavor that improves the HR function in organizations. To add to her multi-faceted talents she is a devoted wife and mom to two amazing little girls, science and philosophy lover, and HR blogger and founder of “The Aristocracy of HR“. Connect with her on Linked In and follow her tweets on Twitter @CzarinaofHR. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect the opinions of her employer.