What if HR Was an Optimist?
by Michelle Checketts
I recently saw the latest Disney/Pixar film Inside Out. In case you missed it, the film is about five emotions inside a little girl – Joy, Anger, Fear, Disgust, and Sadness. As one entertaining gif described the movie, “What if feelings had feelings?!” I laughed, I reminisced, I shed a few tears, and then I started thinking . . . about HR. No, I wasn’t thinking “what if HR had feelings?” I was thinking about which feeling tends to dominate HR behavior. And I thought, What if HR operated from the perspective of Joy? What if HR was an optimist?
Let’s look at how HR usually operates from the other emotions.
When you spend all of your time on compliance (anti-harassment training, verifying I-9’s, etc.) for fear of a lawsuit, you spend your days harping on managers to sign documents and make their people attend required trainings. Your onboarding process is 90% about paperwork and 10% about the new hire having a good first day, rather than the other way around. You allow executives to dictate your budget and priorities because you are afraid to push back and share your ideas for ways to bring value. You hire the first decent candidate who comes along in case you never find anyone else.
When an employee asks you for the 12th time when the deadline is for open enrollment, and you roll your eyes because you already sent out three detailed emails with all of the information. You respond with a snarky, “Well, if you would read your emails, you would know.” When a manager comes to you and demands to fire an employee, but there is zero documented evidence of performance problems, and you let out a sigh because you feel like a broken record – “No, we can’t just fire him. Let’s start the process.”
When someone comes to you a few hours after the benefits deadline asking for an extension, but you refuse to cut her any slack because she knew for the last month that today was the deadline! When you leave work fuming because your annual budget was cut in half without any warning thanks to those money-hoarding executives.
When you find out that you have to layoff one of your favorite employees who confided in you last week that she’s pregnant, and you think there’s nothing you can do to change the layoff decision. When you don’t speak up at meetings because you believe that your perspective isn’t as important or as valued as another’s.
What if HR operated from the perspective of Joy?
We all have HR days that are harder than others. But what if more of our days were made up of Joy rather than those other feelings? What would those days look like?
You might look for more ways to automate compliance processes because, yes, those things are important, but you know that you’re capable of contributing more than just spending your time worrying about a possible lawsuit. You might revamp your onboarding process to focus more on helping the employee have an amazing first day, rather than burying him or her in paperwork and policies.
You might think of creative ways to help employees remember open enrollment deadlines and details so you aren’t faced with the same question 47 times.
You might speak up more in meetings and ask for more budget because you believe in the value HR can bring to your company, and you know others will see that value if you have the chance to show them.
You might not hire the first decent person who comes along because you know that a great candidate is out there if you look in the right places and write a good job description.
HR managers wear many hats, it’s true; but what if those hats were all optimistic? How else do you think HR could change if we operated from the perspective of Joy?
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