… the HR Minion. Because even minions have opinions. And giggles.

A thin line between love and hate

“I want to work in Human Resources because I love working with people.”

Oh man, I know you’ve heard that line before. Most likely you heard it from some bright-eyed idealist who has no idea what HR is really all about. Hell, maybe you are even the one who said it (*Raises Hand* Guilty). But if you’ve been working in HR for a while, I bet you can’t hear that line without groaning and rolling your eyes. Why? Because if you love people, HR may not be the right job for you.

That’s because when you work in HR, you get to see the worst sides of people. You see them being childish, self-important, rude, condescending, spiteful, and disrespectful. They lie, cheat, steal, and maybe even hurt other employees. You get tears, arguments, get yelled at, and have to listen to tragic stories hopelessly. And through it all you have to try and remain calm, professional, consistent, stand your ground, maintain confidentiality, and ultimately try to do what’s best for the company.

If you are too idealistic, you may not be able to handle it. If you think HR is all about warm fuzzies and holiday parties, you will most definitely not be able to handle it. And if you can’t handle conflict or you take things personally, run now.

Long ago, when I was fresh out of college and working my first “real” job and looking to transfer into the HR department, I was having coffee with one of the company’s Generalists. I wanted to pick her brain and see if she had any advice on what I needed to do and yes, I did utter that hateful line above when she asked me why I wanted to work in HR. She flat out told me that based on our conversation, she would suggest I go into training/L&D instead. Why? She didn’t think I would be able to handle HR because she didn’t think I would be able to fire anyone. Ouch. But I got the message.

Alternatively though, you can’t hate people. You can’t do HR effectively and be bitter and jaded. You have to coach people, want to help them succeed, and sometimes bend over backwards to make it happen. You do need to genuinely care about them as individuals, even when they are yelling at you. Sure, some people are jerks, but sometimes people are stressed or upset and you need to remember that’s not who they are most of the time.

To do HR, you need to be able to empathize with people while at the same time be strong enough to take negative action against them if necessary. You need to be able to sympathize with the single mother with 3 kids who lost her husband to cancer last year AND lay her off from her job at the same time. If you can’t do both, you either become ineffectual or heartless.

There is a thin line between love and hate, and HR has to walk it every day. Can you handle it?

2 Responses | Add your Own

  • 1 Leona Wilson, CHRP CEBS CMS :

    Beautifully stated! Without question there is no better vantage point with which to see people in their finest and occasionally, not so finest moments. The ability to stay calm no matter what and politely ignore some of the snarky comments from people who are suffering is not always effortless. We have to remind ourselves that not everyone gets the work hardening we do. It is easier to stop feeling altogether some days but that also means shutting out compassion – not a great coping strategy. Walking a thin line between love and hate? No doubt about it!

  • 2 Shauna :

    Leona – it is a hard line to walk but also a fun challenge. Thanks for the comment!