Have I Been In Human Resources Too Long?

Oct 11, 2021

I remember early in my Human Resources career, my then mentor and now friend, Rene, used to remind me, "John, not everyone is at your level". I now know I took that for granted and didn't truly understand what he meant.

Then, something happens in one of my areas of responsibility at work and I realize EXACTLY what he meant.

I have observed over the years many people are quick to jump to the worst case scenario or believe the worst outcome and jump down that rabbit hole without a safety net.

Case in point: At one point in my career, I was contacted at work about a possible theft of company documents and an expectation of some swift action as a consequence.

"Bobby(name made up to protect the innocent) was observed leaving the office with papers in his hand".

Now, the backstory:

Bobby was a former manager who stepped down voluntarily and his own volition for his own reasons. Susie(also an alias) was causing trouble and became a general nuisance to Bobby.

Unfortunately, the evidence showed a "He Said-She Said" and there was no way to validate either side.

Bobby never received any closure on his original complaint and a short time later was transferred to another location. A location within a 60 second walk of his old location.

Now, a few week later, a very similar incident has happened and Bobby is obviously upset. He writes down his statement, turns it in and is quite vocal about his displeasure with the whole situation.

He was in the office with a manager and was later seen leaving the office with a stack of papers in his hand. "He stole company documents!!!" was the cry. And of course, action had to be forthcoming.

Bobby was going off the deep end expecting instant action, threatening to call HR and more...

This was where Rene's words came crushing down on my already throbbing headache and I finally "Got It".

This was not a case of being the parent of an only child and when you step into a room the child was in and see something broken you know it was that child. No, this was a full born off the deep end HE STOLE.

The discussion with the manager presenting the case went something like this:

  • Me: Did you speak to Bobby and ask him if he took the papers?
  • Manager: No
  • Me: Can you see why Bobby may feel the way he does?
  • Manager: Not really
  • Me: It's like this:
  • Bobby previously made a complaint which he never got closure on because "WE" did not circle back with him to close the case
  • Next, Bobby was transferred to another location without so much as a discussion
  • Had we gone to Bobby and said, "Bobby, thank you bringing this to our attention. We have investigated and have found you and Susie were the only 2 invloved without any witnesses so there is no definitive way to know EXACTLY what happened. I know there may be some friction between you 2, would you feel more comfortable moving to a location away from Susie? I have the 1 minute away location available.

After that back and forth, there seemed to be a better understanding of the impact of all these actions but it really got me wondering if I had been in Human Resources too long.

Look, I know HR is not for everybody and even then, the very best of HR professionals have those moments. If you have never had that, consider yourself either lucky or in denial.

Now, to be fair, this happened in a company transitioning from private ownership to becoming part of a huge international conglomerate where HR standards previously were suspect at best and downright illegal at worst so I can't fault this manager too much.

But back to my original question: Had I been in HR too long?

Honestly, I have not settled on an answer yet. Everything in my gut says Hell No!! But my mind and subconscious keeping hinting otherwise. It's a debate I have been having with myself and out loud for a several years.

The world is new and evolving from a Human Resources perspective each and every day. Whether it's a new Federal Law, some arcane past practice or the State of California sneezing(if you have EVER worked or had responsibility for California, you KNOW what I am referring to) there's something new to learn, process and integrate.

So take nothing for granted, absorb everything you can to be the best you can be, and keep your chin up and know you in Human Resources are sometimres the ONLY level of sanity and reason in an often insane and unreasonable world.