Where The Hell Do I Go When I Am Pi$&@d Off And "I" Am Human Resources?

Oct 12, 2021

Where Do We Get Some Sanity and Reprieve?

We Are The Keepers Of Fair and Consistent

I was told VERY early in my professional Human Resources career it was NOT for everybody. It requires high levels of confidentiality, massive amounts of compassion and an above average ability to compartmentalize in spite of inherent human nature.

Coming into an HR Manager role, I had been previously a Corporate Trainer speaking in front of small groups of team members 3-4 days a week for several years. I always had the goal of becoming more of a well-rounded HR person and I certainly had a lot to learn.

This was back in 2008 when I finally got an HR Manager job. I told my new boss, Rene, I knew only the basics of HR but was skilled with training. Don't worry, he told me. I can teach you what you need to know to be a successful HR Manager!

Over time, I learned, I grew and from time to time, I would get frustrated. The reasons were varied:

  • Why does this manager keep doing this which they know is wrong?
  • I have way too much on my plate, how can I keep up?
  • How do we run a massive Job Fair to recruit the 40+ associates we need?
  • Why do candidates lie on their background check paperwork especially when we tell them one will be run?
  • What's in the water here? Everything seem to be coming at me rapid fire...

I was always very fortunate as I had Rene to talk to and to bounce ideas off of, give me a good laugh or talk me off a dangerous ledge.

Eventually, I sprouted my wings and left the relative safety of being a Manager and was made a Director of Human Resources at another location and it was the 1st time I was the HR person in charge.

I knew I had to be the eyes, ears, and morale conscious of the organization. I also knew I had to be the eyes, ears and consigliere of the President, General Manager or CEO.

This is certainly an interesting conundrum.

Interesting and strange might be an understatement I would use looking back.

On the one hand, you must guide your boss done treacherous and foreboding paths while also having this be potentially the only person whom you can share your troubles and frustrations with.

All in all, those various relationships were healthy, strong, and productive.

Until one day, I had to speak to and discipline my boss for inappropriate behavior.

There had been multiple complaints from members of the Executive Committee referencing loud, often vulgar and verbally violent outbursts when HR was not present in the room or area.

You learn as you spend more time in Human Resources, people tend to act and conduct themselves differently in the presence of HR. Kind of like when you are zipping along on the highway 10+ MPH above the speed limit and a police car pulls in behind you...

"OH CRAP" is what come to my mind, but I do tend to drive a little faster than perhaps I should.

Well, that's the general feeling I have witnessed over the years when I or a member of my team enters the room. I saw this with this General Manager as I was walking the halls one morning and came upon the GM and the Chief Engineer. The GM's voice got softer as I approached, and I deliberately slowed down to influence the remainder of the conversation.

It was a week or so later where a formal complaint came in which led to an investigation where the claims were validated. Time for me to speak to the GM.

Surprisingly, he took the conversation and discipline very well. Acknowledging he could handle some situations better told me there was at least some understanding of the behavior and a glimmer of hope this could change for the better.

I'm glad to say it did.

But What About When You Are Alone?

Having a safe and open environment in Human Resources should be important to EVERY HR professional, I know it is for me.

I allow people the freedom to speak very openly and candidly when they enter Human Resources. this is a no judgment and no repercussion zone. This has also been the case when I have my venting time with my boss.

Having a solid HR team will often serve you well if you do not have the ear of the President or whatever title that top person has.

But what do you do if you either work as an HR Department of 1, or worse, you have no confidence or trust you will get what you need?

Who the hell do you go to...???

I found this once during my career and it was brutal:

  • The person in charge knew little to nothing about Human Resources and was not always the best person to share frustrations and concerns with...
  • Peers were second guessing what I was suggesting and advising often going out to find their own evidence to the contrary...
  • Direct reports had been beaten into submission by their previous boss...
  • Everyone operated in their own silos and appeared to be in self-preservation mode...
  • The toxicity that carried over from multiple parties in a previous regime was stifling, frustrating and not at all productive...

Look, these were all good people doing the best they could with what they had.

It reminds me of the 4 Levels of Customer Awareness which was written about in the early 1900's by the famed Eugene Schwartz in his seminal work, Breakthrough Advertising and became an influence on the later work of Noel Burch who identified the 4 Levels of Competence:

  1. Unconscious Incompetence
  2. Conscious Incompetence
  3. Conscious Competence
  4. Unconscious Competence

Best example I can give is driving. When you are young, you are unconsciously incompetent with driving: you don't know that you don't know how to drive.

Next, you become consciously incompetent: you know you don't know how to drive.

Following this progression, you get some driving lessons and move into conscious competence: you know how to drive. Perhaps you still hold your hands at 10 and 2 and you are completely focused on the road, the cars, other drivers etc.

Finally, you move to unconscious competence: you just do it. Ever gotten in a car, gone on a drive and not remember how you got there? That's unconscious competence.

Back to the brutal part of my career, there was a mixture of unconscious and conscious incompetence but a general unwillingness or lack of desire to become consciously competent. Talk about running into a brick wall head on!

The environment was beyond frustrating and quite frankly had me questioning my decision to tackle such a massive task.

I couldn't talk to the top dog, my team was not going to be able to keep me on an even keel, who the hell do I go to?


The answer was as plain as the yogurt on a breakfast buffet. It had to be my network. A network carefully crafted over several years, filled with people I trusted, respected and who knew "ME".

It's tough to feel like Tom Hanks stranded on an island with just Wilson, a soccer ball.

Instead, I was able to talk to, commiserate with and seek advice from those who were also in the trenches and "doing it" every day.

Don't have a network? Go and get one!

Chances are you have one if even it is small. It's also easy to build one. You could join SHRM and attend a meeting or conference.

I speak a couple of times a year at conferences, online and on podcasts and expand my reach every time I do. Building my network to help me navigate the troubled waters which are Human Resources in today's world.

So there ya have it. You go to your network when there's no one else. If you don't have a network, reach out to me and we can grow one together.