A Love Letter to HR

This is my submission for the crowd-sourced Humane, Resourced book of blogs. It is a project initiated by David D’Souza (@dds180 on Twitter) whereby a wide variety of HR & non HR professionals have offered in blogs, stories and writing.   I’m truly honoured to be part of the project and amongst such vibrant, diverse people.  The book will be available on Kindle & Amazon soon. I think it is mostly free or 99p – all surplus goes to charity….

 

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Ahhh HR.

How you and I have battled over the years.

My first experience of you was in America – I was 20 (not old enough to drink legally in Illinois, one of the large, armed, humourless, policeman who raided the party informed me.)

Prior to that, I only knew your twin, Personnel.

You existed in an office so air-conditioned that, despite the temperature of 104 F outside, the immaculate Sherri had to wear a sweater. She was blonde. Efficient. Officious. I had been “Processed by HR “ merely three days before.
Inducted. Sent to get a Uniform. Allocated a locker, a lanyon and a thick employee manual that my roommate and I later turned into huge paperchains to decorate our sleeping cell.

After two days of sitting in a room with 50 + other new “Hosts” where we were bombarded with messages so insincere (These are not our customers, they are our Guests”) that my skin literally turned itchy at one point; I was sent, blinking and confused, to run rollercoasters at one of the biggest theme parks in the States.

I had never felt less human in my life.

So my act of underage drinking (did I mention I was 20?) was, perhaps, an act of expression of my humanity and individualism, HR. A rebellion against your processes and procedures and your willful attempt to de-person me. Oh how I showed you. How I laughed as I drank my illegal Bud Light, at a clandestine gathering where someone had brought an ACTUAL keg. I was sticking it to the system, HR. You took away my identity, but you could not take away my right to party!

So when I was brought back into your frigid office and processed for the second time in three days, HR, this time with a warning about conduct and an appointment with the Park Counselor to assess my drinking problem (“I’m Scottish” didn’t appear to cut it) We were already on shaky territory.

I avoided you for most of the rest of that summer, HR. You sacked my mate Austin, for re-selling his free Park access ticket on the cheap in the parking lot one Wednesday. You downgraded Scott from running a sexy roller coaster, to working in food services because he rang 911 for no apparent reason one breaktime and you deemed him to have “poor judgment” – Actually, I’ll give you that one.

You and I met again when I, hungry and grumpy after 5 straight hours standing in blistering heat and saying “enjoy the riiiiiiiiide” every 3 ½ minutes, refused to “High Five” Bugs Bunny and allegedly uttered an expletive in his direction as I passed him in the park. The fact that the boy in the 7ft inanely grinning rabbit costume had attempted to pin down and sexually assault my friend, Cathy the night before was none of your concern, HR. The rules stated Bugs was to be high-fived. And once more, my conduct was to be questioned.
Now? I was done with you.

So imagine my surprise, HR when, two years later, all graduated and bambi-legged-ready to start a “proper” job, it was you who I felt I could turn to. When did my feelings toward you change, HR? When was the moment you became attractive to me again?

You looked so good with your promises of working with people, collaborating with the business, supporting and developing staff. You forgave me my crazy student ways and the fact I had studied an MA instead of Law and offered me a Professional Career. I studied you and began to understand that What Happened In America wasn’t about de-humanising at all, but about managing and efficiently processing a rapidly changing, flexible, low-skilled workforce.

You and I had a do-over. We began to understand each other and our relationship blossomed.

We started living together – you became such big part of my life. You taught me the need for thoroughness, patience and diligence in my practice. The need to be firm and professional when I walked into the all male Ops “Lions Den” to deliver stats or meet about a disciplinary. You gave me some authority, structure, a place in the system, and an inside track on most of the gossip and the IT secrets. In addition, HR, I had the safety of a set of neat procedures to follow and policies that people should adhere to. It was all so dreamy.

But I am a flighty one, HR. My MBTI profile tells me so. I am a blue-sky thinker. Creative. Maverick. For a while you could hold me safe in your arms and I loved your structured, orderly ways, but soon, all too soon I began to feel stifled. There was a nagging doubt at the back of my mind that all this neatness and process was a myth. I felt you were lying to me HR. When the man who racially abused my friend was kept in post because there was “no-one alternative to replace him”. I knew we were in trouble.

I confess, I went to Counselling. I had to get these feelings out, this notion I was living with a fraud. My Director listened to my woes and nodded sagely. She had long since suspected this was coming. She suggested I take a break from you, HR. She suggested I go on a “project” to support “Culture Change” – just to get some distance, you understand.

How was I to know what would happen? I loved you. I truly did. I wanted to be faithful. But when I got into that room and people started talking and thinking together and it was tricky and messy and beautifully rich? Oh HR.. I was lost to you.

And then came that sticky period where we co-existed in the same house. I was mean about you, HR, sniffy and unforgiving. You, in turn, seemed to suggest I was better placed with Internal Comms. It was a difficult time. I know I only saw your bad parts, not your good. I was so taken with this new life, this new perspective, I was a blind fool.

I moved out, eventually. Been living on my own for 8 years now and the distance has been good for both of us, I think. I have come to re-appreciate (some of) your ways and you now seem to respect the life I have chosen for myself.

HR? I’m happy now. In this long-term committed relationship with OD. It’s a tricky business, defining what exactly it is between us, but we are growing and learning together and I love the fluidity and edginess of our relationship.

But I want you to know. From the bottom of my heart.
You never forget your first love HR.
X

Human Contact

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I’m reviewing 18 months of journalling, reading and writing as part of processing my research and learning for my final MSc dissertation paper.

I found this and want to share it. There is an invitation here to connect today.

At some point? Sit with a cup of good coffee, or tea, or sip some water and Talk. To someone. Fully. Look ’em in the eye. Smile a bit. Ask questions. Be with them. Let them be with you.  Just for a wee while. See where it takes you … and enjoy.

” I notice a stark contrast between my experience of rapid, broadcasting, short, sharp Social Media interactions and the real-time, deeper connections that real-life working relationships and conversations require. I notice get something from both – the quick pace, virtual snapshots give me small hits of connection and a snippet of community… and then there is the joy of properly seeing, hearing and connecting to someone fully – mentally, emotionally, physically.

I notice a deeper satisfaction in my person-to-person contact – there is something far more soulfully nourishing, for me, in good, connected slow-time conversation.

I’m not going to hear a dirty laugh or be swept up in the colour of someones eyes through Twitter.

Sometimes? It’s just got to be human contact for me. ” – November 2012

Happy New Year

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The holidays are over. Well? How was it for you?

Have you entered 2013 filled with purpose, focus and pizzazz? Did the mince pies & movies out-manoeuvre you? Have you made resolutions? Modifications? Any of that?

Things have been quietly moving at FBHQ and there’s a little buzz around some of the emerging work, which feels enticing.

On a personal note, as it seems I have barely moved from behind my books and desk for 6 months, I’ve decided to take back my fitness and  have signed up to undertake two 70 plus mile bike rides (one in April and another in June) and it seems I’m getting pressured into a second triathlon at the start of August.  I have some work to do to shrug off my winter torpor, but I’m certainly up for it. 2013 will also be the Year of the MSc Dissertation, something I have mixed feeling about -anticipation, apprehension… those sorts of things. I’m already looking forward to What’s Next when the course is finished. Watch this space, I guess….

The immediate What Next is clear. In the coming weeks, things on the blog are going to get skewed towards dialogue, as David Goddin (find him on @changecontinuum ) & I gear up to deliver the first sessions on Exploring Dialogue in February. Next week, there will be a series of blog posts which aim to map and consider different aspects of dialogue – I’m hoping it generates some interest and insights into the subject; I definitely want some comments and thoughts generated. There will be a guest blog or two and of course, we are  looking for sign-ups for the February & March dialogue sessions and beyond.

And this is the first post of 2013, so it feels right and important to wish everyone well for the coming year.

Happy New Year all.

I hope it brings you brilliance, luck and love.

Inspiration…

Monday’s post felt a little shouty. Today, I’m blogging out in a different space, trying to occupy more gentle, expansive territory, trying to think of the things that inspire.

Tomorrow (Sunday 1st July) I undertake a mini Triathlon, a physical challenge inspired by my family’s very real, very long and very raw struggle to come to terms with early onset dementia suffered by Margaret Drybrough (AKA my Mum) over the last 10 or so years.

As I swim, bike & run my way round Hawick in the Scottish Borders, I’ll be thinking of my parents and brothers and my husband, my sisters in law, nieces, nephew…I’ll be carried by every single person who has donated sponsorship in a recession. Everyone who has sent encouragement on the JustGiving site.

I will be inspired to move.

For me, to be inspired by something means I stop in my tracks a little and connect to something bigger than myself. When I’m inspired, I want to stand a little taller, do something a little better, breathe a little deeper, create something a little more meaningful.

I’m laying out inspiration so it too will carry me round tomorrow and in the hope that other people will share their inspirations & thoughts back with me.

Here’s my list of Things That Inspire:

Seeing true bravery in people – massive bits of bravery like speaking up or speaking out or little bits of bravery, like trying something new

The ocean

Meaningful lyrics

Melodies which haunt

Words which move me

My nieces & nephews – for their energy, wisdom and ability to make me belly laugh

Cities at night

Swimming

Flying… I get weirdly lyrical & thoughtful on flights…

Anyone who asks these sorts of questions – stopping me in my tracks & asking me to think….

And a good, balanced wine – how do they do that?

Gorgeous scents like orange peel or perfume or cut grass or aftershave

Shameless eye contact

Bright, cold, clear mornings….

A fast ski run

Old gnarly trees

Running freely

Hearts on sleeves

A good coffee

A great conversation

Intimacy

Dancing with a dirty big grin on your face

Staring up at a massive star-filled sky

My folks still being loved up after a lifetime together


I’m running on behalf of Alzheimer’s Scotland for the support, research and work they undertake: http://www.justgiving.com/joolstri2012

On goodness, potency and being an arse….

As part of the action research inquiry into 21st century leadership, our cohort is blogging. James Traeger from Mayvin is considering the notion of Being a Good Person: http://mayvinltd2.tumblr.com/post/25843438083/being-a-good-person

“It is like when we talk about emotional intelligence, when really the words intimacy, caring and even love, are too hot to handle.”

There is SO much in here I want to write about….I so agree that words like intimacy, love and caring at work (and beyond) can be experienced as too hot to handle… and yet they seem to come up more and more in conversations with clients and colleagues of late – either as wholly missing from work/ workplace experience and being yearned for; or being experienced in a work context (usually in some small way) and that experience feeling terribly profound….

I find myself breathless when I hear tales of a good, capable person being told “yes, X is an arsehole, but you’ve just got to get on with it” Where is the kindness here? The listening? Who cares? What do we do to each other?

Imaging if we could be compassionate to the “arse”. Genuinely “see” the person beyond the arse tag. Genuinely inquire into what is making up the arse-hole-ery for a second and try to unpick kindly what the hell is going on…. What would happen? Might the arse become more a whole human being? Might there be some ration, reason, emotion, some humanity in there?

Imagine if such kindness was bestowed on us when we are being arses? Or does arse-ness only happen elsewhere?

I’m playing here with some of James’ notion about “good person” and thinking of the energy it creates…. that goodness can inhabit a tiny space, be a small gesture, a random act of kindness, a compassionate question, seeing the person, and yet its power is potent, raw, potentially unsettling.

Goodness, intimacy, care, love… it strikes me these require us to truly see and acknowledge others – to put ourselves in equal relation to someone else, rather than above or below them. How unnerving it is to hold someone’s gaze as they are in pain or furious or manic or delighted. Easier, perhaps to look away? Easier to say “arse” and be done?

And I’m not holding myself up as being a paragon of loving kindness. I can be blunt as all blazes when I’m going full tilt and it looks like someone is getting in my way; when I’m in that mode of being all full-on and leading from the front and certain, people get overlooked, I am guilty of saying “arse”…. And it rarely serves me well.

Better, perhaps, to be fabulously mindful of the shape and size of the wake I’m creating and who’s caught in it. Better for me, my colleagues and clients if I can show up curious and considerate… occupying a slightly smaller space perhaps, but producing more potent outputs…. OK ok, so I’m working on it…

See Robyn Bomars’ Blog, where she undertakes 38 Random Acts of Kindness on her 38th Birthday, see the responses generated and tell me this isn’t powerful stuff. http://mixmingleglow.com/blog/?p=1358

(thanks to Alison Smith @alisonrbcm for the Tweet about Robyn)