Some of the most talented HR professionals I know, diversity certified and all, are also some of the most bigoted people I know. Yes, it’s true. HR professionals are racist, sexist, xenophobic, classist or any other -ist, there is. We drink, we smoke, we do drugs, we swear, we commit crimes, we talk behind people’s backs, we are unethical, we are registered democrats or republicans, we know what “Netflix and Chill” means and the list goes on.
After all, we are human. And we live in this world. And we are exposed to the same things any other human is exposed to growing up. So, just because we chose the HR profession does not mean we are perfect, or somehow immune to stereotypes or don’t act with bias.
So, to HR professionals who act like Ms. Perfect, I must say, that like most people, I want to punch you in the face. No one likes you. In fact, you are the reason why employees hate HR. Because you get all on your soapbox about enforcing all the rules, like your “you know what” doesn’t stink. Act like a human who is imperfect and is accepting of others’ imperfections. You are not in the HR profession to lord over people, or be the work police. You are there to support employees and tell them when what their doing is inappropriate because it’s illegal or against company policy, you are not there to cast ethical judgements.
So, to employees who think HR professionals are some beacon of virtue, I’m here to burst your bubble. We are not. And if most of us tell the truth, we don’t want to be. As HR Practitioners, we understand that our job is to interpret and enforce, where necessary, company rules, policies and procedures, even if we think in our heads those same rules, policies and procedures are dumb. Its the job we accepted when we chose this field.
So, maybe HR professionals are really good at operating in some sort of dissociative state where they can disconnect their personal selves and thoughts from those of their professional selves, to do their jobs really well. How else are we able to shut off the bias and make sound recruiting recommendations? How else do we push that stuff way deep down to be able to investigate someone accused of wrongdoing and make disciplinary recommendations without shattering under the weight of contradiction?
But, eventually, this dissociation will break us. It can only be a temporary mechanism. Eventually, strong HR practitioners will have to go through the process of self-actualization. Eventually it will be too exhausting to have a personal self and a professional self. The two shall have to meet. We have to embrace our flaws and accept ourselves the way we are. Good HR professionals realize they can still be unconventional without needing to shock or disturb people. They become empathetic with the plight of all humans and therefore shed those biases and stereotypes. Really, really good HR professionals also resist enculturation. They use all of their experiences to make their own decisions rather than allowing workplace culture to dictate those decisions. They become leaders, not followers.