All around us there are signs that we are changing the way in which we want to spend our existence on earth not least the rise of the experience economy. Some will argue about the use of the term millennials, but frankly that misses the point. And the human race is adapting and changing to its circumstances in work as much as anywhere else. Societies evolve and change and we have to ask ourselves what we need to do to follow suit in the way we run our organisations?
Immediately we jump to solutions, whether that’s flexible benefits, flexible working, our approaches to pay, learning or careers. But in many ways the answer starts well before the baubles and trappings of vendor led “solutions”. It starts with who we are, how we are and they way we choose to be.
I’ll give you an example from my own profession, but it is equally as true for every single one of us that works inside an organisations. In the world of HR, about 10% of the things we have to deal with require a level of seriousness and sobriety. There are moments in our days and weeks where we need to bring deep and meaningful thought and focus.
But there are 90% of moments where we don’t. We can choose exactly how we want to show up and the experience that we want others to have of us. My career has been full of disapproving looks from HR professionals who somehow feel that they are the standard bearer for the earnest and serious profession of Human Resource Management. Jokes are met with with comments about “appropriateness” and any suggestion of light heartedness met with a steely, and deeply underwhelmed, air.
Our experience at work isn’t driven just by the processes and systems that we put in place, in fact I’d argue that these are absolutely secondary, it is driven by the atmosphere and interactions that we have with those around us. If we are having a great time with our colleagues we can put up with all sorts of suboptimal situations, and we do. Who we are and how we are will always trump what we have to do.
So as you start your working week, just have a think about the levity and light you can bring to situations, the way in which you can change the experience for everyone around you and for yourself. Life is too short to stuff a mushroom, but it is also too short to listen to the cardigan wearing, tissue up the sleeve brigade. Let’s create an experience at work that people want to invest time and effort in and let’s do it by being a little lest earnest and having a little more fun.
I have a pathological dislike of mushrooms. Which is ironic, because I’m a fun-guy.
See what I did there?
Rubbish jokes aside, I often wonder when it became the rule that HR professionals had to have a sense of humour transplant. Admittedly, some of the people I’ve met in the profession have had some of the edgiest and darkest sense of humours you could ever come across. But the moment they walk in to the workplace, they seem to switch it off and become this dour, over serious, people professional.
Why can’t we just relax and be ourselves?
As we talk about authenticity and “bringing our whole selves to work”, I wonder what it is that prevents us from doing the same? Of course, I’m not talking about cracking your best one liners in the middle of a collective grievance, or fist bumping as you walk into a disciplinary hearing, there is a time and place for everything.
We are the people professionals and we shouldn’t be ashamed of that, we should be relatable, human and real. To do that we need to have the ability to show that we can be both light and dark, both high and low and both serious and downright silly. There is nothing that is more disarming than a person that you can laugh and joke with and who can make you smile. How awesome would it be if we gained influence because we were both brilliantly insightful and totally human?
Of all the things that I need to develop, humour isn’t one of them. When I was interviewed I was asked what my biggest weakness was, I said it was radical candour. The interviewer said that was a strength, not a weakness. I replied I didn’t give a sh*t what they thought.
Have a good day.
I work in HR.
I don’t save lives, cure diseases or run the risk of being maimed on a daily basis. Nobody dies as a result of my actions.
And in most cases, this is the same for all of us.
So why on earth do we come across as such an over earnest, serious and downright unengaging profession?
A few weeks back I wrote a post that was just for a bit of a laugh. In fact, if you read to the bottom of the post it is tagged as “humour”. No you may think that my humour sucks, I get that a lot, especially when I tell my joke about the nuns in the bath. But to accuse me of knocking the HR profession on the back of a lighthearted, playful throwaway piece of writing is just……well silly.
But this isn’t so much about that, but about our inability to laugh at some of the things that we do. Because, let’s face it….we do a lot of dumb stuff.
And just because we do a lot of important and meaningful work, shouldn’t mean that we can’t have a bit of humour and lighthearted observation around the things that……aren’t.
Our ability to be a profession that can cope with the light hearted as well as the earnest seems to me to be one of the missing links. I’m not talking about organised fun, or the icebreakers we impose on people to test their willpower and commitment. I’m talking about being able to just have a laugh.
Imagine a workplace where people say, “the HR are team are really cool, they’re great fun….you should hang out with them at the Christmas party”. Imagine a world where people valued us for our personalities as well as our professional capabilities.
Imagine a world where we could laugh at ourselves. And take a moment to consider whether our inability to be human, to laugh and be just a little bit frivolous and light hearted, might just be one of the things that is holding us back.