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.
Most of the time I’m ineffectual. I come to work to suck value out of the organisation. My existence merely creates irrelevant work that does’t need to be done.
My colleagues don’t like or respect me, they don’t value what I do and they’d function much better without me. They know the business would be ten times more productive if I didn’t exist. I’m tolerated because that’s what businesses do.
I don’t have any influence. People don’t turn to me for advice. I operate in a vacuum have little, if any, impact on the rest of the organisation. Everyone talks about me and laughs at how ridiculously pointless I am.
Then, overnight….a “change” occurs.
I am the dark overlord that runs the business from the behind the mist of poisonous cloud that surrounds me. I move in the shadows with such power and influence that grown men weep in my presence.
The forms and processes that my evil minions devise have a black magic that possesses the hearts and minds of those that set eyes on them. Leaders and managers cower and obey my every word.They have no choice, because of the evil I wield.
I am the one true power and my intent is to bring misery and despair on all of those that I employ. I have one simple purpose and that is to dehumanise and debase every single employee that exists in my realm.
I am useless and ineffective.
Yet I am evil and malevolent.
So which one am I?
I am HR.
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.
“Let me throw the question back to you” – I have absolute no idea what you just said, as far as I’m concerned you could be talking Hebrew. So do me a favour and talk some more until I work it out?
“It would set a precedent” – I am lazy. You’re asking for something that I don’t want to think about. It might mean being creative and then other people might ask me to be creative too. And frankly, none of us have got time for that.
“I think we need to take some time to reflect on this” – I’ve got a whole bunch of forms that need filling out before payroll cut off and you’re asking me to get in to a meaningless discussion about something that we will never do anyway.
“You need to speak to payroll” – I missed a deadline because I was cornered in a meaningless discussion. Nobody gets off a call to payroll without thinking it is their fault, so time to blame the cellar dwellers.
“The business wouldn’t like it” – I can’t be bothered to go and find out whether this is a good idea or not, so I’m going to refer to a generic homogenous mass as a means of trying to dissuade you from making me do some work.
“Why don’t we workshop it?” – You’re stupid, I’m busy, let’s get some other people to talk about this and then get caught in circular debates until recommending that someone else should look at it and report back.
“Can you drop me an email?” – Because that’s the stupidest request I’ve ever heard and I a) need to see it in writing and b) want to circulate it to everyone I know to show how desperate my life is.
“We need a talent strategy” – I know that you don’t understand this. You don’t know that I don’t either. But you can say that we’re working on it and therefore sound intelligent, and I can say that we’re working on it and sound strategic. It’s a win win.