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The Unique Loneliness of HR

If you follow any HR forums online, you will probably find a lot of posts about feeling burnt out. Are HR professionals just a bunch of complainers? I'm sure there's *a lot" of employees out there who would say "Yes! Yes, they are!" without missing a beat. But just as I've written in the other blogs, we are in our own separate class in the workplace. We're usually sitting alone at the lunch table, both literally and figuratively.

It's hard for HR to make friends, especially as a department of one. There are certain people in the workplace that I work more closely with on a daily basis. It's usually department managers as well as employees in the payroll departments, or other departments you might have in your company that intertwine with HR. HR being HR will ask themselves all sorts of very valid questions as to whether a relationship is professional. If employees see our friendship, will they think that can't make a complaint about that person? Will they feel like I'll always take my friends' side over theirs. What if I have to have a disciplinary conversation with them? Will I truly be able to make a neutral decision with them in mix? And the dreaded, what if I have to fire them? Then there's the upper management that may wonder if I'm telling this person any confidential information.

I've made friends with people in the workplace. Some have remained lifelong friends and some have backfired. I remember being "friends" with an employee that ended up -for lack of a better phrase- really screwing the company when they left. They quit without notice and it really did cause a problem. I was very paranoid that management were giving me the side-eye wondering what I knew. I honestly knew nothing. I knew they weren't happy but I had no idea they were planning to walk out at such a pivotal moment. I realized quickly that I needed to be careful about befriending employees because I didn't want there to any speculation that I was involved with any egregious activity.

The other aspect is that HR is so often placed in the middle of issues. Despite the saying that "HR only works for the company," there are many times that we have to tell upper management that we aren't on their side. Whether it's simply against the law or it's just a bad practice, sometimes we have to tell a manager that they're wrong, in the most professional way possible, of course. We have to be pragmatic and we have to get all sides of the story. Everyone seems to believe that HR should be on their side. But HR is over here just trying to do the right thing, without being on a "side." And we don't make a lot of friends that way.

Sometimes it feels like we're part of everything but nothing at all. Business people understand sales and marketing. That's where the numbers come from on a P&L sheet. They understand the finance department because that's where the money is handled. They understand the production department because that's where the product is made. HR is always an anomaly. We're helping employees with tax forms but we're not accountants. We're providing legal advice but we're not lawyers. We're kind of involved in everything but we aren't making the company money. There are several points you can make on how HR positively affects the bottom line of a company but it's not quite as tangible as, "we made this product, we sold this product, and here is the money we made." When a company is doing well financially, there are lots of "kudos" that get doled out but rarely in the direction of the human resources department.

We get frustrated. We need to talk out problems with other people. We need to vent. Even

within other HR forums I've seen online, HR still has a hard time finding support from other HR. It's hard for some of us to take off our HR hats and let our hair down. When HR people post about the little things that make them want to scream into a pillow, some HR comrades will support them, but some will chastise them for not handling a situation properly or taking it seriously enough. Listen, we've all dealt with issues that we think are ridiculous. Sometimes we feel like we're middle school teachers. Just because we vent doesn't mean we don't care or we aren't taking things seriously. (But let's be honest, sometimes it does.) Sometimes we have to ask the universe why adults can't just act like ordinary, socialized humans. Sometimes we need advice that isn't by-the-book professional guidance from someone pretending to be a SHRM article. Sometimes we just need a listening ear from another person who simply says, "I understand completely." When you work in a position where it's literally your job to give advice and say the right things, we have a hard time turning it off. When my husband complains about work and I give him feedback, he'll tell me, "Stop using your HR voice."

My point is...HR doesn't get a lot of support from anywhere. We don't always have people to talk to and we don't have a lot of people in our corner. We're always expected to be on-point. We are always walking this fine line of what we should say and who we should say it to. So most of the time we just don't say anything. We put a wall up and stay tucked away in our offices. If you're here and you're reading this, just know that we get you. Find an HR support group where ever you can. There are HR groups on Facebook and Reddit. There's some pretty funny Instagram accounts like "Not SHRM Approved" that make me laugh. The MeetUp App might have some HR meet-up's posted in your area. Or just come here and leave some comments!

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