This is a contributed post from Dawn Passaro.
There have been a great many changes happening in the US – many of them are not on the positive side! Could that be more of an understatement?
From Healthcare and the economic meltdown, food security, LGBT, and climate change; these are generic stresses that hit everyone. Perhaps HR Pros are hit especially hard, especially the economic meltdown (think lay-offs.) In addition, there are many new kinds of stresses to add to the mix.
Illustration by Dawn Passaro
With this blog post, I am sending out a general warning to my friends in HR to be aware of their own stress levels, and to watch out for signs of PTSD!
I believe that stress is increasing, and this impacts the overall stress levels for HR Pros. There are also some very specific changes in the duties of HR Pros that are bringing even more stress such as big data, data mining, social media, branding, and transparency in the corporate workplace. Psychologists who study stress tell us that any kind of change – either good or bad – is stressful. Think: getting married!
Let’s be frank: If we talk about big data: statistical analysis, employee data, and data mining. How equipped are HR people to even understand these issues? I hate to say it, but the typical SHRM lunch ends with a big fight about who owes what on the bill. Folks went into HR instead of finance for a reason! If we were good at numbers, we would be accountants, it pays way more money! Trust me, we know this about ourselves. Sad but true!
Also, guess what, we like to treat people like individuals. We are people persons! We talk, chat, and connect… that is our job, it is kind of why we became HR folks! We are the “face” of the company, the warmth so to speak. Do you think we want to look at people as a mathematical equation? No, not so much!
So what about employee branding? Do I really need to bring up the fact that employees and applicants need to see and understand the company brand, just as much as customers? The direction Marketing has taken via internet and big data, into data mining, and niche marketing using online segmentation will be applied to employees and applicant selection in the not too distant future.
Marketing and HR should already be working together on a unification of branding, for clients and employees. I believe this will add to the stress. Here’s a little secret: we HR Pros secretly dislike marketing people! HR thinks that Marketing folks are shallow, and they are always breaking the rules, and they get a much bigger budget for department parties, not to mention going out to lunch all the time. And Marketing folks think HR is old fashioned, and follow the rules all the time, not creative, and just all around kill joys. I’m not saying any of this is true, but I have noticed that HR and Marketing don’t seem to get along most of the time. LOL, that makes it stressful! Plus, Marketing has the power here since they actually understand branding.
Regarding transparency within an organization, HR people who have been trained to keep everything a secret, will have to adjust. If you are interested in seeing the future, take a look at the blog by the Sony employee about the hacking and the potential for identity theft he has been fighting (yet another potential for stress in HR). Anyone can write a blog as a disgruntled employee and post it anonymously online for all to see. There is no reason to suppose that this won’t become the norm. Some in HR might feel like their head is going to explode, when this happens to their company. HR people will have to learn to be much more transparent to avoid this problem, instead of hiding problems, they will have to expose them: “Come clean”, instead of “hide the bodies”. Many executives are inclined towards hiding rather than risking exposing corporate blunders. I think there is an opportunity for HR to lead the charge to change that approach. My point is this: This incredible about face in approach to dealing with problems could be stressful. HR will bear much of the brunt of this stress as the C-Suite grapple with the issue of treating every internal crisis as a potential PR disaster
Are there any other reasons why HR people are stressing out right now?
According to Deloitte’s Human Capital Trends survey 2014, 86% of companies do not have any analytics capabilities in HR, and 67% are ‘weak’ at using HR data to predict workforce performance and improvement. HR is falling behind in Structure, skills analytics, and technology. Deloitte also mentioned what they called: the “Overwhelmed Employee”, which is basically the “fall out” experienced when employees are hyper-connected. 24/7 internet and email access is becoming quite a burden for many employees, so much so that it has popped up on Deloitte’s top ten issues in HR list, and it is a global issue, not confined to the US.
In the recent past, HR has become the advocate of wellness in the workplace: The HR Profession is primarily on the “healing” spectrum – which can be a stress in itself. If you are the “go to” person when things go wrong between employees in your workplace, it can bring a shower of worry, and can definitely have a negative impact on your well being. This is especially true if office politics are involved. The HR Pro might even feel some risk, in that situation, which only increases that negative impact.
Finally, stress has been shown to come from a lack of power to change difficult situations, it is called “Learned Helplessness”. Many HR Pros are likely to be the sole breadwinner in their household. Most HR Pros are women, men are hardest hit for chronic unemployment. A weak economy and fewer HR jobs doesn’t leave many options for these HR Pros. That is a recipe for stress. Add to the mix: job duties of not just laying people off, but helping to decide who gets laid off.
For HR Pros who have little or no power to influence major policy decisions, and are mostly left to execute them; this can be like being stuck between a rock and a hard place. And on top of that, they are forced to be a part of every single such exit interview, shaking hands and pretending everything will be ok. I have seen grown men cry. We keep tissues on the desk. To me that is traumatic. And doing it over and over for years is certainly stressful.
Yes, HR is a stressful job. Here are a few tips on avoiding stress:
- Don’t be a people pleaser.
- Don’t be afraid to say no, if you need to.
- Let go of what you can’t control.
- Avoid negativity and drama.
- Love yourself, and be kind to yourself.
- Find ways to bring passion to your life.
- Take care of your body, with good food, lots of water and exercise.
- Get lots of sleep
And please remember:
Seek help, if you find you are becoming depressed, or can’t control your emotions. I believe that HR Pros will face and surmount these challenges, but for some, it will come at a cost, and that could be a very personal cost. PTSD is not something that you can leave at the workplace, it lives with you, and can cause depression and other serious mental health issues. This type of problem can be brought on by the dramatic changes that people have experienced already, and exacerbated by the fact that there are even more to come. This is why I believe HR Pros would benefit by giving a thought to their own wellness, by using their own mindfulness to avoid potential problems.
Listen to Dawn’s recent appearance on Drive ThruHR.