Friday, September 27, 2013

The Question That Landed Me in a Psych's Office

What do you want to be?

This question always baffled me, because I knew I was supposed to list a profession, but ultimately I would just like to 'be' happy. The amount of pressure I felt on my shoulders to choose a profession that would not only bring me success, prestige, riches and respect - but would also make me happy - landed me in a psychologist's office. After hours of testing and my parents' considerable financial support, I was presented with a list of jobs that I knew could make me very happy indeed, except for that issue of stability. I adore stability. I adore bills paid, heating/cooling to my heart's desire, having mutliple lights on around the house, credit cards named after stupid metals and buying everything to do with a hobby before I even have started the hobby. I adore money. So despite my innate creativity and ensured happiness, the offer of being an illustrator or fashion designer was just not going to cut it. Regular pay checks are where it's at for me.

And there in lies the harsh bitch of life. We ask children "what do you want to be?" and expect them to interpret this as a question about their ambitions and interests. But let's examine the question - especially the question we bombard teenagers with as they prepare to leave school - the 'be' isn't so much as about doing something, as it is about being labelled as something. We're asking our children, our teenagers, ourselves - "what label will you happily wear for the world to see?" And I don't know about you, but labels scare the bejeebers out of me! Labels are so easily manipulated into discrimination, exclusion and reputations. 

Michael Bolton from Office Space nails it:
"No, you're working at Initech because that question is bullshit to begin with. If everyone listened to her, there'd be no janitors, because no one would clean shit up if they had a million dollars."

I like the question "what do you want to work as?" At least we're keeping it clear that this is a section of life, not a whole life. Once we're adults, we even acknowledge that work isn't our life because we don't ask "what are you?" We ask "what do you do?" But we still answer as though it's our label... "I'm a HR Manager" At least we're asked with the benefit of the doubt that we may answer "9-5 I work in HR, other than that though, I'm mad keen on comedy." 

I don't know when it started, but I certainly enjoyed the golden age of work advice about choosing a passion, following your dream etc etc etc. And now the fashion is moving away from that fluffy advice (or is the economy wisening our asses up?) Either way, I believe a very quick way to change the dialogue is to keep questions about our future endeavours of 'being' to a strictly holistic approach. We are beings.


Btw, if you're wondering how I can be employed in HR, and write about HR - here's my explanation.

Julie Waddell did a fantastic response to this post on her blog 'Accidental HR'. I love Julie's point that "NO ONE grows up wanting to be in HR." I certainly didn't amidst my plumbing and ferry captain ambitions. Have a read of Julie's conclusions here!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Society Needs to Move On From 'Man Up'

You know how swearing is supposed to be some terrible anti-social act? Well I think swear words are pretty alright, they add colour to language and make it a tasty mouthful to spit out. There is no phrase that will ever truly capture the mood and sense behind "fuck that" or "bullshit" - I mean yes, the Christian camp mentors will say things like "good golly", but we all know a "holy shit" would have far more convincingly conveyed it. So, keep up the colourful and ever evolving language.

But if you're looking to eliminate something, may I suggest the phrase 'man up'? I hate, hate, hate it with everything in me. I mean, what is a 'man' meant to be anyway? People say it's kind of like this unexplainable concept, but the only unexplainable concepts I will allow are issues such as grace, God, and child/parent dynamics. The dictionary says it all pretty clearly for me that a man is "an adult human male", but that's not what we mean when we say 'man up'. We're talking about this concept of strength, reliability, and stoicism, all linked in with undertones of heterosexuality, media-shaped body types and unfair burden. A female can be told to 'man up', but it's not really suggesting she emulate Priscilla Queen of the Desert. 'Man up' isn't just another version of a swear word, it's a deeply rooted cultural stab at each other.

If we want to bring women up to equality, then we also need to dismantle 'manliness' from its pedestal - and you know what? That's a damn good thing, because 'manly' stoicism is such a huge contributor to male illness, depression and suicide. I love men so much, I mean, you can see it in my posts. But I don't need men to be 'men' for me. I need men to be themselves for me, if they're straight, gay, happy, sad, strong, weak, capable, useless, or anything and everything in between. And when I need them to stop whining, pitch in, and make an effort, I will never, ever tell them to 'man up'.

So here's some suggested replacements, if you want to convey that sense of 'get over yourself, get in there and get it done'. What about "step up", "own up", "take it on the chin" or "get with it"? 

Or here's my ultimate favourite, "push harder, your mother did!"


Btw, if you're wondering how I can be employed in HR, and write about HR - here's my explanation.

Monday, September 2, 2013

HR is a Luxury Item

I once had weekly debates with a colleague over the importance of HR, and of course, being an accountant, she argued that first comes the money - then comes the people management. As a fresh HR grad, of course, I argued it should really be first comes the team of excellence - the comes the money. And, of course, both of us were kind of right. (That's the best and worst kind of debate, repeating and ending only for the mercy of the friendship.)

So here I am back in a small city run by small business and the demand for HR is low. It can be spoken about like it's a luxury, something only affordable to big business. But I think it ties in with the argument my colleague and I had. It's both right and wrong.

It all depends on how you look at it:

Business owners will invariably look at Graph 2, looking at the affordability of the headcount and rationalising that HR only becomes a necessity at point B. HR folk would definitely identify more with Graph 1, and fight to the death that HR only ever really becomes a luxury at point A. And they're both kind of right.

The thing is, if they were able to negotiate and understand each other, there is a clear-as-day middle point. They both are saying the same thing. It just requires one of them to flip the continuum of HR to being a luxury-necessity so their graphs match. And that's what HR can do, so easily, so convincingly, so professionally - if we just have some business operation perspective to aid us. And a little worldly perspective doesn't hurt either.

And I think that's the differentiation between a HR professional and an outstanding HR Godsend. Because if you understand and can see that HR is being perceived as a luxury, rather than a necessity, you'll do anything to deliver incredible HR outcomes. But if you don't see your good as a luxury, you'll never understand the expectations on your delivery. So yes, value your profession as highly as you should, but flip the axis and deliver the outcomes as a privileged luxury goods provider. Even though we think we are the recyclable shopping bag required by every household, we are seen as the luxury bag bought only when someone 'arrives'. It's not ideal, but work it girlfriend.


Btw, if you're wondering how I can be employed in HR, and write about HR - here's my explanation.
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