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Can we please give HR people a break and some love? And lay off the unrealistic expectations?

Some weeks back I was invited to be on a podcast hosted by longtime friend Roberta Tamburrino and her colleagues. The topic was “HR: Friend, Frenemy or Foe?” Listen here:

Roberta asked me to be on to represent the HR voice. To be clear, my time leading an HR function is very small compared to many of my HR peers. But I felt I had enough experience to represent their voices well. It was a great conversation with a fun group of hosts, and I appreciated that they wanted the counterpoint.

With only a very few exceptions, EVERY HR person I have worked with is an incredible human being who goes into the field because they care deeply about others and the experience that employees have.

The reality of the experience is that HR is the function people most complain about AND to. It can be an incredibly fulfilling role, a terribly thankless one, and far too often a heartbreaking one.

Over the past few years, I’ve watched so many incredible HR leaders burn out, and it’s not the least bit surprising. HR has been tasked with figuring out how to make remote work work, supporting employees’ physical and mental health, telling people they had to come back to the office, supporting efforts to scale up and hire fast, fight to find talent, and now taking on the burden of layoffs. Through it all, with every decision, whatever people don’t like gets blamed on HR, and they rarely get credit for the positives. What a thankless job, and it’s taken on by people with huge hearts and incredible empathy. If you think all of this doesn’t impact HR people to their very core, you’re wrong. It does.

When the podcast hosts and I chatted before we recorded, I posed the question, “Why would we even say ‘HR is not your friend’? Why do we put that expectation on HR? Because they’re people people? We would never say ‘Finance or operations or sales is not your friend.’ No, we give that unique burden and unrealistic expectation to HR, a team tasked with balancing the needs of employees AND the company.”

HR friends, I hope I did you right as I advocated for you in this conversation. And if I didn’t, or if you’d like to weigh in on what we discussed, please share your thoughts.

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