Have you ever expected something for a long time and when it actually happens, it still feels like a knock-out blow? Like the world you know will never be the same? As I checked email this morning on the train to work, one immediately caught my eye, and I knew what it contained before opening it. Tears silently streamed down my face as I read that a dear friend and team member won’t be returning to work. I expected this day and was prepared for it….or so I thought. But we’re never as prepared as we think, whether a loved one dies after a lengthy illness, or a friend or family member retires or moves away. We know it’s coming, but when it does, it feels like a sucker punch all over again.
As I reflect on my friend and the wonderful years we worked together, I couldn’t help but think about the numerous articles and posts about how HR professionals shouldn’t have friends at work. And certainly we can’t be friends with people we supervise. Or if we do, we have to be very careful not to show favoritism or give the appearance we’re giving away company secrets. Let’s stop this insanity and call it what it is – total BS. Who decided that HR should stand on a pedestal in self-imposed isolation? Probably the same people who insist on practicing old school HR and play the enforcer of ridiculous amounts of policies. Most people are responsible adults and no matter what our role is in our organizations, we spend a lot of time at work. Why wouldn’t we get to know each other? Why wouldn’t we spend time together? Why wouldn’t we simply be human?
Some of my team and I have worked together for almost 20 years. If in all that time I kept myself at arm’s length and kept it strictly business, how demotivating would that be for them? How likely would they feel comfortable discussing issues or making suggestions? How likely would they be to give it their all for the firm and our clients? How likely would they want to stay? When situations arose that called for me to put the personal aside and put on my business hat, I did it. If HR never bothered to get to know other employees, how can it stay in-tune with the pulse of the organization? Isolating ourselves and being invisible does nothing but cause a sense of dread with people when they do see HR. I do not want nor will be part of this practice.
Another dear friend left our team last year to move to a warmer climate (go figure). It had been a dream of hers for a few years and we knew it would happen someday, but when the day came, it was still a knock-out blow. While I’m happy for her, I still miss her every day because she was an important part of my life, and I smile at the memories….and there are memories! I honestly don’t know how I could come to work every day without having friends here.
We spend more waking time at work than at home, so unless you’re in a bubble, take the time to get to know people. Become friends with them. It’s really that simple. Don’t overthink it or worry about it. Just do it. As my friend and HR guru Steve Browne wrote in his book, HR On Purpose!, HR professionals need to quit being apologists and own what we do. To that end, let me introduce myself. I’m Cheryl Nelson, an HR professional who makes friends at work. And I make no apologies.