Written by Kevan McBeth, Chief Purpose Officer, Affective Consulting
Dear Human Resources,
It’s been real. It’s been good. But let’s be honest, here – it’s never been real good.
We had a whirlwind affair, you and I - with lots of ups and downs, but I have to say goodbye. It's not working HR - we need to move on and see other people.
We got together back in University- we were young and full of ideas on how we were going to change the world. Things moved fast for us, I’ll admit it, and even though something about the words “human” and “resources” never really sat well with me, you promised me things like “being able to make a difference in the workplace” and “changing people’s lives for the better” – and I ignored that tiny voice in my head and took the leap.
Things were good at first.
You and I settled down in a small cubicle at the Public Service Commission. It was small, sure, but it was ours and we loved it. I got a job as a staffing consultant, which is how these things always start. It came with a "management salary" and business cards made me feel oh so special. I sat in hour after hour of interviews and worked late nights developing interview guides and screening candidates, but I didn’t care damnit- it was all worth it. I was making a difference in people's lives - I could hear it in a candidate’s voice when I got to call them and offer them a job! We bounced around to a few different places during that period of time, and we tried a few different things while we were in the staffing world. Most of the time the role was the same, but we didn’t care- we were drunk with passion and purpose!
Then we made the move from operational to "strategic HR"
For a while there we were caught in the throws of joy and wonderment too. From a cubicle to an office- with a door and name plate and everything! We were moving up in the world. We took on global issues like policies and strategic planning and…..other stuff that seemed to still be connected to that promise of changing lives. But it also started to feel cold and impersonal, like we spent more of our time outlining what we couldn't do, rather than what was possible. I think that’s when we started to see some cracks in the relationship. We’d start to argue when we ran into office politics, had difference of opinion and were even tested with some lack of strategic clarity and corporate will. It felt less and less like “us”.
And then the big move – Middle Management!
Finally, a chance to be the man with the plan! We could go in and help people be more engaged and happy with what they were doing! We were going to build a team in that image in our minds way back in university! People skipping happily to work, sharing ideas and being collaborative, doing meaningful work for others and having fun- we were going to have fun on our watch, even if it killed us damnit! And we (gleefully) yelled alot!
Fast forward 6 months.
I am not sure where it hit me. I think it was while I was standing beside a dumpster at the gas station beside work where I slammed down a Slim Jim and a bottle of Pepsi between my 12:00 pm Executive Wall Walk meeting and my 1:15 Engagement Metrics meeting that it hit me. What were we doing here? We weren’t doing anything that we had planned to. My time was less my own as an Executive than it was when I was a Staffing Consultant. How did we get here? I wasn’t paying attention to people at all anymore- I was caught in a never ending cycle of meetings, planning sessions, data evaluations and firefighting. I wasn’t taking care of people. I wasn’t even taking care of myself.
It was obvious that we needed some distance.
So, HR, it’s time to go our separate ways. I am breaking up with you. It’s not me….it’s totally you.
I am looking for something more. I want to be the kind of leader that helps others become their best. I want to make a difference in people’s lives, in our organization and in the community we serve. I want everything that I thought you were, but were too rigid to give me. I have started to see other people.
I have started to become involved in Servant Leadership.
Servant leadership is what I have always wanted, but never knew how to define. We put people first, and seek to use listening, empathy and community as building blocks to personal and organizational success. We are plugged into other people in a way that I could have only dreamed of when you and I were seeing each other. Servant Leadership and I don't lead the charge for others like you and I did- we get out of their way and let them be their best so they can do it for themselves.
SL (thats what I call her now) and I talk to each other all the time. We promote idea sharing, discuss solutions not problems and we share a vision for the future that allows us all to buy in and be a part of the success of the organization. We share our goals and dreams for what we want for others and for our organization, and we work with our team to figure out how to get there.
We do everything together.
We don’t set goals that are meaningless to our people, like being the “top organization in our field”. Instead we focus on improving the lives of our employees and customers. SL and I have learned that our focus needs to be on the employees we serve, so that they can then serve our customers to their best of their abilities.
And we are diligent, passionate and unapologetic about our belief and purpose. It's who we are and why we exist. And it makes us all.......happy. We would visit with others like Ian Fuhr, and realize- this is where we wanted our relationship to go.
I wish you the best HR
I have no hard feelings. I hope we can be friends someday, and I know that you will find another fresh-faced university grad to latch on to quickly- if you haven’t already.
But know this: Your game is getting weak.
Those old pick-up lines you used aren’t going to cut it for long out there. Those new grads? They are looking for something more than what you can provide them- they seek meaning; Purpose. You are going to need to change your ways if you want to continue to be relevant. Because if you keep going the way of the industrial revolution, your time is short my friend. And let’s be truthful- what you have to offer isn’t working and we’re just not that in to you anymore.
All the best,
And please don't call me. Let's not make this any more awkward than it already is.