Here at =mc we encourage every participant we meet on our programmes to get in touch if they have specific issues they want to follow up on. From this we hear some common problems, issues, challenges, and worries. In this regular feature we share some of those challenges, and our advice, for dealing with them.
This time, the issue comes from an HR Manager in a large UK-based arts organisation. The =mc consultants offer advice on a difficult issue which you may well identify with: falling out of love with your work
I have been in HR for over a decade, and have never felt like this before. I know lots of people think of HR as a negative kind of a job, but that hasn’t been my experience. I have great relationships with colleagues – staff and management alike. I love the variety, the way I can be working on both interesting projects like putting in a new EDI initiative, and recurring activities like supporting someone going on maternity leave. I have always enjoyed connecting to people, talking to them, and listening to them. But the last 10 months have been an utter slog. My role is no longer recognisable: calculating furlough claims, figuring out ways to make flexible working actually work, constant streams of worried emails as people look for answers. I no longer deal with people through recruitment, induction and onboarding. I’m dealing with spreadsheets, as I need to produce reports and scenarios. I am pulled in a million directions and at the same time, it’s all very monotonous. I feel like I now have a relationship with a laptop, not with people at all. I know people look at me and think ‘it’s alright for them, they are working, what have they got to be worried about’. But I would rather be at home, on furlough, getting bored, than dealing with this. To make matters worse, I have no one else to talk to about this at work. I have no team, and don’t want to embarrass myself in front of the rest of the management team. Can you help me?
I am so sorry to hear this. As a former HR Manager myself, I feel your pain. HR people are often in lonely roles. However, you are not alone. It may not help to hear this, but everyone is having a tough time. It could be useful to reach out to like-minded people in the same boat as you. You sound like you enjoy the connection that HR brings to working with others. Can you use this time to dust off your network, and find other HR people to speak to? Maybe host a coffee-morning or a drop-in Zoom session where you can meet other arts-based HR people and share ideas (or even just moans) to build some camaraderie. CIPD networking events are going on too of course, but it may be useful to connect with people who understand your sector directly. Consider other organisations that are similar to yours, in your region who are likely to be experiencing the same challenges. Find their HR teams on their website or on LinkedIn. This doesn’t have to be onerous – a few minutes each week to send a message or two; and maybe a monthly hour connecting event. Keep it small and keep it simple. This kind of personal project could be just what you need to feel motivated again.
I think what is great about your message, is that you clearly know what you like about your work and I’m sensing pride in what you do. One of the things that has kept me going this year has been a focus on ‘joy sparks’. Knowing the parts of your role that you enjoy the most, and then finding ways to recreate those in new ways can spark lots of joy. You mentioned emails and spreadsheets taking over your working hours. Can you find new ways to engage with people, albeit online, to reduce the emails you are getting? Could you hold some HR clinic sessions, or even run some action-learning groups to get people talking again? Can you find some qualitative data to support your scenario planning, instead of just running more reports? Your laptop is your conduit to other people, not the outcome in itself. Try to remember is a tool, and use it.
Hello HR Manager. I absolutely agree with Charlie and Yvette about finding ways to connect to people. I also think it is useful to look forward, as a way to help you generate some optimism. I know you miss things the way they used to be, sadly they may never be quite that way again. However, what are the positives you can take from this year? What have you learned and what opportunities does that bring you? What would you like normal to look like in your future? What steps can you take now that will get you closer to that? Do some scenario planning that is just about you, to gain a sense of control and hope.
I love the idea of connecting to people and considering what might be next for you. Have you considered getting some one-on-one support? I am a huge believer in coaching, as a powerful tool to get you out of your head and to give you space to reflect. There are lots of accessible ways to get coaching. Or perhaps you could offer your support to someone else? Your positive outlook on HR is brilliant, and the CIPD mentoring schemes could be a great outlet for helping others. Coaching is often just as powerful for the coach as it is the coachee.
If you’d like to explore ways of handling for situations like this, take a look at the Resilience and Motivation training programme.
You can also contact us online or call 020 7978 1516 to discuss similar challenges and how we might be able to help.
Finally, if you’re facing a challenge you’d like some advice on in the next issue of the Safe Space, email us on firstname.lastname@example.org. While we can’t promise to publish all the requests we receive, we will offer advice by email as a minimum.