The Human Side

Human beings are funny.

Throughout my career I’ve worked with lots in the IT sector. Designers, developers, testers, engineers, administrators. Many of them linear thinkers way ahead of the curve and in most circumstances a lot of fun creative and unafraid to try new things.


Another large part of my background has been spent in the sales space. At first blush you might think these two groups – techies and sales people – would have little in common but that’s not been my experience.

The sales groups I worked for had long sales cycles, complex value propositions and most of all big hairy sales quotas. These people were creative and unafraid too.

No room for the timid in sales.

Yet all have moments when their humanness comes to the fore and they stumble. Even the most hard-bitten technologist and veteran sales maker needs support periodically.

Here’s what savvy HR can do when people hit bottom.

  • Let people be human – They will ache. They will be angry. They will be hurt. Business is a drama more Shakespearean than any other experience we’ll likely have with incredible highs and awful lows. Give people space – a safe space – to be human protecting them from themselves and others while they vent, sink and ultimately recover. They will. When they get their act together, don’t dwell – move on
  • Tell them nothing – People can’t be told how to feel or think and they certainly don’t need to be told anything when they’re feeling drained and low. They need to be listened to. Heard. Cared about. We can’t placate them with the pacifying pablum of HR speak. Let them sort out their own feelings. When they regain their balance they’ll be ready to listen
  • Recognize all moments are transitory – We are the sum of our experiences. A bad moment, or even an incredibly high one doesn’t define us. What defines us is our ability to come in day after day and do our best. So don’t over-amplify moments just because someone is going through a rough spot. We all do. Remind them – and yourself – that all things do pass
  • Be available – We want to know that help is right around the corner. Even if we don’t ask for it its good to know its there. Do your part and be available for the people you support when things get rough. Be that help. Abandon routine and make yourself available. Sometimes the best thing to do is to close your schedule and open your door
  • Be honorable – Last but never least act with dignity. People will say extraordinary things, divulge tremendous confidences and let you share their humanness in intimate and powerful ways. Honor them by protecting their privacy. Validate them by acknowledging their experience. Let people share with you confident that their feelings will stay private. Respect that

Human Resources is an extraordinary privilege in many ways. We see people at their best and their worst.

To be effective we have to let people be human even while the larger environment screams constraint and conformity. Its a hard job.

So please, if you can’t allow others to be human as you practice HR, choose another field.

Humans are funny.

Being human isn’t.


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