Zeitgeist means "spirit of times," and in this lesson, learn about the stage HR plays on. Many HR people feel overwhelmed, underappreciated, and stuck, feeling like HR is constantly pushing uphill. That doesn't have to be you.
- Let's begin by discussing what I call, "The HR Zeitgeist." If you're not familiar with the term Zeitgeist, it's a German word which means the spirit of the times. In 2005, Fast Company magazine published its now famous cover, Why We Hate HR." That cover story triggered a great deal of defensiveness by HR. I feel it also gave permission for other executives to say they hate HR, too.
The title is not "Why I Hate HR," but, "Why We Hate HR," as if everybody hates HR. The article in Fast Company, and many that have come since, continue with the theme that HR is some corporate wasteland, that nothing gets accomplished in HR, that it's and expense, and it's boring. Many have even called for its complete elimination claiming its administrative functions, like payroll and compliance reporting can be outsourced.
According to these critics, when it comes to the important functions of hiring, retention, and performance management, managers can handle it just fine, without HR. This is the HR Zeitgeist from the outside. For many in HR, it feels like they're continually pushing uphill against this beatdown. Over the last two years, I got a deep sense of how HR executives feel about their jobs, and themselves; HR's Zeitgeist, if you will.
I spent months conducting one-hour in-person interviews with more than a hundred HR executives. The first thing I sensed in my interviews is that these HR executives, who are mostly women, were on overwhelm. Why is this? What I realized from this experience is most HR executives poorly manage their time and then they justify it, which is absolute nonsense. The second thing I sensed from the HR executives I spoke with was the feeling of being underappreciated.
As a result, most HR executives felt intimidated to even ask for a growth opportunity. As a theme, HR managers told me, "I put in all these hours, "I deal with this overwhelm, "I take all the stress home, "and then when I do ask for something, for me, "I get shut down. "It gets to a point "where I don't even bother to ask anymore." I remember one CEO telling me that his HR executives seemed so needy, and he's not alone in this sentiment.
Is it nice to be appreciated? Sure! But, having an emotional need to be appreciated, not good. It's time for HR to stop the conversation about overwhelm and underappreciation and do something about it. Stand your ground! Take control of your time! Demand your excellence! And, be amazing! You can be an HR hero; someone who loves the work they do and knows they make a difference for their company, their fellow employees, and for themselves.