. . . And I Feel Fine

When you head into work this week, I’m sure you have a million things on your mind. Everyone does. The majority of these items which fight for our attention all want to have top billing. Even the smallest of thoughts can become all consuming.

The question is, how do you parse through all of these things effectively? There is a sinking feeling that every, single item deserves our full attention and that is nearly impossible to do. You may have great intentions, but more often than not, you get stuck attending to just a few things and the emotions that keep building up have nowhere to go.

The ironic fact in this description is that you are not the only person who feels this build up. It’s every employee who walks into work each and every day. Having all of those emotions swirl around with no outlet isn’t healthy.

As HR professionals, we need to be that release valve. I know this may sound daunting, but it’s an opportunity to be an incredible asset to others and to your company as a whole. I was chatting with my dear friend Victorio Milian recently, and our conversation kept circling back to this reality. The challenges with providing this outlet for employees are two fold – (1) We wait too long to provide this for people in most cases and (2) Who’s going to be our outlet?

We need to come to terms that our “reason for existence” is people. I know that it’s a point that I keep harping on, but it needs to keep coming up until the needle genuinely moves and workplaces embody this. In order to take steps in this direction, you need to be unflappable. It’s hard to do, but here’s an alternative way to get you started.

In the 1980’s, I became obsessed with a band that got it’s start on college radio, R.E.M. I have almost every album they’ve ever released. One of their best songs is entitled – It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine). I love this because even though the lyrics list all of the forces that are playing on the singer, he says that he’s fine. I know it may be a bit tongue in cheek, but it’s a great perspective to hold from our end.

By being the outlet for employees, we can help them work through their “stuff” and get back to a point where they feel less anxious, stressed or frustrated. I know there may be greater situations that would call for outside expertise, but you can’t even get to those recommendations without being an outlet yourself to start. Being unflappable means that no matter how incredible the situation is that your employees are facing, you stay “fine.” They think that their world is ending so they don’t need you to get caught up in their emotions. They’re looking for stability.

This investment of your time and focus is imperative. It will make HR more fulfilling than it is right now. Pouring into the lives of others and relieving their concerns doesn’t have to be overwhelming. We assume we’re going to hear some horrific ordeal, when someone may just need some attention. Walk into these encounters without any preconceived notions. Just stay and genuinely listen to what they’re facing and go from what you hear.

i-feel-fineSo, who is our outlet? You may be fortunate enough to have someone at work you can confide in as a release, but that’s rare. We deal with too many human issues that honestly can’t be shared with others at work regardless of their position. You may have a release at home, but they be difficult to do as well. Your family may look to you as their outlet just as much as the employees do as work.

My recommendation is that you find peers that understand and experience HR just like you. Having a strong network of friends that can empathize and listen is priceless. I have worked on building and maintaining this for years. I’m fortunate enough to be able to pick up the phone and call just to chat with HR folks around the globe. Being able to share stories, seek perspective and reciprocate and be an outlet for them keeps me balanced.

This week take a breath and understand that you get a chance to be there for others. When you do this you’ll see that we’re all fine !!

7 thoughts on “. . . And I Feel Fine”

  1. Great post, Steve. I especially like “Being unflappable means that no matter how incredible the situation is that your employees are facing, you stay “fine.” They think that their world is ending so they don’t need you to get caught up in their emotions. They’re looking for stability.”

    Amisdt the chaos of chasing metrics and making money, leaders forget to be unflappable or lead with emotion instead of thinking first, and that just piles more “stuff” on top of the employee, which impacts engagement and motivation and we all know that cycle.

  2. I’m happy you mentioned that we need an outlet too! Very important in my opinion. I’m thankful for my outlets, having them definitely keep me feeling fine 🙂

  3. Great job, Steve. The interesting tie in for me is that we so often think something is “the end of the world as we know it”, but it really isn’t! We tackle whatever “it” is and (maybe) “feel fine”.

  4. Great post, as always, Steve! my employees are all dealing with much emotion here at work currently, most of it external, but some internal as well. Luckily, I am one of those folks that the more I can listen and help them work through things, the more it helps me work through things of my own. Your comments about the value of a friend and confidant are so true . . . my poor mother has listened to me unload many times (and she is always on my side, as she should be!).

  5. I agree with the sentiment in this, the whole “being there for one another” is incredibly important. And whilst HR professionals might have some great technical kit in our tool bag to help us do this, and to help others get better at it, I do question the suggestion that it is HR’s responsibility to fulfill this role. Our reason for existence may be people, but that does not make us monopolists in this area (in the same way that we wouldn’t dream of abdicating commercial thinking to the finance department.) This is a core part of a managers’ role, but frankly everyone needs to take this on board.

  6. Interesting post, thanks Steve. I think the opportunity to debrief/reflect with colleagues is incredibly important to be able to do this well and using coaching techniques can really help too – so we can listen, support, challenge and encourage action without feeling it’s our job to take the problem/issue off someone, make them feel better or that we’re responsible for happiness/job enjoyment/job security/reduction of stress etc.

    Our job might be to empower someone to take action for themselves, help them to find a solution or guide someone to a solution, but to do this i really believe that we have to inspire ourselves, fill our own reserves, have reserves in our emotional bank account so that we can effectively inspire, support, challenge, help others.

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