Eating Your HR Veggies

Without even really trying, this month’s posts have a theme — and it’s all about the damage lazy HR does to organizations and our profession. First, in The Extra Mile isn’t THAT Far and, again, in Newbie Schnewbie. So in keeping with that theme, this week’s post is also another story of how negative attitudes about the less exciting tasks can hurt one’s overall professional reputation.

Hannah was my predecessor. She made a lateral move to another department and I moved into her old job. Training me on how to do the job was a requirement before she could move into her new role. I had never taken over a position where the predecessor was still with the company so I was even more nervous about doing well and learning quickly. However, Hannah was really helpful and friendly toward me so I thought everything was great as we both settled in.

Then I started hearing from other co-workers that Hannah was gossiping about me. I chalked it up to professional insecurity and/or jealousy, and kept working. There was a weekly report Hannah sent me and it was always late. Or wrong. She always had a plausible reason for any issues, but I decided it was because she didn’t like me. When I confided in another work-friend about my frustration with Hannah, my fears were put to rest … a little.

He told me that Hannah’s reports were always late and/or wrong. For everyone. I felt better that Hannah wasn’t sabotaging me — but I wondered how someone who was so capable could be so bad about meeting deadlines, especially when she was providing information that other people depended on being accurate.

I decided to ask Hannah about it one day before the meeting of a committee we were both assigned to. She was a rockstar on our committee, which left me more confused about the haphazard weekly reports. Why was Hannah so bad at the routine tasks yet so phenomenal in other roles?

Her answer: the routine, administrative tasks of the job made her feel like “a 1980s secretary” while the project items made her feel more valued and competent in her job. Whoa, wow and ouch!

I had mixed feelings about her response.

On the one hand, I could understand how the rote tasks of HR can make a person feel like an unimportant paper-pusher. Certainly, there are tasks I complete that are tedious and I wish I could delegate to someone else.

On the other hand, I couldn’t agree that routine administrative work diminished the value of my contribution or my standing as a professional. There was nothing demeaning about the reports or data entry Hannah was doing.

What Hannah didn’t realize is that everyone else noticed her attitude about her work, too. She had developed a reputation as a person who was great on projects but unreliable in the day-to-day and one who often asserted herself improperly and inserted herself unnecessarily into situations. In trying to prove her worth, she was actually devaluing herself MORE than if she’d just done the work to the best of her ability.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t Hannah’s direct supervisor so there was only so much I could do to redirect that. And when I tried to talk about it with her supervisor, he wasn’t all that concerned. So I resigned myself to do what I could to encourage Hannah in the areas where she was choosing not to shine and help her to see the value in the little things we do as administrators, at least as it related to the tasks that affecting me.

Regular, run-of-the-mill administrative work does not lessen our impact as HR administrators or demean us as professionals. It’s just another aspect of the job. It’s the icky vegetable on the dinner plate of work life.

And everyone has to eat their vegetables!

And just like real vegetables, the HR vegetables help us to grow strong in our work and keep things flowing and healthy. Administrative tasks help us to establish our reputation as knowledgeable, dependable and capable so we can take on more attractive tasks and projects that help us to keep the organization’s people and processes in line with the goals. Ignoring the HR veggies or pushing them to the side to eat “dessert” first creates an imbalanced HR diet. The HR professional looks like they either don’t know or don’t care — and both are damaging to the overall reputation of that person and the HR profession as a whole. It is lazy HR and, at a time when our value and existence has to be justified even more, we can’t afford it!

So suck it up and eat your HR vegetables. Your co-workers will thank you. And your mother will be proud!

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  1. This situation can really apply to anyone in an administrative position. Real success lies in the details, your ability to not only know what has to be done, but your determination to make sure it gets done, each and every day.

    It takes determination to “get the job done”, and that includes the sometimes boring projects that don’t draw special attention but are essential to the overall importance of the organization.

    A persons reputation is the only truth that follows from job to job. Treat yours with respect and you will receive respect in return.

    • @Frank: So true. Attention to detail is essential to ensuring a task is done once, done correctly, and done on time.We forget that while we are watching and evaluating others, they are watching and evaluating us too. Our work is our signature. We should give 100% each time, no matter what the task.

      • Buzz Rooney

        August 16, 2011 at 10:52 PM

        Absolutely! Our professional reputation is built or destroyed one task at a time.

    • Buzz Rooney

      August 16, 2011 at 10:51 PM

      I agree with you 100%! Very well put. It’s not just about coming through “in the clutch” but consistently performing in the day-to-day grind that matters.

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