In my experience, there’s a tremendous disconnect between what HR departments are designed to do and what I feel like they should be doing. The constant refrain I’ve heard from peers in the working world is “HR is there to protect the business”, not to be a resource for humans.
What I’ve been finding more and more is that the peers that I’ve been gravitating toward are on the same page as I am: they’re intensely aware of the shortcomings and limitations of established organizational paradigms and the stifling environments that they generate.
I think what’s traditionally been accepted as common truth for so long in the majority of organizations is slowly losing its polish and its appeal. I’ve heard more “real talk” about mental health, stress, and work-life balance in the last three years than at any point in my life. I’m finding that the truth of being an adult in the working world while trying to manage mental-health conditions isn’t just complex–it creates a lot of anxiety, which doesn’t help anyone in these kinds of situations.
To clarify and to be frank, organizations that exist today are not built to serve the needs of the people that work within them. The inverse is believed to be the reality–which is to say: people exist for the sake of the organization. Humans are believed to be “resources” that are somehow “managed” like pieces of machinery in a manufacturing plant. What should be utterly clear to anyone who exists within these organizations is that the paradigm is not only deficient in humanity, but lacks any kind of empathy.
Organizations, whether large or small, that are successful today I would argue are such precisely because they come pre-installed with at least two key elements: empathy and purpose. Empathy for the individuals that they attract and develop in seeing to their need to have equitable work-life balance and mentorship, and purpose insofar as to prove that what is being produced, worked on, or otherwise worked-toward has a reason beyond mere profit. When organizations lack these two points or are utterly inarticulate in making their case as to why the organization is in such a state, it doesn’t help to improve any kind of morale, instill confidence, or provide any modicum of transparency.
The vagaries of these key elements then seem to circle around several questions; the bulk of which begin to overlap into interpersonal interactions and human behavior, which most individuals and organizations seem ill-prepared or unlikely to engage in a meaningful or positive way. Asking a coworker what’s bothering them, giving them space to air their grievances and to be heard without judgment, and to be able to recognize when an individual is beyond their breaking point. All of these things are within our individual power, but in most organizations it’s either treated as a faux-pas or a serious breach of some byzantine HR policy.
I suppose the “TL;DR” here is simply this: I would prefer to see humanized organizations and structures. I want there to be space for two or more adults to talk about things without being judged or maligned for having difficult feelings. I want my peers to have a deeper understanding of mental illness and the various forms that it can assume and the impact it has on our work, our relationships, and our own physical health.
In short: I want more humanity in the organizations I work in.