The feedback I get from people I meet is often “I love your energy, “you’re so bubbly,” and “why are you so happy?” I am, by no means, a Debbie Downer. That said, I don’t ever want people to think that HR has to be happy or has to be cheerful all the time. You get to be NOT bubbly. It’s totally okay.
We deal with some dark stuff. People come to us when their kids or parents are sick. We organize FMLA for them in these cases. When they get a horrible diagnosis for themselves, we figure out the reasonable accommodation to allow them to earn a paycheck while going through grueling procedures. Some of my hardest days an HRO were trying to find ways to get people home to dying parents. Tears – including some of mine – were shed in my office. A bubbly response would be insensitive and inappropriate.
We deal with hard problems. When someone comes to us with an allegation of harassment, we investigate, sometimes hear about horrific behavior, and then try to navigate the difficult waters to rebuild in the aftermath to make things right. We do pay audits that may uncover discrepancies, we have to beg and plead to find money to rectify the situation. We advocate for a minority candidate when the hiring manager is concerned about “fit.” (Ugh.) We put our credibility on the line to solve these problems.
We do hard things. It is not easy to do a layoff. It is really not easy to discipline someone who we like personally. It is not easy to walk a production floor when there’s a unionizing campaign in progress. Nevertheless, we do these things, because we’re in HR and sometimes we have to. We don’t get to hire and promote all the time.
It’s more important to be you. Being you means you have good days and bad days because you’re human. Some of the best HR people I have ever worked with are curmudgeonly – surly even – but they still showed people that they care about them, want what’s best for them, and will advocate for them. We can’t create connections with the people we work with if we’re putting on a forced smile or bubbliness.
My advice is this: work on you. Know you. Then, stay true to that. People will respond to that.