Category Archives: Human Resources

What I tell people when they ask me what I do in HR

I watched a TED talk a while back by language historian Anne Curzon where she tells an amusing story in the beginning. She says that when she is at a dinner party and people find out her profession, they usually have one of two reactions; they either (a) get really frightened because they think she will spot every mistake they might make or (b) their eyes light up because they want to tell her about everything they think is wrong with the English language. It is a hilarious and interesting talk and I would highly recommend watching it here. But there is something about this anecdote that resonated with me. Whenever I introduce myself, outside of my workplace, as a Human Resources Professional, I usually get asked one of two questions. It is either, “So that means you are a recruiter?” or “So that means you don’t have much work, do you?”. Now the first question makes me sigh in tiredness but the second one just pisses me off but we’ll get to that later. Let’s focus on the first question for a minute.

There was a time when the human resources department did little more than process payroll and shuffle paperwork and we have come such a long way since then but it still irks me the everyone still thinks its only about the most visible aspect of the function. At this point I must note that recruitment is an extremely crucial step in the entire employee life cycle and I have a tremendous amount of respect for recruiters. In fact, sometimes I wish I was a recruiter so that I could just answer the first question with a resounding yes and then we would move on to more interesting topics not involving work. But I’m not so I usually have to come up with some sort of explanation of the work that I do which more often than not leaves the person mildly baffled and they drop the subject (hurrah!). In recent months, I have amused myself by coming up with some unconventional answers, let’s say. If you plan to read on, please keep an open mind :). So here are some of my explanations:

  • I’m like a janitor, I clean up messes when they need cleaning up. I can’t take complete credit for this one as it was inspired by the movie, Michael Clayton but I love this the most as it is guaranteed to leave someone completely baffled if I do not expound further.
  • I talk to people all day long. Another head scratcher, this either invites more questions or leads to aforementioned baffled silence
  • I’m happy to spend the next two hours telling you about my work. Would you like that? This elicits a nervous laugh and then an immediate change of topic.
  • I’m an HR Evangelist. There is such a thing although I’m not one but I just get a kick seeing the stunned expression and the internal battle waging in someone’s head to decide whether to ask or not.
  • I issue a lot of letters. This one isn’t too creative and usually gets a knowing nod as it is very much in keeping with people’s expectations from the HR department. Disappointing.
  • I’m an HR Generalist. This is the truth and if I choose to use this one, I usually have a lot of follow up questions to answer about what it means.

However amusing this may be, it got me thinking. Why is it so hard to communicate about the work that we do? It should be possible to explain every aspect of HR in it’s simplest form so as not to frighten or baffle anyone but just make them ‘get it’. We really need more people to better understand what goes on and in that way we can get their genuine opinions and perspectives on the subject which will vastly improve matters for everyone. I’m going to ponder on that for a while and see what I can come up with.

Until then,


What’s Your Tendency?

I just read a very interesting transcript of a podcast. You can read or hear it here.

In this conversation Gretchen Rubin, author of Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, explains that you’ve got to know your habit-setting style.

The first thing the author does is break the myth that willpower is always necessary for forming habits. Apparently, by forming habits, we are doing away with the daunting task of constantly making decisions about our behaviour. If its a habit, it happens automatically and one need not expend precious willpower to achieve the same result. Willpower can therefore be saved up for occasions when it is really needed.

The second and to my mind more interesting aspect of the conversation revolves around the fact that there are “Four Tendencies” that all people can be classified into. What are these four tendencies you ask? Well they are simply the way in which an individual responds to expectations.

We all face two kinds of expectations:

  • outer expectations, such as meeting work deadlines or observing traffic regulations, and
  • inner expectations, such as exercising more or keeping a New Year’s resolution.

We have a certain “tendency” to respond to these expectations in a way that defines us.

Four Tendencies
Four Tendencies

Upholder: “I do what others expect from me and what I expect from myself”

Questioner: “I do what I think is best, according to my judgement. If it doesn’t make sense, I won’t do it”

Obliger: “I do what I have to do. I don’t want to let others down, but I may let myself down”

Rebel: “I do what I want, in my own way. If you try to make me do something – even if I try to make myself do something – I’m less likely to do it.”

These tendencies of ours determines the steps we must take to form habits. For example, someone who is an obliger would be better off teaming up with a friend in an effort to form a habit if they know that the friend will be disappointed if they do not follow through.

All in all it made for a very good read and I am looking forward to the book! There is a quiz on her website that you can take to understand what your dominant tendency is. Find it here.

So whats your tendency?

Let’s Begin

Why Human Resources?

I have realised after about 2 years of working in human resources that there is a need to simplify what exactly working in HR means. It is mostly assumed that it must be mainly recruiting, a concept that is easy to understand – organizations need people to work and someone has to hire them; beyond that the other thing that HR is associated with is that annoying person who keeps laying down the law at inconvenient times. Well needless to say that that is not all. In fact it’s not what we do but what we believe. This amazing video helps explain the concept.

Why does the human resources department exist? There are many variations of the answer to this but it basically boils down to wanting to help every person realizes their own potential. Before you laugh at how absurd it seems, just think about it, most things in life are absurdly simple, we’re the ones that complicate matters. Sure we make our mistakes and may not always be able to help everyone but the belief exists that we are meant to help everyone get where they need to. But unfortunately the things that we do seem so trivial that it’s difficult to see what we’re aiming for really. The error again is mostly ours, we don’t try to show people the whys of our actions. And maybe then some of those actions will cease to be something that the HR department has to do.

Why This Blog?

Illustration to show commonly misunderstood words in HR

One thing that really bothers me is that most people assume that a lot of things are the HR department’s job whereas in truth it is everybody’s responsibility. A lot of us who have graduated college have almost no idea of the practical realities of working in the corporate world. While it is the duty of the employer to explain to you the terms, conditions, compensation and benefits associated with the job you are hired to do; it is ultimately for you to understand the full implications of it and act accordingly.

Terms like allowances, incentives, reimbursements, commissions all blur together in that corner of our minds somewhere and we remain blissfully unaware of the differences. We are conscious of tax deductions so we scrutinize every payslip and lament the amount of our hard earned money that we never see but what do we really do about it? We know we need to enroll ourselves for certain benefits programs but we often push them to the backburner, stewing until suddenly it spills all over and it’s too late to do anything about it.

My attempt through this blog, shall be to look at all these things that make up a significant part of our life and and just help everyone (including myself) understand them a little better. I don’t claim to be an expert, so this is as much for me to learn and then share 🙂

Happy New Year and Happy Reading!