Let’s face it. As careers go, HR doesn’t always get a good rap. I am always particularly amused when I see HR represented on the television; we are rarely portrayed in the best of lights.
So here are my favourite myths and assumptions about the HR profession and the people working within it.
We are all process freaks
We want to write a process and policy for everything, right up to and including going to the toilet.
We spend a lot of time worrying about our seat at the table
And are desperate to be seen as a strategic and credible profession, as good as all the other business functions. Sigh.
We can’t do maths
We are all pink and fluffy
We always have a clipboard
We certainly do when a fictional HR lady (for they are usually female) appears on tv. They are often dreadfully bossy types who have very important things written on said clipboard, things that must be ticked off at all costs.
There is of course a serious side to this. I’ve noticed how we also perpetuate these myths about ourselves. I was at a conference recently where there were plenty of references and jokes about the process stuff. Maybe that isn’t so helpful. Beware labelling theory. Labelling theory suggests that the behaviour of individuals can be influenced by the labels that are applied to them. I am playing fast and loose with a complex theory here, which focuses primarily on deviance. However, there is a central point in labelling theory in which it notes that when a particular label is applied to an individual, it can gain more prominence than other descriptors for them. So a man who steals becomes a thief, even though he may also be a father, a Christian, an IT analyst. Labelling theory also considers the extent to which when a label is given, the individual to whom it applies may demonstrate more of the behaviour, as well as the impact upon people when they feel that a label cannot be shaken – they give up and live up to it.
Why do these myths and labels arise? There are plenty of reasons. However, there is one that concerns me above others. Consider the availability heuristic. This is a fancy term for the way in which our brains, when asked to recall something or make a decision, will take the quickest route based on the easiest information available. This is usually our most prominent or recent experience over logic or evidence. So if the only HR people you have ever met are clipboard waving, pink jumper wearing, maths failing, policy salivating women who are carrying around their own chair in case there isn’t one for them in the boardroom, then chances are that will be your view of the entire profession.
On reflection, perhaps ‘pink and fluffy’ isn’t so funny, after all.
We must challenge the myths, the assumptions and the stereotypes. Challenge what we know to be untrue. Let HR lead the way.