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Introducing "On Being Human in HR"

Posted By Megan Leatherman, Thursday, August 3, 2017
Updated: Thursday, August 3, 2017

When I think back to my stint as an internal HR professional, one of the first words I’d use to describe the experience is lonely.


I was new to the city, new to the company, and new to HR. One of the first unspoken rules that I picked up on from others in the department was: “make sure it looks like you know what you’re doing.”


Except that I didn’t know what I was doing. My boss gave me instructions, and she was very kind and supportive, but I put a lot of pressure on myself to give off an air of total competence and expertise - especially in front of our employees.


It’s exhausting and isolating to maintain a facade like this, and it becomes even more so when you can’t talk to anyone about it.


I work with a lot of HR professionals in my coaching practice, and I hear things from them that many of us aren’t comfortable sharing with our peers. Things like:

  • “I don’t believe in what my company does, but I feel like I have to put on my “rah rah” face so people stay motivated.”
  • “I’m the only one in my department who knows our doors won’t be open in six months and the weight of it is killing me.”
  • “My CEO is verbally abusive, but there’s no one I can talk to about it.”
  • “I’m crumbling under the volume of work in front of me. I don’t think I can do this anymore.”


Those are heavy burdens to carry on our own, and they get extra heavy when we have to lug them around to networking events or workshops and pretend like they don’t exist. We smoothly pull out our business cards while wincing under the weight of the overstuffed pack on our backs.


I’ve witnessed how incredibly moving it can be to have someone in a professional setting tell us, “I get it,” or “Me too.” Suddenly those heavy packs full of imposter syndrome, pretending, or fear become a little lighter and we can move forward in the way that we always intended: as helpful, competent, and empowered human beings.


This monthly column, On Being Human in HR, aims to address the loneliness that can become rampant in a field like ours where we’re expected to maintain a high level of confidentiality and professionalism.


Each month, I’ll focus on how each of us can dig deeper into our own humanity and connectedness in order to do work that’s even better and more impactful to our organizations.


I’ll leave the technical topics to the experts in the PHRMA community and interview brave HR professionals who are willing to talk to me about what it’s really like to be a whole, complex person in this evolving field.


My hope is that in their stories, you’ll hear a “me too” and start to feel less isolated in your own experience. It will take a group effort to dismantle the walls of pretending and loneliness that can creep up in our profession. If you or someone you know might be willing to have coffee with me and share your story for this column, please email me at megan(at) I’d love to meet you.


Coming up in September: I’ll be sharing insights from myself and another HR professional about how awkward it can be to show up authentically with employees and discuss some ways they’ve pushed through the “HR Lady” stereotype to create an atmosphere of trust and connection.

Tags:  burnout  HR  imposter syndrome  isolation 

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