Perseverance and Humor: Two Qualities for HR Success

Recently I came across this Atlantic article about teacher selection. Researches determined that the most valid predictor of teacher success in the Teach for America program is persistence. The mindset to relentlessly persevere through adversity  is what matters, not prior experience, advanced degrees, charisma, extroversion or other attributes.

It occurred to me that life in human resources might not be so different than trying to teach in the inner city. Oh, the details are different, of course, but the need for persistence is similar.

HR is hard.  We wade through mountains of legislation and mandates, struggling to keep up with requirements, postings, notices, reports.  We counsel, advise, model, ask, warn….only to have managers do the exact opposite, leaving us holding the bag when Unemployment calls wanting separation information. We fight for a seat at the table and feel so good when offered a chair. But then suddenly we notice we’ve been seated at the little kid’s table. (Know what I mean? Did that ever happen to you?) On top of all that, the human resources role can be a little lonely as it is awkward to make friends at work and there are few people you can confide in.

HR works comes with many rewards but the challenges are real, even when you work at one of the good places (as I do). You need to ‘relentlessly persevere through adversity’ to make it very long in HR.

The second quality I think human resources people need is humor. We’ve all seen humorless HR people and it ain’t pretty.  They carry a dogeared copy of their policy manual dotted with notes and exclamation marks in the margins, entire pages highlighted and underlined. Their faces are all scrunched up with their mouth in a tight frown. They have a pompous reply for everything and seem to delight in pouncing on anyone who makes a mistake; for example, someone like me accidentally saying “75 employees within 50 miles” when everyone knows the FMLA statute says the reverse.

How can you do anything cutting-edge, creative or fresh from a humorless mindset? I don’t want to be like that. (If I start down that road, Jen, please slap me.)  I don’t want to get to that point, though I understand why HR people get broken down and worn out. Having a sense of humor about yourself, your job and all the ridiculous situations we all encounter can help you bounce back from adversity.

So those are the two qualities I think are most crucial to long-term success in human resources: perseverance and humor.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your comments.

photo by clover 1

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