I had a phone conversation the other day with a fellow HR professional. We were commiserating with each other about something called “the imposter syndrome”. This is where, despite the fact that you know you are good at what you do, you feel no one else thinks you are good at what you do. You lack the self-esteem necessary to present yourself as the authority. As a result others don’t have any esteem for you as well.
How others view HR
In organizations where there is low self-esteem in HR you find others going around HR. You find negative statements being made. You find managers and CEOs stating that their HR departments are not prepared, or ready, or capable of handling HR in the 21st century. Basically it comes down to the statement that if you don’t value yourself why should anyone else value you? If you see HR as drudge work then so will everyone else.
How do we change?
In September of 2012 I wrote a post talking about self-esteem. I had attended a conference led by Alan Weiss who gave a group of consultants advice on self-esteem issues. He said that one of the reasons that many consultants are not as successful as they could be is low self-esteem. Despite the fact that most of them are experts in their fields they do not believe they have anything of value to say. I wrote at that time “As I pondered about this it dawned on me that what he was describing was also a problem for most HR professionals. Indeed the profession as a whole may suffer from low self-esteem. We are viewed as roadblocks to many people or incompetent boobs to others. And in many cases they may be correct. Yet at the same time there are many competent and professional HR folks who get colored with that same brush and we take it.”
Weiss’ advice to the group of consultants was “STOP IT.” That is the same advice that HR professionals need to follow as well. Stop seeing yourself through the glasses of low self-esteem.
Steps to help improve self-esteem
- Realize you are not incompetent. You know HR better than anyone else in your organization. If you are incompetent then do something about it. Get better trained. If people in your department are incompetent work on their training too.
- Become more well-rounded by reading more. Read more widely. There are studies out now that show that reading fiction improves your mind. Business periodicals can be good but you need to read beyond them.
- Express an opinion. Even though you are in HR you are still allowed to have an opinion.
- Have some courage. I think “backbone” is a major necessity to being a well-regarded HR professional. I once had a boss who kowtowed to every whim of the Executive VP of the company. No one had any respect for him and subsequently the HR department. Stand up and be counted.
- Interact more with the executives in your company. Exhibit to them you are a person concerned and informed about the business.
- Know your company. Know what it does, how it does it, how successful it is at it and whether it makes any money.
- Lastly, STOP IT! Stop putting yourself down. Stop letting others put you down. Pick up that self-esteem and kick it in the butt.
I don’t know about you but I am tired of articles about how CEOs hate HR. So let’s do something about it. The first step is looking in the mirror.