2013 was NOT a good year for me. In my head, that is. Mentally, I felt burned out, disconnected, wondering if I needed to make a professional change, and at times, I felt frustrated in my HR role. Twelve years (now starting year 13) is a “record” for me in any position.
In prior careers, I got bored, frustrated, fed up, or felt thwarted with career growth, and moved on. Sometimes graciously, sometimes, not so much. Hopefully I’ve learned from each of those other roles, and grown wiser as well as older. Now having been in HR for more than 17 years has given me so much ability to look back over my own career and learn life lessons. I spent a LOT of time ‘inside’ my own head in 2013, struggling with potentially life-changing and career-changing decisions last year.
I feel like I’m back in the groove in 2014, and I feel more connected to the organization and more engaged in my job. I cannot put my finger on exactly why or when that happened, but here are a few thoughts, perhaps ‘tips’ for others, on my challenges from last year.
- Don’t let your (bad, poor) attitude bleed over to your direct reports. This is possibly the hardest thing of all for me. I am pretty transparent in what I share with my team, and in my body language. I’m not sure I fooled them, but they were gracious enough, gave me space, time, and the ability to work through my own head. Which leads me to,
- Put a great work team in place. Select the smartest, most talented people you can, teach them what you want and need them to know, then set them free to chart their professional course. Sometimes that will mean you need to let go, delegate more, or trust in their decisions. Do this. As early as possible after you become a manager. This is critical to success, and most of all, it is my work team that kept moving forward , kept getting things done and getting results in HR, that helped ‘mask’ my bad year. In short, they made me look good. Even when I mentally was not very good.
- Have other activities to keep you going. 2013 was the year I took on physical challenges to get myself out of part of my funk. I began to strength train 2-3 times per week. I also found a ‘safety zone’ in my family at home, where I knew I would go at the end of every day.
- Talk about your challenges with someone. Whether professionally with a life coach, or with a good friend. In my case, as in many HR professionals’ worlds, I cannot share specifics of work challenges, but I do have close friends with whom I could share my general malaise. They listened. Encouraged. Let me know I was indeed human. And though I’m not generally a hugger, they gave me hugs – mentally, physically. Often, when I needed them most.
- Take time off. We have a generous paid time off policy where I work – another perk one has to think of, when considering change. I used my time. Sometimes one day at a time. And I planned for two weeks off at year-end. In a very warm climate. With my family. I had this to look forward to as I plugged through my 2013.
- Before you leap, step back and look around. I was likely pretty transparent to many around me. I had many colleagues stop by to check on me last year. Just to “see how I was doing.” Obviously, I must have been transparent with how I was feeling. Looking back and reflecting, I have it pretty good where I am. I have great colleagues, the very best team I could ask for, a great job with great benefits and perks, and even a really good boss.
- Share, in a professional way, your career desires or work frustrations, with your boss. Sometimes, it’s just having a secure outlet to share work frustrations that helps. Sometimes, getting another’s perspective from their seat allows for attitude adjustment to happen. I had a good discussion with my boss during performance review time. I let him know that I sometimes need him to spend just a little of his valuable time with me. That time alone, is very engaging for me. I appreciate the confidence he has placed in me, his trust of me, and the value he places on HR in the organization.
I’m engaged in my work right now, and aiming for a great 2014. What turned it around? I’m not sure. Perhaps it was the two weeks off I took near year end, and the full week I spent lounging in Key West with my family. Perhaps it was inward reflection on what a great place I indeed work – and all the perks and benefits I have here. Perhaps it was my friends. Perhaps it was the great HR team who figuratively carried me through 2013, when I couldn’t walk myself. Maybe it was all of those things. I think I have my groove back. Let’s go!!
About the Author: Dorothy Douglass is Vice President of Human Resources & Training at MutualBank, an Indiana-based financial institution. She began her career with Mutual in 2001 as Human Resources Manager, and is a graduate of Ball State University. She is proud to have been in Human Resources now for more than 17 years and is continuing to “lean in” and working to influence the “people management” side of her organization. She is passionate about managing and developing people; and I have yet to be bored in 13+ years in her current job. She considers herself fairly tech-UN-savvy, though has immersed herself in Facebook and LinkedIn. She’s still working on the Twitter-sphere & has goals to blog more in 2014.