When You've Lost Your Fire

July 4, 2015


Whether it’s been 5, 10, or 20 years in HR – you can easily get to a point of losing your fire….struggling to remember the very reason why you entered the field to begin with. 

You may be passionate and super-capable – truly good at what you do.  But, that doesn’t prevent you from falling victim to a loss of fire.  As a professional you know how to mask this inner feeling and always give the job your very best.  But, you know yourself better than anyone.

HR, as it has been said countless times, is a thankless job.  But, it’s more than just thankless.  For the skilled, strategic business partner, it is very often terribly misunderstood.

How much of this sounds familiar?

  • Some leaders are organizing a strategy session at your company, and they contact you to attend some small portion of it in case they might get into hiring needs

  • Your HR team is seen as the ones who create the ‘fun’ atmosphere for the company – i.e. picnics, holiday parties

  • Leaders at your company would sooner talk to virtually any other professional across the various departments about business issues than to you or your HR team

  • It’s assumed, in conversations with your finance and accounting colleagues, that you’ve never managed financials or can read P&L statements

  • The same ‘problem’ employees (and their managers) come to see you about the same issues, expecting you to give them the silver bullet, then ‘poof!’ – the problem is solved.  But, since no silver bullet exists, at least they leave feeling better

  • There’s a lunch thief in your midst absconding with employee lunches from the kitchen refrigerator.  A manager calls you to ask for your help in putting an end to this (Oh, I can assure you that this really happens)

If you can relate to at least one of these scenarios, you know what it’s like to be put in a box.  That box can feel tighter and tighter as you progress throughout your career.  And, it can ultimately snuff out your fire if you’re not careful. 

Hold on…there’s good news.  You have a choice!  You can actually choose not to lose your fire.  You can refuse to be put in a box - in fact you can and should relentlessly challenge that status quo at every turn.  Here are a few strategies to do that constructively:


  • Be the one who actually initiates the strategy session at your company.  Why not?  You know the core business issues, challenges and opportunities – and if you don’t….start engaging.  Help your leaders ‘get up to the balcony’ to tackle the thorny issues plaguing the company.  Propose the framework for a strategy session and put yourself in the driver’s seat and/or co-lead with someone from the business line

  • Rather than begrudgingly take ownership for the ‘fun’ activities at your company, orchestrate a cross-representative group of energized folks who would be more than happy to event plan.  Be sure to secure budget dollars, provide sponsorship and overall guidance to avoid any derailments or inappropriate outcomes

  • Make the deliberate and visible shift from ‘listener’ to ‘capacity builder’ in your next employee relations conversation. First, rather than respond to every phone call or email – nicely push back and schedule conversations at your convenience.  Unless the house is on fire there should be no reason to jump every time an employee/manager swings by.  Then use those encounters to coach towards ownership.  Provide the script and the tools then step back and ask them to keep you posted.  Don’t let HR become the therapist’s office as a general rule.  Finally, engage next level managers to, well, manage.  If the issue is recurring, they should know and should consider it as much as a problem as a delayed product launch.  This is their business and they - not you -  should be feeling the intense pressure to correct the issue

What other strategies can empower you to take control and avoid the loss of fire?




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