R U OK? HR urged to invest in self-care

If HR people are too emotive it gives leaders a reason to dismiss the validity of what they are fighting for

R U OK? HR urged to invest in self-care

In the lead up to R U OK Day on September 10, there is an increasing amount of attention on the mental health concerns of employees. And, in recent years, many organisations have excelled in putting the spotlight on staff wellbeing.

In 2019, more than 50,000 rail employees in New Zealand and Australia participated in Rail R U OK? The day involved everything from morning teas, BBQ’s and free massages for employees to trivia, team building exercises and even therapy dogs.

However, what about the mental health of those whose job description is to look after the health and wellbeing of the workforce?

The first step HR professionals can take is to “get back to basics around self-care” and recognise that there is only so much you can do, according to Karen Gately, founder of Corporate Dojo.

“It’s when human beings rail against reality or invest time and energy in thinking about what shouldn’t be that frustration levels boil over,” Gately told HRD.

Consequently, Gately said HR people need to understand that there are limitations to their ability to fix everybody’s problems.

It’s also important to recognise that spending too many hours at your computer engaged in work will diminish your mental health and energy levels, and therefore the ability to be effective and productive.

“Leaving work aside for periods of time or doing things you enjoy is fundamental for every human being, including HR people,” said Gately.

“It’s really about being careful not to buy into issues with too much emotion and to avoid externalising the frustrations you observe of what leaders are or are not doing.”  

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She added that in that circumstance, HR leaders should monitor the behaviour and calmly rationalise that it’s not right. Then they can choose not to engage in it too emotionally

“Looking at it as evidence as something that needs to be tackled might include a tough love conversation that needs to happen with the leaders for them to understand,” said Gately.

“HR professionals are often struggling most when they are getting angry or sad on behalf of the team because of what leaders are doing.”

When it comes to things like COVID and restrictions, there is no doubt in Gately’s mind that mental health is aided when HR accept the reality of a situation.

However, Gately emphasised that accepting reality isn’t being happy about it, it’s about accepting that it’s real and focusing on what can be controlled rather than focusing on what can’t.

In other words, to be “objective and compassionate” without “wallowing in other people’s pain”.

“I meet lots of HR people who say it’s just not fair and the staff are really upset about this or that,” said Gately.

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“The more that they actually wallow in that frustration, the more drained they become. But also they become less effective because now they are communicating from an emotive place.”

Gately said that if HR leaders are too emotive it also gives leaders a reason to dismiss the validity of what they are fighting for.

“So if you express yourself emotively then leaders will switch off and that is only going to lead to you being more frustrated,” said Gately.

“But if you can tackle issues with a commercial yet compassionate lens and keep emotions in check, you are going to be healthier and more effective.”

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