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Career in Human Resources is not for “nice” people

New talents often want to work in the field of human resources. Above all, however, they need to answer why they want to work in this field. The most common answer is: “I love working with people, developing them and helping them.”

Is not this the right answer? Not yet! If this is what one wants to do, then you have to work in business or general management, not in human resources. Looking for a HR career because it is a “nice” place as it involves the human factor is widespread but often leads to mistaken talent allocation.

To be fair, being nice is both an expectation and a requirement when you work at HR department. It is difficult for most people to imagine their associates in human resources as “not-nice” people. This is why some young talents get confused by assuming that being a nice person is a sufficient professional expertise in this field. However, the “good” is just a starting point – it is not enough.

Fair, not good

Human resources professionals say “we are not a beautiful business, we are a fair business.” I think this is a very insightful statement. Consider some Human Resources roles as examples:

Restructuring – In any organizational restructuring there are winners and losers. Dealing with people not affected by the changes is easy. But in any restructuring there are those who lose their jobs, they face downgrades or sometimes end up in a role they do not like. These people deserve a respectful and fair process. Goodness is not enough.

Recruitment – There are only a few things as pleasant as listening to someone that were hired to the job they wanted. Unfortunately, for all those who get the job, there are many who wanted it and they did not get it. It is not so pleasant for the human resource employee to make these calls.

Compensation involves paying people based on the value of their work and not on what they want. This often causes disagreement and friction. Human resource professionals need to learn how to explain the facts not only to employees of all levels but also to their managers who feel they should just pay more. Sometimes they can give great news in this respect, but more often they have to find ways to maintain integrity in the compensation structure.

Talent management involves diversifying top talents and investing in them in a different way. Announcing this news to the most highly – qualified people can surely be enjoyable. But for every top talent there are so many who are not, and HR professionals often have to explain to them why the reward is not the same for everyone.

Education and development must give employees the training they need, not the one they want.

Relationships between employers and employees are about ensuring a consistent and fair working environment rather than satisfying everyone.

It is not difficult to find that the usual perceptions that human resources are an easy field to work in, and also nice or entertaining, are wrong. Of course, it can be fun. But when done properly, it’s a tough job.

Empathy is the key

What HR professionals really need is not courtesy, but empathy. That is, understanding and taking into account the way people feel. They have to do the work, sometimes hard work, the business needs. Making it empathetic and helping other leaders to have empathy, they ultimately make a difference.


Human resource professionals need to maintain a balance if they care about their mental health. Balance in life is critical, otherwise it can be very tempting to slip out to be “nice” in order to avoid hard work; something that the field really does not need. Love for this industry does not arise from being “nice” or easy, but from the satisfaction that is created when you help the company achieve its goals through human capital. It’s a strategy, but it’s also a kind of art that needs to be practiced on a daily basis to be really good. Helping and watching people is great. But helping and seeing the company grow up through its people is even more satisfying.

So if you want to work in the HR field, you are invited to consider what really is required to succeed in it and to make sure you follow this career for the right reasons!

If you are already working on human resources, take a breath and focus on what is most important. Cultivate your empathy, but do the right thing and do not be afraid to give the hard messages.

If you are not one of them, please give your HR partner an embrace and appreciation of what he does!

Source: Brian Walker, Chief Human Resources Officer / Global HR Executive

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