HR is for the Birds – part 1: The Ostrich

Having a career in HR is tough. We spend most of our time in battling for priority, resources, time and voice in the organizations we belong to. Then we have to defend the policies, practices and decisions of the same organization to employees and enforcement entities. HR professionals are under-trained, over-worked and often burn out in discouragement and frustration. Many would say a career in HR is for the birds!

This month, the Buzz on HR is going to look at lessons management can gain from the birds. Part 1 looks at the Ostrich.

Native to Africa, the Ostrich is a two-legged bird that cannot fly. It runs really fast though, reaching speeds up to 60 miles and cover up to 20 feet in a single stride. When faced with a threat from a predator, the ostrich hides. Many think the ostrich sticks its head in the ground, but this is a myth. They actually just lay with their legs and neck flat while their butts are in the air, to look like a rock or bush. What is really interesting is that when an ostrich chooses to fight instead of hide, the power of an ostrich kick could crush a human skull! There are tons of nature videos showing the ostrich kicking the crap out of lions and tigers and bison! Oh my! The ostrich also has an acute sense of sight and hearing compared to other birds and native animals despite its tiny head, wide-set eyes and unprotected ears.

Similarly, HR is rarely the flying, guiding force in their organization. However, HR usually has the most insight and understanding into the how and why the organization works because of its dealings with each area within their organization. HR hears and sees more than the operations or finance or marketing because it’s function overlaps with all these. Therefore, HR is acutely sensitive to the goals, needs and wants of each.

Yet when faced with conflict or challenged, HR sticks its head in the sand. It lies flat and stays silent in order to avoid appearing too partial or over-zealous or disagreeable with the other stakeholders in the organization. HR sacrifices itself and its initiatives to get along so it can remain effective. In the end, the people of the organization and the people the organization serves are the ones that suffer. The HR profession suffers, too, because despite our contribution, a lot of business society still continues to question the validity and necessity of our function and profession.

However, when HR chooses to fight for itself and its function, it crushes other areas of the organization with its knowledge, understanding and efficiency! HR is naturally stronger than others because it used to doing more with less and producing fast results. HR has to consider the needs and impact of everything it does on others so it is used to finding solutions with cooperation, compromise and concessions already built-in.

So instead of being the HR-ostrich who hides and runs from conflict, be the HR-ostrich who fights, kicks and crushes-skulls with effectiveness, innovation and wisdom!

Next week, the Chicken

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