Looking back on my 20-year career in human resources, I know that I helped leaders negotiate their way out of trivial political standoffs. I facilitated active listening sessions. I lectured my clients about the healing power of forgiveness and compromise. I encouraged hugs.
But then I’d leave those meetings and fire off a petty email to my nemesis in the compensation department — without any regrets. This is the conversation I would have in my head.
Julie is a piece of work! How dare she send me a nasty memo and copy the VP of HR! She’s only a level 10, and I’m a bonus-eligible level 15 employee! The nerve of that woman!
Man, I sucked. Don’t be like me.
Here are three ways to make peace with your nemesis in HR:
1. Realize that everybody is fighting a hard battle.
I once worked with a guy in HR who threw me under the bus for something incredibly small. Then I learned that my nemesis had cancer, and he was preserving his reputation within the company. People operate in mysterious ways, and it’s important to remember that abnormal behavior often comes from a place of fear — and not loathing. My HR nemesis didn’t hate me. It wasn’t even about me. And, almost 10 years later, I cannot remember his name.
2. Imitate your nemesis.
For fun, read an email from your enemy aloud and use a ridiculous voice. Imitate her slouchy walk or mimic her dumb face when she eats a burrito in the cafeteria. Go over the top. Be crazy, be funny, be wacky. I promise that imitating your nemesis is the most fun you’ll have today. Also, this crazy behavior helps to remind you that your high-stakes approach to low-stakes drama is stupid, too.
3. Know that competition isn’t always bad.
I’m not very good at sports. I once kicked a soccer ball in ninth grade, and my teacher demanded I apologize to my classmates for being so bad at soccer. That’s a true story, and it’s a larger metaphor for how I deal with conflict at work. I used to assume that my HR colleagues were trying to humiliate me if they disagreed with me. Now that I’m a little older, I can see that two people can be on opposite sides of an issue without the world coming to an end. I still can’t kick a soccer ball, though.
ONE MORE THOUGHT…
The quickest way to make peace with your HR nemesis is to offer an olive branch. Even if you don’t mean it, the act of being brave and bold enough to take the high road makes you look awesome to your colleagues. If you can’t stand the idea of making peace with someone you hate, at least you can seem like the bigger person.
That’s worth something right there!
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