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HR's emotional tipping point


Katrina Kibben's Weekly Letter

March 26 · Issue #147 · View online

Every week, I'll write you a letter. A letter about anything, really. My goal is just to make you think.

Last week, an old friend’s Mom was hit by a car while crossing the street. We lost her that day. If you knew her, you’re probably thinking of a big smile and an even bigger laugh. A rowdy demeanor and remarkable kindness for strangers and soulmates alike. She was a bartender and one of the first people to pour me a drink. An incredible Mom to everyone, too, not just her own kids. 
When I heard the news, I was in shock. I can’t imagine losing someone you’re so close with that quickly. I guess that’s the gift of getting sick before you pass on - you have time to say goodbye. You have time to waste, time to ponder your existence, and a chance to make things right. You can have a hand in creating the moments where you’ll be remembered. 
While I believe there’s a plan for everything, I wish there were more plans for the people left behind to figure out how to recover when Monday is sunshine and Tuesday is a tragedy. Instead, she will be remembered with a wreath on the side of the road and a moment that turned out her light far too soon.
We’re not short on tragedy. Less than 20 miles from my home, a man opened fire in a grocery store this week and stole 10 people from their families and my community. He stole a false sense of security I had every time I put in head phones and blasted music while I shopped, too. He stole a little bit of my false hope that a place like Boulder is “safe,” whatever that means. 
It messed with my head. I know despite my best intentions, that has had an impact on everything I’ve done this week. I have a constant feeling of being on edge and buried even when the work is done and the calls are complete. I’m overwhelmed. 
I know I’m not the only one. 
This isn’t a 1-week bad news cycle. It’s a 1 year (longer, probably) cycle of bad news and heartbreak. As humans and even as corporations, there’s a collective response and it impacts everything we do every single day. 
The more these moments pile up, the more I’m watching HR admit they’re all reaching a tipping point.  
It’s taking a toll on their lives. Often, HR and People teams are the ones crafting statements and checking on employees after bad things happen. They listen to the hard stories after people lose their loved ones, tragically or in time. They’re the ones who write those thoughtful cards and send flowers. 
They’re also the ones who have to deny benefits like FMLA that feel human and humane because of policies. They’re the ones who fight for bereavement pay and tell the executives that 4 days is not enough to recover from losing a child. It’s harder than most know.
All of that empathy is adding up to a deficit in their own lives. It’s hard to take care of yourself when you’re taking care of everyone else. We barely go a week without bad news and as the go-to for all things humans, talent departments bear the emotional brunt of the headlines and the impact on every life that exists within their company. 
HR needs a break. We all do, actually. 
So this week, I’m going to ask all of you (even if you aren’t in HR) to take a minute to do 3 things. 
  1. Tell someone you love how much you love them. Go ahead, tell a few. 
  2. Check on your strong friend, that one you never have to worry about. 
  3. Rest. Seriously. Nothing on your desk is more important than making sure your heart is happy. 
I’ll go ahead and do #1.
Love you. You’re great. You got this. Rest this weekend, ok? If you feel like reading, I have some options for you too.

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