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HR And The Invisible Housework

hr hr coaching leadership Mar 04, 2024

"We'd like to say thank you to everyone involved in making this project a success, we know you've all worked hard, put in a lot of extra hours, and made a lot of sacrifices over the last few months.  You've done a great job ..." individually thanks all of the teams involved, excludes HR.

I was once part of a quiz team called Human Remains.

I was newly appointed and the Senior HR Team members were in consultation as part of a restructuring, the Head of HR included.

They each asked me to accompany them to their consultation meetings, where nobody who knew about HR was present.  The legal team had provided a script of things to say, questions to ask, and answers to provide as part of the meetings - I controlled the meeting.

The HR Team were all under instruction to not discuss this with anyone outside of the team, and that we should show a united front at the company quiz night, especially as the event was raising money for charity, the CEO was not impressed by the name we'd chosen for our quiz team, and that remained the name of the team at the annual quiz night until I left the organisation - quite literally the last remaining person of the original team.

The team had felt undervalued and undersupported for several years, their energy and enthusiasm had been fading for a while, so when the consultation came, it seemed to be a relief.  I was promoted, and it was me who was tasked with transforming the energy and the reputation of the team in our new office, with our new name - the relaunch of the function began and large announcements were put across the entire organisation.

This was the first of many consultation processes I experienced as part of my HR career, and the first of many where HR received no acknowledgment for the support provided.

And it wasn't just consultation meetings where HR weren't thanked for their hard work, extra hours, or input, it was every project, every change, every event, even the annual performance process meant we were left out - just part of our job - and yet Finance were always thanked for the budget setting season.

I'd question it, often get told that HR shouldn't get too big for their boots, but that if I felt that my team deserved some thanks and praise, I could reward them as I saw fit - and I did. 

In one organisation I'd take the whole team out for drinks on payday - not once having an expense approved whilst other teams were being treated to dinners and lunches by the rest of the Exec team.

So often, the invisible housework of HR is unseen and unappreciated.

The Burnout Gender doubled since 2019 for the same reason - invisible housework.

People don't fit into boxes like numbers and data, do they and we underestimate how much time and energy it takes to support people?

There's not always an ROI on a conversation or a new policy. 

You can't equate how long it took to have a conversation with a person who had received a life-threatening diagnosis, with how supported the person feels.  And often a lot of the improvements needed are qualitative rather than quantitative, which is why they can get denied at Board meetings.

When people are told to speak to HR, go to HR, or book a meeting with HR, it's usually because the manager isn't managing effectively.  The 'people stuff' belongs with HR, often because managers don't know how to manage, and see managing as something in addition to the day job, when in fact it is the day job, but for HR, it's just 'what you do'.

Then the questions start about why you're not doing what's being asked of you by the rest of the organisation - it's like you can't win.

If you want to stop the invisible housework in HR you need to:

  • Define the role of HR - what's the role and remit of HR, and what isn't it? 
  • Set boundaries, aligned to the role and remit - taking time to get the job done, time to think, time to create, and time for yourselves
  • Have a seat and a voice at the table - and the support (a coach or mentor) to help you thrive when you get there

It's time to say no to the invisible housework, and yes to a world where HR thrive.



My hunch is that someone you trust mentioned my name, or you stumbled upon one of my videos, podcasts, or articles online. 

Whatever path you took, I’m really glad you’re here. 

I'm the Executive Coach for HR Leaders at

Clients hire me to help them regain control of their busy lives so they have more time and energy for the things that matter

If that sounds like you, I'd love for us to talk



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