It's a strange kind of isolation though, and often not immediately obvious, as we are social types who understand the importance of engaging with people all around us, talking to people and getting under the skin of the businesses we support through research and conversation.
We pride ourselves on the quality of the relationships we cultivate with colleagues and peers, and on the face of it can appear well connected at work.
However, the reality for a lot of HR professionals is that the job can be a pretty lonely one. Sure, we’re well connected and engaged with a lot of people but it’s not always the case that we’re able to forge the depth of friendships that people working in other business areas can achieve.
We need to be seen as impartial, without favourites, and trusted enough to maintain the confidence of anyone in the organisation who needs to talk to us. We need to be able to professionally manage redundancies, disciplinaries and grievances throughout the organisation and at times even in our own teams.
None of this sits well with forming deep and meaningful social connections at work or being in a position where you personally have a network of trusted friends or confidants inside the business who you can talk to when you need to let off steam or if you need a bit of personal support.
I see this coming up more and more as an issue with the people I coach and especially for senior HR professionals working in smaller teams or in stand-alone roles. So, what can you do if you’re starting to feel lonely or isolated? Here’s a few ideas.
Keep building the connections you have with peers in other business areas and take the opportunities that arise to engage in social activities that are planned at work. Be open and approachable and don’t be afraid to have fun with the team.
Cultivate your external network
Invest time in building a professional network outside of work. Go to networking events and look for opportunities to connect with professionals who are operating at the same level as you.
If you connect with someone at an event, always be sure to follow up afterwards with a quick message to help strengthen the connection and to ensure the door is open for further communication going forwards.
Don’t underestimate the power of social media
Although social media can get a lot of stick, don’t underestimate the value of it in helping you make connections and giving you opportunities to engage with other HR people.
Most social platforms have active HR communities and it can be a great way to start building your network if you’re more of an introvert and the thought of engaging with strangers at a face to face event doesn’t appeal to you.
Get a coach or a mentor
This can be particularly important if you’re in a stand-alone role as it gives you the chance to talk to someone in a professional capacity in confidence if you’re struggling or if you just need a bit of support or advice.
Some of my former coaches and mentors have gone on to be true friends long after the coaching agreement has come to an end. They’ve all been able to help me widen my professional network through connecting me with other professionals who went on to become friends too.
Know that you’re not alone
Even if it feels like it, and even if it feels like you don’t have anyone that you can talk to, know that you are not alone. If you work in HR, you are part of the HR community and there will always be someone who will listen and who can help. No matter how lonely or isolated you might feel. Use the connections that you have to help you build new ones.
At the start of every month take a little bit of time to think about who you’d like to connect with that month. It could be someone you’ve met at a conference, an ex-colleague, a new contact on LinkedIn.
Through engaging outwards you’re more likely to increase the frequency and quality of communication and connections that come back to you.
There’s no shame in admitting that you feel lonely and that you need someone to talk to. After all, as HR professionals the demands of the job are pretty unique and the range of things you deal with can be vast and complex.
We all need someone to talk to from time to time, equally as we’ll all need to be there to listen and support each other at times too.
So, on that note, if you’re feeling lonely or isolated today, make a conscious effort to find someone to connect with, even if it’s just sending an email. If you don’t have anyone, feel free to message me.
Also, if you’re reading this and you know someone who works in a stand-alone HR role, why not send them a message today and check in with them. You never know what a difference that one message might make to someone’s day.
Karen Beaven is an HR director, author and strategist.
This piece appears in the March 2020 print issue. Subscribe today to have all our latest articles delivered right to your desk