Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Go Into the Water: HR’s Image Problem

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I am of the firm belief that the workplace would be a much more happy and productive place if everyone just had a theme song.

Look at the great workplace comedies. Mary Tyler Moore could turn the world on with her smile. Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin got the better of their tyrannical boss working 9 to 5. Then there’s that great bass riff to start out the theme to Barney Miller, and get the cops of the 12th Precinct through another day of dealing with purse snatchers, prostitutes and the just plain weird.

If you still don’t believe me, compare these TV shows and movies to those that are more negative about the workplace. As great as The Office and Office Space are, their music is not what you remember about them. These fictional workplaces are dysfunctional, at least in part, for lack of a good theme song.

With this in mind I went out in search of a theme song of my own, something to improve my performance and increase my job satisfaction. I wanted something upbeat to reflect my always cheery disposition. Perhaps Eddy Grant’s Reggae classic Walking on Sunshine, Beautiful Day by U2, or Bobby McFerrin’s Don’t Worry, Be Happy. Unable to decide from so many great choice, I asked my coworkers for suggestions.

They didn’t even hesitate. Without a moment’s thought, they all said at once, the theme from Jaws.

Yeah, that’s right, to them I’m a mindless, man-eating monster of the deep. When I come into their workspaces, shivers run up their spines with the fear of getting devoured with a termination packet and an empty box for packing their personal belongings.

Now, I’ve written about my reputation as the guy who fires people before in a previous post, but that was a few years ago. Surely, my reputation has changed by now. Rarely are people fired at my organization. Most of my time is spent helping people. Whether it’s assisting them in navigating the benefit package or counseling them in how to deal with a difficult coworker, I’m the good guy.

I’ve been assured that this is the case most of the time, but to some, I’ll always be the guy who shows up when you are about to get your legs chopped off while your frantically swimming for that buoy. They don’t see me, they see a fin popping out of the water.

This is the onus of being in HR, and no matter how I act or what I do, it always will be. It comes with the job, and I’ll just have to get used to it.

And tere is a bright side. When I asked for a theme song, at least they didn’t suggest Talking Heads Psycho Killer


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