I Work in HR and Hate It

Most days, I feel like my work in HR is slowly sucking the life out of me. Can you offer suggestions or enlightenment on how to get past these feelings of drudgery towards this career path I’ve chosen or how to jump into something else. This is not the place that I can see myself in another five years, but feel completely lost when it comes to career changes. I have been in HR for nine years, two months and about eight days. I don’t have experience in much else. I don’t feel qualified for many other jobs. Suggestions?

You don’t have to work in human resources just because you’ve been in HR for nine years, two months and about eight days. You can do anything: work in a coal mine or work in marketing, to name just two jobs.

It’s all the same. When you aren’t responsible for writing your paycheck, you will always give up a certain level of control and be accountable to someone else. And in the majority of those situations, the owners and your colleagues will be assholes.

What’s worse is that the media won’t stop telling you that you need to find fulfillment in your career. I think it’s awesome when you can make money, do something that isn’t morally bankrupt, but still have time for a hobby. So get a hobby ASAP.

But if you can’t see yourself in HR in five years, and you don’t have any other skills, it’s time to develop some new ones.

Does your company offer tuition assistance? Take full advantage of it. Can you volunteer your time on a not-for-profit board of directors? You’ll learn a lot.

Can you open up an Etsy shop or do something fun on the side to earn cash?

If something is slowly sucking the life out of you (e.g., your job, your family, marriage), you have two choices.

  • You can stop the bleeding.
  • Die a miserable and gangrenous death.

Who wants to die because they made themselves miserable working in HR. Here are some small ideas to begin the march forward towards your new life.

Build New Connections

Wake up 15 minutes early, groan for a second, and then use that time to make new connections with other HR folks. Don’t get your hopes up too high every time you reach out. Not every conversation will be mind-blowing or even helpful. But different points of view will help you feel less miserable in HR while learning a little about how others do their HR thing — and likely share in your utter hatred.

Connections won’t likely just pop up and make it easy on you. Twitter has a gazillion HR channels, and websites such as hr bartender and Fistful of Talent are also good places to find HR professionals that might just feel like you.

For people who want to lurk and linger, LinkedIn can be a more private network where you can send a direct message and share links without catching the attention of social media creeps and trolls.

Conventions, classes and recertification events put you in direct contact with others in HR. It isn’t for everyone, but face-to-face conversations can help fill the holes that HR leaves in our souls.

Maybe, just maybe, a new connection will share why they got into HR and why they enjoy it. You might remember why you are doing what you do — well, until your phone rings for the first of a million times for the day.

Take a Hike

Start walking during lunch. Be alone. Be quiet. Stimulate endorphins and slowly begin to overcome your career dysthymia.

I am not a doctor, just a cog in the HR machine. But, walking it off works because, well, it works — focusing on your breathing and muscle tension will take your mind off of your frustrations. Taking that hike will help you shake off your fight-or-flight response. Because who needs more drama when you work in HR?

That 15- or 30-minute stroll will calm you down and give you something to look at beyond the paperwork littering your desk. But not everyone gets those sorts of windows of time, and certainly not every day. When that’s the case, at least try standing up, standing straight and doing some quick stretches.

Make Someone Else Happy

Volunteering makes people feel good because it is selfless and meaningful. Prioritizing something or someone else helps you prioritize everything in your life. It takes your mind off of petty problems and makes the bigger ones look less horrible. This also allows us to find worth in our time and talent when we feel unnoticed or not enough as HR professionals.

We are too critical of ourselves because we are human beings. Volunteering time and energy tends to work as a distraction, create a sense of accomplishment and push us to be better overall humans. When we feel confident and less isolated, we hate HR a little less and love others a lot more.

Finding a volunteer opportunity that fits your skillset, location and time availability is pretty straightforward. You can try something new. Or, find a volunteer project that is just fun. It doesn’t have to be a long-term commitment. Pet adoption days or community park cleanup are one-day things with a lasting impact.

Also, volunteering is not a shabby place to find friends. These are people outside of your work — people who like you for you and freely give their time to volunteer with you.

Most of all, take yourself and your career less seriously. Take your obligation to improve the lives of other people more seriously.

Hate Working in HR? Do Something About It

Change doesn’t happen with a flip of a switch. Commit to do one small thing every single day that brings you a little joy and makes someone else’s life better. It is amazing what happens when we shift our focus away from our pain and think about how we positively impact the world and the lives of other people.

And that includes HR managers who hate working in HR.


  1. HR is not and never about you. You are in a career field that serves other human resources, including yourself. We, the professionals of HR touch other peoples lives in truly intimate ways – their paycheck & their benefits. No one is ever truly happy about either, including yourself. No one else can or will do what we do, perhaps even you.

    Not only that, we serve and protect the company in endless ways from the endless and burgeoning compliance perspective. Get active and edgy here. Push back and sometimes, you can even change things. I have.

    On a good day, you make someone else’s day with an offer of employment. Their euphoric acceptance needs to be honored with authentic sincerity. I get to make a job offer tomorrow, I can’t wait!

    As has been said, find a hobby to balance the critical nature of the human resources profession. (remember, we even have our own cartoon character – CatBert.) I find solace in writing, reading and most of all, fine art photography.

    I wish you well.

  2. I agree totally with Mr. Smith, this isn’t about you, it is about your customers, (the employees)….You are in a very unique position, to truly make a difference every single day in someones life. Wow – you need to think outside the box here with this opporunity you have of being a “serviant leader”….to those employees. It means going outside yourself…there are hundreds of ways you can make a difference in lives. Outside of the employee’s and focusing on the employer you work for, get out there and start building relationships with other HR folks. Build consortiums together with them, to aid in training the workforce….I personally have spent years searching and securing grant funding from different sources and state agencies, to bring funds that provided for a Employee Wellness Program, Leadership Training, Safety Training, equipment training, the sky is the limit!! It is rewarding, it helps the employees, it helps the company, it helps you….there are all kinds of different HR partnerships out there, research it, make it happen, and you will find that you will be challenged and actually enjoy coming into work each day.

  3. Laurie, I appreciate the radical candor of your blogs! I don’t work in HR but it took me over 20 years in business to realize that HR in the companies I worked wasn’t there to look out for my growth and my best interests, it was there to look out for the company and it’s management’s interests. So I hope those who think HR will help mentor and advance their careers will realize before it’s too late that’s not the way it works.
    And for those working in HR and workforce management that feel bad and hate their jobs every time they have to layoff decent, hardworking, skilled employees to fit management’s short-sighted financial plans, I would encourage you to explore other more fulfilling career opportunities. You don’t have to put up with it, you owe it to yourself to explore options that will make you happier and able to live with yourself and the actions you are forced to take. Perhaps another type of customer-service related job would give you more opportunities to help people and be more fulfilling, so go out there and network, you just never know what opportunities you will find.

  4. My late father used to call HR “frustrated psychologists”.
    I understand looking out for one’s employer’s best interests.
    I’m 64, and due to life setbacks (job loses), I’ll be working in the trenches until I can’t. Over the years I’ve faced every flavor of HR type out there. SOP is “gotcha”, and they’re like cops, tattle-tail girls, or government entities.
    I’ve spent my time looking over my shoulder and practicing and perfecting HR avoidance techniques. Interacting with HR for me (which thankfully is rare) is now more guarded, sealed lipped, and playing stupid.
    I’m seeing a lot more employers who’ve eliminated HR and are either using low-level clerical staff or third party contractors in lieu of HR. IMO a step in the right direction.
    When the many Ted Talk rah rah experts advise people to go to HR, that’s just urinating on your shoes and a fool’s errand. It’s step up, figure out coping skills, disengage (and concealing it well), lawyer up, or jump ship. Life’s too short to stay in toxic jobs.

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