The new HR

Ioana Finichiu

A couple of weeks ago my friend Frank was telling me about a triangle he kept going back to in his most recent work project: Communication – Relationship Building – Trust. I kept mulling it over until it started spilling out onto my team (we now have triangles on post-its everywhere).

Trust-Communication-Relationships triangles on orange and pink post-its

The more I think about it, the more I think everything is linked to these three lines and the breakdowns that occur along them. I really, really want to talk about relationships (I also want to talk about trust and communication because they're important, but, well, I'm pretty engrossed in relationships right now).

Where do I even start? So much ink has flown to write about relationships, we've studied them, documented, chiselled, taped, recorded, expressed them in 1s and 0s... And yet, it feels like we're getting only marginally better at making relationships work well.

In our personal life we choose who we have relationships with and the degree of depth for each of those relationships. We invest the time to learn about people, their preferences, their values, their needs, their vulnerabilities. We set boundaries and create bonds. We work (sometimes) hard at maintaining them, we outgrow some, and yet others end unexpectedly. Relationships are fundamental and help us grow, teaching us as much about our self as they do about others.

Why, then, in professional settings, do we insist on relegating relationship building to the back burner, hoping it manages itself and only paying attention when it boils over?

I don't know about you, but joining a new work team is just about the strangest process I can think of. Most of the time there is little prior interaction with the person in charge and likely none with future teammates. We're expected to enter and stay in professional relationships (and somehow make them work well! ) with frighteningly little information to make this kind of commitment. We offer (and get in return) tidbits about what we 'do', what projects we work on, and what we can produce – but very little about who we are.

Taking a new job in a new work unit is, effectively, like entering into a blind marriage.

We make the best of it and try to build a relationship while learning a new job and pushing for good performance, and sometimes fail to recognize our relationship is breaking down. Even when we do recognize it, we are woefully unprepared for how to fix it or how to move on.

So yes, I am engrossed in investing the time to learn about people, their preferences, their values, their needs, their vulnerabilities. I want to build and help others in my professional life build relationships like we typically would, like we know we should.

I want to build Human Relationships. Because this is the new HR.