a word from this HR director

Little publicized by this semi-humble, current events observer, my primary professional background is in Human Resources. With two Bachelors — one in Business Management and the other in Consumer Affairs — HR seemed a sweet set up for me. I have been blessed with an HR tenure that’s included a phenomenal BFF mentor, some incredible peers (love you, Chef), the privilege to work with precious, diverse people groups, and the continued opportunity to consult still today.

As any HR professional will tell you, the work days can be unpredictable. Sure, there exists standard meetings, month-end activity, reviews and analysis. But since Human Resources (HR) is the umbrella term focusing on the management and development of all employees, any one thing that happens to any one employee can alter the course of the day. 

Sometimes it’s a slight alter… like perceiving one employee who would benefit from a little added affirmation…

I think of my sweet friend, Donald, an employee mentioned here in one of our very first blog posts. From the first day this middle-aged man walked into my office — and we sat side-by-side for well over an hour, while he filled out his application and even misspelled his own name — I would take time to affirm him often. I learned so much from this sensitive, expressive man.

Sometimes the altering of a day is far more… 

Like the soon-to-be-terminated employee who locked himself on property — then called the local station and activist group, saying he was being discriminated against. Never mind he neglected to share any details of his poor performance record and had also decided that day to cook breakfast, in a nice restaurant, in a public setting, in front of our clients, in his flip flops, spandex shorts, with no scalp nor facial hair protection, but still a cigarette hanging out of his mouth.

Excellent HR professionals will always be marked by their flexibility and fair-mindedness, compassion and problem-solving skills.

With last week’s news dominated by talks of socialism, Smollett, and the seemingly seventieth person to enter the Democratic presidential race, this former HR director has still been thinking about what happened a little over a week ago in Aurora, Illinois.

In Aurora, an employee of 15 years was told he was being terminated for “workplace rules violations.” Perceived to be angry about his dismissal, he later pulled out a gun and started to fire.

Killed in the fire were five individuals…

Josh Pinkard was the plant manager at the company.

Vicente Juarez was a stockroom attendant and forklift operator.

Russell Beyer was a mold operator; he reportedly was sitting in on the meeting, because previously, he had tried to help the terminated employee improve his performance.

Clayton Parks was the human resources manager.

And then there was Trevor Wehner.

Trevor Wehner was an intern — a Human Resource intern. This was his first day on the job.

No doubt my heart breaks any time the life of the innocent is taken, but something in this hurts more. As an HR professional, I certainly understand the tension of the moment; personally, before most terminations, I said a quick prayer to the good Lord above. But rarely would I have thought the intentional taking of someone’s life would be at stake. This was an awful, awful act.

Truthfully, I have little more to say. I have no primary point to make nor impassioned stand to take today. Not even a heartfelt plea. I suppose more than anything, I just wanted to pause. I thought we should stop long enough in this rapid-paced, cultural news cycle to focus on the victims… especially on Trevor. 

On Wednesday of the past week, Sheridan, Illinois buried their 21-year-old, hometown son. Trevor was a senior at Northern Illinois University, finishing up his study of Human Resources and Business. He is described by his family as a fun-loving young man, who had “a smile that would light up the room.” He “never met a stranger” and always had “a silly joke or comment” to share.

I sit back… soberly reflecting… noting how HR professionals are typically tasked with affirming the excellent, encouraging the norm, and either improving or dismissing that which is considered substandard — all at the same time. It can be a very fulfilling and fraught job — often on the very same day.

God be with the family and friends of each of the victims in Aurora. May we pause long enough to remember you. May each of the five rest in peace.