Posted by: Professionals In Human Resources Association (PIHRA) | January 4, 2011

HR Concepts: Renewable Energy for the HR Soul

By Mike Deblieux, SPHR

Think back for a minute to the last new outfit you bought to wear to work. Did you wear it the next day? Did you save it for a special event? Did you wait for Monday to wear it for the first time?

Now here is the important question: When did decide to wear your new outfit, did it put a little bounce in your step? Did you feel just a little bit renewed, a little more engaged with your environment and the people within it? Most likely you did. Does your career need a little bounce in its step? Would it benefit from a new look?

A PIHRA colleague called recently to talk about a career crossroads. The conversation went something like this:

“My career is in the doldrums. I have been here six years. Sometimes I wonder if there is anything else for me to do. It just feels like it is so difficult to get from where we are to where I would like us to be.”

“Did it feel like that when you started six years ago?”

“Oh no. Not at all. I had so many ideas back then and everyone wanted to hear them. We did a lot of things that made a difference. Now it just seems like it is such a struggle to move forward. I feel like I should be looking for a new job. At the same time, I know that I should be happy to have a good job in this economy, but I just feel like I have so much more to offer.”

We have all been where this particular PIHRA colleague is at the moment – stuck in a rut that seems surrounded by walls the size of the Grand Canyon. It is good time to go shopping for a new career outfit. It could be a new job, but it might be a new environment – one that you create on your own.

Let’s start at the beginning. A wise Grandmother of many years ago often admonished her grandchildren by saying, “Put a smile on your face. The person responsible for your happiness is the person you see in the mirror. Maybe you need to go in the bathroom and have a talk with that person!” Looking back, Grandma was right more often than she was wrong. Her advice may apply to your career and your level of job satisfaction.

Suppose for a minute that our PIHRA colleague starts a job search and lands new job. Will things really be better? Will they really be different? Maybe they will. Maybe they will not. However, one thing is certain for our friend. The first day in the new job will be a little, maybe a lot, different from a typical day in the old job. The drive to work will take a new route. The entrance to the building will be different. Our friend will very likely wear one of those new outfits. They will walk with a little bounce in their step. Most importantly, they will smile more, share more, and learn more about their co-workers. Each new relationship will start fresh without a history of past let downs, disappointments, or been there, done that experiences.

Another interesting thing will happen to our PIHRA colleague. They will set up their new office a little, maybe a lot, different from their old office. The desk and chair will be different. Chances are they will bring new, updated pictures of friends and family. They will take a fresh look at their filing system and their pencil drawer. Surely, they will figure out a way to have a little less clutter on their computer desktop. And at the end of the day, our friend will leave with a little more interest, a little more excitement about the projects and assignments waiting for them on day two.

All of this leads us to another important question: Do you have to get a new job to reenergize yourself and your career? The answer is very personal. Each individual must answer it based on a wide range of factors. Assume for a moment that our PIHRA colleague decides to stay put, but wants to generate the feelings that come with a new job in a new organization in their current job.

The first thing our friend needs to understand is that the difference between creating change by leaving is different from creating change by staying. It will not happen in big chunks. It will happen in little increments. Each step will require two things – leaving behind the old and taking the initiative to create the new. In a sense, it will require creating a zero based budget, not for money, but for relationships, projects, office décor, and more.

The office or workstation is an easy place to start. Suppose our PIHRA colleague filled a box with all of the pictures, certificates, figurines, and stuff that has accumulated over the last six years. The box gets taped shut, labeled “Old Office Stuff – January 2011.” All of it, every single piece of it, goes home. The office stays barren for a few days, maybe a week while our friend makes an effort to clean out drawers, organize files, and clean up their computer desktop. It might even be a good idea to move the desk to another wall or put the visitor chair on the other side of the cubicle. With luck all of this effort will coincide with the buy one, get one for a penny sale at the local picture frame store. That will provide a good excuse to pick up some new posters and bring in a few updated personal pictures. Remember, this is the easy part, but you can feel a little new energy creeping into that old job.

The hard part is next – relationships. In a new job, you meet new people and build new relationships. None of us like to admit it, but in an old job we carry around many assumptions about who and what people are. Recreating those relationships is difficult, but not impossible. Suppose for example, our PIHRA colleague has struggled in a relationship with the Director of Finance. They only see each other in meetings. They rarely make eye contact and they usually disagree about what and how to do things. Instead of a box, our friend now needs a coffee cup. They walk down the hall and say, “I was wondering if we could go across the street. I would like to buy you a cup of coffee and get to know you a little bit better. I want to talk about what I can do to help you help me reenergize our HR program. I would also like you to help me better understand some of these financial reports.” After the shocked Finance Director recovers, our PIHRA colleague can ask questions like:

  • What was your first car? (Getting to know you a little better)
  • What do you think of the relationship between HR and Finance?
  • What do we do in HR that helps you in Finance?
  • What do we do in HR that gets in your way in Finance?

Maybe, just maybe, a cup of coffee with boss would be a good idea also.

Our renewable energy program for our PIHRA colleague is not complete. We have one more area to work on – projects. Open enrollment provides a good example. Suppose our friend has fallen into a routine. Open enrollment is the same thing year after year – except this year. This year they form a task force. They start with a zero based budget approach. They tell the task force that the goal is to have an effective program that educates employees, includes some fun, and results in employees valuing their employer’s benefit program. The only restriction on the new program is that it must be different from the old program. It might take a little while to get started, but it might also create a completely new interest in one part of an old job.

HR professionals often watch out for other people. They often tell others to try to find a different way to look at old things. Sometimes, HR needs to listen to HR advice. A new HR job is pretty much like an old HR job. You go to a building full of furniture and people to do it. You have work assignments and projects related to compensation, selection, benefits and the like. The big difference is the person you see in the mirror. That person has to decide if he or she needs to move to a new environment or needs to create a new environment in an old place. Either way, it can be an exciting challenge.

Mike Deblieux, SPHR, provides training and on-site consultation services for first-line workplace leaders. His most popular seminar topics include leadership, first discussions, coaching, corrective action, performance reviews, and sexual harassment. Mike writes HR Concepts to help HR professionals better understand and use fundamental HR principles. Share your feedback on this article with Mike at

Copyright PIHRA 2011



  1. Mike, Great article for the new year! Good spin to be positive and upbeat as well as more organized! Thanks, Jenny Klein

  2. Wow Mike! Did someone tell you about me? This article is just what I needed! Thanks!

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