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What's In A Name?

As some of you may have picked up, SHRM held a little itty bitty conference last week called SHRM18. Nothing too big, maybe 21 or 22 thousand people. Along with the sessions and learning opportunities, comes the chance to meet and socialize with HR professionals from all over the world. Literally... all over. It's an experience not to be taken lightly.

HR over the past several years has exploded on social media, and there is a very vibrant community of people ready to engage and discuss our craft. Overall, I have found this group of people to be extremely warm and welcoming, and quick to embrace new people into the conversation. It came out a few days ago that a few people at SHRM18 felt less than welcomed by some of the people they interacted with. This, along with a rather incendiary meme posted online, sparked a rather impassioned discussion.

#HRTribe is a hashtag that's pretty heavily used by many, myself included, to keep up to date on conversations and support one another in our professional journeys. Interestingly enough, this hashtag and the people who use it took the brunt of the frustration for this issue. It was described by some as elitist, exclusionary, cliquey, something that people feel they have to formally join. Personally, I know it as a moniker for people who are passionate about the same thing I am, the craft of Human Resources.

I found the whole thing fascinating and more than a bit troubling, because HR people are supposed to be the connectors in our companies, the relationship-builders, the champions of our people. But apparently we can't effectively connect with each other. Again, my experience has been such the antithesis of this discussion, that I found the whole thing hard to comprehend.

I tend to take some time to process before I settle on an opinion, I'm definitely not as quick on my feet than some of the HR Pros and bloggers out there. So I was hesitant to dive into the discussion until I had a chance to take it all in. But I think that I finally have my thoughts in order and I want to share them. If for no other reason, than to share what I think. Maybe no one will care. I'm cool with that.

Thought #1: It sucks when anyone, anywhere feels excluded or unwelcome. Period. As an introvert who doesn’t naturally walk into a situation and make friends easily, I can imagine how hurtful it would be to feel excluded when you’re just trying to meet people. I would never want anyone to feel that way because of something I did or said allowed to happen.

Thought #2: Re-read #1, because that’s the biggest point. No one should be excluded. EVER.

Thought #3: #HRTribe is a hashtag. It’s a way for HR pros to follow and contribute to conversations. Relationships and friendships have and will naturally develop between people with similar interests and passions, hence the perception of HRTribe being a group. Some people, myself included, have probably called it that already because it’s a heck of a lot easier than saying “I correspond with a group of like-minded HR pros who use a common hashtag to discuss… blah blah blah”. You get the point.

Thought #4: Hashtags are a necessary part of Twitter (and Social Media in general) to keep track of the myriad of conversations out there. Some have asked why there needs to be a hashtag at all. I don’t buy that argument. I love being able to follow hashtags to see what people are talking about. I don’t have time to sift through tends of thousands of tweets an hour to find something about HR. And #HRTribe is certainly not the only hashtag out there for HR pros: #HR, #HumanResouces, #SHRM, #HRPositive, #HROnPurpose, the list goes on.

Thought #5: Cliques exist whenever people are involved, not because of hashtags. Cliques existed long before social media. I think much of this debate is mis-attributing a hashtag for a clique. If you take #HRTribe (or any hashtag) out of the equation, would the cliques go away? I don’t think they will.

Thought #6: While it's understandable that some may become defensive and simply dismiss it as an isolated incident, we need to be better than that. A result that was unintended is the perfect time to start a dialogue. Something happened, and it needs to be discussed. It isn't admitting fault, it's taking responsibility to be part of the solution.

I don’t think a hashtag is the problem, and I don't think the larger group of people are inherently exclusionary. I think the way a few people acted is the problem. We are supposed to be the ones who bring people together, not divide them. We need to do better. But let’s focus on the real issue, how can we be better every day to create an open, inclusive discussion about what we have in common, which is a love for our #HR craft.

People are human and they make mistakes. It doesn't mean we get to give this a free pass, because it's important that we learn from times that things don't go quite right. It's how we grow. From my end, I'm going to continue to use the #HRTribe hashtag and continue to welcome others with open arms who want to talk about HR.

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