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  • Writer's picturemaggiehsmith07

How Can I Help You?

What a time to be alive! When the leak about the Supreme Court overturning Roe vs. Wade happened, I pushed the possibility to the dark recesses of my mind. Years ago, I went through a dark time, filled with anxiety. And in order to claw my way out of this dark place, I learned to manage my anxiety. One way I do this is to not worry about something until it’s happened. A lot of things that I was anxious about in the past, never happened. In 1997, Chicago Tribune writer Mary Schmich, wrote a column titled: “Advice, Like Youth, Probably Just Wasted on the Young.” It’s stayed with me and I frequently think of this line to ground and reground myself in the present:

Don't worry about the future

Or worry, but know that worrying

Is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing Bubble gum

The real troubles in your life

Are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind

The kind that blindsides you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday

Only the news about the SCOTUS overturning Roe vs. Wade didn’t exactly blindside me when it broke on an idle Friday morning. I stared at the news on my phone and my phone. My stomach knotted and dropped. When I woke up the next day, my stomach reminded me, “Something’s happened.” It’s the same feeling I get the morning after learning that someone close to me has died. Which, is sort of what happened.

The night of the election in 2016, Andrea took a Xanax which enabled her to sleep. I’m not big on medication of any kind - but steer clear of meds like Xanax because I know I’d like them and be in a Xanax haze right now given the state of the world. While Andrea slept on election night, I stared at my phone and refreshed at least 4 news websites in disbelief at the results that were coming in. Andrea and I know people who voted for Trump. We predicted that gay marriage would come to end as a result of his presidency. People laughed - told us we were overreacting and asked if we really believed that. We did. We watched him appoint conservative Supreme Court justices.

People were willing to have Trump “grab them by the pussies” in exchange for what? Cheap gas? Trump didn’t just want to marginalize women (which he’s followed through on) but minorities too - disabled, LGBTQ+, brown skinned people. The 2020 election was won by too close a margin for my comfort & it upset me to know that regardless of what was said and done to marginalize Americans, many voters honestly did not give a fuck.

I work in Human Resources which means I have to think about how to respond to Roe vs. Wade at work because people want a response (well, assuming the response supports their ideology) because everyone else has been responding and if you’re in HR and haven’t condemned this on LinkedIn, well, you’re trash. If you believe the pious posts from some HR people who have expressed their opinion on the matter on LinkedIn.

Many large employers sprung into action after the news on Friday, vowing to pay expenses that employees incurred should an employee need to travel out of state to receive a legal abortion. A slippery slope. Are you going to reimburse employees who travel to Sloan Kettering or the Mayo Clinic for cancer treatment? What if they have to go monthly? How many times do you pay for this life sustaining treatment? Are you as large and profitable as Dick’s Sporting Goods? Facebook? No? What do you cut to make this all fit?

People want laws off their bodies. I get that and agree. Do we want employers involved in these decisions? Do we want employers to govern us?

Then there’s the matter of creating a psychologically safe, diverse workforce. Diversity means diversity of thought and opinion - even when you don’t agree. It’s a sticky time to be a leader and has been since 2020.

HR isn’t immune from the great resignation. According to a survey of 400 HR respondents conducted in February of this year, it was reported that 53% of HR leaders are burned out, and 48% of HR leaders are looking for a new job.

I’ve been working in HR, a long time. 24 years. I have a masters degree and 2 certifications - none of which prepared me for a pandemic or for George Floyd or for Roe vs Wade to be overturned. Over the years, I’ve developed thick skin. You have to - like a callous. But not too thick that you lose empathy. Once that happens, you have to get out. I haven’t lost empathy - I still lose sleep. Last week, I was awake until 2 AM one night and 4 AM another night. People are often drawn to HR because they want to help people. That’s admirable. They think HR is party planning and celebrating birthday’s. HR is the one talking to an employee’s loved ones when the employee dies in order to process their life insurance benefits. HR is delivering bad news that’s out of their control, “The health insurance has increased.” “We can only give an increase of X%.” “Unfortunately, we have to terminate your employment.”

When’s the last time you called HR with good news?

HR team members are people. Employees. I think that this is difficult to keep in mind because we’re like Switzerland, neutral. Who does HR complain to? Cry to? This isn’t a poor me post but I think that people forget we are employees, we are citizens who are waiting for the SCOTUS to rule against our marriage rendering it null and void. How can we help you? Let me carry your emotional load. Place it atop our own and what we’re carrying from other employees. It’s heavy - but we carry it well at work. At night, I stare at the ceiling and hold my wife’s hand. She’s in HR too and even though we know what‘s coming next from SCOTUS, we promise to grit it out another day.

How can I help you? Let me carry that for you.

Step one, you say we need to talk

He walks, you say sit down, it's just a talk

He smiles politely back at you

You stare politely right on through

Some sort of window to your right

As he goes left, and you stay right

Between the lines of fear and blame

You begin to wonder why you came

Where did I go wrong?

I lost a friend

Somewhere along in the bitterness

And I would have stayed up with you all night

Had I known how to save a life

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