“Music is the soundtrack to my life.” – James Hetfield, Metallica guitarist and vocals
Earlier this week, I took Steve Browne’s challenge to write a blogpost that centered on an #HRMixedTape2019 – HR Edition! My “mixed tape” of songs was a nod to my heavy metal roots! I named some of my favorite heavy metal anthems I thought described HR situations.
I made it a point to showcase my love of Metallica in the article. While I am a metalhead through and through, all my musical appreciation begins and ends with the Bay Area thrashers. Well, after reading the article, my friend Jeff Palkowski told me he enjoyed it and was waiting for me to write an all Metallica edition. I thought he was kidding, but he insisted he was looking forward to knowing which Metallica songs best described the HR profession!
Jeff challenged me to write a post about Metallica AND human resources – two things I am extremely dedicated to and passionate about?!?! Come on! I couldn’t pass up this challenge one bit. So, here is my #HRMixTape2019 – Metallica Edition, dedicated to my friend, Jeff, but also dedicated to James Hetfield. If Lemmy Kilmeister is God, then James is at least, I don’t know, Thor.
“Whiplash” – Kill Em All (1983)
I start this out with the thrash masterpiece, “Whiplash.” A song about the rough touring life of an upstart metal band made me think of the tough life of an HR professional!
The show is through, the metal’s gone
It’s time to hit the road
Another town, another gig
Again we will explode
Hotel rooms and motorways
Life out here is raw
We’ll never stop, we’ll never quit
Cause we’re Metallica
It’s no secret to HR practitioners that the profession is a tough gig. That’s not to downplay other jobs that are difficult. ALL professions have their challenges. However, HR has an advantage. Like a band that can find connectiveness and bonding in what they do, so can we as HR professionals. I cannot write enough about how networking and reaching out to other HR pros has helped lift me through some tough times. Don’t let the “whiplash” of the profession make you lose your passion for it. It’s a back and forth, but let the better times lead your headbanging ways!
“Fade to Black” – Ride the Lightning (1984)
When it first came out, “Fade to Black” was divisive in the metal community. How dare Metallica write a ballad!!! That’s not heavy! That’s not thrash! Well, the song isn’t “thrash” per se, but it deals with a heavy topic – suicide.
Things not what they used to be
Missing one inside of me
Deathly loss, this can’t be real
I cannot stand this hell I feel
Emptiness is filling me
To the point of agony
Growing darkness, taking dawn
I was me, but now he’s gone
Hetfield’s lyrics are eerily beautiful. It should come as no surprise that there is a mental health crisis in the United States (and throughout many places in the world). I’ve written about the crisis and how it affects the workplace here and here. It is my firm believe that HR MUST be involved in helping create work environments that promote mental health and wellbeing. Thankfully, I’m not alone in this belief. It’s not just the ethical thing to do. It’s good for business. Much like Metallica not holding themselves to the standards of others, HR shouldn’t hold themselves to the standards of those who do not commit to mental wellbeing.
“Master of Puppets” – Master of Puppets (1986)
Often considered Metallica’s magnum opus, Master of Puppets is full of amazing songs. The title track reminds me of one of HR’s Achilles’ heels: Policies!
Master of puppets, I’m pulling your strings
Twisting your mind and smashing your dreams
Blinded by me, you can’t see a thing
Just call my name, ’cause I’ll hear you scream
Just call my name, ’cause I’ll hear you scream
Polices are necessary. They help HR and organizations maintain consistency, offer guidelines for resolving conflicts, and assist in providing order. However, sometimes HR pros default to policy for everything. This creates an unnecessary barrier between HR and the employee. When we constantly rely on following policy to the letter of the law, we become stiflingly bureaucratic and robotic. We risk losing our humanity, and thus, losing our ability to stay in touch with the humans we are charged with being a resource to. We risk becoming a puppet to the policies master. A better way is using policies as guidelines to help us reach logical, reasonable solutions.
“Sad But True” – Metallica, aka The Black Album (1991)
The album that turned Metallica into a worldwide sensation comparable to the Beatles, or dare I say, Michael Jackson. The Black Album (as it became known as) sold 17 million copies in the USA alone, and still regularly sells 1,000s of copies per week. “Sad But True” is a song about duel lives and how it takes a toll on someone.
You’re my mask
You’re my cover, my shelter
You’re my mask
You’re the one who’s blamed
Do my work
Do my dirty work, scapegoat
Do my deeds
For you’re the one who’s shamed
A lot has been written about brining your whole, authentic self to work. It’s a topic worth discussing. How many HR pros have two selves – work-self and home-self? I bet more than you’d expect! People put on masks as a defense mechanism. Wearing a mask at work gives us the false impression that we’re protected and safe from people’s judging eyes. What really happens, however, is the mask causes suffering. We end up losing a portion of who we really are and have to keep up the charade. Ultimately, being yourself is far less stressful and more fulfilling. Be you. Be proud. Be happy.
“Fuel” – Reload (1997)
The mid- to late-90s were a controversial time in Metallica’s career. They found themselves experimenting with their sound, which transitioned from a thrashy hardcore vibration to a bluesy hard rock sound. One of the best songs from this era is “Fuel.” It’s an adrenaline shot of hard rock riffage!
Gimme that which I desire
What do you desire as an HR professional? What’s fuels your passion for HR? Is it diversity and inclusion? Is it recruiting? Is it podcasting? Whatever your desire, whatever your fuel, make sure it provides you with the positive vibes you need to keep going full steam ahead! Whatever you do, make sure your HR passion grows so you can provide relevant and impactful transactions in the workplace. Whatever that means to you, make sure you keep your fuel burning hard, loose, and clean!
“Spit Out the Bone” – Hardwired… to Self-Destruct (2016)
Hardwired… to Self-Destruct sees Metallica returning to their thrash roots! The best track on the record, in the opinion of many, is “Spit Out the Bone,” which is about machines taking over the world, not unlike Terminator! In the context of the workplace, that scenario sounds vaguely familiar.
Long live machine
The future supreme
Spit out the bone
Artificial intelligence is a topic that’s on a lot of HR professionals’ minds. I’m not a luddite. Mankind has prospered due to our ingenuity and resourcefulness. Technology, whether a stone wheel or a robot, is part of that story. But we must remember that change, especially change that alters the economic dynamics of how people make a living, must be handled delicately. It’s too early to know where this is going, but let’s hope it doesn’t end with machines ruling over us!