In work, as in life, it is often the little things that matter. Let’s face it, life isn’t perfect. And although we all try not to bring our personal lives into the workplace, there are times when it just can’t be helped. As HR professionals, we are often aware of employee’s personal situations when no one else in the company knows. For privacy reasons, we are required to keep it that way. But it’s important to remember that while keeping the workplace fair and compliant, we can also help keep the workplace human and do something good.

It is unfortunate that many people have a perception that HR is where you go if there are problems. But just think of how much more effective you could be in your job if HR was seen as helpful and compassionate. I have included below a few situations that I have witnessed in my years in HR, that remind me how much the little things matter. Of course, the names have been changed.

  • Sara pulled in to the parking lot. She was 2 weeks from going out on maternity leave, and she worked on a manufacturing floor. When she parked her car one morning, she was obviously struggling to carry in her items which included a couple of manuals she had taken home to learn about a new item they were building. When the HR manager saw this, instead of running out the front door to help her, she went out through the back door, so it seemed like happenstance when she approached and helped carry the bags. Sara was happy for the help, but didn’t feel as if she was being a burden.
  • Two employees were in the breakroom discussing that they felt bad for Bill. When he arrived to work that morning, he had passed in front of the garbage bins, and there had been nails dropped on the ground. One of the nails punctured a tire. Bill was very upset because he was supposed to pick up his boys within 15 minutes of getting off work and take them to their baseball game. He wasn’t sure what to do. When the HR Generalist heard this, she called for a tow truck to come fix the tire. She then requested petty cash from accounting, since the nails in the parking lot were the responsibility of the company. When the tow truck arrived, The HRG approached Bill and quietly asked if she could have his keys in order for the tow truck to get to the spare tire. Bill was overwhelmed, and is still working with the company today.
  • Mary had been struggling in her personal life with an abusive relationship. The HR Director was aware of the situation because there were some safety precautions that had been put in place. Mary was very private and did not want anyone else to know. While walking through the Accounting department, the HRD noticed that Mary had tears in her eyes. When Mary looked up at her, she knew that Mary was having a bad moment. The HRD walked up to Mary and said, “I will be away from my office in a meeting for the next 30 minutes or so. Feel free to use my office and my phone if needed for a little privacy.” When the HRD came out of her meeting, Mary was back at her desk and was looking much better. The HRD respected Mary’s privacy and did not ask what was going on, but helped Mary through the situation.
  • This is my favorite. Keith has 3 children. His wife was in the hospital and Keith was struggling to care for the children and work full time without help. He was trying to keep a positive attitude, and was not letting it affect his work, but it was clear he was exhausted. The HR Business Partner had been attending a one-day conference and had won a “dinner and a movie” prize. The prize included a restaurant gift card and 4 movie passes. On Friday, toward the end of the workday, the HRBP put the gift cards in an envelope and put the envelope under the wipers on Keith’s car. No note, just a night off. Can you imagine how that made Keith feel?

My suggestion today is just to take a few moments every day to observe, and see what we can do to make a small, positive impact, even when no one is watching.

Today…….Make a positive difference in someone’s day.