Mary Jo Spiekerman, SPHR, SHRM-SCP November 2, 2020 5 min read

A Thanksgiving Message to HR Professionals

As the months have gone by, the pandemic has placed a strain on many professions, not the least of which is the Human Resources professional.

We have had to manage business closures, workforce layoffs and recalls, emergency paid leave administration, a sudden transition to remote work, PPE shortages, and a myriad of compliance matters relating to ever-changing CDC, federal, state and local safety and public health rules. close up of a  note card with ribbon bow on white background

We did this while challenged by all of our regular employee relations issues, overlaid now with employees waiting months for unemployment compensation, employees struggling with homeschooling children, employees struggling with technology and their own personality barriers to remote work success and managers struggling to successfully adapt to remote worker management. In addition, there are the financial struggles that many of our companies are dealing with.

As I speak with HR professionals, what I hear is that they have been the target of anger because they are viewed as the “COVID-19 police.” Many have been berated by employees and management who are upset about public health and company rules. HR professionals have had to endure tirades about how the danger of COVID-19 is overblown, the rules are stupid, and how politicians on both sides of the aisle are making things either worse for the economy or worse for the health of citizens.

Some of you have shared with me that while your offices are open you have opted to stay working remotely simply to try and avoid being the target of these attacks. But some of you don’t have that option.

Some of you have shared with me the stories about your experiences related to COVID-19 specifically. The heartbreak that comes with submitting the life insurance claim for the employee or their loved one who has succumbed to COVID-19. The experience of comforting your employee over the telephone who has lost loved ones and is denied the opportunity to be supported in their grief or have a funeral ceremony. The experience of hearing that yet another employee has COVID-19 and saying that silent prayer in hopes that they recover quickly and haven’t spread it to others at the company. The experience of being notified by an employee that they no longer feel safe working for your company, or that the risk to their health is not worth it, and you wonder how you will be able to replace the employee and ensure that clients (and if you are in health care, your patients) will get the care they need. And, the experience of answering question after question after question about all facets of COVID19.

No one but your fellow HR professionals truly understands what you are going through. But we do. Now is the time to leverage your HR network and reach out to each other to provide support and reassurance and ASK FOR support and reassurance.

I am reminded of a quote by Theodore Roosevelt:                                       

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena…”

In this Thanksgiving season, I give thanks for all HR professionals who are “in the arena” tirelessly working to make things as good as they can be for your employees. Do not demand perfection from yourself. You are engaging in hard, confusing and stressful work and the fact that it is unappreciated does not lessen its value.

Thank you for all you do.


Mary Jo Spiekerman, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

With over 20 years of human resources management in numerous industries, Mary Jo is uniquely qualified to advise the clients of Hausmann Group on human resources related issues. She provides guidance on complex employment topics such as employee relations, talent management, recruitment, onboarding, and training. Mary Jo and her team help “lighten the load” for clients that may otherwise spend a lot of time, effort and energy attempting to do their own risk management and employee benefits administration. Mary Jo is especially excited about the journey Hausmann Group has taken to become designated as a Great Place to Work by the Great Place to Work Institute. She began studying the process over 10 years ago and when she joined Hausmann Group she knew the pieces were in place to catapult the agency onto the list of the 10 Best Places to Work in Insurance, which was achieved in 2015. Mary Jo is a graduate of Marian University with degrees in Business Administration and Human Relations. She is currently a member of the Board of Directors of Community Support Network and serves as a consultant to the Personnel Committee of her village board. When she’s not working she takes the time to relax with family and friends at her cabin on the Wisconsin/Upper Michigan border.