The imposterous case of FM & HR

There is something of the feeling of the imposter in us all– a nagging sense that maybe we don’t really know what we are doing, but that we have fooled others into thinking we do.

Imposter Syndrome (IS) in moderation its no a bad thing, we use it to balance the promotion of our achievements, it aids self-deprecation and drives us to learn and develop. In the extreme however, it is anything from debilitating to destructive.

One thing that is noticeable about the literature on IS however is that it focuses on the individual. But might it be applied to groups– to whole disciplines, when they represent themselves and act as such?

It might be considered that both Human Resources and Facilities Management display enough of the elements of IS as if to be behaving like an individual might. Both have for some years been clamouring to be recognised as a key contributor of value to organisations rather than an irritatingly necessary cost centre. Both have audibly sought a seat at a higher table, while struggling with the debt of loyalty to their roots. They have made great strides in the last couple of decades, but in continual questioning and torment, hold themselves back.

Most notably in respect of IS, they have struggled with their story. Both focus far too heavily on their flaws, errors and areas for improvement, stumbling over matters of scope, definitions, and framing activity, at the expense of recognising and promoting what they do extremely well. Gains have been conservatively protected, and barriers to entry reinforced, exacerbating a reluctance to challenge too openly and bravely– quite possibly for fear of being found out.

If this is so, then what to do?

The first step is acknowledging it. Which is probably the most difficult.

The second is to build a story based on success and positive achievement and let some of the routine minutiae go. Focus on the core and let some of the edges fray. The reverse would be fatal. So what if we havent defined our boundarie, does it matter?

The third is being open to engagement with other disciplines. Both FM and HR behave as they are the only ones feeling this way, and the only ones who can resolve it. There is a reluctance to co-operate as both fear that in the world of corporate musical chairs someone will miss out when the music stops. Instead, admit where the weaknesses or gaps lie and seek the involvement of others who can help. The co-operation will be seen in itself to be a strength.

The fourth is to not be afraid to “wing it” occasionally. If we always waited till we had the evidence, the data and a cast iron plan, we wouldn’t get very far. Which is why in most cases, disciplines such as FM and HR haven’t got anywhere near as far as they deserve.

We could talk about it. Or we could always just deny it.


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