Want Some Cheese with that Whine?

by Jennifer Miller on January 29, 2011

in Blog Carnival, Human Resources

want some cheese with that wineSuzanne Lucas, blogger for the Evil HR Lady (and the founder of the HR Carnival) is hosting a food-themed HR Carnival in early February. So, I put on my thinking cap and got to work. Hmmm. . . .

HR + Food = Wine-y Employees!  My post below is a nod to all my colleagues in the Human Resources profession-  past and present, in real life and online, who work tirelessly to help the employees they serve. Even if some of those employees really need some sharp cheddar to go with that whine.

Many years ago, when I was a human resources generalist, I had nearly infinite patience. Employees would come to my office, and share their burdens. I would listen, nodding empathetically, truly tuned in to their pain. While most of the employees were raising valid concerns, there were a few whose issues could accurately be described as whining— issues so trivial, that I found myself thinking, “Seriously? You are taking time off the floor to alert me to this?” Still, I managed to find a way to diplomatically address the concern and help the whiny baby distressed employee put things into perspective.  Because, you know, that’s what true HR professionals do. They listen, they help . . . and they completely subjugate their more snarky impulses.

After about two years as an HR generalist, I made my way into the Training and Development side of the talent management world. That’s where I’ve been ever since and quite happily so. Recently, I had a former colleague, who is now the head of Human Resources for a local company say to me, “Jennifer, we need to find a way to get you back into HR.”  I had the temerity to actually laugh out loud. Luckily, my colleague wasn’t offended. “Sally,” I said to her, “Trust me, you do not want me back in HR.” She was perplexed. “Why not? You’d be great at it.”

I explained my reasoning to her: “You see, I’d be terrible in HR at this point in my career because my response to the whiners would be [assuming mock sympathetic voice] “Oh, I understand. That is a difficult situation. . . yeah, well get over it.’” Of course, Sally laughed at my tongue-in-cheek assessment because she and I both know there’s a kernel of truth to it. The very nature of the Human Resources function necessitates that the HR professional engage fully with all employees—including the whiners.

Somewhere along the line, I’ve lost my ability to remain quiet in the face of  the whiners. Luckily, many of my intrepid HR colleagues remain steadfast in that ability. So to all of the Human Resources professionals out there, thank you for dealing so tactfully with the self-important, the self-entitled and the just plain obnoxious. You do it day in and day out, gritting your teeth against the more obdurate offenders. But never once, I bet, are you moved to say (out loud at least), “Would you like some cheese with that whine?”

Photo credit: istockphoto.com © Svetl

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Rachael February 2, 2011 at 10:17 pm

Frankly I just ask up front now – Are you going to want me to do something about this or are you simply here to transfer? If it is to transfer then I generally ask “what are the benefits that are going to come out of this?’ – that usually gets me to the end of the conversation pretty quickly… 🙂

Dora February 3, 2011 at 12:10 pm

I was fairly sarcastic before my HR job but now, I have refined my skills to become the queen of the office of sarcasm. Of course, it does not come out while I am with the employee but my office mates are now the recipients of my wishful retorts! I too applaud those who can continually maintain their personal decorum without their eyeballs bulging from the pressure!! I guess that is why our office has a steady stream of sweets to help alleviate the stress.

Jennifer February 3, 2011 at 12:50 pm


By “transfer” do you mean the employee is requesting a transfer to another department? If so, then you are wise to ask the employee to state the benefits of what is in essence “running away” from the issue at hand. Avoidance is rarely a positive long-term strategy.

Thanks for stopping by The People Equation!

Jennifer February 3, 2011 at 12:52 pm


Yes, one does need to be careful not to let the eye-rolling cause permanent ocular damage 🙂

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