I am passionate about empowering disenfranchised communities
I am a mentor
I am a tennis fan
I am a brother of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity
I am Haitian-American
I am a long time member of the National Urban League
I am a cook
I am a blogger
I am a future podcaster
I am a Florida State Seminole
I am a coach
I am More Than an HR Professional

A couple of weeks ago, LeBron James and Kevin Durant released an exclusive video commentary promoting Uber and the media platform Uninterrupted. In the video, they spoke about issues of race, class, and politics. Their remarks drew the ire of Fox News host, Laura Ingraham. Accordingly, she used a segment on her show to highlight some of James’ and Durant’s thoughts in an attempt to denigrate them stating that they should ‘just shut up and dribble.’

Her thoughts immediately resulted in a media firestorm as she implied that their only talent is basketball, and so, they have no business talking about issues outside basketball. This suggested that they only have knowledge about the sport and are not educated enough to discuss societal problems.

In a concise and classy fashion, LeBron James initially responded with an Instagram post stating, ‘I am more than just an athlete.’

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As I reflect on that exchange, I realize that this situation was not unique to LeBron James vs. Laura Ingraham. Although in more indirect, polite, and subtle ways, people, society, and employers push us to ‘stick to one thing.’ We love silos and specialists. It is how we issue degrees and hire people.

Employers have also found it tough to manage how their organizations should deal with social problems. Whether or not they should encourage employee dialogue, issue press releases, or pretend they do not exist.

However, this situation made me further realize that we are all complete people. We have passions, experiences, issues we support, and things we love to do outside of our profession. We are all more than our jobs. Not only should employers celebrate that, but they should also reward it. Here’s how:

Be Okay With It

There is a recent slang term that has been developed for being ‘hyper-aware of the social problems in our society.’ It’s called being ‘woke.’

LeBron James and Kevin Durant are ‘working while woke’ because an institution employs them, but still, they use their platforms to express their grievances about societal issues.

We may not be NBA players, but we do have our platforms. We do. As long as we are not operating under the auspices of our company or promoting or insinuating illegal activity, we should be able to use our platforms to raise awareness about issues unique to our plight.

I love HR. HR is the primary topic I will read about, share about, and discuss on Twitter. However, I am more than an HR professional. Therefore, I will occasionally tweet or reply to a tweet that has to do with race relations, gun law reform, and education inequality amongst other topics that I am ‘hyper-aware’ about, due to my social environment.

Adam Silver, the commissioner of the NBA, also LeBron James’ and Kevin Durant’s boss, was delighted with their comments. He stated, “I’m incredibly proud of our players for using the platform they have as players in the NBA and on social media to speak out on issues that are important to them.”

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I hope more employers adopt this line of thinking. Many employees have opinions that they would like to contribute but do not air them out of fear of retribution from their employers. We need those voices.

Recognize It

Many of us are involved in non-partisan, non-profit organizations; from animal care, homeless awareness, and veterans’ organizations, to social justice organizations. Not only are we involved, but also hold leadership responsibilities within those organizations.

This is the definition of ‘woke work’ – Doing work that addresses a societal problem.

Employers have embraced this through including a Community Engagement Award in staff recognition programs – which, in my opinion, should be a norm.

Moreover, many of these organizations allow their staff some off-days to volunteer or attend conferences associated with their cause. Employers should also consider rewarding employees by allowing time off for volunteerism. A countless amount of non-partisan and non-profit organizations such as the National Urban League have conferences related to educating their members about their causes. Recognition can also be in the form of assisting with employee’s conference fees or allowing time off for employees to attend these conferences.

Being More Than an HR Professional Helps

Throughout my career, I have always remained involved in my community. Due to my involvement, many organizations have selected me for leadership opportunities. The skills I have obtained in leading organizations outside of work have been immediately transferrable in leading projects at work.

Also, members of the black community, who become relatively successful feel an extra responsibility to give back, mentor, and advocate.

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According to a Mass Mutual research study, a majority (80 percent) of African Americans agree that community involvement is important to their well-being and almost half (44 percent) consider themselves community leaders.

Although our first allegiance is to the workplace, many individuals have causes, organizations, and community commitments more crucial to them than their professions. The more we all embrace that we are more than HR professionals, the more our employers can support it.

What causes, issues and/or organizations that make you more than an HR professional are you passionate about?  

Posted by Daniel Nicolas

Daniel is an HR knowledge seeker with a passion for community. I've had a pretty cool journey. Proud Seminole, Member of Alpha Phi Alpha, Tennis Player, Haitian-American and soon-to-be husband.

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