Thoughts about hr and management in the real world – extra information I couldn't fit in my books!.

The thing you should never say…..

There are moments in life that are really sent to test you. To push you to the limits and see what you’ll do.

Some of you’ll know last month I published a list of the best 12 HR people in New Zealand. Thousands of people read that post – far exceeding my previous most read posts about more negative issues. And so I wrote a follow up blog about the power of being positive and that from now on I would focus on the positive.

Hah said the universe!  That’s something you should never say unless you mean it. Let’s put you to the test.

And so 3 things happened to test whether I really could focus on the positive: Brexit, HMRC and HRINZ (yes sorry its acronym time!).

Brexit: A few days after my post, the outcome of the referendum in the UK was that it would leave the EU. Instantly a tornado of hatred, negativity and nastiness ensued. Because I voted leave, various people I counted as friends ripped into me personally. On Facebook I took a hard decision and unfriended one of them because of their comments. And then I was torn. I’d said that I would focus on the positive. How could I do that in this situation?

Facebook came to my rescue. I read the story about the people in Huntingdon who had put signs out telling the Polish people of the town to go home. In response someone started a Facebook campaign to say that people from Poland were still welcome and were still wanted. He had looked at how he could role model being positive and making a difference and many Polish people living in the UK had said thank you for his gesture.

And so that inspired me to write to the person I had unfriended, and thank them for the many years of being my friend, for their updates and sharing their life and wished them the best. In this case their one awful comment shouldn’t cancel out 20 years of positives.

HMRC: My next test came from Her Majesties Revenue and Customs. As many of you will know I’m in the UK at the moment setting up Elephant over here. We had applied months before we left for a VAT number however there were a number of things you needed that you could only get once you were in the UK. So that had slowed us down. Even once these items had been sent through, we still had to wait 4 months for our VAT number. This meant I had to make the call to postpone the HR Advisors Conference as we couldn’t operate without a tax number. Again, this was a frustrating and stressful situation – how could I be positive about it?

I decided to contact everyone who had registered for the conference and explain what had happened, apologise and let them know that we would be running the conference later in the year and I was really looking forward to it and it would still be a brilliant 2 days. And all of them came back and while disappointed, were excited about attending later on the year. I’ve also met several HR and L&D people over here that I’ve now invited to speak at the conference so it’s going to be even better with them involved too. For both me and the HR Advisors attending – focusing on conference happening in October pushes you through the disappointment of it not happening now.

HRINZ: Lastly after saying I was going to focus on the positive, last week my Barrister emailed me saying that the Court of Appeal would send through its decision in the case HRINZ is taking against me, Elephant and my colleagues. I would know the outcome within 24 hours. Again, it was a little hard to be positive about this having now paid tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees to defend ourselves and having had mental health issues caused by being sued.

I used the ACT counselling that I’d had to focus on the person I want to be, and then to make decisions to be that person. I’d said that I wanted to be a person who focused on the positive, so I decided that I would assume the Court would see HRINZ’s case had no merit and not worry about it until it came through. This was easiest said than done but it really meant I wasn’t sitting stressing about it.

When the decision came through that HRINZ’s appeal was ‘misconceived and must fail’ and that the Court of Appeal had dismissed it and awarded Elephant quite a lot of money – that made my week!

I continue to find it hard knowing there are people out there who are still paying their membership fees and funding HRINZ to continue to sue me (they are still continuing with the defamation case against me), but I’m no longer focusing on them. The legal action highlighted for a lot of HR people the kind of behaviour they don’t want to see from a professional body. I’ve been told over 1,000+ people have resigned from HRINZ and many more have raised issues about it with them, not to mention having APPNZ going from strength to strength. It’s those people who have stood up, taken action and are now getting involved in APPNZ who I will spend my time with. They will create a new future for HR.

I also believe that the legal action has created a really positive change for the HR profession in NZ however horrible it’s been to live through.

And that’s the thing from all of this. I’ve learned that focusing on the positive isn’t easy. It is a skill that takes time to develop and it’s far harder being positive than being negative and complaining.

The exciting thing is that if you’re stuck on how to do it, you can now find real life stories from all over the world of people finding ways to build something positive from the most horrible situations.

I’m not perfect at it but you shouldn’t say you’ll do something if you’re not going to try and do it. So I will continue to try and find the positive. Not in a stupid ‘everything is good’ way, but actually to really find meaningful positives or ways to act that do take you towards that person you want to be.

I’ve also found champagne works really well to celebrate when your positive attitude pays off, and it’s heaps cheaper in the UK! Let the good times roll!


Angela Atkins is a best-selling author and business entrepreneur who has been working to transform the HR profession. She is the People & Learning Director for Elephant – who run HR training, conferences and management development in both New Zealand and the UK. For more visit or 


5 comments on “The thing you should never say…..

  1. lizziet
    July 25, 2016

    This is the best news I’ve had all week! Congratulations Angela & Fraser. Good does win out in the end. Now we can get cracking with making APPNZ everything it can be. I have the biggest smile on my face and am off to pour a congratulatory gin & tonic!

  2. lizziet
    July 25, 2016

    It’s your fault that I had 3 G&Ts.

  3. angelaatkins
    July 25, 2016

    Only 3??? I hope they were big ones!!

    • lizziet
      July 25, 2016

      Of course!

  4. Dale
    July 26, 2016

    Angela, Thanks for sharing your tribulations, thoughts, feelings and outcomes. Hearing other people’s stories if often what keeps us going when the going gets tough. Wishing you every success with all your plans for the future.

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This entry was posted on July 24, 2016 by in human resources, Leadership, mental health and tagged , , .
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