6 Ways Being an ASDP Makes You a Better HR Professional


If you are an ASDP, chances are that you grew up with people telling you what’s wrong with you. Everyone’s past is different, of course. But because the ASDP childhood story is so riddled with toxic secrets, neglect, and sometimes even physical abuse, ASDPs’ parents and guardians had to find a way to justify their behavior. While their messages had many variations, it all boiled down to the same beliefs: “Just because you’re not good enough, you don’t deserve any better.” That’s a belief many ASDPs carry with them into their adulthood. And as they struggle to reclaim their lives from a bad past, their focus is understandably on the question, “How can I fix what’s wrong with me?”

That’s a terribly heavy burden to shoulder in secret – this business of trying to be an outstanding HR professional, all the while coping with an inner voice of authority that keeps telling you that no matter how hard you try, you will never be good enough.

“I know it’s illogical,” one ASDP HR expert told me, “Throughout my childhood, my parents were so dedicated to telling me ‘you should be ashamed of yourself.’ I have had this deep belief that to be a successful, happy, confident and unselfconscious adult was somehow being a disobedient daughter. And, so, as I look back on my earlier career years, I see a pattern of self-sabotage. Just so I didn’t get too ‘too big for my britches,’ and expose myself to a ‘well-deserved comeuppance,’ you know?”

Here’s another perspective that might surprise you: Being an ASDP gives you skills, insights and talents that make you great in HR. Based on my own experience rising through the ranks, here are some of the ways off the top of my head.

You are a profoundly empathetic, deep listener:

You know better than anyone else what secret pains and shames people bring with them into the workplace. You know there are emotional complications behind even the simplest of truths that can really pack a punch in the way your colleagues experience conflicts with each other (I call those bumper car moments). As a result, your people trust you to be patient, understanding, and tolerant of multiple versions of any on-the-job incident.

You keep your cool in chaos:

Today’s business world is marked by an historical level of change and upheaval. Your company’s business model and its accompanying people strategy are subject to change without notice. And it’s up to you to implement the new direction. Yeah. You’ve got this.

You can see around corners:

As an ASDP, you had to be able to know what was going to happen two, three, four steps ahead, while everyone was focused on the immediate moment. For example, one ASDP knew even at the age of 8 to go to school with a bobby pin in her pocket so that she could pick the front-door lock of her own house when she got back home. She knew what no adult was willing to see: Her alcoholic mother was always passed out by 2pm. As an ASDP HR professional, you can spot trends and patterns that are invisible to almost everyone else. And you can predict where those patterns are likely to take the workplace culture, unless you step in pronto.

You can read the room seconds after everyone has taken their seat:

You have a finely tuned radar for moods and secret thoughts and attitudes. At a glance, you know who is hurting, who is feeling isolated and lonely, who is frustrated, who has a breakthrough idea and just needs a little encouragement to speak up. It’s uncanny, really, isn’t it? You try not to read minds because you know it can give some people the creeps. Still, it’s a super power that you have learned to use for good.

You have a nose for nonsense:

You’ve heard enough lies while growing up, you have a sixth sense for BS, even as the speaker draws in breath to begin uttering it. “Here it comes,” you think. And, yup, there it is. A lie or just a particular spin on the truth that would send other people down the proverbial garden path, only to discover much later that they’ve been had.

You can detach from your preferred outcome:

One of the ways you survived your ASDP childhood was to accept the fact that the powerful people in your life made decisions that affected you – but those decisions weren’t about you. You had a deep, even subconscious knowing that whatever was going on around you was not a reflection of your intrinsic value as a human being. It might not always consciously feel that way as you struggle with your own day-to-day emotional and self-esteem triggers. But, I promise you, this is one of the reasons why you have achieved your career success so far. And now, today, you can confidently deliver your best, well-thought-out recommendations for your company’s people strategy. And then, with peace of mind, know that whatever the leadership decides is up to them. 

You’ve spent your entire life struggling to address, fix, overcome negative beliefs about your ASDP past and how it’s made your adult years so much more difficult. Isn’t it time for someone to show you who you are, and celebrate what’s right with you?  I think so.

Tell me: What unexpected gifts has being an ASDP brought you as an HR professional?

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© 2019 Susan J. Schmitt


Bio: Susan J. Schmitt Winchester is the Senior Vice President, Chief HR Officer for Applied Materials, in Santa Clara, CA. This article was written based on the principles from her forthcoming book, Healing at Work: The Adult Survivor’s Guide to Using Career Conflicts to Overcome Your Past and Build the Future You Deserve (with Martha I. Finney). Contact Susan here.

2 thoughts on “6 Ways Being an ASDP Makes You a Better HR Professional”

  1. Spot on Susan! I’ve learned to appreciate, embrace and leverage these gifts–especially ‘read the room’, ‘nose for nonsense’ and detached involvement. Looking forward to more wisdom in upcoming blogs.
    All the best,
    Karen Phelps, SPHR, PCC


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