May 2022 Edition

Phyllis HayesPhyllis Hayes, HR Manager

Phyllis Hayes’ mother knew that her daughter had an especially gentle heart.

“I have always been concerned about fairness, fought for the underdog, that kind of thing,” Hayes remembered with a chuckle. “I wanted to be like my mom, and I aspired to be a social worker.”

However, the field of social work had changed since her mother worked in it, and both of Hayes’s parents encouraged their daughter, the third of four, to enter a more business-centric field. After earning her bachelor’s degree in sociology and urban studies, Hayes entered a business management training program at a major bank in Chicago. She was on her way to becoming a commercial lender when the head of Human Resources singled her out for an opportunity in her department. It became Hayes’s lifelong profession. She joined Argonne as a human resources manager in 2018.

“What I like about the lab is that it’s a mission-driven organization that helps solve some of the major problems in the world,” said Hayes. “I have a high level of interaction with a broad array of people and I enjoy the opportunity to work with people strategically and tactically to solve problems.”

According to Hayes, a firm commitment to core values is as important in Human Resources as it is in STEM careers.

“We are all called upon to serve competing priorities and making the right call may be challenging,” said Hayes. “Integrity and honesty are at the core of who I am, and I believe these values will always steer us as individuals and as part of our organization in the right direction. They are fundamental components of character.”

Additionally, Hayes believes in the value of taking on challenging projects, acknowledging that mistakes might get made, asking questions, and seeking constructive criticism that results in growth. Although she did not personally benefit from a consistent mentor, she believes women and people of color should try to identify mentors who can help them overcome the inevitable road blocks that arise in environments where they historically are not significantly represented.

Hayes is not always solving problems, though. During the pandemic, she discovered the calming escapism of floatation tanks. She enjoys an occasional relaxing float in saltwater followed by a nice cup of tea. “The pandemic taught us all that self-care is critical,” she said. “It’s our responsibility to draw the boundaries and prioritize our physical and mental health.”