“I wish you could step back from the ledge my friend,

You could cut ties with all the lies,

That you’ve been living in.”

(Partial lyrics from “Jumper” -by Third Eye Blind)

In HR we have Jumpers.

I’m always amazed at how comfortable I’ve become over the years with Jumpers.  It’s not something I expected when I decided to get into HR, but it’s something that I’ve ironically become to expect from people.  Let me explain what “Jumpers” are in HR.

A “Jumper” is someone I think is comfortable throwing empty threats onto your desk.  Do these sound familiar:

– “If I don’t get “X”, I’m going to call my Lawyer…”

– “If you don’t do “X”, I’m going to quit…”

– “If my supervisor doesn’t change “X”, I’m going to accept this other offer…”

– “If I don’t get this promotion, I’ll be contacting the EEOC (or any number of government organizaitons)…”

The problem we have with jumpers, is your never for certain that they won’t jump.  I expect that we in HR become comfortable with jumpers because we become immune to the constant threat facing us.  In a way it’s very similar to a parent that threatens a child if they don’t eat their vegatables, they’ll sit at the dinner table until they do, and then 20 minutes later let’s them leave the table without finishing the vegatables.  In HR, too many times, we are the child leaving the table.

I’m not saying that this is good – because I tend to believe too many of us in HR miss these opportunities to handle these when they arrive and before they become an actual major problem.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told employees – “well, if you feel you need to contact a lawyer – then you have to do what you feel you have to do…”  I’ve done this because I (and you) know – they aren’t contacting any lawyer – they’re just trying to push out buttons and get what they want.  99.9% of the time, or higher, a lawyer is never contacted.  But what happens when someone does?  All hell breaks loose, that’s what!  Now you have executives running around, asking questions, looking for reports and notes and documentation, etc. 

I’m not saying you should treat your Jumpers differently – I’m just saying that you need to be careful at how comfortable you become with Jumpers.  It’s an HR trap, that they don’t teach you in either the PHR or SPHR – you’ll never see a chapter on “Jumpers”.  You won’t see a session at SHRM national on Jumpers.  But if you’re in HR, you will deal with Jumpers weekly, some of you, daily.  The great HR Pros are great because they are able to filter out the fake jumpers, from the real jumpers – and when they find a real one – they grab ahold and keep them away from the ledge.

So, what do you do if you have a jumper?  Take it serious, but don’t over react.  Dig into what the jumper really wants (many times it’s just someone to listen). Work to keep the dialog going – even if it means coming back or another meeting later on (Jumpers usually don’t jump, if dialog is in play).  Lastley, don’t force a jumper to jump – give them some o

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