Is it time to go with the flow?

Whenever HR folks hang out, they often think they’re the rebels in the room. But truth be told, when you look at what they say and do, we’re all not much different from everyone else. This isn’t just an HR thing; it’s all over our workplaces. It’s like we’re stuck in this ‘Group-think’ mode.

Back in the 1950s, Solomon Asch did a study where students had to solve simple problems, like figuring out if two lines were the same length. Some students purposefully gave wrong answers, and guess what? Three-quarters of the others went along with the wrong answers at least once. It’s a reminder that as humans we tend to follow the herd, even when it’s clear they’re off track.

In the corporate world, the contrarian label often gets slapped on the CEO or someone on the fast track to getting the boot. Despite what top executives say about valuing contrarian ideas, the truth is, going against the grain isn’t well-received in companies. So, it’s kind of amusing when HR pros claim they’re the rebels in their organizations. No you’re not. Plus, do you really want to be?

Let’s cut to the chase – HR doesn’t have to be the rebel; shouldn’t they just go with the flow? HR needs someone who totally drinks the Kool-Aid and fully supports the mission. It might sound rebellious in its own way, especially if the boss is a visionary leader, but that’s what organizations need from HR.

HR needs to toe the line. Conform to the vision, conform to the mission, and lead by sticking to the organizational goals. By embracing this kind of conformity, HR can actually make a real difference in the success of the company.

2 thoughts on “Is it time to go with the flow?

  1. Hi Tim!

    Most of the time, I am on board and in agreement with what you’re saying. This time, I would have to both agree & disagree. Group-think is a known obstacle to innovation and creativity and hinders comfort for individual expression. It goes back to the old phrase I’m sure we (of a certain age) all heard growing up at some point, usually after we did something stupid or rebellious…”If your friends all jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?”.
    I never liked that question because I never understood why someone would do that, follow the herd, if it didn’t make sense to do-so. I always had follow up questions to clarify…will the jump kill me, is the water nice, what’s the weather like in this hypothetical? To me, this are are important consideration factors as to whether I would in fact “go with the flow.”

    As a neurodivergent adult in the workplace, I very much understand why many people embrace group-think and tend not to rebel or be contrary; but that’s not everyone. In fact, the ability to be professionally and strategically contrary and provide out-of-the-box ideas with the goal to improve the everyday workplace and culture for employees, the ability to bring humanity back into HR through action and yes, sometimes rebellion, is what drew me to HR in the first place. It’s what made me fall in love with the industry.
    This is where I somewhat disagree with your summary of HR’s role; I think we are there to ask those clarifying questions and when it makes sense, to rebel against the herd and be the contrarian; to not “jump off the bridge” just because that’s what everyone else is doing or wants to do.
    When executive leaders start making decisions for profit at the detriment to the people below them actually doing the work, it is HR’s job to rebel and advocate for the people in their organization. Where I agree, if leadership is doing the right thing, promoting a good culture and values, taking care of their people, then by all means, HR should be conforming to that and playing their part in perpetuating that through the organization!

    • I 100% agree with Caley’s sentiments and would like to add that HR just going with the flow can actually leave an organization open to litigation – YIKES! HR is here to act as advisors/consultants to the business; being “non-contrarian” can sometimes mean we aren’t doing our job.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.