Being Fully Authentic Is The Worst Advice You Can Give Someone!

I went to the SHRM Annual Conference this past week. I bet there had to be six different sessions, all jammed packed, with speakers telling HR Pros to “Become their Authentic Selves”. Just typing that makes me throw up in my mouth a little.

I call this content, HR Lady Candy. You might think that is sexist but it’s just data. 80%+ of the SHRM audience is female. Those of us that speak at SHRM are building content for women. Viewing the packed rooms, HR Lady Candy sells and it sells well!

But, it’s awful advice!

If you are truly authentic and bring your whole self to work, you are bringing all of you and I’m just going to take an educated guess that there are parts of you better off left at home. Parts of you that you yourself aren’t extremely proud of at certain times. Yes, these parts are part of you, but just as I don’t walk around outside my house naked, there are certain things I don’t need others to see.

I don’t judge these speakers and their full rooms. It’s so good damn empowering to feel like you aren’t true to yourself and have someone on stage in a power position telling you to “just do it!” It’s freeing. You want to run out of that room and just let your freak flag fly! But usually, in reality, that freak flag isn’t the freeing and empowering tool you hoped it would be.

The vast majority of us in the world, need a good-paying job with good benefits. The vast majority of us want to work hard and get promoted. We want to be the best version of ourselves as much as we can. We want to be wanted by others and grow our relationships with like-minded people. “Like-minded” means how we think like most of the time. Not how we think in our worst and most vulnerable moments. No one wants to be judged in those moments. Yes, that is part of our true self, but it’s not the true self I want others to see.

But, that content isn’t very sexy. No one wants to go sit and watch a speaker say, “Just be more normal!” it’ll work out, on average, a ton better for your career!

Freak flag flyers are awesome. We celebrate them. It usually works out for about 1 out of 1,000. Are you willing to bet your career on a .01% chance of success? What if I said the freaks are successful 1 out of 5! Oh, 20% of the time they are successful. Will you stake your career on that? Doubtful, that’s still really risky!

We love to believe the SHRM HR Lady audience is super conservative. That tends to be the profile of HR professionals. This just might be why we are so attracted to the “live your true self” content. We like it because we know we’ll never really do it, but it feels so good to dream!

Is Humor in the Workplace Dead?

I have at times in my career been a part of teams where each day I laughed. The team was a joy to work with and while we still had work and stress, we found times to laugh. I had a group of folks I worked with in Omaha, NE that I specifically recall laughing so hard each week that my stomach hurt, sometimes daily!

I’m not known professionally as someone who is frequently serious. I joke a lot. I love humor and making fun of all the dumb stuff we do. It’s how Kris Dunn found me and I started my blogging career over a decade ago at Fistful of Talent. My entire job was to make people laugh on a Friday.

This past week I posted this tweet on Twitter:

Tim trying to be funny

Now, if you know me, you know this is a joke. If you don’t know me, but you spend twelve seconds looking at my feed, you know this is a joke.

Way too many people thought this tweet was serious and took offense to it!

Let’s dig into how strange it is that someone would believe this was an actual exercise I would do professionally:

  • Your on Twitter and you see this guy with 40K+ followers say he makes candidates write wedding vows and recite them back to him, and you immediately think to yourself, “Well, that’s not good! Why would he ever do that! I must comment! This offends me!”
  • At this point, you’re eihter clinically naive or flat out stupid.
  • What’s the offense you ask? “Well, if you only do this with “attractive” people, you have BIAS!” Okay, I’m listening, but understand, we all judge attractiveness in our own ways. Someone I might find attractive, you might find ugly. So, you’re fighting for a view that is nebulous at best. There was no gender attached to the tweet, so if you think that I’m talking about females, now you are showing your own bias. Maybe in this clearly hypothetical exercise I only do this with attractive men, or attractive non-bianary people!
  • The joke is really around the concept of an interview and wedding vows. That’s what makes it funny. Imagine being asked to write wedding vows to someone you’re interviewing with and then reciting them, in a sense, actually getting married in an interview? Which is in a sense what interviewing is all about, do I want to spend the rest of my life with this company.
  • Foks were beside themselves that I would actually have someone do this. They were OFFENDED! Of course, I would never actually do this, it was always a joke. And if I can pat myself on the back (which I love to do!) it was really well written! It was tight. Not overly wordy. It was, what I thought, fairly innocent, so clean fun in the workplace. It also made fun of crazy interview questions and exercises we make candiates jump through. All in 26 words.

Where are we at with Humor in the Workplace?

We are in a very strange place.

I grew up in my career where very offensive jokes were told in the workplace all the time. Stuff that would get you immediately fired and most likely canceled today. Thankfully, most of us are away from most of that today.

Today, we can basically have humor around very certain topics and can only be told by very certain people. The vehicle of humor is very important in today’s world. Here’s kind of how it’s broken down:

  1. People of the same gender, ethnicity, etc. can fun of each other, to each other.
  2. White dudes can make fun of white dudes, but nothing else. (Oh, there it is, Tim’s Fragility is showing!)
  3. Everybody else can make fun of white dudes, and their own identifiers.
  4. We can all make fun of people and things we’ve deemed culturally fair game – Putin, Kanye, Trump, old white men, Dudes getting yelled at by their spouses, the CEOs of big companies – but only the bad ones, not the ones we like, etc.
  5. You can’t make fun of anything someone would ever, at any time in histroy, find offensive in any slightest way. Like the color purple. “OMG! TIM! Purple stands for safe spaces for puppies! How could you!”
  6. You can always make fun of yourself! (hat tip: Patricia in the comments)

We right ditched, left ditched humor in the workplace, and in many cases socially as well. I hated that people in the workplace could feel attacked by what someone would consider ‘humor’ early in my career. I also hate that humor Nazis are now the norm in our lives believing they can regulate everything that can be considered humorous.

There’s a fine line with humor in the workplace and that line has gotten even thinner in recent years. The problem with humor Nazis is that many employees want to work in environments and cultures that include humor. They want to laugh each day. it helps with engagement. Of course, that humor must be appropriate.

Maybe we just have the dial turned so far up on our offensive meter we struggle to even recognize humor anymore. The best part of this is all those who found my tweet offensive would also say they love humor, just that I’m not funny, and nor was my tweet. That’s their right for sure, but I would argue they’ve lost context around what’s funny.

The Point is Finality

Most work becomes a series of urgent events and tasks. We run from one urgency to the next, constantly fixing things to make them work better at the moment. Solving these urgencies gives us a great feeling of satisfaction. That was broken and I fixed it! Oh wait, there’s another one…

This might be the biggest cancer in organizations.

Quick fixes don’t ever really solve the underlying problem of why something isn’t working the way it should. We rarely work to solve the core issue and put a permanent solution in place. The time that does happen is usually after someone gets fired and the entire process has collapsed under a mountain of urgent fixes that have been cobbled together over months and years.

I see this on a monthly basis with leaders I speak with. I’m lucky to be on the front side of many of these conversations with leaders new in position who are working on building it the ‘right’ way. Finally, trying to get away from urgent fixes and put permanent solutions into play. To jump off the treadmill and add some finality to the process.

“We have always done it this way“.

That statement has gotten a bad reputation. We make fun of people who say it. When in reality, we should all be striving to say this statement. We’ve always done it this way because it freaking works amazingly! We had a problem. We worked our butts off to find the right solution for the long term, and unsurprisingly, it works and we kept doing it.

Jumping from one shiny new thing to the next, adding in stuff to cover up something that stopped working for now, because we don’t have time to truly fix the root cause, has become the norm for almost every department and function we have in organizations.

We’ve lost the view of “oh, I might have to live what I’m building here for the next twenty years, so I should probably make it work properly.” Instead, it’s “yeah, our process sucks, but we (add in excuse here), so we’ll just have to deal with it for now”. “For now” means until I either find a new job, or I get fired, or I move to another job or department.

I hate workarounds.

When someone tells me they are going to do something as a workaround I immediately have anxiety. Because what I hear is, “I don’t want to fix this the right way” I would rather fix it temporarily so it can be someone else’s issue down the road.

We have this belief that we can’t stop and fix things the way they should be. We don’t have the time, we can’t stop what we are doing. Until of course you get fired or leave, then someone ‘magically’ has the time to fix it the right way.

The worse spot you can be in is a cobbled mess of systems, processes, and people who don’t give a shit. If you find yourself in this spot there are only two options: 1. Leave; 2. Stop everything and fix it the right way.

What Happens When an HR Pro Gets Harassed at Work?

On episode 58 of The HR Famous Podcast, longtime HR leaders (and friends) Tim SackettKris Dunn, and Jessica Lee come together to discuss what happens when HR pros get harassed in the workplace. JLee shares her story of being harassed at work as an HR pro, the process that followed, and then discusses the situation and process with KD and Tim.

Listen (click this link if you don’t see the player) and be sure to subscribe, rate, and review (Apple Podcasts) and follow (Spotify)!

Show Highlights

1:30 – Tim got his first Covid vaccine. He’s the first of the crew to get it! He got it at an old Sears!

5:00 – First topic of the day: JLee shares her story about being sexually harassed at work.

12:30 – Tim asks JLee what percentage of women have experienced harassment in the workplace. She says well over 50%.

15:00 – KD asks JLee what happened after she reported the harassment. JLee asked HR not to do anything about it and she confronted the harasser herself.

19:40 – JLee says that she felt like she needed to handle it herself because she was a strong female leader. She also notes that she didn’t have confidence in the HR employees to handle it effectively.

21:50 – Tim asks JLee if she thinks what this person did was a fireable offense. She says that from her HR perspective, it seems like this employee shouldn’t be working there because of the repeated offenses.

23:00 – KD says that he misses employee investigations. JLee doesn’t miss them, and Tim doesn’t miss the lose-lose investigations.

26:30 – JLee says that her boss at the time was very protective of her and she worried that the boss was going to do something if she didn’t handle it herself.

30:20 – KD asks JLee if she thinks other global cultures have caught up with workplace behavior and treatment. She thinks that some pockets of the world are more progressive than others, but overall they have not caught up.

33:00 – Tim mentions how as a society, we’ve started the practice of guilting companies into doing the right thing. He mentions the example of disparities in the NCAA March Madness tournament with the men’s teams and women’s teams.

40:00 – JLee remembers that she has all of the email correspondences of her dealings with her sexual harassment. She’s an A+ HR employee!

Get Back to HQ as Fast as You Can!

I know you want to keep working remotely. It’s awesome to be able to wake up, throw on some sweats and just check email. I mean this is what “work” should be, right!? Like not really working, but getting paid for it, this is the best time to be alive!

Okay, where was I? Sorry, Bridgerton is on in the background and episode 5 so, well, you know! No. No! I wasn’t really watching, just background noise. Similar to Steve from Accounting stopping by the cube to talk about nothing.

You’re a complete idiot if you don’t go back to Headquarters! 

I’m sorry to have to be your big brother and break the news, but the future of work isn’t you sitting on your couch in sweatpants deciding if you should paint an accent wall, or add some succulents to the shelf behind your “desk” that people see when you’re on a Zoom call.

If you actually care about your career, you are pushing your leadership team to get back to work, in the office. At some point, people who make decisions are going to start promoting people and the people who will get promoted will be the people with who they have the best relationship. Oh, sorry, you thought it was skill-based, performance-based promotions! That’s cute. Anywho.

The moment someone asks if you want to return to in-office work, you say, “Yes!” You tell them, you’ll actually come in right now, this moment. You already have your desk stuff packed and are ready to come back.

Yeah, yeah, it’s a “New World of Work”! 

Like a Robinhood Game Stop trader, the world is about to teach you a lesson or two. The world of work doesn’t give a sh*t about what you actually want. Oh, we’ll tell you we do, but at the end of the month, there’s this little thing we look at called financials. Look it up, it’s important. Turns out, you working at half capacity at home, isn’t the greatest thing for our financials. I mean, it is the greatest thing for your home design skills and you teaching sign language to your cat, so there’s that!

I know, it’s me, not you. I’m sure I’m wrong.

You know what. The best companies and leaders in the world have already figured this out. They figured out if you really want high levels of collaboration. Great decision-making. Great creativity. To build the next biggest thing in the world. You kind of have to be together, not on a video.

The new world of work isn’t remote. At its best, it’s probably you get treated more like an adult. Like, “Okay, Timmy, you can not come in on Wednesday because there’s a snowstorm and we think you’ll at least stay up on email, and return a couple of calls.” The pandemic showed us the new world of work, can be more flexible, and in some additional cases, remote, but for the most part we need you back in the cube.

Why Won’t This Work? 

Basically, it because we won’t do two things:

  1. We won’t really define, in true measurable, non-subjective terms, what performance looks like for your position. If we did, you might be able to work remotely and actually meet expectations of performance.
  2. We won’t put a system in place that will truly measure what the hell you’re actually doing. The technology is out there, but you feel micromanaged that someone would actually check to see if you are doing what you’re being paid to do.

So, we’ll just have most of you come back to work. We’ll do the same dance we’ve been doing for a hundred years. It could be better, but better comes with a lot of change, and right now we don’t even change our pants daily.

In the meantime, get your ass back to HQ if you really want to advance your career. And, please, spare me the “I’m not being treated fairly” when you get passed over for a promotion while sitting on your couch in pants with animals on them.

The Single Most Desired Trait Employers Want: Being an Adult!

Don’t buy into the hype! “Oh, just do what you love!” That’s not being an adult, that’s being a moron! Just do what makes you happy! No, that’s what a child does.

“Tim, we just want to hire some ‘adults’!” I hear this statement from a lot of CEOs I talk with currently!

That means most of the people they are hiring, aren’t considered adults by these leaders. Oh, they fit the demographic of being an adult from an age perspective, but they still act like children!

I tell people when I interview them and they ask about our culture I say, “We hire adults”.

That means we hire people into positions where they are responsible for something. Because we hire adults, they take responsibility for what they are responsible for. If I have to tell them to do their jobs, they’re not adults, they’re children. We don’t employ children.

I think about 70% of the positions that are open in the world could have the same title –

“Wanted: Adults”.

Those who read that and got it could instantly be hired and they would be above average employees for you! Those who read it and didn’t understand, are part of the wonder of natural selection.

How do you be an Adult?

You do the stuff you say you’re going to do. Not just the stuff you like, but all the stuff.

You follow the rules that are important to follow for society to run well. Do I drive the speed limit every single time? No. Do I come to work when my employer says I need to be there? Yes.

You assume positive intent on most things. For the most part, people will want to help you, just as you want to help others. Sometimes you run into an asshole.

You understand that the world is more than just you and your desires.

You speak up for what is right when you can. It’s easy to say you can always speak up for what is right, but then you wouldn’t be thinking like an adult.

You try and help those who can’t help themselves. Who can’t, not who won’t.

My parents and grandparents would call this common sense, but I don’t think ‘being an adult’ is common sense anymore. Common sense, to be common, has to be done by most. Being an adult doesn’t seem to be very common lately!

So, you want to hire some adults? I think this starts with us recognizing that being an adult is now a skill in 2021. A very valuable skill. Need to fill a position, maybe we start by first finding adults, then determining do we need these adults to have certain skills, or can we teach adults those skills!

The key to great hiring in today’s world is not about attracting the right skills, it’s about attracting adults who aren’t just willing to work, but understand the value of work and individuals who value being an adult.

I don’t see this as a negative. I see it as an opportunity for organizations that understand this concept. We hire adults first, skills second. Organizations that do this, will be the organizations that win.

The Motley Fool has a great section in their employee handbook that talks about being an adult:

“We are careful to hire amazing people. Our goal is to unleash you to perform at your peak and stay out of your way. We don’t have lots of rules and policies here by design. You are an amazing adult and we trust you to carve your own path, set your own priorities, and ask for help when you need it.”

You are an amazing ‘adult’ and we trust you

If only it was so simple!

The Single Biggest Truth in Hiring That No One Will Admit!

I’ve had my mind changed about a lot of things over the past decade of writing. I look back at posts I wrote 5 years ago, and think, “Wow, that was a stupid way of thinking!” I’ve also consistently written about things that I can’t prove, but I know to be true with every ounce of my being.

So, every time I find data that confirms my bias, I like to share it! It makes me think I’m still correct in my viewpoints!

The more attractive you are, the more opportunity you’ll get in your job choice and career! 

Think it isn’t true? Here’s the latest study from 2021, from three PhDs in Economics from Cal and the London School of Economics,  “Do Looks Matter for an Academic Career in Economics?” Want the short answer? Yes! Of course, don’t be stupid!

“Using unique data on Ph.D. graduates from top economics departments in the United States we test whether more attractive individuals are more likely to succeed. We find robust evidence that appearance matters for job outcomes. Attractive individuals are more likely to study at higher-ranked Ph.D. institutions, are more likely to find themselves in private sector jobs than in government jobs or in academia. Within academia, attractive Ph.D. graduates are more likely to be placed at higher ranking institutions. More surprisingly, appearance also predicts research productivity on the job.”

What did the study find?

  1. The more attractive you are, the better schools you’ll get into.
  2. The more attractive you are, the better jobs you’ll get.
  3. The more attractive you are, the better you’ll actually perform!

Now, come on. I get pretty people will get into better schools and get better jobs, but why in the hell do pretty people actually perform better!?! This has to be a flawed study, right!

“Pretty Privilege” is alive and well, at least in the United States, where this study took place. Maybe in other countries, like Canada, ugly people still have a chance. But, I’m doubting it. (Also, shout-out to Maria Alvarez for the “Pretty Privilege” title!)

Can people really have “Pretty Privilege”?  (FYI – the title of my upcoming autobiography is, “Of Course I Have Pretty Privilege, Just Look at Me!”)

So, I’ve laid out my theory of this before, but how soon people forget. So, here it is again:

Step 1: Pretty person gets a great job. Is Successful.

Step 2: Success and Good Lucks, get you a great choice of Mates.

Step 3: Pretty, Successful people get married and procreate.

Step 4: Pretty kids get into the best schools.

Step 5: The cycle repeats.

So, yes, of course, there is pretty privilege. So much so, we pretty people actually talk about it behind the Uggs backs! There are only two privileges stronger than Pretty, being white and being rich! If you have the trifecta-privilege, well, you’re basically unstoppable.

Now, some will want to argue. “Tim, attractiveness is in the eyes of the beholder!” This is usually said by a person who is a six, or lower, on a scale of 1 (troll) to 10 (goddess). To which I could lay out countless studies on attractiveness and call bullshit, but hey, you’re not very attractive, thus, not really my competition, so believe whatever you want, I’m 2/3 of the way to the trifecta!

So, if you have never read my stuff and this is the first time, and you’re ugly, right about now, you’re pissed! So, let me say, the paragraph before is half-joking, I’m 3 for 3, baby! 😉

What can you do if you’re not Pretty? 

First, if you’re asking yourself this question, I’m sorry, you should have more confidence, high confidence is super pretty! But, I get it. We all can’t be the belle of the ball.

If you don’t have Pretty Privilege, you need to do some other stuff extraordinary well. Be way smarter. Grind and Hustle way harder. Network way better. You must outwork the Pretty People. Invest a lot in your outward appearance. You might not be super attractive, but you can definitely be prettier than a lot of other folks! Be the tallest of the Seven Dwarfs, is all I’m saying.

Let’s break it down.

You and the people at your company responsible for hiring aren’t always hiring the best candidate. Mostly, they hire the candidate who can do the job, which also happens to be the best looking of the candidates they interviewed. All things being equal, hire pretty, is the strategy. I’m not saying it’s the best strategy, I’m just saying it’s the strategy most organizations follow, but would never admit to.

We see this in organizations all the time. You walk into an organization and you start to go, wait, I think there’s a problem, everyone here is way too good looking! Almost always, those organizations are super successful as well. Back in the day, the c-suite would call this “image”. We are upholding an “image” of the firm. What they were really saying was, you need to be prettier to hang with us!

So, keep ignoring Pretty Privilege if you want. It’s alive and well and most likely determining your next hire.

 

 

 

Buy Game Stop! No wait, get back to work!

Everyone is talking about Game Stop and AMC and a bunch of other companies that no one should really be talking about! Why? Because a bunch of remote workers are sitting at home, not working, and playing around on Reddit and their Robinhood brokerage accounts!

Yeah, I said it!

You have employees you’re paying to work remotely who are messing around thinking they’re day traders by buying crappy stocks off Reddit suggestions. Also, they think they’re sticking it to the “man” by doing this, so in their mind, they’re really saving the world. All while you’re paying them to sell more Saas software…

This is why Remote Work doesn’t work! 

Everyone loves Remote Work. Why wouldn’t you. You get paid to do the same work in half the time, and you get to do it sitting on your couch with Netflix running in the background and you’re still wearing the same stretchy pants you woke up in! God Bless America! Am I right!?

Remote Work fails when leaders feel like even one person is taking advantage of the system!

Look I get it, I get that Timmy is sitting in his office, at the office, and still not doing anything, but Mary, your CEO, can walk by Timmy’s office and scare him enough into thinking he should probably do some work.

Most organizations suck at having measurable performance indicators for every position, or any positions, besides sales. Most performance measures that employees have, would happen regardless if they actually did their job or traded crappy stocks all day, or ran an Etsy shop out of their cube.

Can’t we all just be adults!? 

Apparently, no.

You don’t want to be micromanaged at work, but the true future of “Remote” work is we are going to micromanage the sh*t out of you! (No, not me, all the other bad folks!) The bigger the company, the better the technology they’ll be able to afford to ensure you’re actually working and not acting like a wannabe revolutionary taking down the stock market by buying bad stocks.

If you have over 500 employees working remotely right now, at least 3% of those people are amateur day trading on your dime. It’s just a numbers game, at this point. Depending on what your business does, you can probably raise or lower that number 1-2%.

“But, Tim! You don’t get it! I work a flexible schedule, so I’m putting in more hours and still being a bad day trader!” No, you’re not. You’re an idiot who is going to cry you got wronged when you get fired because your company found out a part-time seventeen year old can produce more than you, without any formal college education.

Gawd, I actually love being the voice of reason! 

Man! I’m not a life coach, but what I wouldn’t do to punch some stupid 35-year-old dude in the mouth who’s trying to explain to me why Game Stop is a good investment, ‘really’! Turns out, no one needs a brick and mortar store to buy online games! Thanks for the advice, Trevor, how did all those folks at your company respond to that analysis in the company Slack!?

Okay, you don’t have to work forty hours a week, because when you’re home you have fewer distractions and you get your job done in thirty. The question you should really be asking yourself isn’t if America is considering you a hero for buying Game Stop stock, but if you can do that all day and still get your job done, who else is thinking they probably don’t need to be paying you any longer?

I can guarantee you, Game Stop doesn’t care about your job!

Covering Up a Career Hickey

I had a person work for me at a past job in HR.  She performed the HR cardinal sin of sins, she shared personal, confidential information with an employee outside of HR.  My problem was, this person was a high performer, an outstanding employee, she had a frustrating, weak moment, and did something you just can’t do in an HR position.  This is what we call a Career Hickey. Sometimes you can survive these hickeys and cover them up, and continue to work as normal.  Many times you can’t.

So now, this Hi-Po has a Huge Hickey.  Interestingly though, this Hickey can’t be seen when you look at their resume or interview them in person, but it’s a Hickey they can’t get rid of.  So, barring a life-turtleneck how does one cover this puppy up?

It’s interesting because I think that probably the best of us have a hickey or two that we would rather not have our current or future employer know about.  Sometimes they’re big-giant-in-the-back-of-a-Chevy-17-year-old-I-will-love-you-forever hickeys and sometimes they’re just oops-I-lingered-a-little-too-long type of hickeys. Either way, I would rather not expose my hickeys and have to worry about how this will impact the rest of my professional life. And here’s where most people drive themselves crazy.

As HR Pros I think it’s important for us to be able to help our organizations determine the relative value of individuals.  This person was a rock star at ABC company, did something wrong, and couldn’t maintain that position any longer with ABC because of said incident, and lost their job. Now we have a chance to pick up a Rock Star (and probably for a discount).

The question you have to ask is not could we live with this person if they did the same thing here?  Because that really isn’t the question, you already have that answer is “No.”

The question is: do we feel this person learned from said wrongdoing and is there any risk of them doing it again? 

You might come to the conclusion, “yes, they’ve learned, and yes, there is potential they might do it again” (let’s face it if they did it once, they’ve shown they can do it, so there’s always a risk), but it’s a risk we are willing to take.

So how does someone come back from a transgression at work? The answer is that they have some help.  Eventually, someone is going to ask the question: “why aren’t you with ABC Company anymore?”  They’ll give you the canned answer they’ve been developing since the moment they lost their job. If you’re a good interviewer, you won’t buy the first answer (I mean really – so you decided it was better off not to have a job – is what you’re telling me?!) and you will dig to see the hickey.  Hickeys are funny in that you really can’t take your eyes off of them, once you see them, but for those who can get by the hickeys, you might just find a great talent who is grateful for the second chance.

But, you also might find someone who just likes being in the back of that Chevy and getting Hickeys. You’re the HR Pro though and that’s really why your company pays your salary – to mitigate risk vs. the quality of talent your organization needs to succeed. So, you have to ask yourself, can you live with a Hickey?

The Bad Idea Trap!

2020 wasn’t the best year for a lot of people and as such we have so much excitement and anticipation for what 2021 will bring, but we are cautious. Already in 2021, we’ve seen some hangover of 2020!

We believe that 2021 and into the near future will be a bit of a struggle for most organizations. Some character building years ahead of us. We’ve come out of a decade of growth, pandemic hits, and now we have some rebuilding to do.

I truly believe when tough times hit, we see the best in people. As professionals, we work harder than ever to get to the success we want. We come up with all sorts of ideas and things to try to get us back on top. Therein lies the problem.

You see, there is this funny phenomenon that happens, that has now been proven in science. Turns out, during bad times, we come up with more bad ideas than good ideas!

Why do we have more bad ideas than good ideas during hard times?

A great historical example (that might have some context to 2020!) was during the 1920s and 1930s. Extremely hard economic times in Germany led to the rise of the Nazis. I think we can all agree, 100%, the Nazis were a very bad idea. But, because of the awful economy, many folks thought the Nazis were a great alternative.

Turns out, depressions, pandemics, social uprisings, etc. Lead us to more bad ideas than good ideas. We start grasping at straws, believing we are trying to help. We are testing out stuff to see what works when we think nothing is working when in reality, we might actually be starting something worse.

To go along with this, when times are awesome, no matter what you do, you probably are less likely to screw something up. “Hey, we did this crazy thing and our sales were up 3%!” Great, maybe if you didn’t do that crazy thing your sales would have been up 10%, but now you think that crazy idea, that bad idea, actually was positive!

Great times cover up many of our bad ideas. Bad times shine a giant light on our bad ideas.

Why am I talking about Bad Ideas? 

2021 might be a ripe time for bad ideas! We all will be pushed and stressed to make things happen. Leaders are going to look for ideas. It’s our job to come up with ideas. Most of those ideas are going to be bad. Sorry, but that’s just simple math. Most ideas are bad, some are good, very few are great.

In HR and TA we tend to believe that our ideas, our projects, our programs, etc. don’t have a giant impact on organizations. Actually, they have more impact than you think, but it’s mostly long-term impact, not short-term. We want these ideas to have an immediate impact, but people and culture tend to take time.

That is why, in 2021, we have to be very careful about the Bad Idea Trap.

I want you to go out and test and try things but move a bit more cautiously out of the gate. Be willing to shut things down quicker. Be more aware of the timing and how your organization is doing. If your organization is killing it, great! Go have some fun, break some things! If your organization isn’t doing well, slow down, take your time, don’t allow yourself to be in a rush, even though it’s going to feel like you should be.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a large corporate meeting room with a bunch of people and some well-meaning executive starts off with “there are no bad ideas! Let me have them all!” Yes, there are bad ideas and the worse idea is a bad idea that is chosen to move forward!

Maybe our 2021 Slogan in HR and TA should be “Yes, there are Bad Ideas!”