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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Better HR Through Laziness

If you just read this blog, you would think that I've reached sheer laziness judging by the number of posts I've written lately. Rest assured that is not the case. I'm still working on the nightmare, soul sucking project at work and I am 37 weeks pregnant, so two projects at once. (Hopefully the latter will have a better outcome than the former...)

Nevertheless, in my lack of laziness, I still manage to read interesting blogs. I found this post, Better Parenting Through Laziness. It's written by a home day care provider. She describes dealing with a hitting situation between her employees young charges.
"Timmy, did you use your words?”
“Did you say, ‘Anna, don’t hit me’?”
“Yes. I say, ‘Anna don’t hit me!’ “
“And is Anna hitting you any more?”
(Obvious question. Timmy is here with me, and Anna, whatever she may or may not have been doing three minutes prior, is in another room, not hitting him.)

I sit up straight, and fix a beaming, joyous smile upon his earnest visage.

“Well, good for you! It worked! Anna hit you, and you used your words, and now Anna isn’t hitting you any more! You used your words, and it worked!! Good job!”

I smile, I clap, I am practically delirious with joy at the boy’s accomplishment. Timmy trots off, happy, Anna is playing with the blocks in the next room. And I don’t have to get up and let my tea go cold.

Sheerest laziness brought me to this strategy. Inertia, even. But when you examine the response, it’s excellent.

The child who comes to you is seeking any number of things: justice, vengeance, comfort, indignation, attention, reassurance. If you charge in and sort things out, a few things happens:
1. You become his enforcer. With that kind of reward, why would he stop coming to you? You’re creating the very thing you’re trying to avoid: a tattler.
2. You’re showing him you don’t expect him to be able to do this on his own, or that
3. His attempts to solve his own conflict were inadequate.

Brilliant, I say. Let's transfer that to our work environment:
Timmy: Anna told an offensive joke
HR: Timmy, did you tell Anna that you thought the joke was offensive?
Timmy: Yes.
HR: Did she stop telling offensive jokes?
Timmy: Yes and she apologized. She said she didn't realize it would offend anyone.
HR: Great job, Timmy. You've single handedly shut down offensive joke telling in the workplace. I'll make a note in your file about how you have contributed to the success of the company's diversity objectives!
And then Timmy goes off happy and you can continue drinking your tea. (I don't drink tea, by the way, so I'll have to come up with something else.)

And no chiming in about hostile work environments, blah, blah. I don't want to hear it. This method solves the problem. (And for more about "hostile work environments," try here and here. )

Of course, I know the conversation would really go like this:

Timmy: Anna told an offensive joke.
HR: Timmy, did you tell Anna that you thought the joke was offensive?
Timmy: NO! That's not my job. That's your job. I shouldn't have to hear any such thing. I'm calling my lawyer right now unless you punish Anna.

Who said adults were easier to deal with than toddlers?


MaryP said...

Bwah-ha. I love it! This is great.

My husband, who is a negotiator, says much the same thing. Seems the principle has a multitude of applications!

Mollie said...

Wow 37 weeks already. It seems like just last month you made mention you were expecting.

I'm going to use this Timmy/Anna set up for my guys at work when they start whining. It might just stop the complaining and get some laughs. (I'm not HR but I tend to be a sounding board when the guys are frustrated)

Wally Bock said...

Congratulations, Evil One! This post was selected as one of the five best business blog posts of the week in my Three Star Leadership Midweek Review of the Business Blogs.

Wally Bock

Evil HR Lady said...

I'm honored Wally.

Jo said...

Timmy: Anna told an offensive joke.
HR: Sit down. Would you like a cup of tea?

Mark Toth said...

Great post. If this approach works for HR folks it should also work for employment lawyers. I think I'll try it by taking the rest of the year off -- I'll let you know how it goes.


Nancy Matson said...

I'm kind of surprised that people go to HR for these petty concerns. I've gone to HR once in my entire life, never even troubling anyone when I was clearly working with seriously unhinged people. It never occurred to me.

Richard C Haven said...

"Anna called me a 'doo-doo head'!"

"Are you a doo-doo head?"


"Then it doesn't matter what Anna calls you"

HR Wench said...

I LOVE IT when people try to tell me what is or isn't their or my job. It makes me cackle with glee.

Timmy: Anna told an offensive joke.

HR: Timmy, did you tell Anna that you thought the joke was offensive?

Timmy: NO! That's not my job. That's your job. I shouldn't have to hear any such thing. I'm calling my lawyer right now unless you punish Anna.

HR: Ok be sure to tell your lawyer my number is 555-555-5555 and my name is spelled with TWO L's, not one. Thanks!

Andres said...

Your post is Spot-on ... the other night my three and four year olds started to have a disagreement and they worked it out before intervention was necessary. It brought a happy tear to my eye to see them use some of the skills my wife and I are trying so hard to teach them.

Maybe we could come have them model our eight (8) rules for successful communication at the next SHRM convention:

1) Say please and thank you
2) Say you're sorry when you hurt someone's feelings
3) Forgive someone when they ask forgiveness
4) Take turns and share your toys
5) Use nice voices, not angry or whiny voices
6) When you get frustrated and need to calm down, take a time out
7) Wait your turn to speak and listen when the other person is speaking to you
8) Ask an adult for help when you can't work things out

Anonymous said...

At my workplace, it goes like this:

Anna: Timmy told an offensive joke

Senior management: And? What's your problem?


Anna: Timmy told an offensive joke and senior management think it's my problem.

HR: Well? Are you experiencing any difficulties at home? Do you need to talk to a counsellor?

The Engineer said...

Good advice. Andres does touch on an important point that everyone seems to be assuming. Specifically that the employee in question has been taught the skills to handle the situation. You do have to help some employees learn how to deal with the situation.

Additionally, there are some people who never learned to share and say "sorry" and so you do need to turn to an "adult" to assist. Hopefully the direct supervisor takes care of it. It is in that situation (being the supervisor) where I have gone to HR to get direction, but I was still the one to deal with the situation.

Side Note - If you want to see a professional Speech Language Pathologist (aka Speech Therapist) implode in a warping of space-time, ask a child to "use your words."

megbear said...

congratulations on the baby! You are 100% right that building a baby is a huge (and tiring) job and that parenting toddlers is the best management experience you will ever get.

Dan McCarthy said...

Evil -
Congratulations! Raising two daughters has definitely made me a better leader. And I’ve learned humility… and self-sacrifice… and the importance of a good straitening iron... and the value of a $125 pair of jeans.