The last time something surprised me was back in 1992.
In olden times, there were three ways to learn about new movies: you could read the newspaper, watch Siskel & Ebert on local TV, or ask your friends for recommendations.
My entire social circle was gaga over a movie called The Crying Game, and my high school boyfriend and I made plans to see it. But, before I could make it to the local cineplex, someone blew the plotline for me and told me the main character’s girlfriend was really a man.
The twist didn’t surprise me as much as the person who would wantonly tell me plot secrets as if it were no big deal. It would be like a member of the production crew of Game of Thrones telling you how the show ends just to be a dick.
I saw the final script. Jon Snow kills Cersei Lannister. He and Daenerys relinquish their claim to the Iron Throne and Samwell Tarly ascends to power.
With my faith in humanity ruined back in 1992, I’ve almost never been surprised again. People have egos and blind spots, and it’s safe to assume the worst about humankind because we deliver.
This attitude served me well in conversations about movies and dysfunctional corporate environments. For many years, I wore my cynical brand on my sleeve. And, as I’ve written in the past, it’s difficult being pessimistic. Sometimes you want to believe people are good and that corporations are values-driven. Then, you work in HR, and you see the underbelly of an organization where leaders are lauded for diversity and inclusion but do not give a rip about employee experiences behind the scenes.
So, I’m not surprised when people behave in distasteful and deplorable ways; however, this philosophy is not a healthy way to live. And, I’m here to warn you, it’s not a beneficial way to navigate your job in human resources.
We all have different coping mechanisms, but it’s common for HR professionals and leaders to adopt sarcastic and rigid cognitive frameworks. Gallows humor is dark because you’re at the bottom, baby, and all you can do is laugh. But if you don’t believe in the inherent goodness of humankind or the unlimited potential of the human spirit, you probably shouldn’t be in HR or recruiting.
You should work in procurement or another more inflexible department.
While the modern HR department is built on data and analytics, the very human element of human resources means you must keep your capacity and willingness to be surprised. Yes, it makes sense to plan and analyze people-related behaviors and trends; however, you must guard against the tendency to make assumptions about people and build policies, processes, and programs centered on the lowest common denominator.
I’m not saying your business should put itself in the position of being confused, overwhelmed or startled by the competition. But if you’re not willing to open your mind and dream for your workforce, how can you expect your employees to feel safe taking risks and dreaming big dreams.
There was a time in my life where I didn’t hate people and look upon people suspiciously. That was 1992 before I learned all there is to know about The Crying Game.
Be better than me and allow mankind to surprise you from time-to-time. Bring that sense of wonder and curiosity into your job in HR!