I spent the first twelve years of my career working in recruiting and HR departments. Then I spent nine years writing and speaking about HR, recruiting and technology.
Working in HR makes you skeptical, and the first part of my career made a formative impact on my worldview. Whenever I hear a story about anything — from cats to conspiracy theories — I’m a cynic and contrarian. I’ve been trained to question everything, which feeds into my natural tendency to be a “pretend police officer.”
Here’s the unfortunate thing: I was mostly right.
Whenever someone was accused of an ethics policy violation, they had in fact breached their duties and behaved like an idiot. If there was a worker involved in inappropriate behavior, that employee almost always denied it before we eventually sat down with proof. If someone came to me looking for quick answers, they almost always lied about doing “research” and “due diligence” before arriving in my office and asking me to solve the problem. They were just lazy.
So it’s tough to get over the default assumption that people are lying to me. But I’ve learned an important lesson over the past nine years: the past is not a solid predictor of future behaviors.
I’ve also learned it’s tough to make an injured party feel “heard” and “safe” when you’re skeptical. While some people obscure the truth and act like morons, it’s important to remember there are individuals in this world who don’t have a voice and need assistance.
And if HR believes that everybody is lying, how can we retain talented workers who are on the verge of quitting because they have no advocates at work?
If you’re like me and always assume that somebody is trying to fool you, try stepping out of yourself for a moment. Listen to the stories that your workers are telling you. Shift your perspective. Consider for a moment that you’re a worker with a similar problem. How would you want to be treated?
Being skeptical is an unreasonable way to live and work. It’s exhausting, too. Your workforce needs fewer HR detectives and more leaders with courage and heart. So drop the Law & Order routine. Try believing what people tell you. I think you will benefit from less skepticism and cynicism in your personal and professional life.