Many years ago, I worked for a human resources director who told me it was better to be stupid than wrong. If I didn’t know something, I shouldn’t volunteer an opinion. I should admit that I didn’t know the answer rather than risk offering an incorrect piece of advice.
Turns out, nobody knows anything during the first few months on the job. I took my director’s advice to heart and often responded to questions by saying, “I don’t know. I’ll find out.”
Like a parrot.
It was fine until one of my colleagues in IT told my boss that he really loved me; however, I always seemed unsure of myself. He wondered why I wasn’t brave enough to take a risk.
So my HR director took me to lunch and gave me this feedback. I was embarrassed and thought she would be mad, but she congratulated me for following her instructions. She trusted me to continue to use good judgment.
Better to be safe than wrong.
But I was disappointed in myself. That was the last time I ever said, “I don’t know, but I’ll get back to you.”
Instead, I started saying, “I’m not sure. I’m still learning things around here. I’ll look it up, but here’s what I think.”
I can’t be the only HR lady out there who’s been told that it’s better to be stupid than wrong. That’s a dumb way to do HR.
(Rarely are the stakes so high in life that it’s dangerous to share an informed opinion. If words are that perilous and can derail relationships, there are bigger problems at hand and have nothing to do with the nuances of your HR policy manual.)
So if you’ve been wondering how to be a braver HR professional and simultaneously earn the trust of your colleagues and peers, I have an idea for you: have the courage to share your opinions.
Sometimes it’s more important to be confident than correct.