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Walkin' a mile...

Paul MacCormack


"How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these." George Washington Carver


So much of the information we ingest on a daily basis is based on judgment. Take to Facebook, Twitter, or even your daily newspaper, and you will find no shortage of opinions on any range of topics. In our race to share, like, or tweet, something is getting lost along the way. People have misplaced their filter and ability to think of the consequences of their words and actions.


Beyond the need to be right or be heard, we are forgetting the age old axioms like "before you judge, walk a mile in their shoes" or "judge not, lest ye be judged." When we rush to label, blame, or judge someone else we limit ourselves and seal off a very valuable part of our experience; compassion.


As human resource managers, we come up against these kinds of situations often. We manage and work with our staff day in and day out, and when things get tough it can be difficult not to make snap judgments about someone?s behavior. Like the rest of us, our employees can make poor decisions at times, and at first glance we may be quick to dole out repercussions based on the nature of the folly. But if we can remember to pause and reflect before we comment, we can better approach the situation with a clear mind.


Here are a few questions that may be helpful to ask yourself before you act:

  • Has the person been trained to complete the task properly?  I know that there are instances when staff has been properly trained to carry out a duty and they simply take a shortcut. No dice, they need to be corrected. But sometimes we can fall into the assumption trap and think that just because you would do things correctly that staff would automatically do the same.
  • Are things going well in the employee's personal life?  If you have a long time employee who appears to be slacking off or not working up to their normal potential, it may be time to have a chat. You may not know what is going on behind the scene unless you ask. Things such as family discord, sickness, or financial stress can negatively impact work ethic. Allowing someone space to vent or share their difficulties can help alleviate some of their burden.
  • Has a situation come up that was open to different interpretation?  Sometimes an apparently harmless interaction between yourself and employee can be interpreted differently. You may have not given it a second thought, but the employee may have taken it to heart and been quite bothered by it. Keep your ear to the ground and talk to other senior staff to make sure there is not a situation that has blown up without your awareness of it.

Taking the time to pause and reflect on a situation can soften our tendency towards reaction and judgment and can be a beneficial feature of our HR management protocol.  We can diffuse volatile situations by approaching them with wisdom and compassion rather than allowing our need to control and be right to take over.


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