So that’s a poor workaround of the Brentesque “assume makes an ass out of u and me”…..and far be it for me to indulge in cliches, but sometimes situations come along that make you realise that, in the words of the great Lloyd Cole, “the reason its a cliche is because its true”.
I had to tell a couple of my team they were being made redundant this week. In typical fashion HR always comes last, when all the dirty work has been done! Its never nice, but I think as an HR professional its also good to have to put yourself through the things that you support managers to do. Its easy to snigger amongst yourselves about Bob the line manager getting worked up about telling his team member they are being made redundant, it another thing when you are Bob.
So I was sitting there in the morning getting my head around what I was going to say and the potential questions I might be asked when one of the team members I was going to speak to came in to the office. He was obviously on edge and upset and my initial reaction was that he had found out what I was going to say to him. Anyway I sat him down and asked him what was wrong and he tells me that his wife has been diagnosed with cancer and he is beside himself with concern and worry. We talk about it, I listen, I support, we arrange some additional health cover and he leaves to go to a meeting.
I sit back and reflect. What am I gong to do? If I can’t speak to him then I can’t speak to any of the others. If I do speak to him, what is the impact going to be on his health and well being?The HR man in me is telling me that there will always be something going on in someones life, that no time is good and to stick to the plan. The HU man in me is telling me that nothing is more important than life itself, that this guy has taken enough and the business can go swivel. At this point normally there would be an HR rep advising the manager, but that person is me.
After much soul searching I sat the guy down and told him that I really didn’t want to tell him this today, but I hoped he’d understand. That the business was changing and we needed to change with it and that time doesn’t account for personal circumstances. You know what? He took it like a champion. Said that there were more important things in life than work. That he respected my honesty and openness and that I had his complete loyalty until he left.
And that brings me back to assumptions. I’m not saying that what I did was right. Maybe the other route would have brought untold benefit. But the fear was in my head and the worst case scenario I had painted was limiting my ability to act. When I chose to act, the nightmare subsided. Is this luck? Or is it a lesson, that as long as we deal with any situation honestly, openly and with dignity, the worst will never happen.
I honestly don’t know.