May the force be with you
Saturday night was pretty much run of the mill. The boy was out at some party or other (the kids have social lives way in excess of anything I have) I was cooking and the girl was curled up in front of the open fire watching some sugary sweet American rubbish on one of the gazillion kids channels we somehow seemed to have signed up for in perpetuity. The only difference was that the following day was my wife’s birthday.
I asked how the boy was getting home and she said that she was picking him up at 8pm, the kind of time that really sucks. Do you eat before or after? And of course, that means no glass of wine until after (which sucks normally, but trebley so when it is the eve of your birthday). She was pretty pissed off about it all and I (for reasons I won’t go into here) couldn’t go in her place. This was the second time in a row that she had copped the “pick up” shift on a Saturday night with our normal lift share friends, albeit through no fault of theirs.
The party was at a house of a parent that we don’t know really well, they live in a different village and don’t move in the same social circles. “Do you really not want to pick him up?” I asked. (Ok dumb question….but I’m trying to take you along with me ok?) And of course she said that she didn’t but what other choice was there etc etc. “Send Emma a text and ask her which house it is, say that you have the address but don’t know where it is” I replied. Emma is another friend of ours whose son was also at the party. “Why?” she asked, “Just do it” I said, vaguely reminiscent of a sportswear commercial.
Within minutes a reply came back, “Are you picking up? Do you want me to pick up the boy and drop him back?” Of course, my wife graciously accepted and set about uncorking a bottle of champagne in celebration (of her birthday not the text……our social lives aren’t THAT bad!)
What interested me about the whole thing was that she felt bad. She felt that she had somehow been duplicitous and underhand. For me, I guess things like this are second nature. There were no lies involved as we didn’t know where the house was, all we did was ask a question that led to a response. The other person had completely free will in the circumstances. I suppose what I didn’t realise was how ingrained that skill was in me.
As an HR pro you have to sense situations, to assess human behaviour and learn how to address it to achieve the outcomes that you believe are right. Is it influencing or is it manipulation? Does it really matter? Of course you could use this for less than honourable purposes but then karma will almost certainly come and forcibly take you from behind.
What was the outcome? Well, Emma didn’t do anything other than she was intending on anyway, she went and picked her child up from the party and brought him home, she just had another occupant in the car. Mrs HRD got to have her wonderfully cooked dinner (by moi) and sup a couple of glasses of champagne for her birthday. And me…..well I got a moment of temporary adulation as she realised what I’d done…..followed swiftly by a whole load of suspicion and wariness about what else I might be up to…..
Oh well, I guess an HR jedi’s work is never done. 🙂