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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. 🙂

8 Comments leave one →
  1. 11/08/2010 10:29

    Very interesting point. I think we all inevitably start to mix our work / life persona after a reasonable amount of time in the role. Particularly sales orientated types. I met an old friend for a beer the other day, and he’s a counsellor. His wife was constantly asking him NOT to be ‘the counsellor’ when at home. His thoughts were the same, its been that long that it was an ingrained part of him the man.
    I suppose the bright side is we could be in worse jobs that we would take home with us, can’t think of a funny one, but it is Monday so will welcome suggestions.

    • 11/08/2010 22:25

      I think sex therapists have quite a ‘hard’ time!

  2. 11/08/2010 16:08

    I’m with your wife here. If you wanted Emma to pick up your son you should have asked her. She sounds a nice lady and would probably have agreed straight away. No resulting guilt would have ensued (we women were born with a very sensitive guilt receptor) and no suspicion on your wife’s part about your integrity.

    As for bringing you work home – we were at lunch with the family of a primary school teacher on Sunday. WHAT an efficient household and what helpful, well behaved children. It’s not all bad when you bring your work home. Of course mud wrestlers or prison warders should take care!

  3. 11/08/2010 21:47

    I agree with Sue. At work you may be able to justify manipulation for the ‘greater good’ (whatever that is) but I’m struggling here. Your friend sounds kind and I’m sure she would have if you’d just asked her. Sometimes we get so used to behaving a certain way at work – through necessity – it’s sometimes hard to break the habit when we leave the office.
    If the friend had been asked to collect the boy because of a birthday then your wife might have felt the warm glow of friendship while she drank her champagne, rather than the ensuing, albeit fleeting, discomfort.

  4. 11/08/2010 22:55

    What a cunning, scheming and manipulative man you are.

    When can you start?

  5. Aussie HR Chick permalink
    11/08/2010 23:20

    What, none of you HR people have ever used your powers at home? What’s the point of having them then.

    In the reverse though…….

    Do you think perhaps many of us gravitated towards HR because we ALREADY had and were using these skills to influence outcomes. I certainly do. We play to our strengths – at work, in relationships, in getting the bank manager to give us a better rate on our home loan. Everywhere. It might not work all the time, and sometimes it might backfire, but we still do it.

    I’m with you HRD. And I bet Mrs HRD is secretly wishing she came up with that approach first.

  6. Lena permalink
    11/09/2010 02:24

    Way to go, HRD!!
    I’d so hire you, but I can’t afford you!! There would be no suspicion on my part, ever…

  7. 11/09/2010 09:09

    @paul – My wife is a teacher….I often get sent to the naughty corner…..

    @Sue – Welcome and thanks for taking the time to comment. The start of this, that I didn’t mention was that she felt she couldn’t ask anyone as she’d already arranged a “lift partner”. Personally I wouldn’t have had an issue with the direct approach, but seeing as she felt uncomfortable with that……

    @Rich Baker – Thanks for commenting Rich…..the discomfort only lasted a glass or two! As I said above to Sue, it was more that she didn’t want to ask.

    @Stephen O’Donnell – You don’t get far in this game without a few ninja skills!

    @Aussie HR Chick – Interesting point….perhaps we are drawn to the profession because we are good at the influencing. And I agree…..I think we all bring it home….maybe we just don’t notice.

    @Lena – I can offer mate’s rates! 🙂

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