In the shoes of others

I have my two children at home with me at the moment. One is a 20 year old second year university student, the other turns 18 tomorrow and is/was in the final year of her A-levels. It is fair to say that both of their lives have been severely disrupted by the current situation. But they can’t agree on who has it worst.

Social comparison theory explains how we determine self worth by comparison to others. Those that we perceive to be better off than us and those that we perceive to be worse off. Whilst under most conditions we have the learnt ability to keep these things to our internal voice, under stress and pressure, the veil of social acceptability can sometimes slip.

That’s why my son thinks his lot is worse than his sister’s as he is dragged away from his home, his life and his friends. And she feels done to beyond compare, as her A levels have been snatched away from her.

In a similar way we can see this play out in the world of work. People who are at home bemoan the fact and long to be out and about and working. Those out at work long for the safety of the home. We point the fingers at football players and CEOs, whilst they talk about their tax and charitable contributions being greater than those of most.

Reactions like this are entirely normal, they’re part of our psychology. It doesn’t mean that the judgments we make are entirely right, or indeed entirely wrong. They are how we make sense of the world and allow us to find our sense of self.

“I am justified in my actions, because of xxx, whereas they are not because of xxx.” 

“They are a good human being because they do xxx, they are a bad human being because of xxx.”

But at the same time that these reactions are entirely human, they provide little benefit in a time that requires more social cohesion than at any point in my life. We can’t stop ourselves having these thoughts, but we can ask whether expressing them is truly helpful to the situation we are facing into, or is more about making us feel better about ourselves.

There will be time aplenty to assess the rights, the wrongs, the successes and the failures. We will all look back and ask ourselves what more we personally could have done. Until that time, we might be better stopping to think what it is like to walk in the shoes of others, rather than bemoan them for not walking in ours.

It doesn’t hurt to be kind

A lesson I’ve learnt as I’ve got older is that kindness is a very different to softness. Too often, images and predetermination of the role of HR professionals can make the young practitioner shy away from kindness, fearing the tag of being soft, weak, indulgent – typical personnel.

This is a complete misunderstanding of kindness.

You can be kind as you break some of the hardest messages to people, deal in the most difficult of situations. You can be kind as you lead others through troubled times. You can be kind in every aspect of your work, no matter how trying or hard.

Being kind is to show consideration for others – that is at the heart of our practice and what we do. The antonym of kind isn’t tough, it is cruel. There is no reason that you cannot be both tough and kind, in fact I’d argue that’s in many ways aspirational.

As we go about our practice, whether you’re a human resources professional, a manager or leader, we can all take time to be a little bit kinder, no matter what the context. By putting ourselves in the position of others, by displaying empathy and understanding, we can help not only to achieve better results, but to learn and grow ourselves.

Kindness in business is not a dirty word, it is the secret that too many overlook.


Tell me more, tell me more…..

I’m interested in who you are.

Not how you come across.

I think that takes a lot.

To look beyond the presentation and understand the person beneath. So much of our lives work on the superficial and we create the back story in our minds that justifies our initial perspectives.


He is…

She is…

I am…

With our 1% of perspective we create 100% of knowledge.


Or searching for understanding?

What would happen if we gave a little more of ourselves? If we invested a little more in helping people to understand us rather than complaining that they don’t?

What would happen if you risked a little more? If you expressed a little more? If you lived a little more?

How much do the people about you know about you? What makes you laugh? Where you’re ticklish? What makes you sad? What gets you up in the morning?

Would that make you a lesser person?

If people knowing more about you makes you more vulnerable, doesn’t it also make you more likeable?

Would you rather be liked for something you aren’t.

Or disliked for something you are?

The world according to HR

1) Our policy will change your behaviour

2) Training adds value……it just does.

3) If it doesn’t work, change the form.

4) Our influence is driven by our self importance.

5) You don’t need money, you need thanks.

6) Pretty pictures make you want to work for us.

7) The less we spend, the more we get back.

8) Managers are the biggest inhibitor of good management.

9) Your commitment is shown by your willingness to accept the staus quo. Until we say so.

10) Do as we say, not as we….write position papers, hold conferences and generally fail to act.

This post was slightly preempted by the wonderful Michael Carty. You can read his work here.