I entered a line of work that instantly won me a few haters.
Some find us to be obstructionists, at best; Lazy, at worst.
Some see us as evil, paper-pushing, wastes of office space.
And that’s if you have some interaction with us.
Otherwise, we are completely irrelevant, oxygen-sucking beings that share your fridge at the office (if we don’t happen to keep one in our own office to stay away from you).
But, that’s just some of us.
Many of us actually like talking to you and helping you work through your battles at the office.
When my former assistant/current good friend and I needed to discuss sensitive topics in the office, we borrowed lingo from a favored George Lucas’ film series.
People were part of planets (departments) that behaved in Dark Side or Light Side behavior. The planets sometimes operated quite differently from the planet across the hall. Planetary teams sometimes entered into inter-galactic squabbles that required counsel by higher-ups. To bring out the light saber meant some serious disciplinary action was going to take place. Depending on the situation, you needed to send in a Jedi to resolve.
“..the Jedi mediate peace negotiations among planets and other factions and, if necessary, use their formidable fighting skills to quickly end unrest or neutralize dangerous individuals.” (Wikipedia)
By now you should know that my line of work is HR. Though today I coach and train executives and other leaders, you should know that I got through my early years in HR thanks to a lot of observation, note-taking and re-watching Star Wars and other philosophy-laden flicks.
I learned that employees work best when they learn to hash things out with an Obi-Wan type character, preferably their managers. I also learned that in HR your role is not to do the manager’s job. Seventy percent of my job was to listen and guide others. My job was easier if I helped develop other Knights not just within HR, but in every planet (department) I could influence. I was doing my job when they were finding their own wise solutions to problems and actively keeping the peace throughout their mini-galaxy.
My goal was always to bring supervisors to Knight-status through what my assistant called “Jedi Office Hours”.
No phone calls or emails are answered. That time was expressly intended to help someone work through an issue – usually big scary, hairy issues and nothing was more important at that time. The employee and management needed to believe that was true for the time to matter and for me, it was. A lot of good stuff happened and lots of great people came out of those meetings.
When scheduling their appointment I would simply ask them to write a one-sentence reason for the meeting, preferably either a question they needed answered, or the goal they wanted to achieve via that meeting.
I heard some pretty challenging situations during those years and hopefully was able to do some good. With that in mind, I’d like to share some of their questions or challenges each week on this blog.
If you, the reader, would like to ask a question or share a story and have me respond here, write to: firstname.lastname@example.org. I will do my best to respond promptly.
One last thought about being a Jedi, though.
“The Jedi are trained to use the Force through rejection of passions and commitment to justice, as opposed to the ideals of the aggressive, highly passionate school known as the Dark Side, favoring instead what is known in contrast as “the Light side.”
Not all situations have clear-cut answers but when it comes to people – keep it simple, keep it transparent and whenever possible, keep it light. That’s what I will try to do with my posts. Hopefully that will help others navigate the wonderful universe of working with people and keep the lightsabers in a permanent off position.