HR Social – Unicorns, rainbows and pixies

Emotivism – I feel a bit bored of social media without the fighting

Prescriptivism – everyone should fight, because I’m a bit bored of social media

Yes, it’s a trite summary of someone else’s position – but it’s provocative, likely to start an argument and possibly upsetting so it’s actually ok.

————–

Yesterday I read this blog http://goo.gl/IGMvG by Neil Morrison. Neil had been tweeting similar for the past few days, so I thought I would reply. Then some people agreed with Neil, so I attempted to pop their bubbles and things got a bit out of hand. Later on things got even less professional with people attacking each other directly and losing sight of the point altogether. The final comments posted were simply not something you would ever like to see. It was just abuse. I wasn’t involved in them, but as you can see they are personal, distasteful and not fun.

I’m guessing, but I imagine Neil is delighted that he has acted as some kind of provocateur (not delighted about the abuse, but the debate), bringing more fire to the topic of social HR. Stirring up some action, creating a platform for more openness. In contrast, what I was seeing was how quickly things disintegrate when a lack of respect is shown. I saw nothing creditable, no quality of debate, none of the upside that Neil originally posted about. It was like telling everyone in a meeting that from this point on you just need to shout loudest to win. Neil’s view (lifted from his blog) is that –

Social HR should be:

Edgy

Argumentative

Difficult

Provoking

Upsetting

Social HR has become:

Cosy

Warm

Consensual

Boring

Predictable

Guess what – I think the first list paints a picture that is horribly exclusive and the second one a horrible caricature . If the point is ‘wouldn’t a bit more constructive challenge be useful?’ then the answer is normally ‘yes’. However, to think that anything (a business or a group) should aspire to a culture that upsets people and is ‘difficult’ is something that, historically, only people already in power desire.

Since I’ve started tweeting/blogging I have been reliant on the kindness of strangers, the warmth of a community and encouragement from people that I’ve never met to make a contribution. That is how this works, we get excited about first time bloggers because we recognise the bravery in those first steps. People contribute in the hope they have something to offer – quite often it may not be ‘new’, but it will always be a slightly different angle. People do this because there aren’t monsters lurking in the background waiting to leap on their mistakes.  People do this because most people realise that, deliberately upsetting other people is counterproductive, if you want to to get the best from others, rather than just ‘win” the debate. The job of leaders is to move people through the cycle of forming, storming, norming, performing as quickly as they can – not to keep it in storming just because you used to like it that way.

Ignore the words ‘HRSocial’  and you’ll find any group benefits from being welcoming, supportive and curious. If you give support and create openness you end up with ideas. If you shoot down ideas, simply because you want to upset people under the banner of debate, then you are killing thoughts. Steinbeck said ‘ideas are like rabbits, get two, look after them and soon you have hundreds’. We now have hundreds being socialised on Twitter and blogs, it’s harder to track down the ones you might want to keep as pets… but the choice….wow.

Do you know what else kills debate? Crude polarisation. The thought that if we create something ‘warm’ then it can’t have edge and must be boring. Or that consensus means there has been no debate. Or that upsetting people shows that you have edge. That if you aren’t upsetting people they only other option is that you are obsessed with unicorns, rainbows and pixies and would never challenge something you believe to be wrong.  Some of the finest people I’ve worked known have been able to challenge, provoke and shape  my thinking without ever having to upset me. In fact, if they had upset me it is unlikely I would have allowed my thinking to be challenged.

Neil wrote a ten point agenda for change in HR that I really liked. It contains the following parts that I think apply to ‘social’ as well as in business. After all, we are people in and out of the office…

We need to stop saying “no”. Our language, our communication to the business needs to be positive, not negative. We need to be owners of good news. Deal with problems individually, not by memo. Stop sending out dumb emails, if it isn’t positive, don’t send it.

We need to accept that you don’t get influence through control, you get influence through other people’s positive experience of you. Get influence through people wanting you involved not by telling them you have to be.

We need to listen to our employees and our managers. We need to stop seeing them as being “the problem” and start seeing them as being the people that we are here to help. They are the reason we have jobs, so stop moaning about them and start listening.

We need to be more human. We need to get out and talk, interact, spend time with people, we need to be empathetic and understanding, we need to feel. Sitting in the HR department bitching is not going to change anything.

I could sign up for that for being what we need to do on Twitter, with a few tweaks; I can’t sign up for being difficult just for the sake of it. There are other people involved when we are difficult. Those people matter. If you upset someone on social because that is what you think you should do then it is cowardly. You aren’t doing it face to face, you don’t have to deal with the consequences and unlike work they were giving their energy to the conversation for free. Bad form, bad form.

So what’s new?

Neil makes the point that he is bored of reading the same old things, that everyone is still talking about engagement surveys etc.  Well, that’s true, but everyone has a different angle, in fact, when I started blogging I read an article about blogging for HR that inspired me to publish my first blog, it was written by Neil and contained the following

I won’t have anything new to say
Take it from me, there isn’t a single blog post that hasn’t been written before, fact. But there are a million different perspectives to be had on a subject and with the news constantly changing, you get a whole load of potential new topics presenting themselves each week. Blogs that add insight, perspective, thought and challenge are as popular as those that try to be at the cutting edge.

I haven’t read a blog that I haven’t taken something from, even if it is just one person’s view of the world – and I’m always glad they took the time to share their view. I was glad I read Neil’s, it gave me the chance to write this. He’s written some great stuff and I’m glad we have people injecting debate, but I can never be glad when someone is the architect of conflict, because normally it isn’t them getting hurt.

(slight caveat – this isn’t the start of the ‘Dave vs. Neil’ wars to keep people entertained. This is just a counterpoint, similar to the excellent one offered here wp.me/p2YgNX-fq by Simon Heath. Which attracted less debate, but also less bile. Neil actually has been nice to me personally, supportive and welcoming. I just want everyone to have the benefit of that)

If you want to know what ‘social’ constructively might be for I’ve added a feel good video…

 

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7 thoughts on “HR Social – Unicorns, rainbows and pixies

  1. Thanks for the blog post and the mentions, you make some great points. You do make one big assumption though that I’d like to correct. I’m not delighted with the reaction to the blog at all. I admit, I was at one stage and then like a drunken night out it all seemed to descend in to darkness.

    I believe in debate, I believe that in order to get good thinking you need to provoke, I believe that you need to occasionally stir things up to move people from their comfort zones and get them to really think.

    I do not believe in name calling, I do not believe in personal insults and I do not believe in hurtful statements made for the sake of it.

    I’m actually sat with a cup of coffee just trying to figure out what happened and why. The reaction isn’t helpful to anyone, but it does show something that is wrong in the world of “social HR” or whatever we want to call it. I’m just trying to figure out what and why.

    In the meantime, I think we’d all be better off just letting the dust settle. Don’t you?

    Neil

    • I don’t think you approve of abuse, wouldn’t suggest that. Coffee and reflection is always a good next step. Now you’ve stirred I think it has to play itself out though… hopefully in a constructive fashion.

  2. This is a tremendously thoughtful post. What makes you such a strong blogger, in this post, is your heart and your sincerity.

    These are the types of HR blog posts I enjoy reading so much. I think you have captured the spirit of what’s missing in so many other blogs: tone, feeling and (dare I say it?) passion.

    Well done.

  3. Interesting to look at the disruption that this created. It fits in with the first definition that Neil offerred up. Although people don’t seem to like it.

    I see a little cosiness; it’s not my thing, but I’m OK with it. Any relationship that has longevity starts to look a bit more like the second definition. I think it’s inevitable but it’s good to step outside and examine what it is saying. I’m still thinking on that.

    From my perspective, Neil you provoke thought and, actually, in HR, OD, whatever, if that’s what we do – provoke thought, in a world that values doing things more than thinking about why, what etc, then we are making a significant contribution. I value that you do this with such clarity and fearlessness.

    I think we reveal ourselves through our online engagement, and the comments I read that were most distasteful simply reflect back on those making them and added nothing to the discussion. David, I interpret your own questions as an enquiry – a search to understand, explore, clarify and always challenge. I value that and for both of you, I’m always interested in what you have to say, even if I don’t agree with it.

    I liked the lines Neil shared at the end of his blog and I like these too:

    I do my thing, and you do your thing.
    I am not in this world to live up to your expectations, and you are not in this world to live up to mine.
    You are you, and I am I, and if by chance we find each other, it’s beautiful.

    Frederick E. Perl

    • Thanks Meg – and thanks for sticking with adding to the conversation when technology seemed against you this morning.

      (also you set me up for a ‘Perl’s of wisdom’ joke that I’m, unfortunately, not quite able to hold myself back from…)

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