I pick my feet up very carefully.
My old house has unusual dimensions. The bath tub is an example. The edges are high and when shower doors were installed years later it was by means of a metal track put on top of the edge.
If you ever stub your toes on these metal edges as you step over them the searing sensation is senseless. It hurts. A lot.
How many times have I done this? Maybe twice in all the years I've lived here. Why? The pain was so great and the feedback so immediate I do not need to test that again: I believe in stepping clearly in the right direction.
Pain at work
What about our work lives? What if we got searing feedback immediately? Would we contininue to do things we shouldn't? For example, talking over others at meetings. Using sexist, racist or any ist language in the workplace. Engaging in idle and even damaging gossip.
Would we do these things if we got feedback right away about their unacceptability?
The thing is, we do have the ability to react cleanly and clearly for some things. Light a cigarette in the office (in the US) and you will get immediate feedback. Use hate speech based on race? Immediate reaction. Falsify your expense report? Immediate. Violence, or the threat of violence, immediate removal and a referral to law enforcement.
So we do have the capacity to notice and respond. To some things.
But those things are on the extreme edge you say, and should be reacted to immediately. True. But shouldn't we give people immediate feedback on the things in the middle as well?
Our day to day experiences form our culture
Our culture isn't found in handy slogans bandied about occasionally Our culture is what we do, and accept, every day. The big things for sure, but mostly the little. The day to day.
Rude behavior in meetings isn't theft, but its just as wrong. Hate speech is intolerable under any circumstance, yet so is misogynistic behavior. Gossip isn't just petty as it influences opportunity, pay and promotion. Shouldn't we react to these as well?
Culture is the character we keep. What we're willing to accept and what we're happy to celebrate. You can influence culture. You do influence culture.
Every day by opting to accept or reject actions we influence how people behave. HR has a fundamental part in helping shape culture. We don't “own” that independently as culture is a shared responsibility. Yet we have a singular role in setting standards, providing feedback and sharing the stories that define our culture.
We have a visible and important part in helping to define and promulgate what's desirable.
You don't need to stub your toe to know what's right and wrong. You know by virtue of the values your orgnaization holds what's in bounds, what's not and what's close to the edge.
So give people feedback. Let them know how their behavior fits your culture. That is part of our role. It is part of our job.
And remember to pick your feet up.