Judgment Day

Use your judgment.

Its trendy for people to say things like its not my role to judge others, or, you’re not the judge, or my personal favorite, don’t judge me man!

Judges and judging have gotten a bad rap.

Yet if you’re an HR professional I have news for you: you are the judge.

We’ve previously dispensed with why our craft does not need or seek “people persons” but we haven’t mentioned judgment. Here’s a tip: its what we do.


If you’re early in your career you might be tempted to reject that. Who am I to judge you might ask. Well you’re the HR person. You use – or should use – your judgement every day.

Little of what people do in the workplace is absolute leaving much to be interpreted. Who does that? You.

Consider recruiting, selection, promotion: rarely is there ever enough objective information to make these calls without some form of interpretation. How will this person fit our culture. What does this promotion say to others in the workforce. Will this person stay long-term.

All forms of judgement.

And what of employee relations, leadership development and strategic planning? Who’s disruptive? Who can we build on and invest in? Who can be a leader and who a follower?

Judging. Determining. Deciding.

Even in the more mathematical functions of our work – compensation, benefits and OD – we still use models as proxies for determining the best next step but we use our judgment to weigh that step. Benefit adjustments? Lump sum increase this year? The best leadership model for our environment?


Honing Judgment

People aren’t machines or numbers or objects. They present nuance and challenge. And judgement by its nature has a margin or error. But the HR person with poor judgment is the ineffective HR person and soon the unemployed HR person.

Make no mistake, good judgment is the DNA of HR.

How to develop same? Three things.

  • Get clear on your core values, your personal beliefs. If you don’t know what those are take time to figure it out. You need to know what you believe.
  • Seek out organization culture that supports that. You cannot demonstrate good judgment if you’re in a constant state of value conflict with your host environment. Your view will always be questioned.
  • Judgment is both fact and feeling. Facts are absolutely imperative to sound HR practice but sensing how a decision makes you feel is as well. Righteous? In step? At odds? Your feelings will tell you when you’re our of alignment – when your judgement is suspect. Listen to them.

Good judgement can be cultivated and, like any skill, must be practiced to maintain its edge. It is part of what we do. Our businesses expect and need us to apply sound judgment in an often murky environment.

Let’s be clear: in rendering judgment there are often winners and losers. You are not going to make everyone happy.

And that should never be your driver.

If you’re not comfortable in this role then no, this job is not for you.

Don’t judge me man.


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