The Doctor is Out

I’m not a doctor, but I play one on tv.

That’s an old commercial so it my not resonate with many of you but what I remember being surprised about was that the actor had to remind the viewer he wasn’t a doctor. As if.

Flash forward to current times and I find myself using a variation of that line quite a bit. “I’m not a psychologist, I don’t know why people do what they do.” Now, my psychologist friends assert they don’t know why either, that their role is to help the patient discover for themselves, but again, I’m not a psychologist.

In our field – the extended field of dealing with humans and human interaction in the workplace – others can sometimes assume we understand personal motivations, drivers and assumptions. Yet people are complex, and while the vast majority never get into behaviors outside of norms, some will violate values, policies and maybe even law and yes: we deal with them every day.

Given this, the seasoned human resource practitioner needs to remember a few keys.

  1. Most people are good. The few who get on our radar have crossed some line and must be dealt with accordingly. Healthy cultures make spotting aberrations easier but even toxic ones let us see when people act out. And when they do we take the appropriate action considering the nuances in the  case. The key point? Bad actors – although they might consume our day – truly are the 1%. They are not representative of our organizations. Don’t become jaded.
  2. We are not doctors. Don’t waste a lot of time trying to ascribe meaning or motivation to transgressions. Focus on fact-finding and then remediation. Don’t be surprised when people attempt to explain things by introducing non-relevant facts. Don’t worry about the “why” as much as the “what.” People need to be held accountable. This is called adult behavior and you don’t need an M.D. to practice being adult.
  3. Be humble. After years of doing this work you can tell yourself you’v seen everything. This fault tends to emerge after around ten years in a discipline. The watch out in HR is that this feeling causes us to stop listening, and listening is one skill we must have. Every case really is different. Every situation must be dealt with on its own as well as in light of precedence. Every person must be respected. Be humble, be real and be present.

I don’t always know why people do what they do.

I do know what our values are supported by our policies. And I don’t have to be a psychologist to know that it is the impact we need to deal with and understand in our businesses, not the intent of the actor.

Be well my friends.


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