An Important HR Skill: Question Your Assumptions

by Michael Haberman on June 13, 2011 · 0 comments


Question your assumptions. This was advice that Brian Tracy gave in his latest newsletter. He said “…to question your assumptions, both spoken and unspoken, is a key mark of the superior person.” I will go a step further and say it is the mark of a superior HR professional and a necessary skill. We all have a wagon load of assumptions that we have made in our professional lifetimes. We meet someone and we reach back into that wagon and pull out the assumption that we think most closely matches them. Things like:

  • He has a head full of gray hair so they will be looking to retire soon.
  • She is pregnant so it is likely she will not be coming back to work after she has the baby.
  • He is Hispanic looking so his English will be too accented for our job.
  • Women don’t do math well.
  • He has been making too much money so he won’t be satisfied with this job.
  • She doesn’t have a college degree so she is not smart enough to do this job.
  • He has been unemployed for over a year, something must be wrong with him.
  • Someone over 50 is not going to be able to adapt to social media.
  • etc.

You get my point. One of the hallmarks of a TRUE PROFESSIONAL  in HR is being able to question those assumptions and set them aside as needed. Tracy says “…false assumptions lie at the root of almost every failure.” He concludes that “The only way that you can root out these wrong assumptions is by carefully analyzing them and discussing them, and then by demanding proof or evidence that these assumptions are still valid.”

It is this skill that must be developed in each HR professional. Be aware that you have made these assumptions, be aware that others have made these assumptions and discuss why. What is at the base of these assumptions? Force yourself and others to face that perhaps your assumptions are incorrect and then have the courage to face changing those assumptions. It is only until you have this skill that you will be able to root out discrimination in your organization.

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