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Pansy Fail

My fellow Trench HR blogger, Chris Ferdinandi, is one of the first people I followed on Twitter and his blog (Renegade HR) is one of the first I subscribed to. He’s one of those (young) guys who is experienced and wise beyond his years and he’s worth getting to know. This year he published his second annual “Do Amazing Things in 2011” – a free e-book. He asked me to contribute. I did so gladly. And here’s what I submitted. Make sure you download the book to get even better wisdom from a bunch of even smarter HR pros out there. Enjoy…

Just today I actually heard a senior leader refer to the HR Department as “a bunch of pansies.” While he did so in jest, we all know what fuels jest…reality. We were discussing who we might invite to be part of a multi-dimensional contingent dedicated to setting priorities and instilling accountability around practice building initiatives. The over-arching qualifications for candidacy to this contingent was the ability to challenge the status quo, speak with candor, and hold their own with authority. In his mind, HR is just one big FAIL when it comes to these qualities. And I can’t say I disagree.

So if you want to do great things in 2011 – and this will be uncomfortable for most of you – get an edge, thicken that skin, stop slouching, and cause just a little bit of discomfort for others around you. Discomfort breeds reaction, reaction leads to action, and – positive or negative – action sure beats the alternative.

• Take a position and hold it
• Disagree in public
• Challenge authority
• Raise your voice, lose your temper
• Don’t just nod your head, shake it too
• Spark a debate and take the least popular side
• Spot an injustice and then eradicate it
• Go on the offensive
• Start some banter
• Fight fire with fire
• Risk embarrassment
• Ask “why”?
• Step on a few toes, cross the line, disregard territorial claim
• Hold people accountable
• Have zero tolerance for uber jerks

Like all good things in life, moderation should be observed. But stretching (or allowing) yourself to be this way will be good exercise for your mind, spirit, and soul…and the aura you impart on others. It will give them pause. It will force them to reconsider your place in the organization. They might even ask you to join in their fun and games. But if nothing else, they will see you as human. And that’s really the only reason we’re here to begin with.

Image Credit: spitfirelas (Flickr)

  • Jay Kuhns

    Great message Charlie. We all need to go for it!
    Jay Kuhns´s last [type] ..Small Stuff Kills

  • Amanda

    When I came to read this article, I thought it was going to be a comment on objection to the use of the word ‘pansy’ or to being disparaging at all. ‘Pansy’ has a connotation/etymology that implies a person is effeminate, and I object to its use. The whole ‘be a man’ thing, I think, doesn’t have a place in this conversation. Also, noticed that in the ebook the title was changed to “Don’t Be a Wimp,” so I guess someone else objected, too.

  • Charlie

    Jay – thanks for the resounding support

    Amanda – seriously? Chris Ferdinandi changed the title because he’s just plain ole nicer, kinder, and gentler than i am. and he’s hoping to share his publication without heckling from the likes of you. i, on the other hand, could give two shits. so get over it and stop being such a pansy.
    Charlie´s last [type] ..Get Busy Being Relevant

  • Amanda

    What you mean (at least the connotation) is, “Stop being such a girl,” and I just don’t think it’s a very responsible way to describe the result you’re advocating. I think your point–that HR should be more aggressive, push back and speak up in ways it traditionally doesn’t–is a good one, I just think there’s a better way to say it. I’m not trying to heckle, just expressing an opinion.

  • Charlie

    Amanda – i appreciate your opinion. but part of my opinion is that we as a society need to get over crap like this. the point of this post has nothing to do with how it’s titled. and yet the HR traditionalists out there find a way to get caught up in it none the less. as you well know every word brings multiple connotations and definitions. while you might associate ‘pansy’ with a reference to feminine qualities, I associate it more generally as a reference to being “soft” or “delicate” or “cowardly.” it is you and only you drawing the connection to those as being female qualities…not I. Hmmmm, isn’t that interesting?

    [pan-zee] Show IPA
    –noun, plural -sies.
    1. a violet, Viola tricolor hortensis, cultivated in many varieties, having richly and variously colored flowers.
    2. the flower of this plant.
    3. Slang: Disparaging and Offensive
    b. a weak, effeminate, and often cowardly man.

    [adj. ih-fem-uh-nit; v. ih-fem-uh-neyt] Show IPA
    adjective, verb, -nat·ed, -nat·ing.
    2.characterized by excessive softness, delicacy, self-indulgence, etc.: effeminate luxury.
    Charlie´s last [type] ..And Along Came Watson…

  • Colleen

    Charlie, and Amanda:

    I have to agree with Charlie on this one. “Pansy” is an effective remark to invoke the feelings he is trying to express. “Wimp” just isn’t quite the same. When I think of “pansy,” I don’t go to the “what a girly thing” place – to me, it just means that you aren’t holding your own, a pushover, no conviction!

    At least he didn’t say “man up!”

    BTW – I love the final item on the list. NO ONE should have to deal with uber jerks!!