Calling It Like It Is

Kathy Rapp Audacious Ideas, Coaching, Communication, Culture, Employee Coaching, Employee Communications, Employment Branding and Culture, Executive Search, Good HR, Hiring Managers, Interviewing, Job Seeker Advice, Kathy Rapp, Leadership, politics, Recruiting

My conversation with my daughter this morning:

Daughter:  “Mommy, you are just a little beautiful today.”

Me:  “Well, I think you are completely beautiful.  Why am I just a little?”

Daughter:  “I don’t like those jeans on you.  Or your shirt.”

You’ve gotta love the unfiltered honesty of kids.  She also enjoys literally pointing out when I have “a big red bump” on my face.  She’s four.  She doesn’t know that on any given day her brutal honesty could bring me to tears, nor is that her intent.  She’s just calling it like it is!

How many times in your HR career have you had the guts to call it like it is?  What happened as a result?  Did you end up helping someone, hurting them or both?

My fellow Texan John Whitaker recently wrote:

“Then there’s the sometimes awkward disposition phone call to the candidate(s) not making the cut.  Do we explain to them that they talked with marbles in their mouth, had breath like a dragon, appeared to be a dedicated over-blinker, and/or had the energy level of a dial tone?  Or, do we soft-pedal (lie) the feedback to let them know that despite overall positive feedback, we have decided to pursue a stronger candidate?”

Yes, HR folks are often in tough scenarios like this.  How we communicate with candidates is part of our employment brand and also can keep our company out of hot water; however, isn’t there a way to get the point across in a respectful way?

I am the one who will give the tough truth; perhaps not calling out dragon-breath but indicating the person should have popped a few Altoids before walking in.  And you know what… I’ve never had anyone get pissed off.  Ultimately people know when you’re trying to help them.

I’ve found that when I’ve tried to soften rough feedback, sometimes it doesn’t sink in. Case in point—the over-talker I coached pre-interview.  Told him the hiring manager likes it when people get to the point.  Be succinct.  Talk for no more than two minutes and then pause.

The result?  He blabbered on and on and never wrapped up an answer to the hiring manager’s questions.  The feedback from the hiring manager?  He liked to hear himself talk.  Pass.

And for those times we can’t speak the truth, we should remember to just shut up vs. trying to dance around the truth.  “Of course I can’t tell you if your name is on the RIF list.” Period. Or, “Yes, I know why Sally is no longer with us after the sales convention.” Done.  Don’t need to say anymore.

More often than naught, you probably have the opportunity to really help someone by kindly giving them the truth.  As my daughter will tell you, there’s a difference between ripping off her Elsa Band-Aid vs. dabbing a little rubbing alcohol or olive oil on it first.

There’s an art to telling it like it is after all!

Kathy Rapp
Kathy Rapp is the CEO of hrQ where she helps companies find groovy HR Talent for permanent or project roles across the country. Prior to joining hrQ Kathy booked more than 15 years of diverse HR leadership experience working in F500s and start-up organizations. A connoisseur of the intersection between pop culture and business, Kathy believes many talent insights can be gleamed from the succession planning lessons experienced by Van Halen and AC/DC.