Dare to be Stupid

Steve Boese Employee Communications, Steve Boese

You know that classic maxim, ‘There’s no such thing as a stupid question’; or its close cousin, ‘The only dumb question is the one that you don’t ask?Dumb

I am here to tell you both these old chestnuts are themselves stupid, and that there are absolutely all manner of stupid questions, and that countless stupid questions are asked every day in the workplace – by you, your staff, your leaders, pretty much everyone.  In fact, the entire belief system empowered by ‘There’s no such thing as a stupid question’, is nothing short of a massive cop-out, abrogation, and dereliction of the responsibility to do any real thinking, or to take five minutes and at least ask Google for the answer.

Stupid workplace questions abound, and they are not just limited to questions that have obvious answers like ‘Does the company’s new tobacco-free workplace policy apply to marijuana as well?’ or the one from the recently terminated Account Executive who asks ‘How can you fire me when there was nothing in the offer letter that said I had to sell anything?’

I’ll give you three easy examples in the ‘Workplace Stupid Question’ library, please do take a minute and add some of your favorites in the comments.

Workplace Stupid Question #1 – Typically asked by overeager veteran HR pros, (often with a little prompting from power-mad IT geeks)

Should we craft a new HR policy to address the proper and approved use or strategy to restrict use of new fancy technology website/gadget/concept that 20 minutes ago we did not know existed (or two years ago in the case of parent of teenagers)?

This question is stupid.  The answer is no.  Of course you already knew that, which is why the question is stupid.

Workplace Stupid Question #2 – Typically asked by sketchy looking dudes from the loading dock, or C-suite executives from giant technology companies:

I don’t see that (insert clearly inappropriate in civil society behavior of your choice here) is specifically addressed in the employee handbook, how can you tell me it is not allowed?

This question is stupid.  And the fact that it is asked in one form or another of HR professionals every day, sometimes multiple times a day, does not make it any less stupid. Most of us spend the first half or so of our lives being told not to do stupid things (even if they had not been previously explicitly forbidden); and the second half of our lives giving other people (kids, employees, blog readers), the same advice.

You know better.  I know better. Everyone knows better.  Stop asking.

Workplace Stupid Question #3  – Typically asked by the Party Planning Committee and the Committee to Plan Parties

Should we serve alcohol at the company holiday party?

This question is stupid. It falls into the category of ‘we have been through this so many times as a collective species, how can you not have yet sorted this out’. No doubt this question is still being asked.  This week here Tim Sackett here on Fistful of Talent, and Laurie Ruettimann on The Cynical Girl both addressed the question.  This question is stupid.  There are millions of organizations/companies/institutions in this country. Many, if not most of them, have been staging holiday parties for years and years.  There have probably been about 517,489,623 ‘company’ holiday parties thrown to date.  Chances are you have been to one.  If you haven’t yet figured out the answer to this question yet, you likely have some bigger problems.

The litmus test for most workplace and life decisions, ‘Is this stupid?’, applies to most workplace conundrums.  It applies to most simple questions as well.  There are indeed stupid questions. Quit asking them and you’ll be ahead of 95% of your competition.

Now as to the question of whether or not there are stupid blog posts, I will leave that to you, loyal readers, to decide.

Steve Boese

Steve Boese is fondly known to many as the HR Technology blogger. By day, he is the Co-Chair of Human Resource Executive’s HR Technology Conference. He is also a former Director of Talent Management Strategy at Oracle and an HR Technology instructor. Steve can also be found hosting the HR Happy Hour Show and Podcast … you know, where a bunch of HR pros get together and call in to talk about HR stuff. Sounds like an SNL skit, we know. But when you have Dave Ulrich, the grandfather of HR as show guests, well, I guess you’re doing something right.  Talk to Steve via emailLinkedInTwitter or Facebook.