I’m a natural cynic, which means that I don’t buy the hype around anything from pony rides to human resources conferences. If people are having fun, I’m skeptical.
There’s a term for how I view the world. I’m a defensive pessimist. I try to figure out what can go wrong so I can prevent sorrow and chaos. Believe it or not, it’s a positive way to experience life. If I can imagine worst case scenarios, I can be organized and prepared. I can help others avoid heartache by being organized and in control.
Some people who have these tendencies are cops, lawyers, judges, and even government workers. First responders and medical professionals think this way, as well. They see what the world doesn’t want to see.
My worldview challenges people around me who are strategic optimists and try to avoid anxiety and conflict by always looking at the bright side. Every cup is half-full, and every obstacle is an opportunity to grow. If you experience life with a positive attitude and an open heart, you can avoid regret and despair.
Some people who have these leanings are actors, kindergarten teachers, Zumba instructors, and anybody willing to dream and do without too much of a contingency plan.
Neither profile is wrong. Defensive pessimists can be strategic without forgetting about the fifteen steps it takes to accomplish a plan. Strategic optimists can be tactical without getting too caught up in the weeds.
I think the most successful HR professionals can flex when appropriate. Sometimes they’re considering all the risks, and sometimes they’re willing to dream about a future unencumbered by rules and regulations.
The key is to stop letting Harvard Business Review and Bersin by Deloitte tell you how to operate and starting crafting your world view. What’s inside of your brain matters just as much as what the experts say in the latest Forbes article. You know how to operate your HR department better than any other thought leader in the marketplace.
So here’s my advice:
- Be a defensive pessimist who knows that workers are exploited on a regular basis.
- Be a strategic optimist who sees a link between happy employees and overall productivity.
- But the bigger point is to be you—fully informed, present, and confident about your HR expertise.
At this stage in your career, you’ve earned a right to be heard as a leader with a valid opinion on all things HR-related. If you’re looking for a sign to accelerate your career and talk more about your HR philosophy, this is your sign.
The time is now.
Laurie Ruettimann is a writer, speaker, and entrepreneur based in Raleigh, NC. She’s working on her next book about fixing work due out in 2020.