Last week I had the opportunity to visit New Orleans with a few friends. New Orleans is one of my favorite cities in which to spend a few days, and I’d been there many times previously. I love to wander the French Quarter, immersing myself in the sights, sounds, and of course the food of the Crescent City. And for all of the times I’ve been there, it seems there’s always something new to discover, something unique that catches my interest.
On this particular trip, my friends and I found ourselves wandering down one of the cross streets a little bit away from the main hustle and bustle of the Quarter, and we stumbled across the sign pictured above, advertising an apartment for rent. Of course we all had a chuckle and each of us stopped to snap a picture of it. I posted my picture to Facebook with the caption, “Apparently here you have to specify.”
Needless to say, we (and many others, judging by the number of passersby who also stopped to snap a photo) were amused by this bit of information shared. Was it a clever marketing ploy? Perhaps. A quirky tactic designed to draw the attention of tourists like ourselves? Maybe so.
But here’s the thing. Tourists like us probably aren’t particularly interested in renting an apartment in the French Quarter, so a fun bit of marketing to draw us in probably wasn’t the intent. This sign was directed at folks with a real interest in finding a dwelling in which to reside. And perhaps for those folks, the fact that this apartment is “not haunted” may very well be valuable information to consider in choosing where to live.
We all found it amusing because generally speaking, most of us don’t need to think twice about whether or not the places we live are haunted or not. We were processing this information from our own individual perspectives, our own realities, through our own assumptions. But in a city as rich in history at New Orleans, and with many well-documented accounts of hauntings (whether you believe in that sort of stuff or not), this information may not only be valuable, but also very necessary in making housing decisions. And in fact, upon further research, one of our friends discovered that this is actually a pretty common piece of information to be included on real estate signs throughout the city.
So what does this have to do with human resources, business, or leadership?
How often in the workplace do we fall into the trap of making assumptions based on our own realities, without really digging into the real facts?
- Do we tend to assume a particular employee or teammate is thinking a certain way….because that’s how we would think?
- Do we assume everyone is motivated in a particular way or by factors x,y, and z….because that’s what motivates us?
- In communicating with employees, do we tend to neglect certain details that might be important to others, because they don’t cross our minds as being important?
- Do we assume that particular female employee wouldn’t want that promotion into that demanding role because she has a young family at home….and surely she wouldn’t want to try to juggle all of those responsibilities?
Instead of striving to understand differences and thinking from a more global perspective, do we tend to fall into the trap of viewing the world through our own lenses?
As fun as it was to stumble across this “Not Haunted” sign, it also provides a valuable lesson in leadership, engagement, diversity, or employee communications. By making assumptions based on our own reality, we could tend to run the risk of alienating, de-motivating, or misleading our employees, our team members, our coworkers. Before we jump to conclusions, it’s critical to take a step back, lose our blinders, and think beyond our own realities, lest we find our actions and decisions haunting us!
About the Author: Jennifer Payne, SPHR, SHRM-SCP has over 16 years of HR experience in employee relations, talent acquisition, and learning & development, and currently works in talent acquisition and development in the retail grocery industry. She is one of the co-founders of Women of HR, and is currently the Editor of the site. You can connect with her on Twitter as @JennyJensHR and on LinkedIn.