Coloring Outside the Lines

Tequila Sunrise.jpgTequila Sunrise

Pour 1.5 oz tequila, .75 oz Citronge (or Cointreau) in a glass. Fill almost to top with orange juice. Slow pour grenadine for effect. “Float” Citronge or Cointreau over top with back of spoon.

“The world is not black and white”: a sentence that is usually met with frowns and contemplative silence, followed by the expectation that the recipient of the utterance capitulate to the speaker’s usually specious position. We reflect, in that moment, that there is a sliding two-dimensional gray scale on which all things should be measured and, as it’s all gray, there’s quite a bit of room for interpretation. As I listened to Sarah Bartholomeusz’s TEDx talk, I realized: we don’t live in a two-dimensional gray scale world either. Ours is a three (or more) dimensional world full of colors from a near infinite palette. And here’s the liberating part, at least for the Human Resource or Compliance manager who is faced with the observation that the world is not black or white: colors have rules.

This dress should be illegal.

Imagine, for a moment, blue. Chances are, you are probably seeing an azure, sapphire, cobalt, sky, royal, cornflower, or any of a hundred shades of blue. You might even see teal. In the end, we can agree, however, that the color we imagined is blue or in the blue family. Similarly, we’d reject the claim that canary yellow, mauve, crimson, or burnt orange are blue. Why, then, do we encounter such resistance to laws, statutes, and regulations?

Think of the last time, as an HR professional, you were asked to turn a blind eye to the salary exempt administrator who, for the nth consecutive day, was out on the production line because “a deadline had to be met” or when you read about an otherwise qualified female candidate getting passed over for a promotion because, well, “it’s still a man’s job.” I find it curious that these very same champions of civil liberty rail at the suggestion that the customer be put off (you can’t do that) or production be shut down until a safety item be reinstalled (our guys have to be paid). Last I checked, the Supreme Court has not yet ruled on the customer’s right to immediate service. If they have, somebody best alert the airlines.

HR requires a substantial amount of flexibility and adaptability. While consistency is an important value, we know that one size rarely fits all. Within the legal landscape, we have a full spectrum of hues to work with, but we must make it clear that we cannot change the colors.

Please share in the comment section a story of a time you were asked to “bend the color spectrum” and how you handled it.

Photo caption


2 thoughts on “Coloring Outside the Lines

  1. My acupuncturist’s office building is being renovated and the landlords forced them to close for one business day to get their new front windows and front door replaced. They lost a whole day’s worth of money but didn’t have a choice. How does that fit in with what you said above? Obviously this is not from the “customer must always be served” model but from the opposite “the customers must come in so we can keep our doors open” perspective. You mentioned that “the Supreme Court has not yet ruled on the customer’s right to immediate service”. How can a company expect to stay in business if they don’t please the customers? If the business doesn’t give the customer immediate service then the customer will go elsewhere which could put the business at risk. It’s kind of a vicious cycle, isn’t it. What are your suggestions for breaking the cycle while keeping a business successful?
    My boss acts like everything is a crisis and is a time-crunch and that puts a lot of stress on me at work. However, we are a small business and if we don’t put out quotes and quell customer service fires in a timely manner then we risk losing our contracts with manufacturers. I’m interested in your thoughts.

    My tone, by the way, is a curious one, not a demanding one. It’s hard to communicate via this medium without social and verbal cues. 🙂


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