HR, Pop Culture and Bin Laden

Yesterday as I looked over my outline of blog topics and worked on some unfinished drafts, I had no idea that I would be motivated to write about a hot news story this morning. A last minute change in plan will be guaranteed NOT to be an in-depth analysis of anything, but a short blurb about my thoughts at the moment. Please bear with me on these ramblings as they flow:

Today is a major landmark in the war against terrorism. As I look back to my memories of 9/11 and the ways it changed my life, I have to pause to join those who are thanking the brave forces who have worked so hard to bring justice for those who died that day. Knowing personally some heroes of 9/11 who guided others to safety has given me undying respect for the survivors. Being a military veteran myself gives me no privileged insight to current strategy, but I do maintain a profound respect for those who risk their lives for freedom despite living in a culture that depicts them as bloodthirsty animals in movies or as cartoon-like characters on television. It isn’t popular to be heroic and those who rise to the challenge deserve our gratitude.

But tomorrow all will be forgotten and the spin begins.

We live in a society with the attention span of a gnat. Pop culture, instant communications and mass media drives our thinking rather than logic and reasoning. We have two body functions that can drive our lives and more often than not it is emotion or a rush of hormones rather than controlled use of brainpower. In the workplace, the break-room chatter this week will be about the death of Bin Laden. Last week it was about an overblown wedding ceremony costing millions in a country with high unemployment (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10604117). Next week it will be about who was voted out of American Idol. Am I being cynical or is there an inconsistency in how we view the life around us? Some would say that there is a need for diversion from daily life to maintain our sanity. How close are we to declaring the insanity of pop culture to be the norm?

As HR professionals we should somehow develop a sense of what makes people tick. To do otherwise would be to court anarchy and unprofitability. Not our only goal, but a key mission to keep things on track is to place value on the human beings in the organization and allow them to become the best they can be. The organization benefits from listening to people, not as in a democratic forum, but in an understanding of what motivates workers in order to produce the best mutual results. Sorry to be a nay-sayer, but fluff created merely to rally around the company flag is not much more mature than a high school pep rally. We all are guilty of letting emotion rule our decisions and that is not management’s finest moment.

The pep rally mentality is in full force today. While I cheer the demise of an evil leader along with others around the world, there is something beneath the surface which is very troubling to me personally about celebrating someone’s death. Somehow it seems that the primary difference between the cheering Palestinians ten years ago that the World Trade Center had been destroyed and the cheering crowds last night after the news about the death of Bin Laden is that this time our team won.