When I started in HR during the 90s, dress code policies were still a big deal. At my corporate job, we dressed up for work in formal business attire. I remember our policy distinctly said that employees could not show their tattoos and, if they happened to have a ring/stud anywhere but in their earlobes, they had to remove them for work.
Flash forward a decade and a half where I’m setting up the HR function from scratch. I wrote a dress code policy where I said employees could dress “business casual” but should cover their tattoos at work. Boy, was I ever wrong! Between the 90s and the end of the aughts, a huge percentage of the population got tattoos. The CEO of the business I worked at told me to remove the “covering up the tattoo” requirement since it was pointless.
10 years later I was in my final HR role and, again, writing a dress code policy. No “formal business” or “business casual” with the accompanying list of what was/wasn’t included. I just said, “Dress appropriately” in homage to Mary Barra, the former head of HR and now CEO of GM, who revised their ridiculous 10-page dress code policy to these two words.
While HR rules grow greater every year – new or revised legislation, changing cultural mores – I grew less willing to hold them rigidly. I saw how maintaining the rules made me lose connection to the purpose behind them. The compliance needs of HR had taken precedence over the human needs of the employees.
Rigidity lives in formalized structures that care more about process and how things appear to others. I found myself becoming rigid when I wouldn’t accept applications for job openings after the closing date. I was rigid when I followed each step of a Performance Improvement Plan instead of sitting down and having a heart-to-heart discussion on the behaviours that led to the employee being on a PIP.
In short, I lost the “human” in human resources. The cost of rigidity was seeing humans as “resources.”
The opposite of rigidity is fluidity. I decided to focus on building connection instead of maintaining structures.
Think of that final HR dress code policy. Dress appropriately. Implicit in that statement is trust. I trust my employees are adults who know how to dress themselves. They don’t need me policing their appearance.
In the land of fluidity, I take things in context. I am here primarily to connect to another human not to parent them with rules and regulations. I picture myself as Simone Biles on the balance beam with rigidity on one end and fluidity on the other.
Shedding rigidity means getting rid of what doesn’t serve you anymore. It feels great to remove the weight of rigidity. Removing the weight of rigidity brings you closer to balance.
Shedding your rigidity
Look at your balance beam and observe its weighting both at work and at home. Are you tilted more toward rigidity than fluidity? Bringing yourself into balance starts with recognizing when you’re not.
Consider the consequence of that rigidity. You may find one answer revolves around unsatisfying relationships due to decreased connection.