I think all of us agree that living in a bubble is a bad thing. It is good to get out there and challenge yourself and your firmly held beliefs. It is good to realize, acknowledge and accept that people live different lives then us. That is pretty much conventional wisdom. Every once in a while something comes along that confirms conventional wisdom and I want to share that with you today.
Last week an employee in Microsoft’s Xbox division decided to sound off on some rumors swirling about the new Xbox. Supposedly, the new Xbox will be “always on.” That means to play a video game you must be on the internet and no dial up service will suffice, only a high speed internet connection. A lot of people are upset by this for a number of reasons ranging from spotty internet service in the U.S to servers being overwhelmed (Google SimCity if you want to hear more on that).
On Twitter a director from Xbox said “deal with it” and some people responded back with justifiable complaints about spotty internet in rural areas of the country like Blacksburg, Virginia or Janesville, Wisconsin, asking if he ever had to deal with that. To which the director replied “Why on earth would I live there?” (read the full article here).
That’s an interesting response from someone who is ultimately paid by the people complaining. In the HR world this would be comparable to rolling out your open enrollment plan on line, not giving employee’s access to a computer and then saying “why don’t you have a computer in your own home?” You are essentially saying “Not my problem you don’t have a computer! Get with the times!”
Now quite a few people were upset by that person’s attitude and Microsoft had to issue a blanket apology.
But stuff like this is a rarity right? It especially never happens in HR. In HR we always think of employees as customers. We realize that those people are the ones who ultimately pay our salary…right?
Unfortunately, I’m not sure that is the way we think all the time. Sometimes it takes a mini-uprising for us to remember that not all of our employees live in the same circumstance, not all of them have computers and iPads at their disposal.
If you haven’t lived through a hurricane it can be difficult to understand why communicating office closing can be difficult (there is usually no power). Until I lived through a hurricane and the resulting chaos afterwards (no power for days, clean up, roads blocked, etc;) it was hard for me to comprehend the disruption even a minor hurricane can cause. Now I know.
This isn’t to say that you need to experience hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, or live without a computer but it is to say that we should all be cognizant of the bubbles we live in. The Xbox director who made those comments has probably lived most of his life in a hyper connected big city like Seattle but he isn’t designing a system just for Seattle or other big city residents. It’s the same thing with HR and the programs/initiatives we roll out.
Before you roll out your latest plans ask yourself some questions: Is this relevant to the people in your company? Did you make a good faith effort to understand how this change would affect all employees? When you hear a complaint or suggestion is it taken seriously or do you write it off as “their” problem?
I know 99% of us want the best for our employees but sometimes we can get wrapped up in our own world…please don’t let that happen. If it does, apologize immediately. Don’t dig yourself a deeper hole by acting like the problem is with everyone else.
4/11/2013 Update: the Microsoft Director who made those comments is no longer with Microsoft