The Power of Words!

The first time it happened I had only been working in HR/People Ops for two-years and it caught me off-guard. A colleague, then twice my age with as much experience, repeated verbatim, my words back to me. She was using my advice as a weapon against me. The fact that these words were taken out of context and used to support a disastrous decision did not dampen my awareness that this was a new moment in my career.

On-and-off people use my words to make decisions, my words: spoken conversations, policies/ procedures, and written text: are followed very closely, often in my absence. Once, to avoid conflict between a department manager and a junior team lead, I suggested the manager have a neutral third party in the most sensitive meetings. For months afterward, the manager used my words to humiliate and bully the junior team lead. She invited the most junior team members, in a careful rotational system, so everyone was aware of some private matters. It taught me a vital lesson about the intention behind communication and to avoid relying on assumptions.

Experience helps to improve the advice I give, but I try to work to a simple principle:

  • You can pause mid-thought, and change what you’re saying if it will be taken as inappropriate.
  • Be clear, deliberate and mindful of what you say. Similarly, there’s nothing wrong in changing your mind with new information too.
  • Sometimes all that is needed is an apology! But, they must always be genuine.No alt text provided for this image



Yinka Opaneye

Yinka Opaneye

Yinka Opaneye is a highly experienced people operations expert with practical knowledge in recruitment, onboarding, and general talent management, culture mapping and change and general Human Resources processes.

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