Are you a thermostat or a thermometer?

Do you know the difference between a thermostat and a thermometer? A thermostat sets the temperature in a room, and a thermometer reflects whatever the temperature is. It’s summertime right now, and I’m a huge fan of air conditioning. If the room gets too hot, a thermometer will show me just how hot I am. But it won’t help cool me off. A thermostat, however, will trigger that A/C to kick in and make us all more comfortable.

Which one are you? Are you someone who feeds off of the emotion in a situation? When senior leadership panics, do you jump into full panic mode alongside them? If an employee comes to your office to rant about a situation, does your blood pressure go up with theirs? If employees are disengaged, do you get depressed and think that nothing will ever change?

HR should be the thermostat for our organizations. We should be the voice of reason when everyone is panicking. We should be the calm in the storm, the ones who help that employee see their situation objectively. The ones who calmly respond to senior leadership with knowledge and expertise. When engagement is low, we don’t sink, we roll up our sleeves and get to work reengaging our workforce.

It can be so easy to get caught up when emotions are high. And some of us are really wired to feed into emotion. But it’s critical for HR to be the ones who bring everyone back down to a reasonable temperature. If you find yourself getting swept into the emotion of the moment, there are lots of ways to center yourself. Practice mindfulness, take a break for a minute, tap into your #HRTribe, count to 10. Find the ways that work for you, and put them into practice. Your employees are counting on you, and you’ll keep that hard-won credibility when they know you can be depended on to cool the room down in every situation.

Which one are you – a thermostat or a thermometer?

One thought on “Are you a thermostat or a thermometer?

  1. Sometimes, it’s scary to be a thermostat if you need your job and worry about rocking the boat. I’ve found that it’s easier for me to speak up on behalf of myself and co-workers because I have the option of taking early Social Security. Without debts or dependents, I can speak freely. I suggest cultivating such people in any organization who can be open and honest because there’s no leverage to suppress them.


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