… the HR Minion. Because even minions have opinions. And giggles.

BS and HR

When I was in high school I joined the debate team and it was probably the best decision I made. The skills that I picked up in debate prepared me for and served me well, not only in college but in my professional career as well. Debate helped me develop the ability to critically examine a topic from multiple sides, to research it, to construct arguments, and to stand up in front of an audience to present and defend those arguments. Besides, how cool is it to be 16 years old and not only be able to intelligently discuss controversial issues but philosophy such as utilitarianism, social contract theory, and the categorical imperative?

Yes, I was that cute and yes, I did letter in debate

But despite all of that, the best skill I learned while in debate was how to bullshit. I have to say, being able to BS effectively is an incredibly underrated skill. Even in HR. No, especially in HR. I’m not talking about lying, manipulating, or even making things up; that’s completely different. What I’m talking about is the ability to think on your feet and be able to convey confidence in ambiguous situations. As an HR professional I am often thrown into situations with employees and managers who are upset, confused, and are looking for guidance. The last thing they need or want is an HR person who is just as lost as they are, even if deep down that’s the case.

HR isn’t black and white, there is a lot of gray. No matter how well prepared I am or the extent of my knowledge, I frequently encounter situations that catch me off guard. That’s part of the fun of HR for me, it can keep you on your toes. So when I encounter one of these situations the worst thing I could do would be to throw up my hands in defeat simply because I don’t have an established policy to fall back on. I need to think on my feet, propose possible solutions based off my HR knowledge, convey calm and confidence, and convince others that even if I don’t know the answer to their problem now, I will find a solution for them soon. In short, I need to be able to BS my way out of a tough situation. That is what debate taught me and that is why I firmly believe that no matter how you learn it, you need to learn how to BS effectively.

But you know what’s real bullshit, like, the bad kind? My high school debate team is now struggling against budget cuts and being shut down. Considering the great legacy and reputation Lakeville debate has, that would be shame, not too mention a real disservice to the students currently involved and all the future students who could benefit from the program as much as I did. For 12 years I have given up Saturdays and week nights during debate season to judge for my old team at tournaments. Trust me, I wasn’t doing it for the money. I did it because I believed in the value of debate and wanted to help. I owe and will continue to owe a lot to debate and I gladly support the efforts to Save Lakeville Debate. And that’s not BS.

19 Responses | Add your Own

  • 1 Paul DeBettignies :

    Class of ’98… I am old.

  • 2 Shauna :

    Paul – OMG, stop it! You are not old! πŸ™‚

  • 3 akaBruno :

    I did 4 years of H.S. debate as well, and judged my first 2 years in college.

  • 4 Shauna :

    Matt – There are a lot of HR people who are former debaters! I love it.

  • 5 akaBruno :

    I still find myself lapsing into Planks and Contentions.

  • 6 Shauna :

    Matt – I still break arguments down into multiple points, want to argue definitions, and frequently am tempted to ask for evidence. #DebateGeek

  • 7 Dwane Lay :

    I was also a 4 year member, but I was on the performance side. Radio broadcasting, extemporaneous speaking, prose reading, storytelling, and assorted stage performances. We didn’t do straight L&D, and my other events never allowed me to do group debates. I did, though, get to practice with the team as the oppositions, so I suppose I was on the practice squad. And, I have to say, I held my own.

    On the Twitter stream for the last Happy Hour, I threw out the question about actors (you could sub performer or debater here) and their EI level, and whether or not that experience makes them better prepared for the business world. I don’t know the EI side of that answer, but I’m confident that the second part of the answer is a resounding yes.

  • 8 Shauna :

    Dwane – I’m not surprised at all that you did forensics/theater in high school. πŸ™‚ I agree, i think that experience teaches you a lot of the skills that will help you succeed in business.

  • 9 John Jorgensen :

    Digging the letter jacket. Wish I could find mine…

    I agree with Paul…damn I am feeling old.

    Good post Shauna.

  • 10 Paul Hebert :

    So this is where they got the idea for the debate team…


  • 11 Shauna :

    John – Ha, I still have that letter jacket. πŸ™‚

    Paul – a lot of great things can be traced back to Greece/Rome… πŸ˜‰

  • 12 Tweets that mention Shauna Moerke is… Β» Blog Archive Β» BS and HR -- Topsy.com :

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by brittmmoore, Trish McFarlane. Trish McFarlane said: Love this post! Must read of the day!! RT @HR_Minion: New Post: BS and HR. http://ow.ly/3AiJO […]

  • 13 The HR Carnival :

    […] on her high school debate team. She learned the value of “bullshitting” and says in BS and HR that it has served her well. It is indeed a valuable skill to […]

  • 14 Chris Ponder II :

    Hey Shauna!

    I do not know how I missed this post! What an awesome and fantastic post!

    I wasn’t in debate, but I can honestly say that I would have enjoyed it.

    Great post!!!


  • 15 Shauna :

    Chris – I think you would have been awesome in debate!

  • 16 Mary Appleton :

    Love this post. I also used to participate in school debating competitions/public speaking competitions. I always dreaded the part where they opened questions to the floor – more often than not, the questions were being asked by adults – far more experienced, older and in some cases wiser than me! The challenge, then, was to sound convincing, sound authoritive and confident in what I was saying in answer to their queries, which mirrors what you say in your post:

    “I need to think on my feet, propose possible solutions based off my HR knowledge, convey calm and confidence, and convince others that even if I don’t know the answer to their problem now, I will find a solution for them soon.”

    However – the situation’s turned on its head. No longer am I a schoolgirl with relatively little knowledge, but an adult with much more experience. If you’re an HR professional, more often than not, people are coming to you for help, support and advice as they have virtually no knowledge of the subject themselves. They see the HR professional as the authority. So rest at ease – while you might think you’re delivering BS it probably sounds a lot more convincing than you think!

  • 17 Laura Schroeder :

    Yeah, debate’s good BS practice but you should try writing on cakes at a Jewish bakery! My attempts to be artistic with little hearts and lassos did not go over well. There’s no professional training like facing down an angry mom who’s bar mitzvah cake you just ruined.

  • 18 Shauna :

    Laura – Yeah, I’m glad I’ve never had to experience that!

  • 19 Shauna :

    Mary – It’s amazing how convincing you can be when you state things confidently and with authority. Very useful when BS’ing.