ASSUME … makes an ASS out of U and ME


A memory jogger that I learned on the first course I ever attended. Corny, terrible and something you’d only say if you don’t mind being laughed at…

…but so true and relevant.

In fact, nearly all HR law is based on this one, very simple principle and what needs to be done to stop all of us making assumptions about others. You see, it’s assumptions about potential employees that gets us into trouble with the authorities.

The incident that got me thinking about this has nothing really to do with employment law. It was a court case recently heard about a lady who got drunk on a flight from Bombay to London.

The bones of the story go like this: lady gets drunk on a flight. She’s young and attractive but gets abusive with flight staff, she has an eighteen month old boy with her and tosses his soiled nappy onto the row of seats behind, letting him run around naked. She strips down to her underwear to change clothes in the aisle of the aircraft.

It also turns out that she is an heiress of the Guinness family and moves in the upper echelons of society.

She was charged with something like being drunk whilst on an aircraft but got off on a technicality… something to do with it being difficult to prove that she was drunk as the aeroplane entered UK airspace, claiming that she was suffering from sleep deprivation.

The claim is that, if this was Vicky Pollard (of chav/Little Britain fame) and didn’t have the posh accent and money that she would be in prison for six months.

Okay, let’s relate this back to HR law by exploring your assumptions… and you need to be honest with yourself, here.

Did you immediately think the heiress was guilty as charged? Did you go on to think that she is a spoiled brat? Did you then make the leap to believe that she’s also an unfit mother?

If you answered ‘yes’ to one or more of these questions, don’t worry, you are actually with the majority of people in the UK… or at least those listening to the Jeremy Vine Show on Radio 2.

My challenge to you is this…

How could you possibly know the answer to the questions I posed? Unless you were there, you know the lady in question or have the full evidence in front of you there is no way of knowing whether you are right or wrong in your ASSUMPTIONS. Because that’s all they are; your assumptions based on how you feel about the situation.

Just about all employment law, however badly enacted, is about preventing assumptions based on our own personal feelings of things we very often don’t understand. If we could all get passed the assumptions we make about people there wouldn’t be the need for the dreadful red tape that comes as part of legislation and all our lives would be easier.

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