What Value Should We Place On Workplace Opinions?

Have you heard of Godwin’s Law? If you engage in online debate or haunt message boards of any type you will either know about it or have contributed to its propagation.

Godwin’s Law essentially says that the longer an online argument runs, eventually it will reach the point where one side makes a comparison to Hitler or the Nazis. ‘Reductio ad Hitlerum’ if you like. At that stage the argument is usually pretty much over.

By having to make that comparison, you’re already clutching at straws. Unless you are Sean Spicer of course, when this is probably just the start of the hole you are digging for yourself.

Some would argue that in the sporting world, we have our own version (let’s randomly call it Joe’s Law). It’s perhaps applicable to all arguments about the GAA and the ingredients are as follows:

First a reference to a nameless (but incredibly well positioned) inside source, then a disregard for any actual fact checking, followed by a hyperbolic comparison or analogy, usually rooted in the golden years of the GAA (where manly men doing manly men things patrolled the pitches, forwards routinely picked off 5-16 such was the flow of attacking football and the art of defending consisted of breaking your opponent’s jaw at the first opportunity, but leaving it all on the pitch afterwards mind).

Once you find yourself employing any of these ingredients in an argument, you risk invoking ‘Joe’s Law’.

Often in cases like these, it happens that most evidence will be comprised of interviews with witnesses. The problem is that these interviews often contain a huge amount of opinion and very little fact.

Consider the question: did you see person ‘a’, in place ‘b’ at time ‘c’? The answer can run like this: “Well, normally person ‘a’ likes to get breakfast on a Friday at that time so I would imagine that’s where he probably was then”. Or the old chestnut; ‘I heard him say x,y,z’ to her, but what I think he actually meant was’.

These are opinions, guesses (educated or not) and sit way at the bottom of the pile when evaluating the evidence. CCTV, emails, letters, invoices, receipts, photographs, screengrabs – all these tangible items carry much more weight than opinion in these situations and let’s face it; all interviews are susceptible to the interviewees perceptions, life biases and world view.

So the key is: figure out where opinion matters and where it doesn’t, where it will add value and more importantly, where it won’t.

Opinions vs facts; place weight on these appropriately. Just be careful you don’t fall foul of ‘Joe’s Law’.

:: Barry Shannon (bshannon@cayan.com) is HR director at Cayan in Belfast. ::

Source: irishnews.com