All British White Guys Look Alike #cipd11


Last week, I was invited to attend LinkedIn’s Talent Connect.

I don’t attend many of these fancy user conferences — an event where customers are treated to a series of sales pitches, demos, and expensive keynote speakers — so it was kind of fun. I learned a little bit more about LinkedIn and I hung out with my friends.

Life is pretty good.

One of the HR speakers was a British guy from BP who talked about the challenges of hiring awesome employees for a company that’s (legitimately) known as the biggest polluter on the planet. How do you attract great people to work at a company that killed dolphins and couldn’t cap a well for three months?

It’s all about people.

Good luck with that.

As this guy from BP was talking, I leaned over to my friend and said, “He reminds me of Marcus Buckingham.”

Right away, I felt awful because here is a little-known fact about me: I can’t tell British white guys apart. I know you’re like — back up, what? All British white guys look the same to you? I don’t believe you.

Well, I would say it’s a challenge for me to tell them apart without major distinguishing features. Disfigurements. Abnormalities. Crazy eyes. Whatever. I spent some time over in the UK when I worked for Pfizer. I worked with amazing colleagues at two facilities (Sandwich and Walton Oaks). I remember shaking hands with these brilliant men in recruitment and Human Resources and saying, “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

They would all respond, “We’ve met before. On your previous visit.”

Wow, yes, right, of course. My apologies.

It’s just that Andy/James/Thom/Neil/Wes/Jon all merge into the same person inside my jet-lagged brain. Really. I think the dude from Radiohead and the dude from Coldplay are the same guy. And I’m the most liberal woman in the world. I never want to offend. I am always worried about other people’s feelings. This problem is quite awkward. You are important to me — it’s just that I’m not good with names and faces. Especially if you’re a British white guy.

So back to the LinkedIn conference…

…I felt bad saying that the speaker from BP looked like Marcus Buckingham. I work in Human Resources. I should know better. I believe we are all unique and individual human beings who should be judged on our personalities and contributions and not our appearances.

Unfortunately, after the speech, my friend approached the speaker and said, “We think you look an awful lot like Marcus Buckingham.”

OMFG. I wanted to interject and say, “No! Not true! And I’m not racist!”

Thank god I have a filter and didn’t say that.

I did review my mobile phone pictures and it turns out that the speaker and Marcus Buckingham resemble one another (sorta). But this is a reminder that I need to work on remembering names and faces a little more effectively as I travel the world and meet new people — especially when I attend CIPD 11 in a few weeks. Have any tips? Marcus Buckingham is speaking and it’s a good opportunity to remind myself that diversity comes in all shapes and sizes — even white men from Surrey and Kent.

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