Brain Enhancement and Human Resources


Lisa Takeuchi Cullen’s blog post from Sunday evening is very interesting. She reflects on an article about “brain enhancement” and the possible use of performance-enhancing drugs in the workforce.

We all feel the need to perform well at our jobs (right?), especially when the economy is horrible and threats of layoffs loom large within many of our organizations. We tell ourselves that it’s important to be a visible, reliable, high-performing member of a high-performing team…

…but let’s not kid ourselves. I write about Human Resources, and we all know that HR moves at its own pace. There’s no need to rush. We’re comfortable with our limits, and we spent several weeks writing a detailed, lengthy ‘workforce policy’ to justify our level of service to our employees. You can see it on our company intranet site — when we get around to publishing it.

Performance enhancing drugs in HR? No way. Give me a break. There’s no need for Adderall or Ritalin because there are two types of Human Resources professionals:

  • Those HR employees who knit, have cats, and drink tea because they don’t care for the taste of coffee.
  • Those HR employees who are alcoholics.

Where do I belong?

I don’t knit and I prefer coffee, but I do have cats. I see shades of myself in the group of HR professionals who knit. They have a way of dealing with the pressures of the modern workforce — they go home at 5:00 PM and establish separate lives apart from the company. If they wanted to earn a bonus for their performance, they would work in sales or marketing.

I also know a great deal about HR professionals who are alcoholics. If it’s Tuesday, it’s tequila.

This HR group is populated with bitter baby boomers and early/mid Gen Xers (1962-1972) who carry around bottles of Jack Daniels, cynicism, and resentment. Don’t ruin their buzz, dude. They don’t need your ‘pharmacological witches brew’ of speed and meth-like prescriptions to interfere with their company-mandated depression.

I was born in 1975, but I know the combination of small-time-thinking and too much rum. It’s dangerous and depressing.

Sometimes I wonder if performance enhancement isn’t a matter of managing the appearance of youth and beauty. Statistics show that workforce decisions (hiring, firing, raises, promotions) are impacted by an employee’s age, race, weight, and beauty. I’m as guilty as the next employee of waking up in the morning and accentuating my positive features, hiding my wrinkles, and stuffing my fat ass into a pair of Spanx to appear younger and more energetic. I’m a complicated woman who is lazy enough to ignore feedback (“feedback is for suckers”) but ambitious enough to manage my performance with a little bronzer and a flat-iron.

At some point, my looks will fail me (if they haven’t already), and I will openly consider Adderall, Ritalin, and Botox — along with leveraging my knowledge, skills & abilities — when I’m no longer able to find and keep a job based on my core strengths.

My core strengths? My ability to drink excessive amounts of vodka martinis and my love of talking about my cats.

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