by Matthew Stollak on Friday, July 3, 2009

Let's get it out there: I have no sense of smell (what the medical community calls anosmia). It is not the result of taking Zicam or some strange head injury. I don't ever recall having the ability to tell one odor from the next. I cannot tell you the difference between a rose or a daffodil. Despite beliefs to the contrary, I can still taste. I can distinguish between sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and Umami. A Reese's Peanut Butter Cup tastes better than brussels sprouts. However, I am sure my taste buds are not as refined as others.

Luckily, I chose a career (or, perhaps, it was chosen for me) that did not require that I utilize that particular sense. I knew early on that a career as a cook, fireman, or forensic expert was not in the cards. So, don't expect to see me on any future episodes of Top Chef, Rescue Me, or C.S.I.: Milwaukee.

However, much of the work in human resourses is often "extra"-sensory. We operate and use a lot of constructs. Most, if not all of these constructs in human resources are hypothetical. They are not "things." We cannot take one and put "it" on a table for examination. The keyboard I am typing on can be touched. I can see the keys I am typing on. I can hear the noise when I press my fingers against their black veneer. It may have a scent (I'd have to rely on others to confirm that fact; I know 'Eau de Logitech' is not a popular perfume). And, if I so chose, I could lick the keyboard and see how it tastes, but I will leave that up to others .

We want to encounter "authentic" applicants, clients, customers, suppliers, co-workers. We try to identify those employees who are "leadership" material. We demand "quality" products and services and try to achieve "equality" and "diversity" in the workplace. We want to deliver pay "equity" so that employees are "satisfied."

Lest I be misinterpreted, note that hypothetical constructs CAN (and do) have biological, cognitive, and affective correlates, causes, consequences and dimensions. Rather, the distinguishing characteristic of a hypothetical construct is that it has no arbitrary definition. The definition must be 'made up' by theorists, and theorists can disagree as to what should be included in the definition or if the construct even has any utility to begin with.

Can we truly find "objective" measures to assess and evaluate employees and applicants, or will we continue to rely on common "sense" to guide our decisions?

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