Anyone can give a balanced opinion on any matter. Research the different sides of an issue and then present all of those different sides in an intelligent manner. It’s not always easy to do but executing on it isn’t a problem if you know how to properly research and write. If you are unsure, you can have multiple people look at it to make sure you have balanced the issues correctly.
Of course, the idea of fair and balanced is rightly mocked when it clearly isn’t so but even truly balancing the issues leaves something to be desired.
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve walked into a meeting with a person who presents me with all of the facts of the situation (something I already knew) as well as the possible solutions (something I could have deducted) and considers that a meaningful contribution. When pressed for an opinion, they state the fact that there are some great options available and that their are strengths and weaknesses to each one.
I’ve also worked with people who expected that role of balancer to be filled by the HR person. Some thought I was supposed to facilitate discussion, make sure every viewpoint was heard and help balance out the conversation.
I will not make sure every dumb viewpoint is heard for the sake of being heard. I will not give equal weight to the wrong decision as I would the right one. HR isn’t Switzerland. It isn’t Geneva. This isn’t a court of law. And try as you might, HR will never ever truly be that anyway.
So what do you do? You try to be fair. You try to not bend over backwards for assholes who try to take advantage of your fairness. You try to follow a smart process. You try not be handcuffed by that process. You try to follow the advice of your boss. You try to keep your job. You try to be considerate of people’s privacy. You try to carry out thorough investigations. You try to detect lies. You try to remember you aren’t a mind reader.
Here’s what you don’t try to do: You don’t try to be right. You make the right decision. Every time. And when you make the wrong decision, you correct it. And when it isn’t your decision to make, you let the decision maker know exactly where you stand on it.
Maybe a fair process isn’t mutually exclusive of a right decision all of the time. But when the choice is between either handcuffing yourself to a process or making the right decision, you have to remember what is important.
You aren’t a neutral party. Be opinionated, be imbalanced and be right.