The Blank Stare

I don’t have a poker face. If I am winning or excited about something, it oozes from my whole being! I am just plain terrible at controlling my non-verbals … in my personal life. I don’t really have a “poker face” for work, either.

At work, I use the blank stare.

It’s one of the most powerful weapons in my HR arsenal. I blank stare by telephone. I use the blank stare emoticon in emails, texts and tweets. I love it! It’s great.

I’ve been told I should teach classes on how to give the blank stare. I’ve also been told that it is intimidating and off-putting by some people … and I am generally OK with that.

Because everyone should have a healthy fear of HR.

When used correctly, the blank stare will effectively communicate any of the following without saying a word:

  • Disagreement. Got a manager proposing something outrageous that there is clearly no time, resources or purpose for venturing at this time? Don’t call them out or debate it.

Just give the blank stare.

  • Disapproval. Got employees and managers making crazy claims or requests? Don’t gasp in horror or growl in disgust.

Just give the blank stare.

  • Disinterest. Got carriers and vendors trying to sell you goods and services you don’t want/need and can’t afford? Don’t run from their calls and emails or politely sit through presentations.

Just give the blank stare.

While I am making light of it here, the blank stare really is important for anyone in management — especially HR. People inside and outside our organizations are constantly seeking a reaction that shows agreement, approval and interest in what they are presenting. And we cannot automatically give them the reaction they want. We have to remain neutral so we can gather more information and make complete, thorough recommendations.

So we give the blank stare. Not to dishearten or dismiss — but to make it clear through our demeanor that we have not been significantly swayed and our decision will always be based on what’s in the best interest of all parties and the goals of the business.

Because the side HR and all of management should be on is the side of the mission, vision, values, goals, policies and procedures. These are created to be good and do good. It’s people who make mess, muck and muddle. HR brings the balance and perspective to keep everyone on the same page and moving in a productive direction.

And nothing brings people back to reality like a good ole’ blank stare. Try it. Today.

Comments Closed


  1. I enjoyed this article! And I use the blank stare as well. 🙂

  2. Gotta say, I don’t agree with you. I don’t want people to have a healthy fear of HR. I want them to love HR. I want them to do the right thing so I don’t have to use the blank stare or put on the black hat of HR..(blog post coming soon).
    For those reading this comment, Buzz is a great great friend and HR professional so there is no hard feelings or bad blood, we just disagree on this like we did on the whole Lamar Odom situation. Poor Lam-lam.

    Alright good stuff.

    • Buzz Rooney

      June 22, 2012 at 11:25 AM

      I don’t think we’re disagreeing. I don’t want HR to be “the bad guy” — but I don’t want them to be “the punk” either. Everyone comes to HR because we’re the heart of the organization — and they think this means we’re soft. Well, actually the heart is the STRONGEST muscle in the body and it’s strength, health are most critical. It has to be guarded — and I think the blank stare is one way to do that. I want employees and managers to know that HR takes things seriously — but we will not be manipulated by emotional pleas. Underneath the surface, I may be screaming, weeping, angry, etc — but my face always says “I hear you. I will look into it and get back to you with the resolution as soon as possible.”

      As for Lammy, we were actually both right. On an upcoming episode of KUWTK, he tells Bruce that his personal problems combined with the shock of the trade and his reality show fame had him messed up and impacted his play. So he and Khloe make the decision to end their spin-off show so he can focus on training and playing. But I am still mad at the media for being so callous in their criticism of him — and I think it’s a lesson for HR because we cannot afford to be callous toward people.

      And yes, readers, it’s not that serious. Chris is my dude. We agree to disagree as professionals sometimes but continue to encourage and support each other always. Good stuff, indeed.

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