By now, you've heard all you need to hear about the Olympic swimmers who were robbed/not robbed at gunpoint/not at gunpoint after vandalizing/barely vandalizing a convenience store in Rio.
Who's to blame? Like most of the stuff we deal with in HR, the truth is somewhere in the middle. And it's messy.
There's one thing that's certain, however. Whatever happened, we're dealing with the equivalent of a log cog employee/candidate when it comes to the response of the primary swimmer in question. I'm going to refrain from naming names, because some of the stuff that follows could be viewed as unkind. Let's call the swimmer at the middle of the firestorm "Bryan Rochte".
Bryan is responding to the controversy in a way consistent with the low cog employee/candidate. Let's break it down.
First up, what do we mean by "low cog?" Low Cog means Low Cognitive. If you're into testing candidates before you hire them, most of you will do behavioral assessments and as a part of that, some of you will measure cognitive skills.
High Cognitive candidates can take in large amounts of information and make quick accurate decisions. Low cog candidates aren't comfortable making choices that quickly - they need some soak time to arrive at the best possible decision. Cognitive tests most often require a candidate to complete X number of problems in a limited period of time - often making the candidate feel it's impossible to complete all the items in the time given.
Flash back to "Bryan" first responding to the reports that he had been robbed at gunpoint. However that story got started, he had a chance to set the record straight when Matt Lauer showed up to interview him the first time. Instead, he went with the story he shared earlier. That's consistent with a low cog candidate in an interview, or a low cog employee under pressure at your company.
What you say next will set up multiple dominos in the next couple of days. You've got 5 minutes to figure it out because Matt Lauer is coming up the elevator. Go!
Instead of backing off, he doubled down. Couldn't make the right decision in a restricted timeframe under pressure. Make the right decision - tell the whole truth about you ripping down a sign and in response to that, guns being drawn - and you're OK. A little black mark on your history but you likely keep the endorsements for no other reason than.... guns being drawn on you and everything that implies.
Low cog makes poor decisions under pressure. It's not about being dumb. It's more about processing speed and having the ability to make quick, accurate decisions under pressure.
But wait, there's more. Bryan the low cog swimmer had another chance when the story broke bad. During the "mea culpa" interview where he apologized, it was a great time to get some of the facts out that related to what happened while still taking full responsibility. To the contrary, low cog can't see the game and what's possible with the second interview, instead simply apologizing rather than doing a combo apology/let me tell you all the details session.
Low cog employees and candidates don't perform well under pressure. They need time to soak in the details and talk through options, hopefully arriving at the right decision/course of action after unlimited soak time.
You can hire people like Bryan - they can be good employees. But you should never put them in a spot where they have to deliver on demand.
And for the record, I'd like to know whether the security officers in Rio kept the money or if it made it back to the store owner.