I Hate HR People

I said this on a call last week, and the HR person got offended. That’s ok with me. I’m not taking it back.

HR people are small minded. The can’t see outside of their own cubicle into the world around them. They write dress codes, they send out emails about “fun events this weekend!” and plan holiday parties. They can’t read data beyond headcount. They don’t read books. They don’t read magazine. They might read comics, but only the ones in the newspaper. They read the newspaper, but only USAToday. They are happy to be the ones to bring bagels to the staff meeting. They don’t push back on leaders making bad decisions. They send out mass emails to chastise everyone when one person makes a mistake. And if you ask them a question, regardless of whether or not they know the answer, they will talk…and talk…and talk. And then talk some more.

But you know who I like? Professionals who work in HR. Smart, talented people who handle complex business issues. Pros who know how to analyze data, rebuild a process and read a financial report. Pros who also know how to mentor a teammate, coach an executive through difficult personnel decisions, and run an investigation. Pros who can simultaneously represent the rights of an employee, the needs of the business and the demands of a leader. Pros who can look that leader in the eye and tell them know, even the CEO.

There’s too many HR people in HR, and not enough professionals. But its getting better. I’m excited about it.

(By the way, another method of spotting the professionals are the ones who work to improve their knowledge and be part of the growing professional community by attending conferences and reading insightful blogs. So chances are you one of them.)


  1. Dwane,

    I get your point, but silly word-games like this are actually detrimental to the professional as a whole.

    Because while you make a distinction between “HR people” and “professionals in HR”, 99% of the HR world does not. They view everyone as HR people, some more professional than others.

    So your words get misinterpreted, or worse, used against the whole profession.

    I think you need to come up with a new word or phrase altogether to describe the small-minded HR people. Because I self-identify as an HR person, and I read books, and I hate dress codes, and I don’t give a shit what event is happening this weekend unless it helps people do more rockstar work.

    I’d hate to see your point get lost because of a silly and hyperbolic word-choice.


  2. There’s no love like self love, Chris. I think we need to cull out the weak from within before those without can see the progress. Hyperbolic though it may be (nice word choice, BTW), we need to see there is a rift between the two and address it.

    (Full disclosure, I wrote this after sitting on a 2 hour conference call with those I would call “HR people.” It was my own personal hell, and I just had to share it with the world.)

  3. Dwane-
    I like the distinction, wish we could show it as a “stages” kind of thing. I’d love to think that the process is: HR People, by design, morph into HR Professionals. I think that at times leaders prefer to hire the HR people who will be responsive to what they ask, and not challenge their thinking on how people are hired, assigned, and developed. If they ever had a good HR Professional they would prefer them again and again, I’m sure.

  4. Ouch, Dwane! Tough love today for the “HR people”. Although I can identify with what you are saying (in fact, I used to work with someone who had a special name for these people, but I digress…), I challenge you to with this question: What responsibility do we have for helping the “HR people” see that there is a different way, using our own knowledge and experience to coach them toward being effective business partners, or do we brush our hands of them and say “They will never get it”?

    You say “we need to cull out the weak”. Sure, there are those who may need to opt for a different career parth, but I say let’s practice what we preach within our own function. There are a lot of good ‘HR people” out there who could turn into really great “HR Professionals” with just a little bit of coaching and mentoring.

  5. Interesting posts – if at times a tad brutal. I TOTALLY know where you’re coming from, and I share your frustration with the un-willingness (or is it in-ability?) for some HR peeps to ‘move forward.’ Is this the case in every profession or line of business? Sure; I see it happen within other functional roles too; perhaps we just hone in on it within HR because that’s where we reside.

    Now let me go beef up that email about dress code I need to send out to “everyone” since Suzy wore a low cut blouse yesterday…. 😉

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