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5 Dumbest Management Concepts—Is HR One of Them?

HR Management
by Stephen Bruce, PhD, PHR

“It’s a truism that nothing is certain in this world except death, taxes and bad management. But why?” asks author and blogger Geoffrey James. He blames five flawed management concepts that became popular in the 20th century. HR is one of them!

James is a prolific writer and observer of the business scene and is the author of seven books, including Business Wisdom of the Electronic Elite. We found James’s “5 dumbest concepts” in his blog on bnet.com.

Dumb Concept #1: “Downsizing”

Thousands upon thousands of articles in the mainstream business press characterize CEOs as “courageous” because they instituted a downsizing, James says. Apparently, the decision to fire people is so difficult, the CEO who takes that path must be a brave and lonely soul. He’s putting the interests of the investors ahead of his own kindhearted inclinations, and making the difficult decisions that will allow the company to remain profitable, James adds.

But, wait a minute, Chester! How, exactly, did the company get into a situation where it needed to fire people in order to remain competitive? James asks. Sure, markets change like crazy in today’s world, and business conditions have become more challenging. But isn’t it the job of the CEO and the management team to predict those changes, and to staff the company appropriately? Isn’t it their job to retrain people, so that challenges can be addressed?

Here’s the truth, he says. Downsizing means that management has failed and rather than doing the right thing—which is to quit without severance—they’re passing along the penalty for that failure to the people who, in good faith, tried to execute the flawed strategy, says James.

That’s why top managers love the word “downsizing,” James explains. It makes the results of failure sound like a strategy, rather than a desperate way to remain profitable after top management has made a complete pig’s breakfast of things.


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Dumb Concept #2: “Leadership”

Peter Drucker, says James, pointed out what should be obvious to everyone—that all this talk about “leadership” is a bunch of horse manure.

James says that he can’t hear the term “leader” without thinking of the leader of a marching band. That’s the person who takes a big stick and makes it go up and down, while the band does the work of actually making the music.

Drucker’s point was that the business world doesn’t need leaders. It needs managers—people who can actually manage a team of people.

Being a manager means being in service to the team. It means giving the team credit and making everyone else successful, James says.


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Dumb Concept #3: “Human Resources”

When you talk to people who work in “Human Resources,” they pretend that they’re all about helping people to become more successful. But the truth is that the entire concept of HR is really just a way to make sure that employees don’t act uppity, James says. (!)

What better way to let people know that they’re expendable commodities than calling them “resources”? he asks. Indeed, the entire concept of HR is designed to make the process of dealing with real live people as bloodless as dealing with electricity or shipments of iron ore.

Let’s face it. Many, and probably most, HR groups are just spies and shills for management, says James. “Don’t believe me? Try taking a complaint about your manager to the HR group and see what happens.”

So, as we go forward, he says, let’s stop talking about “human resources” and start calling people what they are: people. People who have real lives and real ideas and real emotions and who, frankly, are doing work that’s often more important than that of the top executives.

What do you think, readers? Does James have a point? Let me know by choosing “Comments” below or e-mailing me at sbruce@blr.com.

In tomorrow’s Advisor, we’ll get the last two of James’s “5 dumbest concepts,” and we’ll take a look at a unique program just for small, or even one-person, HR departments.

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  1. Anonymous        
    February 16, 2011 7:17 am

    I have been in HR for only six years, but I agree with James’ point that Human ‘Resources’ is a bit de-humanizing. Years ago, the office was called ‘Personnel’, which at least had the word ‘Person’ in the description. Every day at work, I do my best to treat people as individuals, which is the way I’d want to be treated. Although I work for a small organization, I am proud of the fact that employee comments about me include references to my easy-going manner.

  2. Anonymous        
    February 16, 2011 7:19 am

    James doesn’t have a clue — one two points.

    Management is an administrative function — necessary but impersonal. Managers manage processes and people according to set guidelines. Leaders fuel creativity and strategic thinking as well as problem-solving.

    As a Human Resources Manager, I resent the implication that we don’t have our employees’ best interests in mind. True, my first responsibility is to the company but what would the company be without its employees? We advocate in both directions on the food chain to achieve a business strategy that is mutually beneficial.

  3. Anonymous        
    February 16, 2011 7:32 am

    As an HR Manager, I take exception with the idea that HR is simply a spy for management. I walk a tightrope every day trying to meet the needs of employees while still complying with company policy such as the chain of command. Helping employees work through issues with their manager is far more rewarding than simply “ratting them out”. Besides, if everyone that complained was reported to their manager – who’d be left? (And I do realize that sometimes the manager IS the problem!) You shouldn’t discount the importance of employee relations as a key part of HR.

  4. Anonymous        
    February 16, 2011 7:45 am

    Human Resources can be quite effective and one of the best ways for businesses to maintain a strong employee-first culture.

    Calling Human Resources a dumb concept is more likely because the author’s never seen or been part of effective Human Resources functions and practices.

    If the author thinks Human Resources doesn’t handle complaints effectively, perhaps he should create list of managers who take full responsibility for employee recruitment, development, management, compensation, benefits, and other needs as well as doing her/his real “business” responsibilities.

    The true dumbness is that Human Resources has evolved into a catch-all for things that are required by law or company policy and things that managers do not or cannot fully own and execute alone.

    Ineffective or inefficient would be far more accurate a descriptor than dumb. But then, would that be sensational enough to catch attention?

  5. Anonymous        
    February 16, 2011 8:07 am

    So why don’t we go back to calling it the “Peronnel Department” instead of HR.

  6. Anonymous        
    February 16, 2011 8:24 am

    This was a really stupid article written by someone that doesn’t undertand life or business.

    It sounds like a college professor that teaches socialist philosophy and never worked a day in his/her life, let alone run a business.

    Get rid of the author.

  7. Anonymous        
    February 16, 2011 8:45 am

    I agree with James on some points and I do imagine that many HR groups don’t always act with the employee’s best interest in mind; however, I’ve been in HR for more than seven years and my business partner for more than twenty. It’s a fine line between doing what’s best for the company and doing what’s best for the employee – we’re not all spies and many of us do in fact care about the employee’s best interests, but again it’s a balance that those not involved, don’t always understand.

    Employees for the companies we work with know that they are welcome to come to us with complaints and/or concerns, but there are legalities to follow on both sides. It’s a tightrope and one that is rarely pleasant. Just because “Human Resources” seems like a generalization and dehumanizing way to refer to people, it is what it is – no reason to find an over embellished politically correct term for it.

    The people aren’t always on the up and up so it would be interesting to know what he has to say about employees who do their best to cheat a company, sue an employer because they didn’t like the way so and so said their name, or try to get fired just to go on unemployment – believe me, we’ve seen it all. The good and bad is on both sides.

    When the law catches up with human emotions, then he’ll be onto something. Until then, his idea of HR being a way to prevent people from getting uppity…sounds bitter, not professional.

  8. Anonymous        
    February 16, 2011 8:48 am

    Yes, I do agree James to some extend. Most of the personnel in the HR department are involved in the administrative process . The real HR philosophy and practice should come from the Managers of the organization irrespective of their functional diversity . The HR managers and top management has a role in educating and enlightening this role to the other Managers.By doing so one can enhance Peace, Harmony, Progress and even better health . By not doing so I can add one more certainty-”Nightmares”.

  9. Anonymous        
    February 16, 2011 8:58 am

    I can agree with him on Concepts 1 and 2.

    But taking “human resources” out of context, simply as resources, begs the question; what do you call them? People, you say?

    6 billion at last count. So what now what.

    I’ve been in the HR/Personnel game a short time (since 2000). I aint no spy or shill…I am required and expected by administration to have far more savvy than a spy or a shill.

  10. Anonymous        
    February 16, 2011 9:02 am

    I would like to comment on this article, and specifically Dumb Concept #3, Human Resources. I think BLR’s idea to post this individuals “rantings” shows a lack of knowledge of the disciplines of Management and Human Resources. Making a comment that HR groups are “just spies and shills for managment” is inaccurate and without merit. The author should support his statements with data, rather than make biased comments and generalizations. My experience has been that the function of Human Resources is to give employees an outlet to voice their concerns and have their issues addressed by an unbiased party. In addition, complaints made against managment are investigated with the same diligence as any other complaint. In my experience managers are held to a higher standard than their direct reports, so if their behavior warrants action, that is what is done. Your author has a vindetta and you have given this individual the forum to complain, discuss semantics and make generalizations without reviewing the value of this topic and the validity of his statements. In addition, your primary audience consists of HR Professionals and Managers and in effect you have just alienated your readers. While everyone is entitled to their opinion, I am dissapointed in BLR to support this.

  11. Anonymous        
    February 16, 2011 9:08 am

    I, for one don’t share Mr. James’s view of these first three concepts. While he will gain traction with some readers by bashing CEO’s for downsizing, leadership and HR, I just don’t find leaders that universally inept and worthy of being compared to marching band drum majors or field comanders pumping a baton up and down. I don’t agree that most HR types pretend to care for people and basically spy and facilitate retaliation against employees for speaking out. It’s entertaining and fun sometimes to pile on that bandwagon but in the economic environment we work in today, not seriously.

  12. Anonymous        
    February 16, 2011 9:20 am

    I think Mr. James’ characterization of HR is way off base. In our school district Human Resources services the district and employees through:
    1. Advocacy
    2. Ethical practices
    3. Risk management, and
    4. Quality assurance, just to name a few.

    I am a nurse by background and often reflect on the characteristics of a good nurse and the similarity to the HR profession. To be successful in both you must be people and detail oriented, compassionate, empathetic, trustworthy, an effective communicator with the ability to build relationships. Just like nursing/medicine, you either possess those characteristics or you don’t; there is not much gray area. If you find yourself in the shades of gray, you’d better get out.

  13. Anonymous        
    February 16, 2011 9:34 am

    Well, after a few moments of indignation about James’ comments on Human Resources, I tried to step back and take in his point of view. I couldn’t quite do it though. People – yes, “humans” – are a company’s most valuable resource and HR Managers – not “leaders” – are well aware of this fact. We also know quite well that these people have real lives, ideas and emotions. How that all fits into the reality and process of running a business is the challenge we deal with every day. Whatever James might like to call it, I cannot imagine trying to run a business of more than a few people without the functions HR people perform.

  14. Anonymous        
    February 16, 2011 10:07 am

    Steve, you couldn’t be more right. After a lengthy career in HR, I’ve concluded that HR is basically corporate social work. HR is only as good as the management team it works with. If the managers are decent people, HR is fun and can be effective. But if the managers are bad, which most of them are, HR is useless and one miserable place to be.

  15. Anonymous        
    February 16, 2011 11:47 am

    I absolutely agree with James.  Our HR office treats employees like machines.  Nothing Human at all.  I’ve worked at part-time jobs where employees are truly valued.  No at all true about my full-time job.  It’s so sad that this is what we have come to believe as reality.

  16. Anonymous        
    February 23, 2011 9:10 am

    Very thoughtful and so true. We are a small non-profit organization and often expected to follow the HR Rules of a bigger organization…

  17. Anonymous        
    February 23, 2011 9:11 am

    He is so right in fact that I would like to frame a few of those paragraphs and hang them in my office.

  18. Anonymous        
    February 23, 2011 9:12 am

    With regards to the comments by Geoffrey James, I felt he had some great points and some incorrect points. His comment about CEO’s resigning and not taking severance when the Company is failing were on target.

  19. Anonymous        
    February 23, 2011 9:13 am

    Obviously, he doesn’t know what HR does and is a by stander with strong opinions. Let him work one day in HR and realize what HR is all about. I wish people, like him, would gain more understanding before writing something so derogatory! My advice is – don’t write something so stupid unless you have walked in the shoes of HR and know what its really about!!

  20. Anonymous        
    February 23, 2011 9:16 am

    It sounded really hilarious, but, James was absolutely right. I am in HR, but, I have never treated the employees like expendable commodities … I have always seen the value in every employee I have had to work with and have tried to get management to see them as individual people, with lives, rather than as warm bodies turning a cog.

  21. Anonymous        
    February 23, 2011 9:18 am

    As someone who has worked in Human Resources for the past 21 years and who spent the time and money to earn a Master’s Degree in Human Resources, I take exception to Mr. James’ statement regarding “Dumb Concept #3: “Human Resources.”

  22. Anonymous        
    February 23, 2011 9:20 am

    Not all HR Professionals and HR Departments are the same. Just like not all people are the same. Not all companies are the same. I think it is unfair to generalize HR into one “dumb” observation.

  23. Anonymous        
    February 23, 2011 9:21 am

    I am an HR Manager and am very much insulted with what was said about HR. Without a good HR Manager who has the interests of the company as well as its employees at heart to ensure that bottom line….the business runs as smoothly as possible to meet its goals and risk of legal litigation is limited (just to name a couple of the responsibilities), companies would have a difficult time. Ok…you don’t want to call us HR. What…then….do you suggest???

  24. Anonymous        
    February 23, 2011 9:22 am

    Thanks for having the courage to put this truth in writing.

  25. Anonymous        
    February 23, 2011 9:23 am

    Obviously, since I’m in HR, I took offense to his comments about HR. Although I have seen those types in HR he is referring to in my 25 yrs of HR. I don’t like those types either. However, we do have to live with those in large organizations. I, myself am for the employees as much as possible. Someone needs to look out for them, no one else will. I try to walk the line between what’s fair for the employees and the company. This is hard to do and in some companies has got me into trouble with management. I don’t believe that HR is one of the dumbest management concepts. I do believe that one of the dumbest is when management doesn’t listen to their HR department.

  26. Anonymous        
    February 23, 2011 9:23 am

    I find a great deal of truth in James’s observations. I think when the economy slows everyone needs to become a salesman and become creative. All hands on deck as the mates are truly looking for solution options and are usually more than willing to embrace change if it means job security.

  27. Anonymous        
    February 23, 2011 9:24 am

    You know, I’m getting sick and tired of people saying that Human Resources is a commodity, unnecessary, spies, etc.

    As an HR professional I work hard at assisting employees and management with the situations that arise. I listen to the line staff and their problems and bring it to the attention of upper management to deal with the issues and find solutions that will benefit both.

    It is true that some upper level managers want spies and some line personnel want a crusader that will solve all their problems without giving management their names but the responsibility falls on a true HR professional to maintain objectivity in any given situation. one thing I have learned in my years as an HR professional is that this is NOT a job for the weak. If you want to be liked don’t get into this but if you do your job right you will be respected.

  28. Anonymous        
    February 23, 2011 9:25 am

    Amen, amen, amen. I think you are right on target.!

  29. Anonymous        
    February 23, 2011 9:26 am

    One more comment: any CEO that recommends downsizing should be tarred, feathered, and “right” sized himself—without those RSUs, options, and other benefits. They were the ones at the rudder. They should pay the price for their poor decisions.

  30. Anonymous        
    February 23, 2011 9:28 am

    Interesting article with NO accuracy at all! I don’t think I need to even justify it with giving my opinion of what a competent Human Resources Manager/Department contributes to a Company!

  31. Anonymous        
    February 23, 2011 9:28 am

    He is dead on. The HR in my org is robotic and mindless, they are self absorbed in their own bureaucracy and could care less about doing the right things.

  32. Anonymous        
    February 23, 2011 9:29 am

    When executive management (and I happen to be one) recognize that the people at the top really are the ones in the shipping/receiving and production areas, then you’ll see tremendous strides forward in the success of that business.

  33. Anonymous        
    February 23, 2011 9:31 am

    When you talk to people who work in “Human Resources,” they pretend that they’re all about helping people to become more successful. But the truth is that the entire concept of HR is really just a way to make sure that employees don’t act uppity, James says. (!)

    This comment threw me for loop. I work as a member of an HR team, both at the facility level and Corporate level. I have seen many forms of office politics ranging from favoritism with UAW representatives to unjust “downsizing” of Management and salary staff. Life is unfair. Ever watch Jerry McGuire? The narrator was the big hit of that movie…as he regularly stated “You’ve got to roll with the punches”. It’s not how hard you can punch in the workplace, its the question of how many punches can you take! HR is no exception to that my friend!

  34. Anonymous        
    February 23, 2011 9:32 am

    WOW! Finally someone who speaks the actual Truth and not regurgitating with management wants to hear! Although I know that the upper management folks at my company really do have the best of intentions, too many times they get smoke and mirrors when they just need a mirror.

  35. Anonymous        
    February 23, 2011 9:34 am

    When you talk to people who work in “Human Resources,” they pretend that they’re all about helping people to become more successful. But the truth is that the entire concept of HR is really just a way to make sure that employees don’t act uppity, James says. (!)”

    Yikes — he makes it sound like we are regularly beating down our staff! If I believed what Mr. James is saying about Human Resources, I never would have entered this field of work — and I sure wouldn’t stay! It would be very easy to respond in defense of his comments, but those of us who work very hard to manage the revolving door that represents the ever-changing cycles of peoples lives know differently!

    Sadly, I believe many working people share this same view. It is too bad that HR’s role is underestimated and under-esteemed and that this view is being propagated in Mr. James’ blog.

  36. Anonymous        
    February 23, 2011 9:36 am

    Right on………….very well written. I can not wait to read Dumb Concept #4 and #5 tomorrow.

  37. Anonymous        
    February 23, 2011 9:37 am

    I disagree with your article wholeheartedly. I believe Human Resources is exactly what the department should be called. Good HR departments serve the company’s most important asset, their people. The are there to be a resource to all the employees (entry level to executives). If you’ve lost your passion for that, perhaps you need to change careers. Your cynicism is disappointing and your comments serve only as an avenue for your own discontent. Your article lacks vision and certainly doesn’t inspire others to want to strive for excellence in this field.

  38. Anonymous        
    February 24, 2011 4:18 am

    “Dumb Concept #3: Human Resources” was one of the funniest things I have read in a long time! I worked for a company for over 10 years who completely fits the mold of all these Dumb Concepts and what is worse – they hire “Leaders” to beat people with the band stick to make sure they stay in line. Their turnover rate, before the “recession”, was about 55% or greater. They now claim victory that their turnover rate has decreased by over half, well dumb ass’s look at the economy! I guarantee this was not from a lack of the employee’s trying to escape – there are just no positions open. They will figure that out when the “recession” is over!

    They actually pulled a Downsizing move to get rid of employees that they didn’t properly talk to and document. I love it! What a way to not take blame for their bad behavior. They rehired within 6 months of the layoff’s … I was a manager there but my idea’s of actually caring about an employee was put down and I was told I was weak. Guess what – my department was accountable for over half of your profits! Low overhead and high margins – so when I left last year – so did 85% of my direct reports. Wow! They still didn’t get it!

    Thanks for the great laugh – and the bigger laugh is that I am gone from that company and managing a fantastic company the right way! Come visit us for a fantastic [experience] anytime – you will feel the love here!

  39. Anonymous        
    February 24, 2011 4:19 am

    If I ever get to that point, I AM totally useless. However, those of us who value our careers also know that we wear two hats, not just one. Sometimes I am an employee advocate and other times the advocate for management. But a shill?? Never!

    My success over a 35 year career (beginning when HR was still the “Personnel Department”) has been predicated on the ability to know which hat to wear when. When I have to take an employee complaint to management, it is with the full knowledge and understanding by the employee making the complaint that this will be my course of action. Anything else and I lose the trust of the whole organization – and without trust you might as well eliminate the HR department.
    There are a lot of things HR does for management and for the company in general, but being a “shill” is not one of them.

    You are right on with your disdain for the term Human Resources. Their job is to manage the company’s relations with people. I have always preferred the term Employee Relations.

  40. Anonymous        
    February 24, 2011 4:20 am

    Working in Human Resources is mostly a thankless job as many employees see HR as the department that is there to discipline and fire staff. However, other employees recognize that HR is there to help them in many situations that affect both their personal life (such as FMLA, LTD, STD, income taxes, insurance benefits, etc.) and their work life (such as training, promotions, safety and health, employee picnics and recognitions, etc.). HR is also there to help protect employees from sexual harassment, discrimination, violence in the workplace and more.

    So Mr. James’ statement that “people who work in “Human Resources” pretend that they’re all about helping people to become more successful, but the truth is that the entire concept of HR is really just a way to make sure that employees don’t act uppity” just shows that he lacks a fundamental concept of what Human Resources is all about.

    Working in Human Resources is tricky and unless someone has ever worked in HR – they have no idea just how tricky a position HR is. You are responsible for ensuring that the organization follows a myriad of employment and labor laws; you’re always trying to make sure that everyone understands that HR is there to help them and not hurt them; you are in a no-man’s land because you can’t be too friendly with non-supervisory employees because of the confidentiality involved in most of HR functions, yet you still want to be accepted as an employee, and lastly, you face a balancing act every single day of maintaining confidentiality, but still be outgoing, friendly, helpful and approachable.

    In the HR positions in which I have worked, I have always thought that my job was to protect the organization and to help the employees and I worked very hard at both. I worked as hard at disciplining an employee to ensure it was the correct action to take and in compliance with applicable laws as I did in helping an employee get their unemployment so they wouldn’t lose their apartment or their car. It didn’t matter what the duty was, I did it to the best of my ability to protect the company and assist the employee. To me – that is what HR is all about.

  41. Anonymous        
    February 24, 2011 4:21 am

    I share not the opinion of James that the typical HR department is just a baby sitter at the workplace. Yes, we do generate policy, and identify situations for corrective action, but we do a heck of lot more that just that! We run payrolls, provide benefits packages, organize company events such as summer picnics, company outings, award luncheons, support vision goals, organize charity events and fund raisers, provide health & safety training, facilitate company paid schooling, facilitate workers comp, promote wellness functions, facilitate travel arrangements, manage environmental management programs, etc! I can go on and on. Our company could not function without HR.

    We may be labeled as an “indirect” service to the organization, but you won’t see this team downsize until the fat lady sings…or business goes east. Ask James to put that in his pipe and suck on it for a while.

  42. Anonymous        
    February 24, 2011 4:22 am

    Your article about the dumbest things, etc. inspired me to write to you. My husband and I started a company 19 years ago…well, 18.5. The two of us. Two musicians who wanted to work with hospitals and not be new age…and be taken seriously and not be marginalized the way music therapy often is. No, we are neither nurses nor doctors, have no credentials related to hospitals. However, we are creative, smart, good students, and relentless. So, now 19 years later, our company is flourishing. We have 10 employees who tell me that they love where they work and thank us daily.

    My philosophy is that our employees are our best investment, that we would have no life without them, that they need to thrive, and that is our obligation when we hired them. So liberal, huh??

    We started doing reviews this year. And, our darling staff were sweating it. Then they found that, being a strength based organization, we honed in on what they have done best, asked them what they needed to continue or improve how WE were all doing, and gave them a raise.

    i agree with you on the term: Human resources is an insult. I do not use the term. I hate the term.
    Great article you wrote.

  43. Anonymous        
    February 24, 2011 4:22 am

    I completely agree on HR and on Downsizing. I absolutely disagree on leadership. Leadership is not a cheerleader. If he thinks that he is lost in a sea of intestinal compressed air striving to reach his colon to escape.

    Leadership is about standing on the front line, showing the troops you care about them as people, showing them you care how they treat the customer, and then supporting you while you do it. Like the USMC says, the grunt is the sharp tip of the spear, the rest is just support. Leaders don’t move troops like pawns to their demise. Leaders lead troops to victory be showing them where to go and fighting along-side of them.

    Managers count pencils and format budgets. Leaders deal with people and emotions. You never leave a bad job. You leave a person. That person is a manager of assets and rarely a leader of men I could go on and on, and I agree with him on the HR and Downsizing comments, but leadership … not a chance.

  44. Anonymous        
    February 24, 2011 4:23 am

    I have been in training working out of HR and reporting to other departments for over 30 years in about 11 companies and 8 different industries. Have worked as an employee and had my own management consulting practice for 8 years.

    Southwest Airlines calls their “HR group,” The People Department. Thought it was a good name way back when they gave it that name and still do. Lots of what James says sounds very good to me. I differ with him about leadership…I like Jim Collin’s description of Level 5 leaders and the results of their research gives leaders a MUCH different description than James so it depends on whether it is a real leader who can roll up his/her sleeves and partner with the people to achieve results or is so egotistical that they actually get in the peoples’ way!

    Thanks for asking. Looking forward to tomorrow’s thoughts/opinions.

  45. Anonymous        
    February 24, 2011 4:24 am

    It is unfortunate that James as well as others view HR as a waste. As an HR Manager for a public school, I would very afraid if I wasn’t here. Our central office is on-site at the school which is rare. The upside is that I get to see what really goes on throughout the day. I get to see the safety violations, the policy violations and because of this, I can recommend what will keep us out of litigation. I believe in all of my employees and yes….I believe in making their life a bit easier so they can focus on educating our students. For example, I help with getting their medical bills paid when they can’t figure it out. I understand that this practice is not necessary for me to do but when you genuinely care about “people”, being a “human resource” is easy and going that extra mile has become a passion.

  46. Anonymous        
    February 24, 2011 4:25 am

    I am confident that these inflammatory, polarizing remarks were made to enlist just the kind of comments I will be making. I do not know even where to begin. First Mr. James is definitely not a musician. A bandleader/conductor is the catalyst behind the quality of the music and typically a poor conductor makes poor music. I will always pick a leader over a manager. Real leaders inspire. Real leaders care … direct … give meaning. Real leaders make a difference in the lives and work of their co-workers. His portrayal of self-serving leaders and human resource staff members is business profiling, conspiratorial, and offensive. His concept of downsizing actually has merit in my thoughts though. But I believe that a compassionate leader agonizes over these decisions and accepts their role in this failure. I wonder what kind of past employment history someone has had to come to these jaded conclusions. It is truly sad. I feel pity for anyone who cannot see the humanity and the real joy in compassionate leadership.

  47. Anonymous        
    February 24, 2011 4:25 am

    For the most part, I tend to agree with Mr. James’ thoughts on these concepts. However, I disagree with him on his thoughts concerning leadership. Leaders rely on people and managers rely on systems to get things done. If you want people to do what they don’t know to do in order to achieve results or success, you need leaders spearheading the charge and not managers.

    W.E.B. Griffin has written in one or more of his novels that we judge the intelligence of others by how much they agree with us.

    These were written by a very smart man.

    I would argue a little bit about the need for leadership and its close cousin vision, but would not disagree that it is part of a suite of management skills.

    One of my pet peeves is referring to employees as associates. Are they at-will associates? Only the dimmest of employees believes that being an associate somehow elevates their status or their importance to the company compared to being an employee. They do, however, sense an attempt at misdirection leading to a general mistrust of managers and management. Great article.

  48. Anonymous        
    February 24, 2011 4:26 am

    Read through the James summary in today’s email newsletter. Almost stopped after the first point since it was so ridiculous – I wish I did.
    The guy is clueless.

    My industry is construction related with costs heavily weighted on personnel. We saw our sales drop 40-50% in a matter of a couple months when the economy tanked. We had no choice but to reduce personnel. To say that downsizing is never necessary if execs are effective is just plain ignorant.

    Leadership as most experts define it can be different than management. Common definitions are that management is focused on tactical, task accomplishment, etc. Anyone who has worked for a “Manager” who lacked effective leadership skills will tell you employee engagement and effectiveness suffered. That means turnover was increased, discretionary effort was decreased, customer service suffered, and bottom line profitability was negatively impacted.

    So he doesn’t like the dept name commonly used for HR people. Get over it. Effective, well lead HR teams are making their companies more effective and profitable, hiring top performers that fit the Co. culture and are motivated to stay with the CO., orienting people to the job and co. and effectively training them to excel at their jobs, resolving complaints and problems to avoid million dollar hits to the Co. bottom line, designing compensation and benefit programs that drive co. objectives and comply with federal and state laws, ensuring employees have a safe workplace and complying with govt regulations, etc., etc. are all common HR responsibilities that are critical to company success. There are also HR leaders out there with character who are company champions and leaders by example for honest and ethical behavior. Just like there are some authors with poor character, there are some HR leaders with poor character but to stereotype them all as mgt spies is inaccurate and insulting.

    I won’t be buying the book.

  49. Anonymous        
    February 24, 2011 4:27 am

    I was not happy to see the interpretation of HR in your article. You described it as “What better way to let people know that they’re expendable commodities than calling them “resources”?”

    I’m an HR Manager. I work in the Human Resources department and we interpret that as we are a resource for our employees and not that they are the resource. We are here and available to our staff to explain and guide them through the expansive amount of information about their job, pay, benefits, policies, procedures, rights and responsibilities. This is in addition to processing their payroll and developing teaching various training programs for their continued education.

    We work with all employees to make sure they are given every opportunity to do the job they were hired for. The bottom line is not everyone can or wants to perform their job to the quality we expect and there are those few who need to be let go in order to have a well running team. Because HR is involved with these decisions, many only see this side of our department and look at us as the bad guys. It saddens me that you are in line with these negative views and don’t look beyond the clouds to see the sun shinning.

  50. Anonymous        
    February 24, 2011 4:28 am

    James’ view of the business world is incredibly unbalanced:
    Re: Downsizing: Let me check my crystal ball to see if I can predict precisely what will be happening with the local, national and global economy in 6 mo., 1 year, 3 years, 5 years. That’s how far out businesses are generally planning for their business and “people” resources.

    Example: We expected to open 3 to 5 additional [sites] in the past 18 mo. We hired support staff to accommodate those plans. Guess what? The recession came blasting down on us. No financing available. Luckily, we are a small enough business that attrition and re-assigning people to other areas kept us from having to let people go. Large businesses don’t have that option—it takes longer to turn the ship around and sometimes people are going to lose their jobs when business declines or stays flat for whatever reason.

    Re: Leadership: OK, but a manager needs what are generally termed leadership skills, the ability to inspire and motivate people, a willingness to confront situations and make difficult decisions. There are plenty of “managers” out there who do none of those things. In my company, we look for something called “leadership presence”: it’s intangible, but when you look around the restaurant, you know immediately who the person in charge is. Some might call it charisma. They are not just another member of the team. It’s that old saying, what’s the difference between a manager and a leader? The manager is task oriented, the leader is people oriented.

    Re: Human Resources: Please. In most companies, HR is making sure people are treated fairly, that draconian policies aren’t put into place, that quality of life issues are talked about and solved, that complaints are dealt with and that employees are protected from retaliatory actions. As for going to HR with a complaint, I like to ask people “what would you like me to do?” because so many are under the impression that HR can solve their problem without letting anyone know they made a complaint. “Well, I just want you to know about this, but I don’t want my name involved and I don’t want you to do anything that would let them know I complained.” Really. How is that even possible in most situations? The manager has the right to be treated fairly, too, and for their side of the story to be heard. How is the manager supposed to change their behavior without knowing that there was a complaint? Very few problems are solved for the long term without the employee being willing to step forward. For less serious co-worker conflict situations, the parties will still need to communicate with each other. Employees have to shoulder responsibility for their workplace environment, too. It’s not just the company and the managers. And HR is the neutral party, the one in the middle, trying to protect the interests of employees as well as the employer. We are not shills and spies for either party!!

  51. Anonymous        
    February 24, 2011 4:28 am

    I am a retired Human Resources Director from a Fortune 150 Company. Over a 37-year period of time, I worked my way up the company ladder from an entry-level production worker in the Teamsters Union, then union steward, then Shift Technical Supervisor in the Quality Control Laboratory, then over to Supervising the Material Requirements in Purchasing, then over to Assistant Manager of the Industrial Relations Department at one of our plant operations. My last 22 years were spent at our corporate headquarters in various leadership capacities.

    When I first joined the company, we had an Industrial Relations Department. In the early 80′s,it was changed to Employee Relations and then in the 90′s to Human Resources. Today, the company is run by a foreign business entity that has changed the name to People. One of my former colleagues is called the V. P., People.

    Couple this with my extensive education in General Education, History, Political Science, Human Resource Management and Management, I feel qualified to offer my perspective on this concept of calling employees, “people” in today’s business world.

    I have been a specially-invited lecturer at numerous colleges and universities these past several years. I loved addressing the audience about the importance of human beings as being finally called a company “resource,” because they are just as important as all the other resources in the business (e.g., physical, monetary, et al.). The spin I put on this was one of a positive nature, not one as an ‘expendable commodity.’ So, I suppose it all boils down to …

    how the people of the company view the business.

    Is it a company that truly values people? Or is it one like we have here in our town that has a CEO who says he will never hire anymore people from our country, instead he will outsource the work to places like Mexico like he has been doing for the past 10 years. This person receives an annual salary of $24.8 million. That amounts to more than $60,000 a day, every day, whether he works or not. And, get this:

    HE WAS JUST VOTED CITIZEN OF THE YEAR.

    To me, it is truly sad to see that this person thinks that the ‘people’ at the bottom who work for them are not entitled to make a living wage.

    In closing, I guess it doesn’t matter what you call the employees of a company. They can be called personnel, human beings, human resources, associates or simply people. (I worked with some tough old cigar-chomping old dudes that called them worse than that out on the production floor– and got away with it.) What does matter to me is how ‘people are truly treated. Are they just meat? Expendable commodities? Workers? Associates? Doesn’t really matter to me as long as they are truly valued, treated, respected, dignified, properly compensated, cared for and so on and so forth.

    This is my opinion.

  52. Anonymous        
    February 24, 2011 4:29 am

    I guess in a country like ours, anyone can say anything they want without repercussions. Isn’t freedom of speech wonderful? This Geoffrey James guy is way off base and I’m surprised that BLR actually printed this nonsense. I can’t wait to see what’s in store tomorrow. Sounds like James had a really bad experience somewhere along the line and this is his chance to vent. According to Wikipedia, James is a freelance writer. He’s probably never worked a day in his life.

  53. Anonymous        
    February 24, 2011 4:30 am

    He certainly does have a point, HR and the leadership of one company I know of are exactly as described. I sent the attached memo for your reading pleasure. Guess which employee was “downsized” after taking it to HR.

  54. Anonymous        
    February 24, 2011 4:31 am

    I am not in HR and unfortunately I view HR people as the eyes and ears for the owners of the [company]. Nothing has ever been resolved in the six years that I have worked in this [company]. I have been in [my field] for 33 years and have worked at a [company] for 10 years where the office “manager” was just a great problem solver; knew the laws; had meetings with staff on procedure and guidelines, etc.

  55. Anonymous        
    February 25, 2011 6:17 am

    I feel sorry for James. He must either have had a very bad experience while working for an organization with a bad HR Department or else he has never worked in business at all. He has no concept of what or why a company goes through a downsizing……it is not always bad management…….in fact, many times it is because customers are having problems of their own and are either reducing or canceling orders that have been planned for. In addition, HR covers a whole spectrum of activities including benefits, compensation, insurance etc. and employees expect HR to have all of the answers for them. Maybe James should walk in HR’s shoes for a while before he makes unfounded accusations.

  56. Anonymous        
    February 25, 2011 7:23 am

    James contradicts himself between his Dumb Concepts #2 and #3, and uses quotes out of context in order to be cleaver and appear current.
    Perhaps that makes him a pithy writer, but it does not make him intellegent on this topic. I’m not impressed.

  57. Anonymous        
    February 25, 2011 7:39 am

    Mr. James has apparently tried to group all HR departments into one box, as such, his egotisical traits are shown. HR professionals work in the middle of management and labor. They facilitate the relationship in the common interest of the business and those of labor. Niether exist without the other. Some HR departments function as a cold none caring group but from my experience that isn’t true of the profession. Who handles disputes between employee and health carriers? Who cares about safety and environmental protection and compliance with law? Who do employees go to for disputes between supervision and labor? Who has the displeasure of firing employees just before holidays? HR. Mr. James needs to revisit the realities of business and try to avoid the sensationalism required to sell his opinions.

  58. Anonymous        
    February 25, 2011 8:01 am

    The dumbest thing is to call it Human Resources. But it is just a title. HR, Personnel, People Services, or whatever you want to call it, the organization will still be responsible for the same duties: Ensuring compliance with federal, state, local employment laws; payroll; income/social security tax issues; recruiting; training; retention; terminations; etc. etc. The business purpose of the “HR” organization is to ensure the company has the right mix of people and talent to run the business. Typically it is the people at the top who make the decisions that end up benefit or hurt the employees. The more mistakes the top makes the company either fails or becomes unionized. (Yes, to the managment people out there, ultimately, unionization is your fault for not treating employees like people.) Perhaps for thos people who think HR is dumb and full of spies, it needs to be clearly divided by function: Pure administration, which includes recruiting, record maintenance, safety (as in OSHA), payroll and legal compliance – face it, these are COMPANY people; training (soft and hard skills); benefits which includes insurance, health programs, safety training; employee advocacy, which includes ombudsman, morale boosting, etc. This is, perhaps, a rather simple breakdown and obviously Mom and Pop companies will have a poblem rolling all of of these into 1 or 2 people, but in the long run it may be better to make the break between the parts of HR that MUST be totally company and the parts that “stride the fence” on the side of the employee.

  59. Anonymous        
    February 25, 2011 8:02 am

    Having worked in HR for 17+ years, I can see how Mr. James could come to some of his conclusions. Over that time, I have seen many changes in SHRM that would support his point of view. When I moved into my position, I looked at my role as Human Resources Development rather than Management. My concept is that my job is to assess the jobs available, communicate what is needed faithfully, screen applicants effectively, and then train and develop employees to meet the changing needs of the organization. Unfortunately, the field now requires best practices that give the appearance of progress locked in best practices and metrics. Long term goals have been replaced by short term objectives. Loyalty and long term employment with an organization is now seen as detrimental to being successful. I guess one year of experience ten times is now considered better that 10 years of experience. I also spend a large amount of time interpreting laws and ensuring that current best practices are used to reduce liability and risk and communicate to people in terms of metrics that may not be accurate or tell the whole story. For those who strive to improve their companies and enrich their employees, I can understand the negative response to the article. I would imagine there is a similar response to “The Office” and “Dilbert” only we can see the humor in some of our practices.

  60. Anonymous        
    February 25, 2011 8:03 am

    As one who supports the idea that the people who make up a company are in fact “human” resources, I think this article is broad, reckless, and lacks substance. But, too be sure, it succeeded at generating a reaction and subsequent comments.

    All resources, physical, financial, and human need to be managed. This guy clearly has an agenda. We know his “position”, but we don’t know his “interests” behind his comments.

    David A. Campbell
    http://www.CampbellHR.com

  61. Anonymous        
    February 25, 2011 8:49 am

    While I would agree that some human resources professionals have taken a tremendous concept and turned it inside-out, I would not agree that the concept is dumb – there are only dumb people. Most of these dumb people come to H.R. with a stupid problem expecting H.R. to fix their issue. These issues range from whining about how unfair life in the workplace is to regretting signing up for insurance that they now want to cancel (but cannot because, if they had read the information they would have known this). Instead of working while at work, they bring their baggage to work and then want H.R. to fix it for them when they don’t show up on time (if at all), start fights, or are simply lazy.

    Let us not forget that human resources is responsible for more than just one or two people. We are the ones who make sure the organization is in compliance with the federal regulations designed to protect the employees. We must make sure employees are allowed to work in the United States – but cannot bluntly ask the questions without causing discrimination suits. We are the ones who make sure you get treated fairly throughout Workers’ Compensation claims and the endless paperwork associated with that and FMLA…if it were up to most employers, FMLA and Workers’ Compensation would NOT exist making our jobs that much more difficult.

    We must be the eyes and ears of the company because the government can come in and create all kinds of havoc if it so chooses. OSHA can walk in and charge over $1,000 for minor paperwork offenses; I9 forms are worth about $1,100 per form; FMLA can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. We, the H.R. people are in charge of all this AND the employees who feel it is unfair to be written up for a no-call/no-show.

    I believe that someone has to do the legwork…until someone else volunteers to take care of these minor details with an efficiency that keeps employers out of the weeds, you might as well get used to us.

  62. Anonymous        
    February 25, 2011 9:03 am

    The function of HR should be as an outlet and an aid to all employees. It’s the people above HR that control how the HR function works in a company. I have been the HR Director for a company of 300 employees for 11 years and still am not taken seriously about complex legal issues or company policy enforcement.
    If the owners of this company choose to make exceptions to policy – they do. How are we to guide employees when they see unfair treatment from the top?
    I personally work with ill employees – taking them to physicians, helping them shop, finding living accommodations, arranging public services and assistance, plus the normal benefits, co-worker disagreements, manager screw-ups, labor law violations, 401K issues, compensation, etc, etc.
    Yet I am daily treated like my opinion doesn’t count. My goal is.. and always will be to make sure that a balance exists between employee needs and the company needs. If the employee isn’t reasonably happy – how do you suggest they will treat their customers? It all starts from the very top and the culture that is set.

  63. Anonymous        
    February 25, 2011 9:32 am

    Most of the companies I’ve worked for only have an HR dept to:
    1. Keep them out of court
    2. Do the things they don’t want to do like deal with benefits or recruiting.
    3. Keep them from having to pay fines.

    Personally, I like the title Human Resources better than the new term of Human “Capital”. The dept where I currently work is titled “Team Services” and all employees are “team members”.

  64. Anonymous        
    February 25, 2011 9:37 am

    Downsizing is required because of the natural human tendencies to want to build safety and security around them. Managers build empires of employees. Employees build protections for their job security. Both are like barnacles on a ship… they will eventually weigh it down and sink it. Downsizing happens with a call for a faster leaner ship. Downsizing is a tool executive need to combat these aforementioned destructive tendencies of their managers and employees. The best companies do constant downsizing… Tom Peters I think recommended a C-Suite role of CDO (“Chief Destruction Officer”) to constantly root out waste by challenging the status quo. However, it is difficult to impossible to spot all inefficiencies and constantly purge them. Periodic downsizing is a simplified approach that works if coordinated with a call to improve (do more with less).

    Leadership is a better description for what is required at the top of any effective high-performing, teamwork-based, endeavor. “Management” is problematic because it is too often translated to a command and control mindset. Leadership is the superset of a role which includes management. A manager is only a manager, but a leader is a manager, a coach, a mentor… anything that he/she needs to be to help a team be successful.

  65. Anonymous        
    February 25, 2011 10:07 am

    Folks, you gotta realize that the MAIN function of any HR organization is to breathe Carbon Dioxide to keep plants alive and functioning. Not much benefits come from them other than that.

  66. Anonymous        
    February 25, 2011 10:49 am

    I agree with James on his points. Even though, he’s right, he’s also dead wrong! You probably wonder what I mean by this comment. There are many companies that don’t act in the best interest of it’s employees, shareholders etc. Frequently, when the CEO messes up they get stock options, bonuses, and/or a golden parachute. Employees are given the boot! I’ve done the right thing for the company and employees. I still got into trouble as an HR professional
    for my professionalism.

  67. Anonymous        
    February 25, 2011 11:21 am

    There are two sides to what is being said. There is a job to be done, and HR shouldn’t have to babysit those which try to cheat the company out of time worked or similar things. We too have a job to be done and to enforce company policies. If you want to look at us as “spies”, then so be it. I am all about protecting the company and doing what it right. On the other hand, I do take offense to catagorizing all of us into the same mold. Having been a one person HR department for a company of just over 100, I’ve been to people’s homes after surgeries, strokes, cancer, etc. to relieve them and their families from the burden of figuring out all of the paperwork to be filled out. I’ve taken food (paid for by me personally) to some of them when they were too ill/injured to help themselves. I’ve taken others to appointments where they were required to have a driver and had nobody else that could take them, again using my own PTO. I’ve fought for them tooth and nail with upper management and they will never even know this. I’ve protected them when I’ve given my word that I would never reveal a source of information – to the point of having my own job threatened. I’ve cried with and consoled many when they’ve needed it. I’ve helped put on and take off someone’s medical hose (on a fairly regular basis). I wear so many hats around here besides keeping up-to-date on laws and changes, implementing and maintaining all aspects of an HR department, and I do so because I care. So please don’t tell me that all I’m good for is spying or being a shill for management. I am “Human” and I am a “Resource” for each and every person here. It all goes back to treating others as you would like to be treated.

  68. Anonymous        
    February 25, 2011 11:24 am

    I wonder how often a “prolific writer and observer of the business scene” has actually dealt with a Human Resources Department. It must be nice to sit back, observe and blog without actually having to deal with humans on a daily basis. Me thinks he doth protest too much – was he once downsized, let go or dare we say fired! Stop observing and start working in the business scene.

  69. Anonymous        
    February 25, 2011 12:12 pm

    I am also disappointed that BLR would post something by someone who is so negative.  All of his comments were just about insulting people.  He sounds like he has had a negative experience with HR, and is stereotyping all HR professionals.  If we read one article by a horrible author, do we assume all of you are horrible?  No, that makes no sense. Don’t do that to HR professionals. I have been in this field over 20 years, and have been thanked many times for how I have treated people with compassion and dignity during difficult conversations and helped them through difficult times, and yes, even during terminations. Just as in any profession, there are some that give others a bad name, but there are many in HR that care greatly.  As far as the term “Human Resources,” I do agree that it sounds inpersonal, but we weren’t the ones that named it that.

  70. Anonymous        
    February 25, 2011 1:51 pm

    wow..its nice war between HR belivers and non believers…. i am specialised in HR but no job.. i learn HR function and practice its totally deals with human spychology towards organisation ( x and y theory), every where is black sheeps it does not mean that HR look into for those employees who don’t act uppity, James says. (!)
    HR, Leadership, downsizing are wise acts of management, Mr james is right on some extend due to black sheep in organisation but not truely. i must say one thing that human resourse is burning requirment of any organisation they hire human capital assets skills in the shape of leaders and they helps into growing the organisation and economy of country. i am the leaner of HR thats why i am reading face reading and graphology this knowledge will helpful to me for the hiring the human capital for the organsation. at the end..HR IS THE FUN TO TACKLE THE HUMAN UNDERSTAING AND FULFILL THEIR NEEDS ACCORDING THEIR WISHES AND INCREASE PRODUCTIVETY. therefore HAVE FUN TO BE HR MANAGER….AND BUILD HUMAN CAPITAL FOR OUR ORGANISATION..

    kewalshivam@yahoo.com

  71. Anonymous        
    February 25, 2011 3:48 pm

    I have worked in HR for over 15 years. I work long hours, talk to everyone from the person that cleans the bathroom to the President. Companies fail themselves alot because the fail to see the value of building employees at all levels.

    I want my employees to be regarded as the people that everyone else wants to have work for them. This is not just talk, actions talk, so people should walk the talk, not just BS each other.

    Think about this. If every employer would get their employees involved in their career, build their skills, instill a sense of what is right and what is wrong. If employers would lead by example, can you imagine what the results would be on the economy.

    The problem is that you get people sometime in upper management roles that want to take care of the buddies instead of actually doing their jobs. I want people to do their job and if you do, you might become my buddie because of it. But if you just want to be a buddie, I am out. Because in the long term, the company will fail or be significantly injured by their stupidity.

  72. Anonymous        
    February 26, 2011 10:57 am

    I’ve been reading articles from HR Daily, and I believe HR is a great idea, because managers and supervisors come and go, and you loose track of them, but HR will always be there.

    HR is only a dumb idea for the company, not the employees. They don’t realize by having HR they are making it much more easy to target the company towards a law suit. HR is suppose to be aware and impliment employment laws, yet many don’t seem to care about employment laws, and take it upon themselves to do manager’s or supervisor’s work by firing the employees themselves for the company. HR’s job is to also sets company’s policy. Many times this setting of policy is what get’s them in trouble in the first place.

    Any company that has an HR is a sitting duck for lawsuits because, having HR, makes it easy to target the company directly in a lawsuit, where is a manager, or supervisor has to be tracked down, and in the meantime the statue of limitations is running out, so HR is a great concept for the benefit of the employees,

  73. Anonymous        
    February 27, 2011 9:24 pm

    Quite flabagasting to read such a shallow article on HR.

    Downsizing – if management had to adapt to daily changes , the company would probably have to fire people every month – Great for the morale of the employees !!!

    Leadership – Oh ! so it is the guy who throws the stick in the air – How about he is the last guy at the back providing support … ??

    HR – The role of HR is NOT TO LOOK AFTER employees – it is not a social assistance role – it is a business function.. If employees want to be treated like people , then they need to look at their own line managers first. HR is the internal consultant – period. :-)

  74. Anonymous        
    February 28, 2011 6:23 am

    I’ve been in HR for over 10 years. If other management (or as it’s sometimes called, “manglement”) could do the work competent HR professionals do, they would – instead of hiring us. That only makes business sense. And that’s also the flip side of being a catch-all for management. HR has a body of knowledge that is applied daily to business. One lawsuit against a manager or company can justify the cost of an HR department. Yes, we’re often the eyes and ears of the company. We alert the company to problems and hopefully help solve them before they become a disaster for the people who work there. If a management practice is wrong, we alert management. Likewise, if we’ve hired someone whose sole goal is to take the company for everything it has, we alert management. If someone or some group is being treated unfairly, we look for solutions. And also alert them in all cases of the potential land mines involved. Do we help people? We make sure they get their pay and benefits, have valid job descriptions, listen to them and help with solutions, advocate for them when and where possible, and get to know them as best we can among many, many other functions. The HR staff are ALSO the “person” in personnel.

  75. Anonymous        
    February 28, 2011 6:23 am

    Unfortunately the role of HR has become more of a policing of management more so than a ‘resource’ for respected knowledge. I find the toughest challenge is in dealing with the management who think that HR is only a ‘reactive’ department. When they screw up, HR is the department they go to to bail them out, when, had they sought the help of the HR dept. in the first place they may not have screwed up or at least would have know the potential consequences. In most cases the same management that gets every Martin Luther King day off as a holiday, has never heard of Title VII (or cares to). If managers were required to take even a little HR traing before being allowed to manage then maybe HR could stop walking on eggshells around management and get back to their main function of helping the rest of the employees learn about thier benefits, settle disputes, improve performance etc… In other words, HR is not a dumb idea but trying to get it’s principles accross to a bunch of egotistical managers is!

  76. Anonymous        
    July 4, 2011 8:48 am

    If the HR department has a higher employee turnover rate than other departments, we may have problem.

  77. Anonymous        
    July 5, 2011 6:09 am

    At my company (50,000+ employees, globally), HR is considered “dangerous” to concern oneself with. Whether it’s complaining about someone else, or whether you’re the one being complained about, it’s never a good thing. Generally speaking, the upper management is “best friends” with the HR personnel, and it takes an act of God for any true solutions to be implemented about any management who has broken the law.

    There was a director-level “manager” over my team for 2 years. During that time, she succeeded in breaking almost every HR policy and law that exists. She prevented employees from taking paid time off because of her own lack of leadership (poorly managed projects), she failed to restore responsibilities to a manager who had returned from maternity leave, and then she had the nerve to “restructure” the organization and let the aforementioned manager go. She basically had HR in the palm of her hand, and her guidance from them was that “she can do whatever she wants with her team”.

    It’s things like that, that make everyone else dislike and distrust HR.

  78. Anonymous        
    July 6, 2011 5:41 am

    The point isn’t what you call the function (“Human Resources”, “Personnel”, whatever), the point is that in a healthy and intelligent organization, a strong HR function is absolutely essential because that’s where the rubber meets the road–the point of intersection between what needs to be done for the business to succeed, and the people who do it. And it’s not, as some commenters seem to be saying, a matter of walking a fine line between two opposing parties, balancing advocacy for management/policy and advocacy for employees. A proper HR function fully embodies, and works to instill at all levels within the organization, the truth that there is in fact no difference between the two–that what is good for the employee is ultimately good for the business, and vice versa. The Them vs. Us mentality that pervades so many businesses is deadly–and it is perpetuated by bad HR departments. But James is still way off base in claiming HR is a dumb concept. What’s dumb is the way a lot of people see it, including many who do it for a living.

  79. Anonymous        
    November 28, 2011 10:27 pm

    James mixed some concepts and moreover he treated HR as a “management concept”. Frustrated as James may be, I did not find his article interesting because it just extrapolates his frustration to a whole world. I do not plan to read more articles on business management by Geoffrey James…sorry.

  80. Anonymous        
    December 9, 2011 12:00 pm

    Here’s a thought about adding #6 to the list: heeding the errant rants of self-proclaimed experts with no credibility who offer zero substance to back up their claims. “Leadership is the art of accomplishing more than the science of management says is possible”–Colin Powell. He ought to know.

    Additionally, Mr. James and others may not like HR but where is the first place employees go when they feel unable to resolve their own conflicts, unhappy, underpaid, overworked, harassed, discontent, abused, or are in need of training, a new career, a promotion, a shoulder, job protection, benefits, etc.? A business can successfully function without the opinions of bloggers but not without counsel of HR.

  81. Anonymous        
    December 31, 2011 9:38 am

    HR is important. There is a lot to the HR function that is benificail to an organization. What is “dumb” is the idea that HR is just about “people.” It is also about laws governing the workplace, that have been put in place to protect “people” from abuse and unfair treatment at work. It has been my experience that HR workers and managers do “dumb” things. When an HR department can rise above the politics of an organization and truly be a “third” party in disputes or challenges between management and employees, it serves a vital function. But it is the rare HR Vp, Director or Manager who can remain objective when dealing with employee issues and stay focused on what is best for the organization. Most are looking at what is best for their career. Google calls their HR department “People Operations,” and they seem to have a fairly successful culture.

  82. Anonymous        
    December 31, 2011 12:14 pm

    HR is not just about staff it’s about the benefits, rewards and physical information it maintains and provides with policies and the law. It is clear the author is provoking argument and his or her experience in business can’t be a reflection of all companies as a whole. It alludes that. No offense, but it’s transparent.

  83. Anonymous        
    January 20, 2013 10:46 pm

    HR should go back to being personnel…just deal with benefits, paperwork, etc. Once the HR departments started to gain control and expand their own importance is when everything seemed to go off the deep end. Especially in a technical or financial instruction where the HR folks know zilch about how to actually do the work yet are trying to dictate policies, etc. HR is never the friend of the employee…they may not necessarily be an enemy, but they are not a friend. In many ways they serve to find the gray areas so that a company doesn’t get sued for the things it should legitimately get sued for.

  84. Anonymous        
    February 26, 2013 5:00 am

    HR managers are like prison officials. Their main job is to keep their employees(read prison inmates) unhappy and force them to work hard!!

    They don’t care about their employees or their welfare. They are only interested in make life miserable for their employees!!

  85. Anonymous        
    March 25, 2013 2:27 pm

    HR is the Management’s method of gaining an insight into workers concerns and grievances and so allow Management to devise responses that make light of those concerns and grievances, thus demeaning the employee feelings. It also identifies potential troublemakers who can be monitored accordingly. Fore-warned is fore-armed.