Who Knew There Was A Future HR Manager in Lord of the Flies?

Hranarchy ‘And you shut up! Who are you, anyway? Sitting there – telling people what to do. You can’t hunt, you can’t sing – ’

‘I’m chief. I was chosen.’

‘Why should choosing make any difference? Just giving orders that don’t make any sense – ’

‘Piggy’s got the conch.’

‘That’s right – favour Piggy as you always do – ’

‘Jack!’Jack’s voice sounded in bitter mimicry.‘Jack! Jack!’

‘The rules!’ shouted Ralph, ‘you’re breaking the rules!’

‘Who cares?’

Ralph summoned his wits.

‘Because the rules are the only thing we’ve got!’

But Jack was shouting against him.

‘Bollocks to the rules! We’re strong – we hunt! If there’s a beast, we’ll hunt it down! We’ll close in and beat and beat and beat – !’

He gave a wild whoop and leapt down to the pale sand. At once the plat form was full of noise and excitement, scramblings, screams and laughter. The assembly shredded away and became a discursive and random scatter form the palms to the water and away along the beach, beyond night-sight. Ralph found his cheek touching the conch and took it from Piggy.

‘What’s grown-ups going to say?’ cried Piggy again. ‘Look at ’em!’

“Lord of the Flies,”, William Golding.


HR IS About Rules…

I started today’s post with that bit of high school literature.  Lord of the Flies was one of the few things I’ve ever been required to read that actually stuck with me.

The idea of HR and Lord of the Flies came to mind a while back when sitting on the porch with one of my son’s friends.  This kid had it a bit rough.  Mom and Dad split.  Father not paying attention to the kids – more to his own libido and bar tab.  Mother trying to make it work but not doing well.  He spent a lot of time with us.  We (my wife and I) bought Christmas and birthday presents for him.  We bought him shoes.  Anything we did for our real son – we did for him.  Son II so to speak.

I was sitting with him on the porch one summer afternoon talking about what they (my son and him) had planned for the day.  He told me.  I told him to be sure to check in and let me know where they were and what was going on.  I told him no messing around.  He said to me, unprompted…

“I like being here.  At least there are some rules.”

Knock. Me. Over. With. A. Feather.

A teenager.  Telling me that one of the things he likes about our house versus his own – was the rules.

Normally you’d think the opposite.  But rules matter.

HR – Rules – Success

HR gets a bad rap for being an enforcer.  But the reality is, everyone, including your employees, needs rules.  Too often, we think that letting employees have free reign to pursue their bliss, to find autonomy, master and purpose, will create an ideal working environment.  The “rule-less” organization will create engagement and satisfaction.  No it won’t.

Rules are required for safety and security.  Having rules puts people at ease.  A “no rules” environment is frightening and paralyzing.  For most of us, having an inkling of what is right/wrong, acceptable/unacceptable – is required for us to act.

Without rules we either do the wrong thing or nothing.

So for those who think HR is about rules and stifling creativity.  I say bullocks.  HR is about creating safe zones for activity.  Safe zones for experimenting.

HR is all about rules.  And should continue to be.


Here’s a rule for you.  The rule-less organization creates anarchy, confusion and zero progress.

HR needs to set rules – boundaries within which to act.

Don’t be afraid of putting in place rules, regulations and boundaries.  It is a difficult job.  A thankless job.  And one that many who would break the rules could not handle.

There is, however, a fine line between creating boundaries and creating regimens.  Allow exploration – within the boundaries.  Create rules that govern the big picture and allow the little things to slide.  Find those rules that are unbreakable.  Enforce those.

FOT Background Check

Paul Hebert
Paul Hebert is the Senior Director of Solutions Architecture at Creative Group Inc and a writer, speaker and consultant. Paul focuses on influencing behaviors and driving business results through employees, channel partners and consumers. Over the course of his career, Paul has worked closely with clients to design influence, marketing, motivation, incentive, loyalty, recognition and reward programs to increase effectiveness and reduce costs. Paul is a recognized authority on incentives and performance motivation. Want to know what’s going to motivate your people to perform at their best and impact the bottom line? Want to know whether your service award program really means anything at all? Curious what psychological principles drive sales behavior? Paul’s your guy… unless you fervently bow down to Maslow. Check out his personal blog at "What Is Paul Thinking?" when you're tired of his FOT rants.


  1. Paul,
    Let me commend you first for invoking the word ‘Anarchy’ in this post. Knew it had to be good just based on that.
    I can agree that we need rules, but we need the right rules. The problem with this post is that there will be some who would use your words as a way to legimize their use of rules as a way to gather influence or power and legitimize the fact that they chose rules over strategy, courage and progress.
    Rules are a tool to help create order and focus. It’s when they get twisted from being a tool to becoming the end that it becomes a problem. Great HR relentlessly challenges rules to ensure that they are 1)necessary, 2)appropriate, and 3)supporting achieving company goals. If a rule don’t meet these standards, the rule needs to go.
    It’s not no rules, it’s only the necessary rules. HR has to understand how rules work and why they exist. It’s when HR becomes defined by the rules that things have come off the tracks.

  2. Paul Hebert says:

    You’re right on Jason. That’s one of the reasons I purposely put in the statement about rules that are broad enough for exploration. What you’re referring to is the “regimens” that I referenced. No one wants regimens – they just want an idea of where the edge of the world is. Until it is time to expand even that.
    I’m hoping the reader got that point. But if not – you’re comment is there to remind them. Thanks for weighing in.

  3. MikeSolieman says:

    I enjoyed reading this as it relates so much to philosophy; “Without rules, there is no order. With no order, there is no structure. Without structure there are no limits. Without limits there is chaos”…And of course as you guys discussed there should be limits and flexibility to the rules, leaving room for creativity and exploration.

  4. that is one reason why a voluntary declaration of standards, which are large enough for research. Regarding premedication is talking about. Nobody wants to care, they want a picture of what is on the edge of the world. Until it is time to extend it either.

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