HR Bashing: Don’t Let The Bastards Get You Down

There seems to be some recent articles about CHRO roles being eliminated and HR reporting to CFOs/CEOs. These articles seem to say we aren’t good enough, smart enough and—gosh-darn—people don’t like us.

HR Perfect? No. Need a revamp? Sure. But are they so irrelevant that CHRO roles should be eliminated? That statement is as screwed up as a soup-sandwich. And certainly as over-generalized as saying girls only like pink and overweight people are all lazy. But should who we report to matter? Should how we break down our insanely broad scope of responsibilities matter? And does that dictate our relevancy? Ultimately no.

HR Relevancy

  • HR, you need a palate cleanser. For every “HR sucks” article there is a “HR matters” article. Here is a good one, yet another about Netflix, and a great one by Josh Bersin on Forbes.
  • HR jobs are continuously on top job and job growth lists. I think that is a nice indication many companies think we are part of long-term strategy.
  • To be relevant, you’ve got to focus on things that matter. It doesn’t matter if Sr. HR reports to a CHRO, CFO or CEO. What matters is if you have autonomy, voice and lots of respect. Great work is a much better measure of relevancy, not who you report to.

Also, regarding CHRO relevance, there is one thing those proposing moving HR to the CEO/CFO are overlooking. I’m going to let you in on a little known secret. CEOs and CFOs do not want to do CHRO work. I promise you. They may not want to pay another person a senior exec salary (ahem), but I swear most would rather eat glass than tackle the very personal, intimate and “gray” areas HR professionals face. Since it’s been well established, a) there is a need for complex HR work in the modern work world and b) other execs aren’t typically jumping stumps to do this work, then why on earth would any CEO fathom eliminating this role? Or better yet, offing it to the CFO?

Say No to the Hype

  • Quit reading any of the articles that say you are hated. You aren’t. Hate articles are a load of tabloid spin. Hate is such a polarizing word. It makes a great headline, but is simply wrong.
  • If you are disliked, you are disliked no more than any other “corporate” entity that has a say in what can or can’t be done. This includes the CEO, Accounting, any manager, director, SVP, VP, ornery customer, auditor, annoying co-worker who doesn’t shut up, meeting organizer, or janitor (I’m cleaning the bathroom at noon! No peeing allowed!).
  • Don’t let these tabloid-like articles become a self-fulfilling prophecy by buying into the hype. One manifestation of this is the Golem Effect. Ex: Nothing is more heartbreaking than seeing the girlfriend with low self esteem continue to tell her boyfriend over and over she knows he thinks she’s ugly. Or unlovable. Or stupid. No matter his reassurances to the contrary, she’s never relents, until one day, he starts to think she may be right. HR, don’t let these articles make you that girlfriend.
  • Articles want you to believe HR is not as “business-savvy” as other business units. Hold up. I’m pretty sure colleges offering HR degrees do so from the business school. I don’t remember seeing HR as a program in the School of Fine Arts. Who the hell made up this BS that HR folks don’t know business? Mystifying.
  • And that notion that all HR folks came from other departments or fields of study? That is the case for many, many other career fields too.
  • Do not let others (especially the press) dictate your value. It is easy to be manipulated by the vocal minority who hate doing performance reviews (duh). But the ones who really appreciate you are the silent majority who can’t admit publicly (or to the press) how you helped them.

I’ll leave you with a little story. Barbara Walters was a female pioneer in the male-dominated news world of the 50s and 60s. After public mistreatment, she received a letter from John Wayne simply stating, “Don’t let the bastards get you down.” Her take away: she let simple-minded people distract her from doing great work. Once she quit buying into the hype, her career took off. The work spoke for itself.

Let your work speak for itself.

FOT Background Check

Dawn Burke
Dawn Burke (PHR) is VP of People at DAXKO. That's right - the very DAXKO that our very own KD is an alum of because there are only so many people (okay, just one) in the big B'ham who are worthy of that VP of People title. Dawn would be it. Former actor/singer/retail guru, her HR career has spanned the last decade. A true Generalist she’s done a little bit of everything, but recruiting and training is where she gets her mojo. She's based in the good 'ole blogging capitol of the south, Birmingham, Alabama, where you can frequently find her listening to the Beatles and REM, watching tons of Sex in the City reruns, drinking copious amounts of coffee and wine, and wondering how in the world this theatre grad ever got into football or HR…. Talk to Dawn via emailLinkedIn, or Twitter...


    • Dawn Burke says:

      For sure. Hell, we could use that one. Or — “Don’t girl- who- hops- on- one- foot- in- Coming- To- America me…..” or “Don’t Anastasia Steel me” (50 Shades of Gray), “Don’t Roscoe P Coltrane me”

      OMG- I could go on forever!!

  1. Kartik says:

    Thanks for the read, Dawn. I find that in Canada, the CHRO position is still in its infancy and you don’t really see it that often rather, the HR Director role reigns supreme. I do find that in some cases, HR folks (Director’s or otherwise) are their own worst enemy by sticking to the transactional side of HR which then leads people to the view that HR has no business sense. I’d like to see people in the C-Suite start to realise that if they are going to have a business strategy, they are going to need a matching people strategy and an HR Director who is more of a glorified Generalist, isn’t going to cut it. Thoughts?

  2. Dawn Burke says:

    Agreed on all fronts. Also, I believe the CHRO role is in it’s infancy in the US as well. Not all companies are there yet (understanding the CHRO)- and based on size may not need to be. However, practically speaking, I think a Sr. HR exec (no matter what the title) should be peers to all other c-suite.

    The greatest way for an Sr. HR pro to get understanding into other business units is to interact daily with this group. Not quarterly, not monthly — daily. It so funny that there is this perception that the best CHRO’s came from operations. If that was true, and I don’t necessarily think it is, it’s likely because those operational groups received more daily insight into the company strategy holistically. They are essentially bred from the start to slide into c-suite roles. If that same opportunity is not afforded to HR folks- of course they are at a disadvantage.

    But, none of that matters if the Sr. HR pro themselves doesn’t see their role as greater than transactional. If not afforded time with the C-Suite, Sr. HR needs to be self-directed enough to create a c-suite/strategic “micro-cosm” within their own Department. And **ask** for time to be mentored by other C-Suite members of the organization. If Sr. HR leaders don’t have the where-with-all to at least do that, then, yes– we have big problems.

  3. Matt Charney says:

    This is a nice bit of cheerleading – and a better piece of writing – but you have to admit that the HR bashing wasn’t caused by pundits or haters – it was caused by the fact that HR historically has kind of sucked in terms of the one responsibility you’d think would be a key focus of this line of work: helping the employee population they serve. You know – those employee relations incident instigators or those whiny, disgruntled outliers who probably are already on PIPs when they bash you on Glassdoor…

  4. Dawn Burke says:

    Charney—Couldn’t. Agree. More.

    You are absolutely right. HR brought pain on themselves by focusing on the wrong things (admin, picnics, fighting worthless battles about lunch food or how to distribute a job requisition the right way). Too much fear of lawsuits and outliers, not enough focus on the 98% of employees who get things right.

    But honestly, the only thing CEOs paid attention to up until 10-15 years ago from the HR department was a) risk management and b) catch-all tasks like picnics. In that regard I think some HR folks really believed they were helping the employees they served by what C-Suite gave them recognition for doing.

    But that tide is turning- and has been for sometime. I think the HR sucks mantra is an overgeneralization. There will always be a contingent that doesn’t get it, just like there is a contingent in any department that doesn’t get it. So although the HR bashing wasn’t caused by pundits/haters, it’s being perpetuated by them in a fairly one-sided fashion.

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