Magazine article Workforce Management

Vipers in Your Midst

Magazine article Workforce Management

Vipers in Your Midst

Article excerpt


The movie Snakes on a Plane depicts the terror of being trapped in a confined space with lifethreatening pythons, rattlesnakes and the like. While some might see this movie as having no connection to human resources, I see it as the perfect metaphor for the typical HR department.

Snakes are much like the scary types in HR who contribute to making the function less effective. They quietly undermine efforts by others to transform HR into a powerhouse function by choking off innovation and injecting paralyzing venom in the form of socialism and compliancespeak. Some might think that putting these people in the same category as dangerous reptiles is harsh, but in my 35-plus years in HR, I've found their actions scarier and more despicable than any real snake I've come across.

Who are the snakes in HR? Every organiwition has people who resist change and thwart efforts by real HR professionals to dramatically improve human resources, so in reading this list, think of both current and past snakes who have hindered progressive work you were trying to do. I hope we are talking about a small percentage of HR professionals here, but it is important to remember that the damage they do well exceeds their numbers.

HR generalists: Generalists are the ultimate silo- and boundary-builders in HR. They set up empires and resist change by saying, "That's great for everyone else, but it won't work in my business unit." They have made it to the top by building relationships and playing politics, instead of producing measurable business results. International HR managers, particularly those in Japan and Europe, tend to be the worst of the lot. Most lack the cojones to manage talent aggressively, blocking staffing professionals who try to innovate. You can spot these snakes easily because they are always "in a meeting." They love meetings, and think that going to a meeting is more beneficial than reviewing metrics, doing a postmortem or forecasting future people problems.

Lazy recruiters: Great recruiters are aggressive and are constantly trying new sources and approaches to reach the best talent. However, there are snakes in recruiting. The most venomous are administrative recruiters, who are not really recruiters at all but rather requisition managers more concerned with seeking approvals and ensuring that the forms get filled out. Other snakes in recruiting include those who regularly scream "That's illegal!" when in fact their exclamation has no basis in law, and "search firm managers" who do more to stifle the work of retained search firms than help them. …

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