ICYMI: Why we love to hate HR (and how we can fix it!)

In case you missed it (ICYMI), it’s officially summer! It’s time to enjoy longer days, sunshine and some well-deserved time off. To kick off summer, we’ve pulled some sizzling articles covering career and leadership advice.


HR always has a bad rap

We’ve all heard this before: HR is bossy. HR isn’t innovative. HR lacks insight. HR doesn’t actually contribute to business goals.


Blah, blah blah…


Wharton School of Business professor, Peter Cappelli published a new article, “Why We Love to Hate HR…and What HR Can Do About It,” in the July-August edition of Harvard Business review, available online. It’s hard to summarize his piece, because it’s packed full of research, trends and advice. It’s not breaking news that HR gets a bad rap. A major cause of their bad reputation is  HR leaders focusing too much on what Cappelli calls “administrivia.”


In the article, Cappelli discusses how HR operates on a “personnel pendulum.” Meaning, if the economy is going great, HR is essential. If the economy is in the toilet, HR is a nuisance. He walks us through the history and evolution of HR, starting from its roots in the early 1900s, through Great Depression, followed by World War II, the deep recession and the boom and bust of the dot com era.


So what caused the big problem HR is facing today? Cappelli says, “… more and more tasks that had traditionally been performed by HR (from hiring to development to compensation decisions) were pushed onto line managers, on top of their other work. And that’s been the case ever since. HR is now in the position of trying to get those beleaguered managers to follow procedures and practices without having any direct power over them. This is euphemistically called ‘managing with ambiguous authority,’ but to those on the receiving end, it feels like nagging and meddling.”


Here’s what he says HR should be doing now to make talent issues a priority for managers and business leaders:


  • Set the agenda
  • Focus on issues that matter here and now
  • Acquire business knowledge
  • Highlight financial benefits
  • Walk away from the time wasters


I highly recommend any managers or HR leaders to read the full article, which offers some great advice and scenarios on how to achieve those goals.



Does your boss lack basic social skills?

You might not be too far off the reservation on this one. The Huffington Post covered a recent study, performed by Harvard Business Review, on the top complaints employees have about their leaders. The complaints include:


  • Not recognizing employee achievements (63%)
  • Not giving clear directions (57%)
  • Not having time to meet with employees (52%)
  • Refusing to talk to subordinates (51%)
  • Taking credit for others’ ideas (47%)
  • Not offering constructive criticism (39%)
  • Not knowing employees names (36%)
  • Refusing to talk to people on the phone/in person (34%)
  • Not asking about employees’ lives outside work (23%)


The article mentions, “Approximately 1.5 gagillion pages, books and articles have written about how to be an effective leader or boss.” With survey results like the HBR study, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Recognizing a job well done, giving direction, knowing your employees names… these are all fundamental, basic human skills.


It’s time that we start doing a better job of humanizing our employees. Read the full article, “Your Boss Lacks a Surprising Number of Basic Social Skills,” for some great advice on how to get started.


Let me break this to you gently…

Most of us can think of a colleague that we may have an issue with. Yet, seldom do we speak up. A recent study of 1,400 U.S. employees and managers found that 56% refrained from bringing up a particular grievance, or more than one, usually out of fear of alienating someone they have to see every day. That’s more than half of the workforce, which ain’t good. According to the study – which was featured in a Forbes article, “How to Criticize Coworker Without Wrecking the Relationship”  – stated, “Two thirds (66%) told researchers they believed expressing their complaints would help their company achieve its goals, while 43% thought the offending coworker would be better off, and 39% said ‘a huge emotional burden’ would be lifted.”


Here are four ways to approaching the awkward conversation you’ve been avoiding:

  1. Assume that people can change
  2. Make your motives clear
  3. Stick to the facts
  4. Talk back


Read the full article for some more excellent career advice.

It might just be me, but I think these articles have one common theme: It’s time to put the human back into Human Resources.


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