Dear HR, Where are your B***s??

Abhishek Paul
3 min readAug 23, 2018

When 2 HRs meet, its typically a cathartic outpouring of the “failings” of the managers / CEO, etc. Midway through one such session, my friend and I looked at each other and uttered the above statement almost simultaneously. We realized that one of the main reasons for these “failings” was the lack of courage (the PC term for b***s) shown by those of us in HR. Don’t worry, this is not an exercise in self flagellation, but like Alice running down the rabbit hole, this is a curiosity led exercise to understand why this is a prevalent behaviour.

  1. A misconception that HR has to always be nice: Being nice is a requirement of any decent human being, it is not role specific. HR is not called to have a fake smile plastered on their face throughout their time in office. I believe air hostesses are able to fake it because they only have to do it for a few minutes before take off and on landing — otherwise, they have the most pissed off expression during the flight.
  2. A sense of insecurity / inferiority: This typically comes with those at the junior and mid level because of the lack of business context. They tend to behave like second class citizens, ie happy to do whatever task is assigned, afraid to be honest with their opinions and generally just happy to be asked to be in the same room. I’m not saying that those more senior have solved this, it’s just that they have become better at masking it behind confident sounding jargon.
  3. A belief that they cannot show measurable outcomes: They tend to be hesitant to boldly call out accomplishments because of the (wrong headed) notion that since you cannot put a number to certain actions / results, they are by definition unimportant / ineffective. This makes then resort to putting numbers on everything related to people and/ or only reporting on those things that can be measured. Next time I hear about the number recruited, attrition, etc, I’m going to shoot myself!

So the question before us is the one that faced the Lion in the “Wizard of Oz”, ie, “How does one find Courage?”

  1. HR is expected to be fair, exercise sound judgment, provide deep insights into people / performance and speak up for the employee (very trade unionist in that sense). The “niceness” is the way in which these attributes are communicated, but cannot be a substitute for them.
  2. There can be no excuse for a failure to know what the key drivers of the org’s business are. Leveraging the connects in the company, there is no shame in sitting with the folks in business to learn how our bread is earned, what the future looks like and what the top priorities / daily issues are. This will give much needed context to add value in future discussions.
  3. Always go deeper to answer the fundamental questions — What is the business value of any HR engagement? Why does this matter to the organization? What will happen if HR were to not do X? Once the rationale becomes clear, we can then go ahead and figure out how / what needs to be measured. Only then will what we measure make sense.

The idealist in me believes that at the heart of every HR is a desire to serve. But like I said, a heart alone is not sufficient — we owe it our colleagues, our leaders and to ourselves to show some b***s!!

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