How to ruin your HR career

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In order to truly grow as a business function, HR must continue its integration as a principal player in the formulation business strategy – yet according to one HR leader, some HR professionals are stuck in the past.

For Mike Spinale, an HR leader at a US-based healthcare information technology company, and adjunct professor at Southern New Hampshire University, too often he hears horror stories of ineffectual and mistrusted HR people. “It’s always disturbing to me to hear these HR horror stories about HR people ruining the reputation of my chosen field,” he commented on the Personal Branding Blog.

Spinale points out a number of ways he has witnessed HR professional’s diminishing their own reputations, and the reputation of the business function as a whole. Do any of his points spell home-truths?

Remaining ‘old school’ – One sure way to ruin an HR reputation is to embrace the ways of the old ‘personnel department’ – if day-in day-out you’re focused on files and paperwork instead of being an advocate for employees and management, you haven’t caught up to HR in 2013.

Policing your team – disciplining team members for coming in late, taking a lunch that went a little too long, and checking their Facebook page.

Remaining separate from the business you don’t need to know anything about how the business runs, the customers, the market, or other business functions like Finance and IT, right? Your job is the hirer and the firer.

Being a corporate spy. Watch your employee’s every move and reporting to the powers above. Instead of coaching an employee through an issue, you report their conduct. This will go a long way in ensuring that you never have positive relationships with employees.

Keep your mouth zipped. You weren’t hired to advise management as to how to have effective relationships with people, motivate their workforce, and improve their performance. Never speak up to senior leadership about changes you think need to be implemented.

Stay in your office all day. Never socialise with employees. Show no interest in their careers, development, or comfort in the office.

What mistakes have you made in your career, and how have you overcome them?


  • David on 2013-04-10 12:42:02 PM

    I cringe most whenever I hear "shhh, HR is in the room". I'm not the etiquette police...far from it!

  • David on 2013-04-10 12:43:28 PM

    Sadly, one of the greates compliments I received from an IT Director working on a large insourcing deal was, "I like you! You don't talk like you're in HR". But I get it!

  • Chris on 2014-03-27 12:04:46 PM

    Ahhh, the bane of our existence! What is regrettable is that "those personnel types" really believe they're doing HR the right way and we're wasting time trying to become executives! Hopefully articles like this one will help to shift their thinking. This is why I prefer my title to be "Consultant" because it has a less threatening connotation than "Advisor" or "Analyst" (a term used in my organization for the grey zone between Assistant and Advisor. As a matter of fact, the whole department should be called "Human Resources Consulting" and each HRC employee should be called "HRC - Consultant" or "HRC - Manager" or "HRC - Director" or "HRC - Assistant".... Thoughts anyone? I'm interested in hearing about other creative ways to banish the old institution.

  • Janine on 2014-03-27 6:43:05 PM

    I have often been referred to as the non traditional HR person with more than 20 years of my career spent in the 'business'. Making the transition to HR allowed me to realize a goal set some 20 years ago. Imagine my surprise when in a management meeting where I questioned some financials that were not adding up and my CEO loudly announced 'and that's from the HR person'. Of course it was, just because I am in HR does not mean I don't understand business. My point it is not only HR people who holds the profession back, it's 'the business leaders'.

  • Tammy on 2014-03-31 10:34:44 AM

    Excellent comments. HR has certainly evolved and continues to evolve to meet the changing needs within the workplace. I agree with Chris and that we are consultants and coaches to both our employers and employees. I've often received similar remarks as David and I also 'get it', but I totally agree with Janine that in order to remove the personnel type behaviour, some business leaders need to be better educated-and it's up to HR practitioners and professionals to influence change within their peers and organizations that still operate in the dark ages.

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