Are All Heads of Human Resources and HR Departments Filled With Idiots? 11 Comments


No, they are not. Human Resources as a profession can be an extremely rewarding one, when working for an organization that values the investments it makes – especially its’ workforce. As with any job function in a company there is a broad spectrum of views, performance, self awareness, and emotional competence.

Irregardless of what you think about the Human Resources Department at your company (or previous companies), ABC News’ 20/20 team wants to paint a picture filled with deception, lies, and company agendas with the episode that aired last week (True Confessions) – titled  ”Confessions from the Corner Office, Ex-HR Exec Tells All”.

If you didn’t see the show, you can watch the 6 minute interview via YouTube with Cynthia Shapiro (referred to as the former company “hatchet woman”.

In the interview, Shapiro shares:

  • A warning to candidates about “traps” with pictures of children on an interviewers desk, and an edict from upper management to not hire moms
  • The “let me walk you to your car” trick after the interview
  • Once you land a job, prepare yourself for a game of survivor where only your boss knows the rules.
  • Your vacation plans can get you on the layoff list, because companies move too fast
  • Bosses may put you on the layoff list – for the way you look
  • Only Executives get to have gray hair – it’s not fair but that’s how it goes
  • Being pregnant isn’t always celebrated
  • She was paid big bucks to find gray areas around the laws that would allow companies do what they want to do
  • The dirtiest secret of all is company being rarely tell the reason they landed on the layoff list
  • HR people may kill her for telling this on TV, but they will “create” documentation
  • Her best tip for staying off the companies layoff list, be a brown-noser

I am appalled (to say the least) at what was shared in the interview. Not from a standpoint of whether or not bad things can happen – but from the views as everything Shapiro stated is fact or “truth” for the workforce at large. Take the interviewer example from Shapiro – she knows a (meaning one) HR Director who places fake pictures of kids on her desk as a test.

Sure, we live in a society filled with “you can’t make this sh*t up”, and the HR profession has its’ challenges. Yet this is a perfect example of taking a small percent of problems companies face and pointing the finger at Human Resources given all of “their dirty little secrets”.

What are others saying about Shapiro’s interview across the web and via social channels? Here are a few excerpts (primarily from non Human Resources professionals):

  • Much of what was stated is, in my opinion, is very true. They are so guilty of everything.
  • The jobs I have gotten, I “forgot” to mention I had kids.
  • I have experience this first hand. The EEOC is in cohorts with the employers.
  • I was an HR for a Fortune 50 company for 11 years. It is embarrassing to admit that I was HR.
  • It is Corporate Resources, clearly not Human.
  • I’ve suspected some of the policies Ms. Shapiro exposed, she just verified them.
  • I suspect the HR people who are here protesting Ms. Shapiro are unhappy about being “ousted”.
  • It has been my experience that Ms. Shapiro is speaking the truth.
  • I see that the only ones disagreeing with Ms. Shapiro are the HR spies.
  • This was a great piece. Coming from HR, I can attest these practices are alive and well.
  • Thank you Ms. Shapiro for this very true, insightful look at what HR is really for.
  • HR is not the employees advocate just a spy for the C-level suits.
  • So true, especially the HR part, HR is there to protect the company from it’s own employees.

There are obviously several factors that play into whether or not a company an individual works at embraces the concept of a mutually beneficial (employment) relationship.

If you are experiencing any of the examples in the interview, protect yourself and get some legal advice. If not, for your own identity don’t take a victim (the world is out to get me) approach, or point fingers at HR when (maybe) you should look in the mirror and reflect on your own function and field of expertise – and your job performance.

The reality is there are a lot of great companies, and yes, based on all of the comments obviously some bad ones too. An employment relationship is a 2-way street and your performance is the pavement.

About Jason Buss

Talent HQ’s creator and editor is Recruiting & Diversity Leader, Jason Buss. Talent HQ is a premier online news and information channel for the Recruiting and Human Resources community.

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  • Posted on: Tuesday, May 1st, 2012
  • This Post Has 11 Comments

    1. Steve Levy says:

      Jason-

      For every miscreant in any field, there are many more who aren’t asses (despite the Equine Paradox: Why is it there are so few horses but so many horses’ asses?). There are also so many average people who aren’t in a position to counteract the bad behavior with better behavior (George Carlin’s “Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that” applies to HR and recruiting).

      If job seekers only knew how some of the more well-known recruiting agencies worked (you know, the who excoriate corporate HR and recruiting), they’d be wondering how they’d ever get a job.

      I’m going to repost a post I wrote anonymously on my blog which outs some of the things crappy recruiters do…let the fur fly JB!

    2. Hi Jason
      I understand your sentiment and of course most people in HR do a great job and in the right way. My view is that we can’t take these things personally. As a banker in my previous life (and most bankers at all levels of banks are good guys too) you just have to accept that some people will have their view…and this is often not helped by news stories.

      And bad news or scandals sell. There will be poor practice and down right dishonest practice out there and as you say it is going to be a minority.

      Making sure we deliver the right actions and giving great value every day is the answer. Great people shine through, whether they are in HR, sales and even risk management!

    3. Jason Buss says:

      Steve, thanks. I look forward to it.

    4. Jason Buss says:

      Mark, thanks for the comment. I completely agree with you and don’t take it personal in the least. The appalling part of the story is how one bitter Ex-HR head can leverage bad journalism (at its worst) to paint a broad brush against an entire profession and point blame. I am also not naive and get that some of these things do happen.

    5. Lance J. Chambers says:

      HR heads and HR professionals are talented and insightful managers of human capital. As mentioned by someone else, their value is determined by the rest of the organization’s willingness to listen and embrace the HR perspective. HR can add an invaluable component to the growth and development of an organization, its employees and set the tone for the company. Now that being said, the HR leaders must be in tune with the business, environment, operations, culture and know the people in order to have a “read” on what and where the organization is going. If not, then the “headline” may be appropriate. This may require some counseling and debating on what is really required and needed within the organization. HR leaders and professionals need to be prepared for those discussions armed with an understanding of the organizations/company’s mission, vision and values and leveraging the laws of employment and compliance. This I have found is especially critical when dealing in a collaborative and unionized environment.

    6. Michele Porfilio says:

      Once again, it is sad to see the media focusing on the scandalous activities that some organizations engage in. They certainly know how to get the audience’s attention. Unfortunately, “complainers” love to share their negative experiences so these comments across the web increase the poor perception of many organizations and their HR departments. Reminds me of the saying… “You have a good experience, you tell 3 people but if you have a bad experience, you will tell 10.”

      Pointing fingers at HR is a disservice. I’m not naive, I know there are unprofessional HR representatives out there, but that equally holds true with any profession. Reviewing the video and comments display HR as the messenger from executive leadership, for example, not hiring moms. This was leadership’s direction given to a compliant employee who acted unethically to oblige. I agree that you should reflect on your own function and field of expertise and your job performance, but I think this is a bigger issue than that in effective HR leadership. This is an area to pursue whether you have the right leadership in an organization and a strong HR leader that can effectively work with misdirected executives to incorporate more productive practices. HR leaders that fall into these situations should work on strategies to increase performance to meet business objectives ethically. For example, instead of finding ways to not hire women who have children, find ways to prove how those women provide value in such an organization.

    7. [...] Buss posted a barn burner over on TalentHQ, “Are All Heads of HR and HR Departments Filled With Idiots?” – his facts are spot on and they should make everyone a wee bit angry. I’m a [...]

    8. Aurelio Sisto says:

      I agree with Michele; a few bad examples shouldn’t be indicative of an industry. Like any field, there are always a handful that put a stain on things. However, there are many others that go above and beyond to make a difference for their firm – even if the firm isn’t a top-tier organization.

      Being in the staffing space for a number of years, I’ve had my share of *interesting* interactions; however there have been a number of stellar people that I’ve built tremendous relationships with over the years, and it has benefited us both time and again.

      Thanks for sharing the clip; I thought it was hilarious in retrospect :)
      All the best,
      Aurelio

    9. I had a good experience and a bad experience.
      Borland had an amazing HR department, with nicest people one can imagine.
      Google, otoh, is, internally, just an evil empire. Traps, etc.
      Others are somewhere in the middle. They mostly lie; why not; even cops lie in the court, under oath (eveybody knows this).

      Which does not mean you should lie. It’s a great pleasure to live your life without having to lie. I don’t know how many people can afford it. Some can. The lucky ones.

    10. Paul Basile says:

      Why is there continuous harping about interviews? They will always be mis-used by some, not by most. We all have at our disposal excellent, validated science that will get a much higher likelihood of the right decision than interviews, even good ones. I read so much hand-wringing about the wrong issues. It’s the equivalent of chanting over the sick and denying medical science. Why is there not more, MUCH more, focus on the assessments that are fair, scientific and validated?

    11. [...] all HR departments filled with idiots? This blog post at Talent HQ raises that question and then shoots it down, but it is pegged to an ABC News 20/20 report that [...]

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