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Archive for December, 2010

People persons vs Business persons

December 13th, 2010 2 comments

Ed Newman, in a guest appearance at The Cynical Girl, gives us a provactively titled post this morning.  I’m sympathetic to the spirit of the post, now watch me hedge my way through the details.

What I like:

  • In his “business person” response, Newman does a good job of show how performance problems should be evaluated in terms of outcomes and customer impact
  • Newman also rightly points out that HR is sometimes about negative outcomes; HR people need to recognize that and come to terms with it

What I don’t like:

  • The conflation of HR Person and People Person.  Newman seems to genuinely want HR to have more credibility, but sets up this discussion on the assumption that HR is mostly made up of People Persons.  I don’t need an exhaustive study, but some kind of backing for this position would be nice
  • The suggestion is that the business person will act quickly and decisively, and that’s the right way to react.  When someone needs to be fired quickly, no half-decent HR person will stand in the way. On the other hand, the HR person’s discussion points (which we’re supposed to shake our heads at) can help make sure the right person isn’t terminated in the wrong way, or the wrong person terminated in an embarassing way
  • I’m not clear on how the business person’s outcome is substantively different from the people person’s.  If the manager came to the people person and said “this person is harming our business every day they’re in role”, are we to believe the HR person would wait 3 weeks to act?

I’m all for improving the reputation of HR (and yes, I include recruiting in HR). But I think we do ourselves an injustice when we create false divisions between our function and other business functions.  People person, business person, I don’t care-give me an effective person and I’m happy.

So I think we need a blanket term to collect all our negative impressions of the paper-pushing, process administering, otherwise-useless HR people we’ve all worked with. My suggestions:

  • Personnel Specialist
  • HR Practitioner