Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Ugly HR: You are your own Resource: Why Curse or Depend on HR?

You are your own Resource: Why Depend on HR?
                                                     T. V. Rao                                                      

In recent times, while travelling, I found the number of conversations I hear from strangers are surprisingly filled with references to HR. The other day when I was travelling from Hyderabad to Ahmedabad, the girl next to me was on her cell phone for almost 20 mts until the doors closed. I could hear the word “HR” several times loudly. The other words in conversation slows down but whenever she uttered HR it was loud. In another group of youngsters, the other day at Pune airport were repeatedly talking about HR and having fun at them for doing some gafla in recruitment, posting and incentives. It looks today most people are concerned about HR and depend on them for recruitment, placement, offer letters, injustice done in fixing salary, change of jobs, pink slips, blue slips, no slips, transfers, vacation, change of boss, KRAs, incentives, accommodation, postings and so many things.
In all this, HR seems to have to faces: The Ugly face and the Happy face. Most of the time stranger conversations deal with the ugly face, and they seem to be on the increase. I get touched and sometimes pained that the term HR is applied for anything that obstructs you in fulfilling you desires. Originally when we decided to create a department of Human Resources Development it was meant to separate the ugly face of Personnel and create a new face which is for creating happiness at work through competence, commitment and culture building. I am not myself a HR person. If any I am student of mathematics, science, education and psychology by my degrees and created the first HRD department to make the place of work developmental and enjoyable. Over the years many departments have re-named themselves starting from Personnel to Training and Employee relations. The intentions were good but never the same as what we originally conceptualized. As a result, HRD has become a dirty department at times and strategic department at other times but rarely a happiness department. 43 year after the first HRD department was o conceptualized in India, and bodies like the National HRD Network have started with the primary purpose of promoting this philosophy and isntruments, there seems to be failure all over in achieving this goal. This is not to say everything done in the name of HR is bad. HR work has grown in complexity, contributed a lot to growth of firms, lifted itself to a strategic and Board level function. There are many HR people who have started in a big way using HR to ensure great places to work, enhance employee engagement, promote organization development, clarify and create a vison and values, promote learning and development at work place, create a learning organization etc. However, these don’t seem to dominate the common conversations among employees. The ugly face of HR seems to dominate the minds of most employees.

What is the way out? The way HR functions today in most organizations, I don’t expect much to change. The ugly face of HR is likely to be talked a lot more than the happy face of HR. In our country, we hardly remember those who do good to us but remember intensely and emotionally all those that annoy us or cause unhappiness. Most of what HR does is bound to cause unhappiness in the lives of almost every employee at some point or the other by denying what they desire. HR must totally change to be Happiness Responsible Department.  Even if it changes to become happiness department, most employees will hate it for giving more happiness to their neighbors or colleagues than to them by asking questions like why is he sponsored for foreign training and not me/ or why is he given access to self-learning material and not me etc.? Sometimes I wonder if our culture is by nature an unhappiness highlighting culture.
What is the way out? I am increasingly getting convinced that  spirituality at work place is perhaps a significant way out. I have come to believe that no one can help you grow, develop or become happy without your permission. In fact, we all should be facilitators and owners of our own happiness and development. We should not depend on HR department to create happiness and growth in our lives. HR departments are more likely to be disciplining, controlling departments besides diagnosing and developing departments. The latter occurs at group level and the former at individual level. Hence HR has difficulty serving individuals. So why not take charge of your HR. You are the master of your life, you are the planner, dialogue creator, actor, director, marketer and event manager. Why depend on HR department? If any they may be unknowingly creating constraints to be managed by you at times. So, take ownership and start playing your role as “Your own HRD Manager” and be responsible for your happiness, engagement, enhancement and growth. Don’t expect anything from HR. If they do something sue it to your advantage.
Advice to HR: Having said this my advice to my HR Friends is that it is high time you change your course of action. Gone are the days where you must take ownership for developing people. You must reorient yourself and convert the HRD department to be one of Human Response Development department. Your job perhaps is to help people to see sense in various organizational interventions and take charge of their happiness by altering their responses to various organizational or HRD interventions; be it training, Performance management, 360 Feedback, Assessment and development centers, recruitment, postings, incentives, facilities, leaves, job enrichment exercises and the like.


  1. I am not saying HR departments are ugly. I am saying that the perceived ugly part is the point of sharing by employees (strangers). By nature HR departments have to work for peace, stability and growth. In this pursuit they have to enforce discipline and be consistent. Individual interests require them to be flexible and firm interest require them to b e inflexible. They are under stress both ways and don't get the appreciation they deserve and on the contrary painted as the villains. Development suffers or at least not adequately acknowledged. The way out is both for employees to change their outlook and HR Department to modify their mission.

  2. Dear Dr. TV Rao, I agree with you that HR departments should focus more on HRD and creating an atmosphere of happiness in organizations. However, HR in most of the organizations are playing the role of secretaries to CEOs/COOs. However, if they share their independent thinking frequently, they leave a bad taste in the mouth of top management and the accumulative effect is the loss of their HR jobs. Our CEOs/MDs/COOs need YES men in their kitchen cabinet. For them personal loyalty is more important than the collective and holistic good of the company.