Monday, 7 December 2009

Captain Pugwash takes on the lolloping landlubbers of HR

The mention of the children's TV cartoon Captain Pugwash to any British male over the age of 40 will almost inevitably be quickly followed by much tittering and guffawing.

Just how on earth did the cartoon's creators manage to get away with introducing characters with names like Master Bates, Roger the Cabin Boy and Seaman Stains?

The answer is possibly rather less risqué:

They didn't get away with it. The series never featured characters with any such names. It's simply another example of an urban myth.

But I will guarantee you this: when you pass on this demythologizing snippet of information to the next person who claims that the tale is true, they will vehemently claim that their uncle's friend's grandfather actually met someone in the doctor's surgery who has an old video of the pilot episode with all of these characters in it.

But ask for hard evidence and you will be disappointed.

"Kipper me capstans! What's all this leading up to?" I hear you cry!

How about the urban myths that we unquestioningly accept in the HR profession? Is there actually any hard, empirical evidence for any of the following commonly accepted "truths"?

Forced-ranking appraisal systems which reward those at the top, but fire those at the bottom lead to an improvement in an organisation's performance.

Outsourcing transactional activities has positively transformed Human Resource Management.

Organisations want Business Partners, not HR Managers.

The motivation theorists got it right: money doesn't motivate people.

The diversity and equal opportunities agenda has delivered demonstrable benefits to the target populations.
I'm sure that there are more too, but perhaps that's just me being cynical!

Oh, and if you don't leave a comment, the hairy-handed hitch-hiker will come to get you!


  1. Not sure what the Editor had for breakfast or the kind of weekend he had but sure sounds like he’s taken a cynical pill this morning.

    How can you be so critical of a profession that we all enter because we just love working with people?

    Was debating whether or not to leave a comment as being got by a hairy-handed hitch hiker might be quite exciting. Strangers in a car and all that.

    Anyway – must dash as about to conduct a competency based interview – just the best way to select the perfect candidate!!!!


  2. I could have sworn...?! Ha ha, nice work Graham! How about 'psychometrics can predict success in a role.' or 'HR is not about people'.

    Been thinking a lot about the business partner model lately - it really hasnt worked has it? I mean, i have not really met anyone who is really evangalising about its success - apart from a couple of HRD's that have put it in!

  3. Now, come on...we all know it WAS Master brother swore it was...Not going to tell me he lied are you?

  4. Strange how some people don't want to give up believing in a myth, isn't it!

    Just to set the record straight:

    After a piece alledging this most urban of myths to be true appeared in the Young Guardian newspaper on 13th September 1991, Pugwash creator John Ryan followed through a successful court action and the Guardian later printed this statement:

    “In the Young Guardian of September 13 [1991] we stated that the Captain Pugwash cartoon series featured characters called Seaman Staines and Master Bates, and for that reason the series had never been repeated by the BBC. We accept that it is untrue that there ever were any such characters. Furthermore, the series continues to be shown on television and on video. We apologize to Mr. Ryan, the creator, writer and artist of the Captain Pugwash films and books. We have agreed to pay him damages and his legal costs.”