Wednesday, 18 January 2012

An Enormous Request For A Lot Less Passion

For a function that frequently has the need for its existence called into question, HR currently seems to currently be inviting ridicule of epic proportions by the way in which it is talking about itself, particularly in the blogosphere and the twitterverse.

I’m therefore making a heartfelt plea to all of us within our beloved HR community to stop referring to each other in vomit-inducing terms.

Let’s look at a couple of examples:

On twitter, I am followed by a guy who describes himself as “a learner, teacher who is passionate about developing people to embody higher wave of Authentic Living”, and also a lady who is, apparently, “making the world a better place - helping people to shine - living life to the max.”  

Here’s a test: imagine that either of these two had just walked into a house-warming party in their neighbourhood, and someone asked them who they were and what they did. Would either of them ever describe themselves in the terms which are used in their twitter profiles? I seriously hope not. Or, if your fellow passenger on the flight from Manchester to Berlin introduced himself as someone who was “passionate about developing people to embody higher wave of Authentic Living,” could you manage to resist the need to reach for the vomit bag? I certainly couldn’t.

The examples above are by no means isolated instances either. Twitter is littered with (judging from their comments) lacklustre HR people who nevertheless describe themselves as Keynote Speakers, Ninjas, Gurus, Thought Leaders, Mavericks and Global Strategists. Very few indeed are anything at all what they claim to be in their hilariously worded profiles.

Right. Onto my soapbox for an even more vitriolic rant:

HR people: for heaven’s sake, stop describing yourself as “passionate” about what you do. Especially when it’s applied to activities such as organisational change or personal development. To be passionate is to be “dominated by or easily moved by strong feeling, especially of love or anger.” Is that the way people really and honestly feel about HR activities?

That you may be passionate about the ailing fortunes of Preston North End football club, I will allow. That you may be passionate about the all-too-few ECM albums of Keith Jarrett’s European Quartet (or the wonderful new album by Magnus Öström) I can grant. Perhaps if Opera is your thing, it may be the gut-wrenching arias in Julius Caesar by Handel. That you may be utterly passionate about your re-discovered lover, I will accept without hesitation. To be passionate is to be awake in the night thinking about the object of your passion, to miss meals, to suffer withdrawal symptoms when you cannot get what you desire. But to claim that you experience such feelings when you are involved with restructuring an organisation for optimum performance or (when it boils down to it) matching an individual with a learning and development opportunity is, quite frankly, ridiculous.

The thing is, I know I’m not the only HR person who feels the bile rising when I read such over-inflated verbiage. But what makes matters worse is there’s a whole world of non-HR people out there who are laughing up their sleeves when they see the HR community use meaningless and inappropriate terminology when they describe their activities.

If we want the HR profession to be treated seriously, a good place to start would be in the way we talk about ourselves and what we do. 

So let’s commit to use words that people recognise and understand, not ones that have them reaching for the sick bucket


  1. Made me laugh as it is so true. Have always called it talking B******s myself

  2. I know the passion of which you speak.

    And what has been the object of my passion?

    Well, it's certainly not been HR.

    I like my job, I'd even go so far as to say I enjoy it. But love it, desire it, feel full of passion for it - I think not. I'll leave those emotions for something or someone far more special!


  3. Well you got to love what you do and anything that drives you, excites you, motivates you , brings the best in you could be your passion and whats wrong if its your job ?
    BTW: I know the pain of using those jargons !!!! I mean come on give me a break!!

  4. I love my HR role and am proud to be passionate! Why? HR is about people. People with all their varied motivators, flaws, interests, agendas, abilities, beliefs, hopes and talents. People are brilliant, frustrating, funny, unpredictable, smart, infuriating and diverse- what better reason to get excited?