“Death by HR” – “a valuable, and fun, read.”

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

Death by HR

[Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations, available now for Kindle and trade paperback.]

I missed a new review of Death by HR at Amazon a few months back. It blends some quotes from the book with the reviewer’s comments to make some additional points:

5.0 out of 5 stars
HR: Symptom or Disease?
By Alan F. Sewell on February 17, 2017
Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase

This book seeks to answer a question posed by job seekers in their 40’s and 50’s: “Why is it impossible for experienced people our age, whose jobs were eliminated by {downsizing, rightsizing, outsourcing, offshoring, re-engineering, work force reductions, involuntary early retirements} to get back to work?”

Companies keep saying that they can’t find candidates qualified with the skills they need, yet tens of millions of highly educated people with years of success under their belts — engineers, business managers, and computer science Ph.D’s — are sitting home twiddling their thumbs because HR Departments will not consider them for open positions that match their skills and experience.

Corporations are very complex organizations. It’s easy to pick out one cog in their wheels — such as “overpaid CEO’s with short attention spans” or “boneheaded bean counters” or “HR drones” to pin all the blame for our poor economy and diminishing job opportunities on. Like every other department, HR is bound to garner a fair share of criticism. How much of it is justified?

HR departments exist because they fulfill a necessary function. HR does after all serve the essential purpose of improving the likelihood that corporations will treat their employees ethically. These days that includes affirmative action diversity goals, conflict resolution, compliance with employment law, and other aspects of personnel management that must be addressed.

On the other hand, every corporate department must constantly strive for improvement that corrects justified complaints.

The biggest beef with HR Departments is that instead of lubricating the gears of employment by matching the most promising job candidates to job openings, HR people throw sand in the gears and block corporations from hiring the very people a corporation needs to inject new blood and vigor into its ossified bureaucracy. HR people are often seen as narrow-minded, ignorant of their companies’ businesses, biased (against “normal” people) in their hiring preferences, well-deserving their low pay and low status, and frankly stupid.

This book certainly aligns with the negative view of HR:
HR functionaries are roughly analogous to the commissars or political officers of Communist regimes, a separate hierarchy of spies to report on and control internal units. The interests of managers and HR can diverge drastically, with HR coming to be viewed as the enemy within, to be avoided and routed around. One high-tech team manager wrote, “How can you tell HR is lying? Their lips are moving.”

HR has come to be viewed as a pink-collar ghetto, a feminized and lower-status department from which few would graduate into the highest levels of management.

This new wrinkle in HR practices seems like the most unsettling and counterproductive yet. It not only removes access to the hiring manager, but also live, human interaction. It sounds like “HR pornography,” where perverted personnel jockeys huddle around a monitor to gawk at videos of “virtual job candidates,” picking apart perceived blunders while they screen you out.

What I learned in my experience with these [soul-crushing people of low intelligence] is that passive-aggressive noncompliance thwarts them…

HR departments may be worse than useless as recruiters— they sometimes actively repel the best applicants.

No kudos for HR people here! HR is portrayed as a disease imposed on companies by the necessity to comply with government mandates for equal opportunity and diversity. However, HR is also portrayed as a symptom of a larger disease of corporate mismanagement:

Mediocre managements take current rewards for themselves but ignore the future, eventually failing. Foreign companies take over markets, one by one, as US companies dragged down by unions and mediocre key employees lose revenues and eventually abandon markets.

HR often reports to the CFO, and thereby becomes a cost-saving arm. Public companies can fall into the managed-earnings trap, where every hiccup in revenues and earnings is smoothed by carefully-timed layoffs. Many mature Silicon Valley companies now go through layoffs every few quarters, usually justified as responding to poor prospects in one business line or other, but really aimed at keeping investors soothed and the stock price up. Upper-level management bonuses and stock options depend on a high and stable stock price; HR becomes the earnings-management handmaiden of the CFO, allowing short-term gains for top employees and investors at the expense of long-term development of a productive, stable workforce.

[Ed. note: the above were quotes from the book, below is apparently the reviewer’s views]

So, what really is the story on HR? I know an HR person in our family. She fits the “HR profile” of being a young female minority. She’s nice, well-mannered, and well-spoken. She does fit this book’s stereotype of HR people who are salespersons for trafficking in job applicants as commodities. They will only consider other “salesy” people like themselves who smile, are witty conversationalists, sharp dressers, young, and speak in fashionable buzzwords.

When HR people like her control the hiring, the “preening empty suit” candidates are at a premium, while the other 90% of candidates who are older, average in appearance and dress, and analytical instead of salesy have zero chance of being hired. Since we’re in a “musical chairs” economy that produces more layoffs than hirings in most years, the people who lose their jobs in late career are the ones who have the chairs jerked out from under them and can’t get back in the work force. Of course these people voted massively for Trump in 2016.

Author Jeb Kinnison also explains, from first hand experience, these shortcomings of HR departments, and also of upper corporation management and the government’s over-bearing regulations and quota-mongering. These are all employment-killers for people with skills in demand and records of proven accomplishments who were laid off in late career.

Kinnison also mentions another factor, which is that the economy has been so bad since the late 1990s that companies don’t expect to grow, so they put off hiring as long as possible. This explains the crazy situations whereby people who are perfectly qualified for a job opening are rejected, while the job opening remains unfilled for years. Then corporation management tells the government, “We can’t find Americans who are qualified to work for us, so give us more (low paid) Indians on H1-B visa’s.”

My take away is that HR Departments are beneficial in many aspects, such as conflict resolution and adherence to legal requirements for avoiding discrimination suits in hiring, firing, and promotion. But HR is not the best department for making hiring decisions. The hiring managers should do the hiring directly as they used to. They are the ones who are experienced in the business and know better than HR how to evaluate new hires. Once people are hired in, then HR becomes useful when problems of personnel conflict or potential discrimination or sexual harassment occur.

I can relate from personal experience what Mr. Kinnison is talking about. I enjoyed his observations and anecdotal story-telling. I also enjoyed his bringing many other factors that have negative impacts on HR, such as short-sighted corporate management and excessive government demands for diversity quotas. These external factors make HR much more annoying and detrimental than it probably would be without them.

So, HR is not just a disease, but also a symptom of other corporation and government diseases.

This book puts all of that into perspective and is a valuable, and fun, read.

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. 

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.

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