Social #HR will eat itself

I’m easily disappointed. One of the inescapable side effects of believing the best in people is the certain fact that a good proportion of the time you will be let down. These days I even have a disappointed face…..I can share it with you at some point if you’d like.

Five years ago, when I started messing around with Twitter and Facebook from a professional point of view, I  hadn’t even heard of the term “Social HR”. In many ways, I wish it had stayed that way.

Because “Social HR” is akin to the drunken moment when you lose bodily control, an initial feeling of warmth and comfort only to be followed by the unnerving understanding that you have thoroughly debased yourself.

Social HR should be:






Social HR has become:






So, well done us.

The thing is, that the whole concept has been bastardised by the well meaning, but intellectually stunted.

Yes we understand that “lists” aren’t perfect, yes we get the “generation Y” issues, yes we understand that business needs to be more “social”, yes we already talked about the need for less processes. But really. Is that all you’ve got? Is that everything?

The certainty gained from unthinking consensus is the cloak that camouflages lazy ignorance.

If you want to be edgy, then accept you’ll annoy people, you’ll upset people, you’ll be on your own and lonely. Accept, YOU CANNOT BE PART OF THE GANG.

I wanted to write all of this for a while, I’d been mulling this over, when a good friend of mine Heather Bussing sent me this poem in relation to a different context. I think it says everything and more.

The Real Work – Wendell Berry

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.


Kind of sums it all up. Thanks Heather.


  1. daviddsouza180 · July 22, 2013

    Oh… I’ve felt this one coming. Just because everyone isn’t being a pain in the arse doesn’t mean there aren’t great ideas being shared, great content being created and people learning. You can provoke great thinking without just provoking people. I’ve not been on social media for as long as you (by about 5 years…) but maybe you have been just too good and attracted too many people who have similar opinions and lost that sense of individuality that first made it attractive?

    I’m not sure how you distinguish an ‘unthinking consensus’ from a ‘thinking one’, and I’m certainly not sure that being like minded on some issues is the same as being a lazy thinker. I think you can be edgy and still inclusive and I think you can be argumentative without upsetting people. In fact, I think you get better debate when people are open, rather than defensive or taking up a crudely polarised position. I’m always up for a debate if I think people are heading in the wrong direction, but you also have to accept that if you listen you learn. I like the poem (that isn’t wanting to be part of a gang, that’s because I like the intent of the poem).

    I think if you want to be an outsider you can always be one, I’m just not sure what benefits it brings – like I say, I’m a newbie, maybe this thing was rocking and rolling a few years ago – or maybe just having fewer people sharing your views made you feel less like part of the establishment? I certainly haven’t found much to dislike in the way people challenge.It’s constructive rather than destructive – and that is because the nature of ‘social’ is about community, rather than people being lonely. That’s fine with me.

    • Neil · July 23, 2013

      If you want people to think, you need to provoke. I’m glad I made you think.

      • daviddsouza180 · July 23, 2013

        I’m not sure I agree with you that people are in a resting state, with regards to thinking, without provocation. There is always stimulus, it’s such a rich world. Trust me, I’m not short of thoughts in bobbing about in here and what I held to before you blogged I still hold to now.

        It’s interesting to think about your stated intent and the evident gap between that and the actual impact of the blog, that’s what I’m reflecting on.

        Cheers for taking the time to comment. Have a good afternoon/evening. Fewer storms tonight hopefully.

  2. Pingback: Context, Consensus & Comfort | Work Musing
  3. Sukh Pabial · July 22, 2013

    It’s something I’ve been thinking about for some time now too. A lot of what gets written seems to be retweeted, or shared, or liked, and it’s really hard to discern if it’s all worth reading or not. Whose RT do I trust more? When I see it come from someone I respect, or when I see it repeatedly in my timeline?

    But that’s also the point of online social networks isn’t it. We’re meant to write, and share, and encourage. Because it motivates us to do it more. We have an audience who will respond positively, and we enjoy that attention.

    Even you, Neil, are writing this knowing it’ll get picked up by the HR community in all likelihood. Your writing to date informs you it’ll get shared. And you’ll get the warm and fuzzies when your blog numbers rise.

    And continuing on that, the very same people who do the consistent and persistent sharing will do the same to yours.

    So, is your writing predictable? Yes. Because You’ll always say something to challenge people.

    Is your writing provocative? It’s your style, and your nature. Anything else would not be you.

    Is it cosy? Kinda, cos it reinforces that there are people out there willing to put their necks out and it’s not incumbent on me to do that.

    Is it argumentative? Not so much. You make an argument, but you rarely pick a fight.

    And then I consider my writing. I write in a very comfortable space. I try to share content of interest and develop thinking around the L&D profession specifically. So it may not be the things you list, but it works for me.

    Which is what most people’s writing is about. It works for them. And the community will respond to that.

    Those who write in a way which is provocative and edgy accept they won’t be part of the gang.

    For eveyone else, being part of the gang is cool.

    Here’s the thing. There is no new thinking. Not really. It’s all been said over the last few years. Not until something else compelling and disruptive comes along will we need to re-think the world of work. Even yours is not new thinking.

    • Neil · July 23, 2013

      I’m not going to wait for “something else compelling and disruptive”, I’m going to act before. So should you.

      • Sukh Pabial · July 23, 2013

        You’re assuming I’m not acting. Assumptions are dangerous things.

      • Neil · July 23, 2013

        Agreed. I interpreted, not assumed.

  4. I agree that its essential that there are edgy voices, and an element of dischord amongst bloggers, in HR as much as blogging generally. If everyone keeps writing consensual, motivational, congratulatory and esteem-building articles, then the resultant cosy group-hug responses are all too predictable, and don’t lead to any greater understanding.

    I believe I write very moderately adopting a centrist and neutral tone. However, when contrasted with the often anodyne backdrop of blog discourse, I am considered to be argumentative, harsh and sometimes outrageous. I don’t like feeling like the shouty ranty one, and wish those I know with far more pointed opinions would pipe up a little more, if only to take the bad look of of me.

    • daviddsouza180 · July 22, 2013

      it would be awful if people kept on writing motivational articles that built esteem. I mean, just think of the consequences….Far better that we have have some depressing writing that runs us all down. After all, that’s what drives progress.

      Group hug? Support, appreciation of effort – what is the problem with that coupled with constructive feedback?.Understanding comes from reflection and challenge – neither of those should be mutually exclusive to being in a group.

      Also, stop aiming for a centrist and neutral tone, maybe it’s that lack of passion that people are rallying against rather than your ‘outrageousness’. You don’t have to upset people to prove you have edge. You can stimulate thought without being destructive. That’s my opinion.

      • I’m guessing you haven’t read my blog.

      • daviddsouza180 · July 22, 2013

        no, but then centrist and neutral is hardly making me want to either. What wonders would I find there?

      • I find it peculiar that you are giving me such a grilling for being vanilla.

      • daviddsouza180 · July 22, 2013

        you started off by wanting edge and dischord? I gave you a tiny amount (not my natural preference, but it’s in my toolkit) and you feel you have received ‘such a grilling’?. If you want other people to be stronger in communication you need to be able to take a lot more than what I’ve given. Which is why (go back to my original point) – I think criticism should be constructive. These comments are making the point that division doesn’t bring fresh thinking, it can just bring division.

      • David I don’t buy your “I’m just being edgy” line. You are being a tosser for the sake of it, and deliberately contrarian with several replies here. Don’t ask archly what my blog is like, when you can easily see for yourself. I don’t need to ask about yours.

        Of course criticism should be constructive (d’uh), but criticism is more useful than the usual round of “Great post” and “Hit the nail on the head” responses. Well done you for giving reasons for your response at 9.02am, but don’t play games with the rest of us.

      • daviddsouza180 · July 22, 2013


        i) you can’t expect everyone who posts to read everyone else’s blogs in order to understand back story, that is an unreasonable requirement on others’ time

        ii) don’t resort to name calling just because you don’t like inconsistencies being pointed out in your own debate

        iii) I’ll say it again – look at my post, look at yours. I am the one who wanted less conflict, you are the one who wanted more.

        Look where it got you – from neutral tone to name calling in less than a day. I haven’t had to play games or had the inclination to with anyone apart from Laurie who can obviously handle herself a bit better than you.

        I challenged you because it was appropriate and I disagreed with you and this is where you have ended up. You are complaining that I’m being ‘contrarian’ but you originally posted to complain about consensus. If anyone is being contrarian it is surely you.

        Read my blog by all means – it’s currently focused on collaborative work.

      • Yeah, you win.

    • daviddsouza180 · July 22, 2013

      Nice to see we can agree,

    • Neil · July 23, 2013

      Stephen, I think you often express very individual opinions. My experience is people don’t like that.

  5. Sean Trainor · July 22, 2013

    Some comments on your assertions Neil.
    1. HR understand that “lists” aren’t perfect – I agree if you mean “to do” lists
    2. HR get the “generation Y” issues – I disagree as GenY doesn’t get HR
    3. HR understand that business needs to be more “social” – Right on! and that’s why they introduce social media policies, processes and procedures (with a special mention for GenY employees)
    4. HR talked about the need for less processes – I agree, they talk about it a lot – there are probably HR processes out there on how to talk about the need for less processes

    So I buy your argument for HR becoming more disruptive, but fixing the basics would be a pretty good start.

    • Neil · July 23, 2013

      Agree Sean, it isn’t either or though, it is also and.

  6. stevehearsum · July 22, 2013

    “Social HR” is as much of a bastardized and meaningless term as another of my current bugbears, “social business”. HR – and business – are by definition social, they unfold and are played out through relational and social processes.

    To couple HR+social implies it is an add in/add on, something that you can take or leave, which you cannot. The problem with HR as a profession, business in general, and other fields (e.g. the NHS & care sector) is precisely this disconnection and separation.

    So the pattern you are highlighting is not local to HR, rather it is a fractal of what is happening more generally. And it needs disrupting.

    • daviddsouza180 · July 22, 2013


    • Neil · July 23, 2013

      Great point Steve, I guess I was looking at this through a HR lens.

  7. GrumpyLecturer · July 22, 2013

    HRM: The How but never the Why or Who
    HRM academics, supporters, managers and directors are totally in love with process. They are immersed in the ‘how’ of perfecting the world of work. How do we train great leaders? How do we motivate employees to ever greater heights? How do we engage employees? How do we reward employees? How do we recruit the ‘right’ people? The list of how’s is immeasurable they just keep coming. The world of the ‘how’ people is populated by optimists striving for the how nirvana that will make their fortune. That book, that presentation that will lift them above the rest as they present their how as the best ever how ever thought of to work people to a frazzle.
    The how people have no compulsion in plagiarising the how’s of others. They mix and match processes to arrive at what they think are super-processes. Flow charts, graphs, lists of tick boxes are their domain as the how’s are obsessed with measuring, quantifying and objectifying all that inhabit their world. If the how cannot be measured, after countless attempts, it is abandoned and remains excluded from the process.
    The how’s, like any religious sect, can have symposiums, conventions and gatherings anywhere in the world because they know they are in safe company. The how’s know that they will discuss the how’s of others and any contention will be solely about a part of the process of the how under discussion. How can that particular how be perfected. The how’s have perfected the art of the how that their whole body of work know resembles that of the celebrity chefs. Take one employee or two or more depends on how many you are intending to how on. Then add a bit of content theory or a bit of process theory or a pinch of reward theory stir well, don’t forget to benchmark, and he presto the engaged, motivated, loyal, but frazzled employee(s) will emerged from the process.
    So immersed are the how’s in striving to perfect their how’s that they have forgotten the why and who.
    When a how is confronted by a why their world for that second goes into a holding pattern. Why do we need leaders? Why do we need engaged employees? Why do we need reward systems where money is secondary to some psychological mishmash? Why do we need to recruit these ‘right’ people? Why are you so obsessed with measuring individual performance? Why are you doing what you are doing?
    The holding pattern soon goes into freefall when asked who benefits financially from all these how’s you have perfected. Why are wages the lowest they have ever been? Why is there a rise in casual working? Why are executives motivated by money and employees are are motivated by triangles? Why have your how’s resulted in increased stress levels in the workplace? More importantly why have you how’s been able to become masters of the universe?
    Whose interests are you serving?
    By now the why and the who is standing alone and forlorn the how’s have run to the safety of the how tepee.

    • Neil · July 23, 2013

      I agree…..we need to focus on the why and the who. Not just the how.

  8. Mitch Sullivan · July 22, 2013

    Social HR.

    That’s one of those oxymorons, right?

    • Neil · July 23, 2013

      Maybe Mitch. I certainly don’t like the term.

  9. Here we go.

    I started my first blog in early 2004. I can say this with authority: YOU ALL ARE PUSSIES.

    Back in the day, I was an outsider. Although I was a smart woman, my tongue was too sharp. My ego was too big. I was told that I had a difficult time making friends in HR and influencing people in my niche community. I was told — It wasn’t enough to gain the trust of my business partners. I had to be a better HR professional who could see that HR was part of the business and not a division that “got in the way of business.”

    And my boss — who is now a CHRO of the world’s largest pharma company — was right. I was awful and insufferable. I didn’t respect HR. I was sloppy and didn’t respect the chain of command, either. If I wanted a career in HR, I had to change my behavior.

    So I left my job and became a writer who challenges HR.

    And I’ve had some success. When I speak at HR conferences and offer consulting services to many great companies, I see a revolution happening at the local level.

    /pats herself on back, rightfully so/

    You know where I don’t see forward-thinking HR discussions and practices? In Social HR.

    Social HR professionals want to be forward-thinking. They want to be extraordinary. They want to be avant garde. But they also want to make friends and go to the pub.

    Ugh. Fuck you.

    Social HR can’t find a place in its organization so it whinges about how hard it is to be social. Social HR can’t influence from within so it focuses on Huffington Post influencer lists. And instead of pushing harder to get promoted/become the boss/change things, Social HR attends “unconferences” and tweets.

    Ugh. Fuck You x100. Did I quit my job for you and start the HR social movement for you so you could have friends?!

    No. I paved the motherfucking ground for you — in America and the UK — so you could step up and take charge.

    Now please get the hell out there, get promoted, make more money, take over the world, and hire more like-minded HR professionals who can do cool things.

    Quit embarrassing me, already.

    • daviddsouza180 · July 22, 2013

      Pat on the back for you and a 100xFU to everyone else? interesting.

      And everyone else should be thankful that you quit your job ‘for them’, to save us like a sort of female HR Jesus? I also don’t remember commissioning any ground paving. You paved it where I was going to put my swimming pool.

      That’s the problem with social media, everyone thinks it is about them – and seemingly everyone acts in generalities. I can’t remember the last time I was called a pussy, I’m guessing it was never, so thanks for a first

      (PS, Neil, are you getting enough spikey debate on this one? Does this feel more social?)

      • There is nothing about my life that is vague and general, including my appropriate use of the word pussy.

        Honestly, I was just writing the blog post Neil should have written. 😉

    • Neil · July 23, 2013

      The hard work is changing business, changing organisations, not tweeting about it. I get that.

      • Meg Peppin · July 25, 2013

        That’s a useful way to express the point.

  10. Alconcalcia · July 22, 2013

    I’ve genuinely no idea what ‘Social HR’ is even meant to mean, let alone what it actually is, if anything at all. Another pointless corporate catchphrase is all I see.

    • Neil · July 23, 2013


  11. Simon Jones (@ariadneassoc) · July 22, 2013

    First point – David, I’m guessing you don’t read Laurie’s Cynical Girl blog regularly, because that’s just her typical “shock-jock” method.

    But my main point – a group of HR people world wide are fed up with the reputation of the profession and its tendency to navel-gaze. Up till 2008-9 there really wasn’t any sort of medium that people could use to discuss their frustrations other than at CIPD/SHRM etc meetings where they would be looked on as swivel-eyed loons by most HR professionals.

    Then, hey presto, there comes a number of social media channels, and suddenly these people find they aren’t a lone voice in the wilderness but actually there are others out there like them. So, understandably, they seek each other out, and try and develop this revolutionary new style of HR.

    Of course, there will inevitably be those who think it’s all got too comfortable and we are not challenging each other enough. To them I say that, if you want “social HR” to be like the Judean People’s Popular Front, then off you go…

    • daviddsouza180 · July 22, 2013

      I do read it, I enjoy it, but don’t tell her I enjoy it or the tension that Neil wants will be ruined. Having said that… I’m not sure Laurie quite hit the point on this one as well as she normally does.

      Founder, HR People’s Liberation Front of Judea

    • daviddsouza180 · July 22, 2013

      Loved the video (damn, there I go with that appreciative comfy stuff again)

    • I’m not a shock jock. Those people are buffoons and make no money.

      I am truly embarrassed by much of HR. I am paid to be on the internet all day long. What the hell is everyone else’s excuse?

      • daviddsouza180 · July 22, 2013

        I’m currently not being paid. The internet seems like a good option 😉

      • Mitch Sullivan · July 22, 2013

        Laurie, you haven’t been on the Internet long enough if your censorship of comments on your blog is anything to go by.


    • Neil · July 23, 2013

      But I don’t see the “revolutionary new style” in many organisations. It is all talk.

  12. Mitch, I censor what bores me and what smells desperate. Did I censor you? Which category do you fall in?

    • Mitch Sullivan · July 23, 2013

      There’s not much that’s dumber than deleting comments just because you don’t happen to like them. That normally leads to places where everything is just anodyne and full of cheerleading. Like America for example.

      I think this is what Neil is railing against in this blog.

      • Alconcalcia · July 23, 2013

        I agree. You shouldn’t censor comments unless they are abusive. What happened to free speech and the right to an alternative opinion. By deleting a respondent’s comment you not only insult their intelligence, you start to get seen as being a bit manipulative in order to come across in a certain light i.e. ‘my way of or the highway’ in your approach.

        PS – I doubt this will make it to the light of day under your selective policy, so I’ll cut & paste and tweet it as well. It’s for the best. 🙂

  13. Mat Davies · July 22, 2013

    There are some replies here that are seriously in danger of jumping the shark

    • Neil · July 23, 2013

      *high five* for the most amusing comment. And there is stiff competition.

  14. hrmannz · July 22, 2013

    I could take all this more seriously if Laurie and Neil weren’t such a smug, mutual appreciation society. The Burchill and Parsons of HR? Depressing.

    • I could only take you seriously if you accomplish something, HRMannz.

      And it’s only a mutual admiration society if Neil and I like one another. We’re on the fence.

      PS — The broader point is that Social HR is complacent. Other industries, which I’ve studied as I built an advertising network that monetizes HR blogs, are fairly provocative. There’s a call to action. There is a network of CIO bloggers who are interesting. Nurse bloggers are passionate and in the trenches. It’s fascinating. But Social HR tends to be more passive-aggressive. Leaving a shitty blog comment like yours proves the point, Mr. Mannz. Oh well.

      • hrmannz · July 23, 2013

        How would you know what I’ve accomplished, you can’t see beyond your own self importance. I used to read your stuff a few years ago but quickly got tired of the whole aggression schtick. If you think that’s a passive aggressive shitty comment, I’ll take it as a compliment.

        Personally, I have never used the term Social HR. it’s just another meaningless generalisation. If you don’t like HR blogs, don’t read them. Simple. But don’t keep shitting on people who are at least trying to make a difference just because you made a poor career choice.

    • Neil · July 23, 2013

      Thanks for the feedback. I see it as a gift.

  15. “No one knows what it means, but it’s provocative, it gets the people going.” You totally wrote this post listening to a JayZ & Kanye West track right?

    Re: ‘edgy’ social HR… ummm… well… yeah I guess it’s good in theory. But all the way-too-serious bullshit, and crappy RTs – sometimes it’s just nice to chat with someone who also appreciates the genius of the movie Stepbrothers. I’ve been a lonewolf HR pro for years now in an organisation – doesn’t mean I don’t like keeping things fresh, but I also really appreciate the support in our nice little #HRblogs community.

    • Neil · July 23, 2013

      I’m not that hip…..if that is hip?

      You make a good point. Everything in balance. But balance is not vanilla…..or Phish Food.

  16. Neil · July 23, 2013

    I’ve been racking my brain this morning about what became of this post. I wrote this yesterday, which was (at best) challenging and (at worst) another blog post to disappear in to the annals of time. But then something else happened, something that doesn’t reflect well on me or anyone else involved. It got a bit personal….as you can see.

    On the back of it a number of other people decided to blog (good). But in some circumstances they attributed thoughts, feelings and opinions to me that I didn’t express (lazy).

    I don’t write these things not to be noticed, I want them to drive debate, I want people to tell me I’m wrong and argue with me. That’s good. So you have to take the crunchy with the smooth, I get it.

    A really good example of a counter argument is made here:

    But before we put this one to bed and just to wrap things up, lets be clear about what I said and didn’t say.

    I used the word “upset”, the Oxford Dictionary includes the definition, “to cause disorder in; disrupt”. As in upsetting the apple cart. Not as in personal emotion. Learn to use the English language properly.

    I was talking about “Social HR” as a movement, not as an individual. So a movement that should be, “Edgy, Argumentative, Difficult, Provoking and Upsetting” that doesn’t necessitate behaviour of any sort. Read the post properly.

    I didn’t call anyone names or refer to any individual in person. I didn’t argue with anyone or badger them with my views. I just wrote a blog post.

    One that I absolutely stand by.

    You lot did the rest. Which kind of makes the point for me.

    Social #HR will eat itself? Looks like its already started.




    I’ve increasingly heard people refer to #PunkHR (which is a joke in itself), but I’ll leave you with the words of Sid Vicious,

    “Undermine their pompous authority, reject their moral standards, make anarchy and disorder your trademarks. Cause as much chaos and disruption as possible, but don’t let them take you ALIVE.”

    That my friends is punk……..not cosy.

    • daviddsouza180 · July 23, 2013

      Neil, If you distance yourself from the content then it is very easy to blame others for not understanding it. You did some of this. It is your language.

      You say that you talk about a movement – and not individuals yet you – included this sentence

      “If you want to be edgy, then accept you’ll annoy people, you’ll upset people, you’ll be on your own and lonely. Accept, YOU CANNOT BE PART OF THE GANG.”

      You’ve conveniently ignored that in your summary. There are no apple carts involved, you are talking about people. You are talking about upsetting people – and some people were upset. Nobody needs to consult a dictionary to see the sentence ‘you’ll upset people’ isn’t about concepts. ‘Movements’ don’t try to be part of gangs. You were talking about people.

      And more to the point, as in business, the ‘movement’ is made up of people. You can’t entreat a business to behave in one way without asking the people to – I know you appreciate that lack of distinction.

      It obviously had a different impact to the one you intended, I get that, but you can’t reframe it by ignoring what you actually wrote and then blaming lazy thinking or poor command of the English language in others.

      Happy to grab a pint/pie/coffee at some point to talk it over – but it is what it is, warts and all, for all of us.

      • Neil · July 23, 2013


        I’m curious about your obsession with this, it has clearly got under your skin to warrant 12 separate comments. I really don’t think it is worthy of that.

        I’m sure there are more lucrative and beneficial focuses for your energy than a blog post.

        And I’m sorry if the post upset you. There is a difference between intent and impact. But as I say, you have to accept (not intend) you’ll upset people.

        Good luck with it.


      • daviddsouza180 · July 23, 2013

        They were less separate posts , more part of chains of discussion.

        I care about the subject matter, as I know you do. Nothing more complex than that I’m afraid. 80% of my own blog post was agreeing with things you had previously said.

        The post didn’t upset me, I didn’t agree with it, but I’m able to do that without being upset. Some of the responses were disturbing, but I, unfortunately, have far more pressing and important things to be upset about. We both think there should be debate and challenge – this is just an example.

        The accusation of ‘lazy thinking’ or ‘needing to learn the English language’ being directed at people when they had responded to what you had actually written, that seemed to warrant a correction – and maybe reflection on your part if that isn’t what you had intended to write.

        As I said, happy to grab a pint/pie/coffee at some point to talk it over – but it is what it is, warts and all, for all of us.

        As for more beneficial uses of my time? Nobody ever gets those calls right 100 per cent of the time.


  17. Alconcalcia · July 23, 2013

    I like blogs like this one much more than the shed load out there that get no response whatsoever. Someone, can’t remember who, said to me the other day that people seldom comment in response to a blog. Well they should, otherwise what’s the point in reading it? If you’re stimulated or provoked, react, just keep it nice. Oh and never censor your comments because they don’t fit in with your own opinion (not a crime that Neil Morrison is guilty of I hasten to add, lest anyone thinks it to be the case). The world is a better place for debate. if we all thought the same it would be incredibly boring.

    • Neil · July 23, 2013


  18. sbrownehr · July 23, 2013

    Love this post and the dialogue. Agree with the vast majority of it as well. Simon especially love the Python reference because Python makes all of life better !!

    I think HR doesn’t know how to be edgy in general. It’s much easier to work towards conformity than challenge the norms. That doesn’t make it “right,” but it’s the reality of most HR folks I know.

    I do think there are people who stretch boundaries in our profession and I love seeing the diversity of thought here as well as the passion. Pain causes change.

    I don’t think Social #HR will eat itself, but if it doesn’t evolve, it will see more and more people disappear into the crowd of friends they dig being with.

    There’s a giant landscape of HR pros who want to stretch, who want to move, who want to make their businesses better. I know this personally and not just as a response to a blog.

    I still am a strong proponent of moving things forward, calling things out and giving people context on why it works. It may be a tireless battle, but I don’t think the passion I have and see in others will succumb to being irrelevant. In fact, I think you’ll continue to see great work coming from folks like those who’ve responded and a new crop of folks waiting to be heard who are doing the work right now.

    Neil – thanks for upsetting the cart. It was overdue !!

    • Neil · July 23, 2013

      Thanks Steve, you make some great points. I share your belief in the future, as long as we are all mindful of when we are slipping back in to conformity.

  19. Mitch Sullivan · July 23, 2013

    Neil, next I’d like you to write a blog about Employer Branding.


    • Neil · July 23, 2013

      No. Chance.

  20. Khurshed Dehnugara · July 23, 2013

    I stumbled on Neil’s blog in the wonderfully accidental way that Twitter allows and have enjoyed watching this thread develop, thank you all.

    I am a newcomer to Twitter and don’t know what it was like in the old days but I am attracted to some of Neil’s description. I am hungry for the kinds of interactions he describes and in some ways feel like I have been learning about them all my life. (Still learning).

    Neil’s description I internalise as the desire to confront the status quo, to bring a disturbance that will allow something novel and creative to emerge. And in my haste to act from that place I have often allowed my interactions to degenerate. When I don’t check my motives I can often end up abusive, attacking or punishing.

    Just as easily, for a quiet life, my actions can degenerate the other way. I can avoid, evade and collude. Or can be tripped up by my internal dialogue that I am providing a much needed emollient on a difficult situation.

    What I really want to do is confront all that is being hidden, avoided or smoothed over and to do it with skill. It feels like I am in a constant state of imbalance, a subtle shift one way and I am persecuting others; a subtle shift the other and I am colluding with them.

    All I know is that we have to keep practicing this capability. In the corporate circles I move in there is a deep hunger for the kind of truth telling, conversation and relationship that Neil points to. The Wendell Berry poem he quotes is an elegant description of where we are today. For me the ‘real work’ is only just beginning, not just for HR but for all corporate citizens.

    • Neil · July 23, 2013

      Thanks for such a well written comment. I agree we need to avoid the “abusive, attacking or punishing approach” but at the same time be challenging and truthful. It is a hard balance to make.

  21. Alconcalcia · July 23, 2013

    You know that bit I said about how great it was to get lots of response to a blog? The constant pinging of my email inbox with yet another comment is now telling me that there maybe needs to be a cut off point 🙂

    • Neil · July 23, 2013

      Close comments? Isn’t that censorship?

      • Alconcalcia · July 23, 2013

        No, not publishing them because they differ from your point of view is though (as one caller touched upon above) – hastening to add again that I am not referring to you Neil. :-).

  22. Ben Eubanks · July 23, 2013

    Interesting idea. I would leave a lengthy comment but I actually have a real HR job that requires my time, attention, and energy. Weird, but true.

    • Mitch Sullivan · July 23, 2013

      That’s really impressive, Ben. A real job you say?


  23. hrmannz · July 23, 2013

    Apologies to anyone, including Neil and Laurie, if they were upset by anything I said. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, the heat of the moment often isn’t. But that’s often the case isn’t it. People often don’t comment on blogs because they worry about how others will perceive them. Get over it. We need wide ranging ideas and angles. Any debate is better than no debate regardless of the quality.

  24. Natalia Thomson (@N_Thomson) · July 24, 2013

    I hope that I’m not too late to join the debate! As you know Neil, I have a lot of respect for you and enjoy reading your blog – but I do have to disagree with some of the points raised in both the post and the comments.

    I don’t think that writing or sharing something that’s been said or done before is of any less value than something new and edgy. Writing a blog for many is a great self-development opportunity. A chance to mull over your thoughts and write them down, re-write them, post them and get feedback from your peers. The ideas may not be new to you, but they may be to someone else reading the post.

    The term Social HR is not one I’ve used personally and I’m not a big fan. But I feel that most of the HR professionals (and L&D etc.) that are in the social space are there to be part of a community. They’re there to get advice, share their thoughts, have some fun and network – that’s warm and cosy isn’t it? Perhaps I like warm and cosy over provoking, difficult etc. but does that mean that I’m incapable of original thinking? I hope not…

    • Neil · July 24, 2013


      I agree about self development. But part of that development is receiving honest feedback too. My concern with the “communities” is that in many cases they become mutual appreciation societies and therefore that feedback, and the development, isn’t maximised.

      Thanks for commenting.

      • Natalia Thomson (@N_Thomson) · July 24, 2013

        I absolutely agree that feedback is important, as long as it’s constructive. And I also agree with your point about communities – they can become cliquey and exclusive. In this case, if they don’t adapt and grow – they will eat themselves!

  25. Love this discussion.

    Social by it’s very word is communal and encompassing and community based, so having something be both social as well as disruptive, well.. you get the idea.

    Maybe Political HR is more appropriate. After all, HR is the tip of the sword for what is supposed to be cozy, non disruptive, compliant, friendly and non confrontational.

    What fascinates me about “social HR” is that historically HR was almost commando type units embedded within companies fighting the good fight, but unlike the account or sales teams, they were all by themselves. SM has allowed everyone to connect across the walls and have more discourse.

    for my .02, the Social HR Movement (and again I do feel that the term itself is a bit redundant, but adding social to anything makes it sexy, and better for SEO but I digress), ahem, the social HR movement is interesting to just see how it develops. Sales, customer service, marketing, accounting all have transmogrified.. Legal and HR are really the only two depts left that have not been disrupted digitally..

    Neil, discussion is always great, and bravo for kicking off some lively debate.

    Social HR might eat itself.. but maybe the bones that are left will be of value. time will tell.

    • Neil · July 28, 2013

      Let’s hope the bones are tasty pickings! Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  26. Blimey, I missed so much while I was away working on getting teams to communicate properly this week.

    Anyway… I don’t think I could ‘do’ HR without friendly and generous people online who have shared experiences, given advice freely, criticised, supported and just been bloody nice. I had lunch today with just such a person and felt comfortable enough to take my daughter along.

    I see lots of sharing, friendship, niceties and fun- but also discussion, debate, disagreement and correction. It’s a great field to work in right now thanks to these people.

    Social HR is infinitely preferable to the alternative- an HR dept that locks itself away, dictates what can and can’t be done and just makes life miserable for people.

    • Neil · July 28, 2013

      Some of that training wouldn’t go amiss in the world of Social HR it appears…..

  27. Pingback: Networks, not circles: Social #HR | Don't Compromise
  28. Pingback: Censoring blog comments | change-effect
  29. Pingback: SoMe, So Far, So What? | change-effect
  30. Pingback: The revolution will (not) be sanitised | change-effect
  31. Pingback: Social Is As Social Does | T Recs

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s