Bitter tastes after dark

When I read the post “HR Consultants – get your tanks off my lawn” featured on HRZone I got really cross. Before I tell,you why, I want to do some analysis of the post. For me, it is important to look at both the overall post and the specific detail within it too. So…

Let’s start with some analysis.

One of the categories or groups of people discussed in this post are ‘consultants’. Going through the post from start to end, this group are positioned and framed in particualr ways.  Apparently consultants:

are

“youthful HR consultants” having worked for “a couple of years”

“Disciples of Disruption”

“Desperados”

with

“very little experience”

“almost no track record of delivery”

“funky ideas”

“nothing at all useful to offer”

and work on

“trendy stuff that will (apparently) Rock My HR World”

“fads”

“this years next big thing that become last year’s embarassing failure”

use

“flashy presentation”

“uber-cool anecdotes”

“crackpot schemes.”

and are unable to provide

“a project plan”

“a checklist”

“demonstrable business benefits”

“any track record of success to establish their credibility”

“something practical”

Looking back over the post content, it paints a bleak picture of a Consultant and contains lots of implied and direct threats to their credibility.  Just go back for a moment and review the terms above and reflect on what that says and implies about this group.

Moving on from direct references to consultants and/or their work. Through the use of language, this piece also implies an interesting picture.  It uses the terms:

“trendiness”

“mischief”

“(being thrown out of) class”

“secondary school”

“detention”

then add in

“funky”

“trendy”

“flashy”

“uber-cool”

All of which seem to paint a picture that HR consultants fall into a particualr age bracket; a young one.  As well as implying the age bracket that ‘consultants’ seem to fall into, the langauge use also seems to place their stance on the world as an aggressive one.  For example consultants:

“Drive tanks” on to other people’s “lawns”

work in a way that shows they feel they have the:

“right to waltz into” other peoples “office”

tell others that their:

“substantial and extensive HR experience counts for nothing”

To summarise, consultants seem to be described as:

Young

Aggressive

Unreliable

Unable to deliver work of quality or that makes a difference

Next, let’s explore another group framed in this piece; that of “HR Professionals” that work in organisations.  Those belonging to this group are described as:

working in organisations that are

“very large”

“very complex”

“very successful”

with experience of

“every possible aspect of the employee lifecycle”

who

“know what makes (the CEO) happy”

“from business and commercial point of view know what works and what doesn’t work”

“have(ing) been around for a decade or two”

“seen fads come and go”

(have) “done it”

pay for their tickets to the CIPD conference as consultants seek to get a “free ticket to the next CIPD conference”

“are happy to serve as human shield”

When reviewing the characterists described, words used and connotation associated with the positioning of the HR Professional, they seem to provide a stark contrast to that of the consultant. You may want to go back and compare.

The final group framed is that of the CEO or MD and this group are described as:

being

“high profile”

“very successful”

“demanding”

“business savvy”  

“evidence-based”

that

“know how to run a business”

“know what contribution HR needs to make”

“don’t suffer fools gladly”

and when facing consultants would

“chew them up”

“spit them out”

“eject them from the premises”

be “clear(er) and brutal”

The terms used for CEO or MD seem to have some aggressive elements to them, as did the consultant, albeit CEO/MD is without the weapon/war element.  The other implication is that of successful, competent and credible which is a direct contrast to the positioning of the consultant.  

Looking overall, the positioning of:

consultant VS HR professional and CEO/MD 

implies that all of the descriptiors used for ‘consultant’ are not possessed by HR Professional or CEO/MD and likewise in reverse.  So, for example the piece implies that consultants don’t know how to run a business or how HR contributes, they are unsuccessful and suffer fools gladly.

If I move away from analysis of the language, the associated frame(s) and implications from the post. I just think it is unhelpful, belittling and creates a sense of conflict and division where there doesn’t need to be one.

I also wonder what is going on for the author.  They have chosen to use the words, terms, analogies and metaphors listed here and I’d argue with cognitive thought and choice.  Why? Because they’ve written it, as I have this, knowing it will be posted and shared and so we both have chosen how to write what we’ve written and the words we have used.  We do need to bear in mind that the content was published under a banner that states:

“No names, no job titles, no companies. HR After Dark features totally anonymised opinion pieces from HR professionals, consultants and industry commentators. No holds barred, no censorship, nothing but raw opinions on issues that matter to HR. When the lights go down, HR After Dark comes out to play. See it all here first. Want to write for HR After Dark? Get in touch at hrafterdark@hrzone.com.”

Therefore, it is an opinion peice with no known author and so maybe the primary intent was to be provocative, challengeing etc.  It just left a bitter taste for me, for all the reasons you have read already.

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4 responses to “Bitter tastes after dark

  1. Pingback: Best Blogs 27 Februar 2015 | ChristopherinHR·

  2. I feel a little guilty now to admit that I shared this very article!! I totally get your points, particularly about the contrast between the two “characters”. However I’ve met some consultants in the recent past that this seemed to ring true for, for me! Thanks Phil 🙂

    • Hi Helen. Don’t worry about sharing it’s the variety of opinion & views is what makes Twitter great. In the same way that there will be consultant(s) that are a closer to what you’ve experienced there are others nothing like it. Similarly, there will be HR professionals similar and different. I’ve been working in a consultancy capacity, 3 days a week, with a massive UK company for nearly 18 months on two different projects. We both agree it’s the best of both worlds and is a true partnership, where we are changing stuff for the better. Not a tank in sight. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

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