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Friday Wondering – HR Bugbears

Each Friday I’m going post a “Friday Wondering“. These posts are meant to explore & discuss observations or issues which I think would benefit from discussion. Participation is open to absolutely anyone regardless of their expertise or knowledge. Just bring your curiosity!
If you’d like to discuss on Twitter rather than here then why not. It would help though if you could use the #FridayWondering hashtag. Thanks!
So here’s the first…..

HR Bugbears

Over on @robjones_tring “Masters or Bust” blog yesterday, @naturalgrump commented raising an interesting bugbear about abbreviations.  He observed & I tend to agree that :
Abbreviations such as JV and BAU take me time to decipher and are painful to place in the context of the post“.
Although an expedient form of shorthand, I wonder if abbreviation also takes away meaning and even the power of the original words…
So when we talk about for example H.R. are we taking away the meaning and power of what is actually “Human Resources“?


4 thoughts on “Friday Wondering – HR Bugbears

  1. Funnily, I have never thought about this in the context of HR. But of course that is just one kind of acronym that gets used in business…It strikes me that many of us use these kind of shorthands without thinking. I'm sure when I worked in-house that I used them just as much as the next person. Shit, I even did so on Twitter this morning asking someone about CEO/CFO interactions! But I reflect on my relationship to them over the years. First, as a consultant and in my early days as a coach, I'd get anxious if I didn't understand all the very specific acronyms that got used in my client organisations. Like I should know and understand them. They were part of the language of the "in" crowd of the business and if I didn't understand I wasn't in and couldn't influence. Then I made it okay for myself (actually started to see that it was an advantage) not to know and used that as a discussion point in conversations. "Sorry, I've not heard the term JV before. What does that mean and what does it mean here?" The same goes for other jargon terms.My honest opinion now? It's that at least some of that kind of language is sloppy, and is a substitute for real, authentic conversation. One of my clients yesterday was telling me how, she was sitting in a senior meeting and one of the people presenting was talking about the strategic imperatives of his high performing culture initiative, to which everyone was nodding and agreeing, but to which she could only respond with a "WTF are you really talking about?" question!


    Posted by Christine Livingston | January 27, 2012, 4:22 PM
  2. I tend to agree with Christine. I worked in several organisations which needed large glossary books and in one there was over 700 abbreviations with several duplicated acronyms meaning very different things. I have seen them used as a barrier, if you don't understand then you aren't in the gang etc. I remember doing an NLP exercise where you had to talk to each other in "digital" business language using lots of abbreviations, acronyms and management speak. It was amazing how many words you could use to say so little. I mean we all tend to jargon, including coaches but if the communication is a barrier to understanding then you know you're in trouble :)And for what it's worth, when did humans become a "resource" like energy and fuel and widgets?


    Posted by Jon Bartlett | January 29, 2012, 6:10 PM
  3. Some great reflection/observation here.  @karen_mason also tweeted “a whole new language emerges when usingabbreviations in orgs, very frustrating when moving jobs”.I wonder whether organisations are actually aware that abbreviationor management speak can be a barrier to authentic conversation &understanding?  I’ve never heard a leaderobserve such.Linking back to the question of taking away meaning &power, it seems our observations would say that this is the case, in thecontext of limiting authentic conversation and understanding.What does this mean for Human Resources if they want to playa more strategic or business focused role?


    Posted by davidgoddin | January 30, 2012, 10:01 AM
  4. Abbreviations and jargon can create barriers and they can save a lot of time, conveying a lot of information about the subject (and the user), so please, lets not be too dismissive! I agree that problems arise when he thinking behind the word is lacking and I think that applies to all words, not just jargon.  So I often distract myself by wondering where the word came from…Now jargon is a interesting word we've been using since the 14th Century, coming from Latin via Old French meaning first chattering nonsense like birds and thus, later, the idle talk of thieves. Way back in Latin its root was garrire, which became gargle in English, so if you hear someone pontificating away again in a meeting, ask yourself if they sound like an idle, thieving bird gargling.I was once asked by someone to wait for a decision until they had eyeballed the client. It took me a few moments to realise she meant had seen the client. I believe people formally became human resources first, but very rarely, in 1907 and the term became much more widespread from  the early 1970s, in the US first. Before then they were usually Personnel. I believe that the use of the term "human resources" is part of the unconscious slippage of management consciousness from people as humankind towards 'objects of production'. It both reflected and accelerates a trend toward the objectification of everything. I think the reduction to "HR" takes that even furtherI notice on Linked in that someone who is now Head of Employee Engagement, used to be Head of HR. Before that, I think, he was IR Manager (which I think, is Industrial Relations?), having started in Personnel, all in the same national utility and I suspect being all the same job.    


    Posted by Jonathan Wilson | January 30, 2012, 10:20 AM


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