I don’t land HR consulting gigs. The gigs land on me.

Lately, I’ve been asked to help “polite HR departments” think about how to operate more effectively.

What’s a polite HR organization?

First of all, I lump it into one word: PoliteHR. Sometimes I call it #politeHR.

PoliteHR it’s a departmental archetype of sorts, but it also has a face that looks like anyone who adds the credentials SHRM-SCP or SPHR to his professional credentials.

PoliteHR is a modern-day response to executives who don’t like the function of human resources. PoliteHR is led by a very capable man or woman who believes in the enduring power of relationships. She thinks that she can win the skeptic’s heart and mind by being his friend.

“Once we get close and have a few wins under out belt, we can show the cranky VP that we’re not as bad as he thinks we are.”

PoliteHR is wrong. She will never win with this strategy.

(Pro-tip: When you try to avoid conflict and ask questions to clarify and seek a broader understanding, your executive leader hates you more. But PoliteHR is an optimist and won’t listen to Laurie Ruettimann, that’s for sure! )

There are systems, software and reports in place that show the value of the PoliteHR model. Everything is mobile, social and local! There are talent communities, a Twitter account, and a branded page on LinkedIn!

But the problem is that nobody else gives a rip about PoliteHR except for PoliteHR.

And when PoliteHR overlaps with “over-engineered HR,” it’s only a matter of time before my phone rings, and I start planning some organizational changes with an executive leadership team.

Do you wonder if you work in a PoliteHR department? Do you think I might be nuts and want to ask — why would being polite work against me, Laurie?

Well, nobody wants you to be the LBJ of human resources — with foul language and a crude description of how your pants don’t fit — but you should remember that most of the men who sit on your leadership team are modern descendants of LBJ.

They may not have a booming voice and a deep southern accent — and their pants fit just fine — but they are direct. They are specific. They don’t always use inclusive language. And they don’t have time to pander to PoliteHR and make it feel good about itself.

So if you can’t remember the last time your HR leadership team did anything bold — but you can give me an example of a time where you asked a business leader for permission to schedule a meeting before you actually scheduled the meeting — it’s time to shake things up in your career.

The model of #politeHR is dying. It’s dying one business at a time. Don’t be the last person to know.

Why does everyone hate HR? Join the movement to fix that. Download the new e-book, “I Am HR.” ow.ly/xIRbQ Click to tweet.


  1. In CLE, LBJ is LeBron James. So that reference threw me for a minute.

    Begging forgiveness gets things done faster than asking permission. But then doesn’t that make you bitchy HR?

    Generally, though, people hate what they don’t understand, and that VP has no idea why he needs HR. Except that the CEO/legal team said they did. Digging out of the “we hate HR” hole is painful.

    • 1. I’m no dummy, which is why I included the video. 🙂

      2. You’re only bitchyHR if you are a bitch or your colleagues are misogynists.

      3. Miss you, TLC!

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