064463-336575c0-a7db-11e3-900e-99186aa12c4dA few months ago, SHRM announced that it was holding board elections.

I had to laugh because an election at SHRM, a professional human resources membership association, is barely an election. They pre-select a slate of candidates to run unopposed through a very cumbersome ballot process. SHRM leadership reports that it has a quarter-million members on its rolls. Do you know how many vote?

About 8,000, and that’s being generous.

One of the people running for the SHRM board of directors is my good friend Steve Browne. He’s known as the people’s choice and someone who understands the membership base, which is true. I’m not sure what that says about those other chumps on the board, but if you want Steve to represent your members while you eat cake, so be it.

The one problem with Steve Browne being the “voice of the people” is that many people who belong to SHRM — and are actively involved on the volunteer side of the organization — sorta suck. Not kidding about this. Instead of solving their problems or making tough decisions about when to support SHRM and when to take a stand, they whine.

So much whining.

It’s no wonder the SHRM board wants a man of the people. People are messy, and you can’t get any work done when someone is slamming you on a blog about social media and HR conferences.

Steve Browne represents “hope and change” in as much as any politician represents change: he can only do good work if you do good work. I worry that he’ll ascend to his position on the board and every HR blogger from Pensacola to Fresno will be on his ass about free tickets to the next SHRM conference.

And I also worry that if his social friends and colleagues don’t get their acts together, his tenure on the board will be fraught with doing “staffer” work and helping the organization solve fake PR crisis after fake PR crisis.

Steve Browne is being elected to provide strategy — and hopefully some oversight — to an association that has let its members down over the past 15 years. Do you want to help him right this ship?

Don’t ask him for anything.

If you see a problem that you can fix, try it. Make an effort to be your own SHRM leader. Don’t complain unless you can offer solutions. And set some boundaries and leave him alone for six months.

Heavy is the head that wears the crown. Don’t make his tenure more challenging by whining to him about inconsequential stuff that, in the long run, really doesn’t matter.


  1. Oh, my! An honest view of non-profit operations and board/member relations. Been there; done that; got the scars.

    Nice to see real world thoughts, like this, printed.

    Thank you.

  2. Laurie,

    As a fellow HR professional and long time SHRM member, I would echo your thoughts about both the election process and Steve Browne. I have always wondered why an organization with 288,000 members can’t find more than one candidate for each role. As for Steve, it has been my good fortune to have gotten to know him through Social Media and the various SHRM conferences. I have never met a more consistently positive, passionate and professional person. It is my hope that when he is elected, that he will be able to affect some changes that will benefit the members of SHRM and the whole HR profession.

  3. Not in SHRM, but have know Steve longer than most – he is my brother. Your comments are spot on about NFP boards – I have been there and done that in my world as well. As for Steve, you are spot on as well. SHRM will be a better organization for Steve having served as most are after he does. Big shoes will leave big footprints for a long time to come.

  4. SHRM is widely considered to be a worthless joke among a majority of my dark corner of the HR profession (recruiting) because SHRM has consistently ignored-and in the case of SMA, disinfected in-anything relating to modern sourcing and recruiting outside of basic employment law/compliance.

    If Steve is someone who can make change? Great. I have been on the board of an SMA chapter for 5 years doing good work. Myself and my volunteer peers will continue to do so. I only hope that someone at the National level can do the same.

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