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HR’s Most Controversial Articles of 2015

2015 was a year for uncovering some faulty practices and making some pretty clever, yet controversial analogies. I’ve put together the top posts (IMHO) that stuck out to me in 2015. I know I’m missing hundreds of them, so remember this is only my list. I would be thrilled if you could join in on the fun with me by commenting with your most controversial articles before we say goodbye to this year! In no particular order:


See if you agree with these controversial posts from @TimSackett, @RobinSchooling and a few others! Click To Tweet


Marines Say Inclusive Combat Units Are Lower Performing by Tim Sackett (@TimSackett)

A bold analogy from Mr. Sackett caused quite the uproar by ultimately asking readers if inclusion sometimes compromises performance. Referencing an article from Time that reports on an alleged Golem effect in the Marine Corps as more women are accepted and performance standards lower to accommodate female Marines, Tim uses this hot debate in the mainstream media as an analogy for performance standards in the workplace. The question is: Does this application to the world of work really, well… work?


Tim states, “Inclusion doesn’t make every workplace environment perform better. In some workplaces, increased inclusion will actually bring down overall performance.”


Manual labor environments may be affected in terms of gender inclusion, but remember this analogy wasn’t made to consider male vs. female. Tim simply asks us to open our minds to this “false belief that all environments perform better by being inclusive, which isn’t the case. Especially, if you’re going to hold the inclusive group to lower standards!”


Verdict: Taking gender out of the issue and considering inclusive groups in terms of age, race, religion, education, gender, sexual orientation, etc. we still have yet to find a solid example that supports Tim’s full case.

Sentence: When making controversial analogies, make sure to include concrete examples to support your stance. Diverse teams have been proven to have a positive effect on organizations for quite some time now. In Tim’s analogy (and the original Time piece), perhaps the scale is at fault, rather than the inclusivity work.


Pretty Little Liars: What Transparency Really Means by Robin Schooling by Robin Schooling (@RobinSchooling)

Robin is on a “mission to make organizations better by making HR better.” And what better way to make HR better than starting with its longest standing professional association, SHRM? Robin posted this whistleblowing piece to Recruiting Daily in March and it’s still being brought up in conversations. Not because it’s necessarily controversial, but because it uncovers some murky shiz going on with SHRM’s finances (specifically payroll). Think of this post as a cliff notes to one of SHRM’s biggest ongoing scandals.

While we found that most people rallied behind Robin’s ousting (except for executive SHRM members, of course), there were some generalizations of women in the HR profession…“the kind of Lane Bryant blazer wearing, Dooney and Bourke carrying, cat and certification obsessed HR pro who just can’t get enough pastries”. As writers, we get that Robin is just illustrating her story, but Betty, an HR lady herself commented:


“Nice work on completely (and offensively) stereotyping every person who actively participates in the HR Talk message board. ” bunch of frowzy HR ladies” and “SPHRs out there for whom these archaic forums are somehow the closest to social media they’ll ever get.” and “The kind of Lane Bryant blazer wearing, Dooney and Bourke carrying, cat and certification obsessed HR pro” are particularly professional comments on your fellow HR colleagues. You may find no value in it, but please try to refrain from the personal insults directed at those who do.”


Verdict: The article could have done without the stabs, but then would it have really been that fun to read? Nope. However, leaving out the jabs could have gotten more HR professionals on Robin’s side… but we’re guessing they’re too hung up on being called a bunch of frowzy HR ladies to really care.

Sentence: Leave out personal jabs when you’re a whistleblower to make your case more appealing. While they make for great reading (Robin definitely made me laugh), there is something to be said for not stereotyping an entire profession.


Recruitment Marketing Shouldn’t Have to be PC by Bridget Webb (@Webb_Bridget)

Bridget gets it right when she explains how diversity can exist within white, conservative females of similar upbringings.


“You see, my sorority sisters might have looked like we were the White House, the rich girls, the party girls, the ones who never had to worry about money or getting into trouble you couldn’t flirt your way out of. But looks can be deceiving. Because while we might have looked like the Stepford Wife sorority on the surface, if you just went even a little bit deeper, you’d see that collectively, we were so much more than we looked. Those superficial similarities, in fact, hid shockingly drastic differences when it came what truly defined us.” – Bridget Webb


While the point she’s trying to make is extremely clear, it’s also way off base in terms of employment. Hiring for diversity takes into consideration: race, gender, ethnic group, age, personality, cognitive style, tenure, organizational function, education, background and more. Seriously… panhellenic sorority demographics most likely look something like this:


Majority Race:          White

Gender:                     Female

Age:                           18 – 21 years

Personality:              The type to join a sorority?

Tenure:                      Same age group with similar professional experience

Education:                 Same university… does this even need to be addressed?

Background:             Undetermined


Before you throw a hissy fit, I’m saying panhellenic sororities. I did my research to see what the landscape of diversity in sororities actually looks like, and to sum it up: “Either you’re white and rush a Panhellenic sorority or you’re of color and you join a historically black or Asian organization… It’s a very segregated system.”

The only definable diverse thing about this sorority Bridget is referring to is possibly their cognitive style. Not a strong argument for the discussion true diversity deserves. If a white male from a fraternity wrote this article and made these same points (which is completely plausible), do you think it would solicit the same response?


Verdict: Yes, these sorority women are diverse within their own demographics, but this is not the point. Take it from me, I work in the most homogenous office ever. We are almost all white females with similar education and experience, and while we all have different opinions about religion, politics and even this article in question… we all have something in common: The fact that we are limited to contributing a multicultural perspective.

We can read all the books we want, we can watch all the movies, listen to different music, have diverse friends and even empathize with other cultural barriers, but guess what: we’re still going to wake up as white girls.

Diversity IS About Race (among other things)…

and it’s also about gender, and socio-economic backgrounds, age, experience, skills, education, and the whole shebang. It is physically impossible to cultivate the diversity HR and recruitment are talking about in a sorority because even in the most ethnically diverse greek systems, they’re still all going to be the same age, with the same education and professional experience in terms of time.


“And that, folks, is what diversity means to me. Diversity shouldn’t be defined by skin color, or any other superficial or societally dictated difference. It only comes down to these sweepingly oversimplified stereotypes if you yourself perpetuate the myth that diversity is something that you can spot on the surface. The real diversity, however, goes much further than skin deep.” – Bridget Webb


The kind of diversity hiring your team needs is so much more than just outer appearances; therefore, Bridget is right when she explains how there’s so much more to a stereotype, and diversity can exist within a narrowed demographic. But if we really think about it, what is the goal of this article and what kind of conclusion is she trying to draw? This article concludes that it’s okay to hire only one type of demographic, because don’t worry – there’s so much more to them than their gender, skin color, age, etc. While that’s true on a smaller scale, it still has absolutely NOTHING to do with the movement to hire for diversity. So at the end of the day, you can try to pitch that we’re all different, no matter how similar we are, but that argument can only take you so far.

Sentence: According to Steve Boese’s newest generations in the workforce chart diversity may not even be such a big concern after 2020. Next time, bring in the stats. I would have loved to see more about the current greek system and how diverse they really are. It may have been the information needed to sway me in this case.


Do you agree with @Webb_Bridget on diversity hiring? See more controversial posts from 2015 here: Click To Tweet


Company Culture is a Myth by Laurie Ruettimann (@lruettimann)

This one, you’re just going to have to read it entirely for yourself. It’s too good to miss.

What it comes down to is a battle between hiring for skill and culture. When hiring for culture, you need both, but when hiring for skill, you don’t. To be more clear, if you’re hiring for a profession that requires intellect and analytical skills to be successful (careers in medicine, science, engineering, etc.) then hiring decisions based off of quantifiable metrics are needed. If you’re hiring for any other type of mid-level profession (marketing, sales, management, the list goes on) then emotional intelligence and fifty billion other skills not necessarily depending on a high IQ are needed. The fact is, Laurie is right if she’s only referring to organizations where cultural fit is not needed to get the job done, like performing a craniectomy, but in a “shitty software company or little marketing agency” cultural fit is everything.


And I’ll prove it:

We’ve hired for skills over cultural fit before. This year we brought on an experienced, methodical marketer who produced quality work. On paper, he was the perfect hire. In the office, his personality clashed with other managers and he found himself unhappy in the role. The fact is: he was a productive member of the team who could have done very well at RBM, but his style didn’t match an already established culture. A commenter in Laurie’s article summed up our feelings:


“The very definition of the word culture according to Merriam Webster is “a way of thinking, behaving, or working that exists in a place or organization (such as a business)”


Leave it to the dictionary to completely nail it. But the thinking, behaving and working that exists at our marketing agency is exactly what suffered from this cultural mismatch. We’re a team who acts as one force, he was a data-driven lone wolf. Every July, our CEO leaves for the month and is unreachable. Who mans the company while she’s gone? We ALL do. If someone is drowning, we all pitch in to help out. If a deadline is about to be missed, you can bet we’ll all be here after hours working together to get the job done. This is the way we think, behave and work and this is our culture.


Verdict: Culture is not a myth. Its relevancy is dependent on the type of organization in question. Laurie states: “I’m on record saying that “culture” is what we talk about when a company’s products and services are unremarkable. We pay employees in culture when we can’t pay them in cash.” While culture is more relevant and used as a deciding factor in hiring when companies are depending on a strong culture to grow, it is because the workforce WANTS it that way. Already established organizations or highly-skilled laborers don’t rely on cultural fit because they’re work is different and is conducted differently.

Sentence: We want to see a follow-up post that addresses cultural fit entirely, not just according to one mindset on how all organizations should operate.


The Grifters: Con Artists and Agency Recruiting by Derek Zeller (@Derdiver)

Derek tells the story of how a big bad recruiting agency (that just so happens to be the biggest in the world) cons a tech candidate (named Jimmy) into accepting an offer with some legally-binding limits that would make anyone cringe.

First, the agency recruiter doesn’t disclose pertinent information causing Jimmy to prematurely leave his job. Then, Jimmy finds out the position he left his stable salary for is only going to be a 6-month contract. Jimmy is put through the ringer until finally he is placed in this full-time position only under the condition that if he leaves before a certain time, he must pay up to $18,000. Derek states:


“I’ll let you process that all for a moment; this is exactly the kind of bullshit game agencies play that gives recruiting the black eye that defines our piss poor professional reputation and business credibility – so many people, just like Jimmy, have been burned so many times by the Robert Halfs of the world, it’s no wonder that they hate us.”


There’s a lot more shady stuff that goes on. But in short, Derek explains that Robert Half is perpetuating the bad reputation agency recruiters have, which then carries over into a stereotype of any recruiter.


“If you’re a recruiter who cares about this profession, your candidates, colleagues and clients; if you really do have a passion for this potentially powerful work of improving lives through improving careers, and I hope you all do, then this sort of incident should serve as a similar wake up call, and evidence that we need a change.”


Verdict: Mr. Zeller makes a strong case and sheds light on shady agency recruiting practices, but as a first-time reader of this article, I am now petrified, and will never trust an agency recruiter again, and any candidate active or passive reading this will likely steer clear of an agency recruiter too. Hence, why this is, in fact, a controversial piece… Zeller goes after the largest recruiting agency in the world, and with that, all other agencies are umbrellaed under this stereotype. It’s unfortunate, but it’s the truth in this case. Keep in mind, this is just one story, there could be hundreds and thousands more… or there could only be just this one.

Sentence: How about some stories about corporate recruiters that are doing it right to lessen the blow?


There are tons of honorable mentions, but we’re running out of space! What were YOUR favorite articles of the year? Which one of Matt Charney’s missives burned your burrito? How many times did Tincup’s treatises mash your potatoes? And who amongst us hasn’t tasted the sting of China Gorman’s searing intellect? Either way, let us know which ones you’d include in the Most Controversial Posts of 2015! (We’d love to post a part 2!)