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Some random thoughts from an HR blogger

Questions for readers on things I’ve been thinking about lately

By Brian Kreissl

I don’t often get writer’s block, but this is one of those weeks when I’m having a hard time thinking of what to write for my blog post. I’ve even been reading other blogs for inspiration, but it just isn’t working this time around.

I have a fairly long list of topics to choose from, but I either don’t feel like writing anything on those subjects, or I realize a fair bit of research would be required to put together a post on those topics. And since I’m not really in the mood for doing lengthy research (and it’s getting late) I thought it might be more fun to pose some of my recent thoughts as questions to readers.

Is Maslow’s hierarchy irrelevant?

We’ve all heard of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It’s the idea that people generally satisfy their lower order needs — such as basic physiological and safety needs — before satisfying higher order needs like love/belonging, esteem and, ultimately, self-actualization.

While Maslow’s hierarchy is intuitively appealing, it seems to make HR professionals roll their eyes. Is that because we’ve heard the theory so many times it has become trite or because the validity has been called into question by other research?

For instance, people can easily regress from one level of need to a lower order need, and it is possible to try to satisfy more than one level of need simultaneously. Also, what’s considered a higher level need for some people is a more basic need for others.

Does Maslow still have relevance to HR, or is it just a nice theory with little practical relevance?

Should companies screen out people with personality disorders?

I’ve taken a grand total of one psychology course in my life (unless you count organizational behaviour courses). That’s possibly why I’m puzzled by the different personality disorders such as borderline personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder as well as labels such as psychopath and sociopath.

What puzzles me most about these disorders is how certain experts caution organizations about the potential damage caused by people with these disorders and advise them to screen such people out as part of their selection processes. But doesn’t that contravene the duty to accommodate under human rights legislation?

In other words, should we be trying to ensure sociopaths and people with other related personality disorders don’t get hired, or should we be trying to understand and help those people?

After all, if these are legitimate mental health issues, surely such disorders aren’t their fault.

Would you advise anyone to pursue a career in HR right now?

It’s pretty clear to just about anyone familiar with the HR job market there are just far too many HR professionals chasing far too few opportunities right now. That’s especially true for young people just entering the profession.

While I’m not suggesting the HR profession is going the way of the dodo bird any time soon, it’s clear the function is currently undergoing a radical transformation and restructuring. With that in mind, what would you say to a recent graduate who wants to go into HR right now?

Would you advise your own child to go into HR at this point?

Are HR professionals a breed apart?

I’ve heard from a variety of sources over the years (usually in rather unflattering terms) how HR practitioners are somehow different from other people.

Is that true, and if so, what is it that makes us different from so-called “normal people” (or people in other business disciplines)?

Is it hard to be a man in HR?

As a man, I’ve been one of the few token males on several HR teams. As such, I could never really be “one of the girls” (although I did once jokingly tell my female colleagues about an “amazing sale” they had on at the La Senza store downstairs from our office when they were talking at length about similar topics in front of me).

Like it or not, men and women often think differently. Because of that, I sometimes felt like my opinions weren’t completely respected.

Have any other men in HR found this? And since we talk about diversity in organizations so frequently, is it time we possibly thought of having more gender diversity within our own profession? Are traditional gender roles reversed to a certain extent in a “pink collar ghetto” like HR?

Brian Kreissl is the managing editor of Consult Carswell. He can be reached at For more information, visit  

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Brian Kreissl

Brian Kreissl is the product development manager for Thomson Reuters Legal Canada's human resources, OH&S, payroll and records retention products and solutions.
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