Confessions of an HR blogger

The fine line between being thought-provoking and controversial

Brian Kreissl
By Brian Kreissl

While a successful blog should be thought-provoking, it surprises me how some of my most popular blog posts actually seem to be the ones that are the most uncontroversial (although I like to think they are at least informative or helpful).

When I write those types of posts I invariably get a large number of “tweets” and “likes.”

But when I write something that challenges the status quo or goes against prevailing wisdom to some extent, I generally get very few people willing to put their stamp of approval on the post. I suppose that shouldn’t surprise me because people are probably afraid to agree with something even remotely controversial on social media for fear it could come back to haunt them.

Another measure is the number of comments a post receives. However, comments frequently indicate people disagree with what I’m saying. I suppose the real proof is in web traffic statistics but I don’t try to write “sensational” posts simply to increase traffic to my blog.

HR a somewhat conservative profession

Of course, I am blogging about human resources — a profession that’s actually quite conservative in many ways. Because of that, and because my employer is a very large global corporation, I can’t be too controversial (not that anyone in the organization has ever tried to censor me). Besides, I’m not here to try to offend people.

But that doesn’t mean some people aren’t going to disagree with what I write. That’s fine because people are entitled to their opinions, and blogs are meant to stimulate discussion and debate.

But what’s going too far? Three blog posts I almost wish I hadn’t written come to mind. They are the one about whether employers are justified in asking about a candidate’s salary history, the one about the supermarket manager I worked with who used a little fear and intimidation (in a tongue-in-cheek manner) to get people to work harder and the one about taking the CHRP designation to the next level.

I got quite a lot of flak for those three posts on my blog and elsewhere. In all honesty, I actually thought of either packing it in or sticking to “safe and boring” posts after I saw people’s reactions to some of those posts. But I believe blogs should be thought-provoking and be a vehicle for presenting an opinion on topical issues and starting a conversation. They can even be somewhat controversial at times.

But I find it frustrating when I don’t have enough space to present alternate arguments or explore a topic fully. When that happens, someone will invariably criticize me for not mentioning an argument I did actually consider but didn’t have space to explore further. And people sometimes don’t take the time to properly read and comprehend what I’ve written and assume I’m saying something I’m not.

Not being a “cheerleader” for HR

I also have to consider the mandate of my role when writing for my blog. Because I am the managing editor of an online service for HR professionals, I sometimes wrestle with whether I should “toe the party line” or be a “cheerleader” for the HR profession, or instead try to tell it like it is (or at least how I see it).

But I think people can tell when I’m expressing a personal opinion rather than presenting something as fact. In that sense, the writing I do here is much more opinionated than what I write for Consult Carswell.

I also believe in being real and transparent, which is a theme I’ve explored in several of my posts. HR isn’t perfect and there are some real challenges facing us as a profession.

Therefore, I don’t think I always need to sugarcoat things or be a cheerleader for HR, even though my role focuses on making HR practitioners’ lives easier. Since I’m a qualified HR practitioner, if I criticize the profession that criticism comes from within rather than from outside the profession.

It’s like a family in many ways. While I personally know my family members aren’t perfect, I often feel free to criticize them because, even though I’m aware of their faults, I still love them. However, if someone outside my family says even the same things I would have said, I would take such criticism quite differently.

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

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