You Don't Have To Be Crazy to Have This Job But It Helps: The HR Personality

Human Resource Executive magazine just published its February issue with the cover story being The HR Personality. They asked the question of how HR executives differ in personality from other company executives. The findings were interesting, though not really suprising. And despite my catchy title they did not find that being crazy helps.

What they did find is that executives of all varieties share more personality traits than they differ in. But the ones where there were differences were significant. HR executives (VPs) were less strategic, less rational/logical, less directing, and less enterprising. On the positive side they were more accepting, more resolving and more self-assured. What this means it that HR VPs were:

  • less visionary and less focused on the long-term
  • less focused on numbers, logical systems and hard facts
  • less task focused
  • less competitive
  • less interested in selling and spotting new business opportunities
  • less inquisitive
  • less ambitious
  • less manipulative
  • more of a team player
  • more prudent
  • more empathetic, good listener and more interested in others
  • more comfortable with resolving conflict and dealing with angry people
  • more confident
  • more balanced and a greater self-worth

What makes this list critical is that the CEO is the key executive from which the HR VP differs. Subsequently the VP may not be taken as seriously or be as highly valued as is the other VPs with whom the CEO more closely matches in personality. They ask the question “Can the HR VP be more like the CEO?” The answer was YES. But it requires a true self-knowledge and the ability to take that knowledge, understand how you differ and be able to put a plan in place to change behavior. As one consultant said “Have a plan. Determine what behaviors you need. Practice those behaviors. Get feedback. And keep focused on your objectives. It can be done. I may not be a shark, but I can think like a shark.”

By the way, one thing mentioned in the article is that HR levels below VP show even greater levels of divergence from the executive suite. To me this leads to much less credibility for HR with executives. But this can be overcome as well with a recognized behavioral change.

One thing not mentioned in this article was the subject of gender. Given that the field of HR has a high number of women in HR and HR executive positions I wondered if this gender difference might account for some of these personality differences. It might be an interesting personality study to compare female HR execs to female CEOs and see if the differences are still as apparent.

Your thoughts? Leave a comment.

1 thought on “You Don't Have To Be Crazy to Have This Job But It Helps: The HR Personality”

  1. Mike –

    Good stuff. What I like about the article and your analysis is that instead of just saying that people hate HR, this provides some objective data on why people don’t value the function…

    Good analysis on your part as well. I’m going to rif on it at the capitalist as well with a hat tip to….

    Keep up the good work…


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