I wrote earlier in the week about research done by Charles O'Reilly and his colleagues on executive compensation. One of his collaborators is long-time compensation consultant Bud Crystal, who has a an interesting web site called The Crystal Report. Indeed, this is Bud's 50th year in the executive compensation field. Bud's site is pretty sparse at first glance, but once I started digging in and reading Bud's writings, I was quite taken with his strong point of view, experience, and great stories.
For example, Bud tells an old story in "Stephen O'Byrne: A Serious Thinker About Compensation" that, unfortunately, could happen again in many companies:
The Way Most H.R. Professionals Think
The thinking of so many HR professionals was never made more clear to me than on the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated. I was then a junior corporate compensation executive at General Dynamics Corp., the major aerospace firm, which at that time was headquartered in Manhattan.
A few minutes after the terrible news broke, I received a call from my boss’ boss, the corporate head of H.R. He said: “Quick, call 20 other major companies in New York and see if they are going to give their employees time to go to church this afternoon.” Why I was not fired for insubordination, I will never know, but I shot back: “Algie, I’m not going to do it. What difference does it make what other companies are doing? Make a decision.”
HR people often get more abuse than they deserve because they are so often put in a position where no one notices them when they do something right, but they get blamed out of proportion when things go wrong. A classic fate of people who have responsibility, but not enough authority. So they often are very timid about taking action because they get punished for doing even the most obviously right things. Not all companies create this difficult situation for HR heads, but too many do.