Little Known HR History

HR = Humor Resources

After being in the HR business business for fifteen years, I don’t mind saying that I am slightly annoyed and surprised when I meet up and coming HR professionals who make it patently clear that they are not familiar with the sacred history of the Human Resources profession.

For example, many people don’t realize that HR originally stood for “Humor Resources” (alternatively known as “Humour Resources” for Bill Boorman).

About thirty years ago, as our predecessors tired of the transactional connotations associated with the word “Personnel,”  they met in the flower child version of the un-conference to consider new, more apt monikers. After much discussion, the group finally settled on the most appropriate replacement: Humor Resources.

“But wait!” pleaded a staunch group of ardent traditionalists, aghast at this potential turn of events which would likely turn our profession upside down and possibly expose it to ridicule, undoing our hard work and destroying the reputation of our profession! Desperately fighting for ground, they quickly settled on the this argument, which proved lethal:  “But you’ll never get a seat at the table with a name like that!”

The legal department chimed in to voice their reservations, which were many and chilling.

And the gathered group of HR folks wavered and ultimately gave in. They looked for a more palatable alternative to make everyone happy, and thus “human” replaced “humor.”

More’s the pity.

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