What Color Is HR's Parachute?

Author: Bob Rosner

This article was published in Workforce's September 1, 1998 Issue. 


Written when Parachute had sold only six million copies (it now has sold over 10 million).  I was 71 then; now I'm 87 going on 88. But not much else has changed. The interviewer, Bob Rosner, was a friend of mine then; he still is.

An excerpt from the article:

Bob Rosner:  Can we do word associations?
Dick Bolles:  Sure.

BR: Outplacement.
DB: A dying art, I think. Companies now seem to be concentrating on the services they give to those who remain, not just to those who are downsized.

BR: Corporate training programs.
DB: A mixed bag. Some HR people are excellent at identifying their organization’s training needs. Others just run after the latest fad or the latest buzzword.

BR: Coaching.
DB: A well-intentioned attempt to give brief help to people, after brief training. Sometimes, its emphasis is unfortunately on bailing people out of a dilemma, instead of teaching them how to solve it for themselves. Only the latter is worthy of the name of coaching.

BR: Downsizing.
DB: Always saluted by the stock market, always decried by the people who lose their jobs. As a trend in society, it has produced great profits but at the cost of tremendous human suffering. Downsizing often shatters people’s trust -- they never trust again.

BR: Mergers.
DB: Well, there’s a hostile merge and then there’s a marriage desired by both partners. Big difference. Shotgun marriages are to be avoided both in the home and in the business world.

BR:  Consultants.
DB: The best are those who ask all the resident managers what decisions they would reverse if they were in charge of that place, sifting those [decisions], and then recommending the best. In other words, in most cases, the best consultants are those already inside the organization. The best outside consultant is one who knows that and uses it -- rather than coming in with a ready-made solution, one size fits all.

BR:  On a personal note, I’ve found it’s impossible to mention your name around without someone saying, “He turned my life around,” or “That book changed my life.” Tell me about life as a cult hero.
DB: Well, let me first of all comment on that last phrase. A young priest was once asking his mentor what to do with all the praise he received after every Sunday’s sermon. The wise, old priest replied, “Listen, but don’t inhale.” If anyone starts to think of him or herself as a cult hero, the person has got more problems than he or she knows. A certain humility -- a certain sense that God is working through one, and therefore, the credit belongs to Him and not to us -- is essential to growing old gracefully. And I’d like to grow old gracefully."

The full article can be found here.