“…what took you so long?”

Hand-in-hand with an avowed intention of being “strategic,” the most commonly (and comically) used mantra repeated by HR professionals is “earning a seat at the table.”

What table, you may ask? Well, the simple answer is the “Big Boy” table – the Star Chamber, Inner Circle, Tower of Power, Illuminati, et al. The place where the real decisions are made. “The Table” is the place where, seemingly, HR is not needed, invited, or welcome. Having a “seat” at this mythical, mystical table is apparently the equivalent of Sir Edmund Hillary’s conquest of Mount Everest.

How ridiculous has this become? Google search provides 42M hits for “hr seat at the table,” but barely 15M hits for “cure cancer.”

Covet the table. Desire the table. Obsess about the table. Table table table table.

Please, get over the table.

I love a good movie reference, so here’s one you may enjoy…in “Goodfellas,” Joe Pesci’s character (“Tommy”) inadvertently walks into a local pub during a party for made-man “Billy Bats.” Billy remembers Tommy as the kid who used to shine shoes, and now sees him all grown-up acting like a gangster. Doesn’t matter if he’s wearing a sharkskin suit, wearing gold rings, acting like a big shot, he’s still the shoe-shine boy. Tommy wants to be accepted, wants to be one of the big boys, but he’s a nut. Bats sums this feeling up with the perfect insult, “now go get your ****** SHINEBOX!”

Without going into detail, it ended poorly for all parties concerned. Tommy (HR) wanted a seat at the big table; unfortunately, he was still the shine boy.

Here’s the straight dope ~ it’s not “HR” that gets a seat at the table. It takes the efforts and talents of an individual. That’s the rather unfortunate and ironic truth of the matter – the table comes to you. Do your job, and do it well. Show value. Any good salesperson will tell you that not only do you make the sale and show the ROI, you continue to remind the client about the value you provided. Be communicative, be smart, be valuable. Nothing in that sentence mentioned “HR” – talent will be recognized, regardless of job function.

Now go throw away your ****** SHINEBOX!

John “Whit” Whitaker is Founder and OH (Original Hardballer); like this post? Try this one, this one, or even this one….go ahead, don’t be a weenie.