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Living in an Age of Paradox

Paradoxes include self-reference, circular definitions and confusion about abstracts.  The Merriam-Webster defines the word as ‘an instance of a paradoxical phenomenon or reaction’ – go figure!

Late last year I travelled to the subway, during the morning rush hour, on a Mississauga transit bus.  The bus was on time, but that was where the joys ceased.  The bus was so full; it left one feeling empathetic to all those sardines in a tin!

The noise level in the bus was well over the tolerable mark. The school kids on the bus were speaking at the top of their voices to friends who were further back in the well of the bus.  Another kid had the music on loud and even though he had on his headphones, people a couple of rows away from him could enjoy the rap music.  One wonders how long he will have his auditory powers intact.  An older gentleman sitting behind this boy asked him to lower the volume, which was ignored and met with a rude stare.  The gentleman went up to the driver – no mean feat in such a crowded bus, and came back to his seat vexed.  Obviously he had got no help there.  His return prompted a few sniggers and snide comments from the music-lover’s friends.  From the comments it was obvious this was a ritual of sorts every weekday morning.

Everybody speaks of ‘polite Canadians’ and one wonders where that species exists – in someone’s mind, away from the crowded metros, or in the far-distant past of this great land!  If the incident I witnessed is any measure I believe the phrase ‘polite Canadian’ will replace the all-time favourite oxymoron ‘honest politician’!

The phrase ‘oxymoron’ made me think of the paradoxes HR faces everyday.  Ask any CEO and he will speak at length on the complexities of global business; what happened to complexities of global talent management, leadership development and future competencies — HR is not rocket science, right?  Job security is another favourite oxymoron that is touted by most companies. A long, long time ago people spent entire lifetimes working for the same organization, even if better opportunities presented themselves, people rarely changed jobs.  Today, job security in large organizations is not guaranteed.  Even government jobs seem to be following the general trend.

Will HR as we know it today become extinct? Generalists have been replaced by Strategists.  HR is not only about people, compliance and policies; it is all about knowing the business, following the trends and being early adopters.  Is HR finally coming of age and is it finally getting the recognition it deserves or is it still the policeman with the rule book? Just the same wine in a different bottle?

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