Paradoxes for HR

A paradox could be defined as a statement which seems to say two opposite things but that may be true.

Figuring out and reasoning through a paradox is an important and valuable exercise, for any individual or team.  I personally find them as extremely useful avenues to stretch, question and clarify my own thinking, logic and approach.

The idea of writing a blog post on this topic came as I was reading, “HR From The Outside In” (authored by RBL Group experts, including Dr. Dave Ulrich).  The following paradoxes from the book seem to be relevant for any HR team to figure out, in your respective organizational context.  From personal experiences, the lack of clarity and active dialogue can lead to confusing scenarios, frustration and stress within organizations.  Getting caught in ‘no man’s’ land becomes a reality.

Some of these may be highly relevant for leadership discussions and decision scenarios.


6 paradoxes facing HR


  • Outside & Inside
    How do you simultaneously understand the dynamics and operate in the marketplace and the workplace?
  • Business & People
    How do you balance the tradeoff between people and business? Many discussions in recent times have suggested that HR is losing the ‘Human’ in ‘Human Resources’.  On the other side, I’ve heard leaders say that HR is too ‘soft’.
  • Organization & Individual
    How do you manage the tensions between talent and teamwork, individual ability and organizational capability? In today’s environment, there are lots of discussions regarding ‘outliers’ and the value they bring to an organization.  An overemphasis may lead to a feeling of unfairness, frustration and disruption of shared values.
  • Process & Event
    How do you look beyond isolated activities and events to processes that generate sustainable solutions?
  • Future & Past
    How do you balance the past and the future – rely on the past for present choices or ignore the past?
  • Strategic & Administrative
    How do you balance flawless execution of administrative actions with strategic adaptation to future business scenarios? One common discussion and frustration I’ve encountered within HR organizations is regarding where the ‘strategic’ line is drawn, how and who are involved, and to what extent.

An interesting observation here seems to be that there are relationships to be considered among these paradoxes, e.g., balancing the tradeoffs between business and people may need to take into consideration the future and past. According to the authors, HR must learn to master these paradoxes – which means that HR professionals and departments are effective only when they can deliver simultaneous outcomes.  Relevant HR competencies help HR professionals to increase their effectiveness.

If you can build clarity through an active dialogue with yourself, your teams regarding your thinking, core principles and approach, you have a solid, starting base.  This should ideally be an active, continuing and evolving dialogue, in any organization consdering constantly changing external environments and demands.

Where do you and your HR departments stand on these paradoxes?

Suggested reading:

  • Book – “HR From The Outside In – Six Competencies for the Future of Human Resources”; Dave Ulrich, Jon Younger, Wayne Brockbank, Mike Ulrich; McGraw Hill.


  1. Phili

    Keep writing! 🙂

  2. Tojo Eapen

    Thank you 🙂

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