Something has been bothering me but I couldn’t lay my finger on why until this week. It has become increasingly popular for HR pundits and bloggers to skewer anyone in HR who talks about or writes about having a “seat at the table.” The argument seems to be that they are tired of hearing about it and perhaps there is no “seat” at the table to be had. They mock when someone uses it. They make people who use the phrase feel as if they’ve just uttered a profanity.
"Seat at the Table" isn’t a four letter word
And it’s kind of starting to piss me off. Because there IS a seat at the table to be had for HR, and in most cases, we aren’t claiming it and aren’t sure we know how. Do we overuse this phrase? Maybe. But, it seems that this movement to ban the phrase implies that if we stop staying it, the reality that human resources is not living up to it’s strategic promise will somehow vanish.
I, for one, think it’s great that so many around the HR profession are struggling, striving and desiring a “seat at the table.” I think they should talk about it. It proves that they are at least awake and aware that they don’t currently have one. The seat at the table represents an arrival in most people’s minds–a corporate knighthood of sorts. It’s not really a seat, of course, but rather a position of influence and power that is participating in leading the business into the future. Why wouldn’t you want that as a goal?
So, can we please stop this silliness of banning phrases and making people feel foolish for using them? This particular phrase means a lot to some people and I applaud those who have the courage to have the conversation about their own quest for “the seat.” We don’t have an issue of language. We do have issues of strategy, leadership, courage, and execution in HR. But, those are issues we can tackle and conquer, so long as we have the right goal. In my opinion, a seat at the table is a pretty good one.