Thoughts about hr and management in the real world – extra information I couldn't fit in my books!.

The Accidental Textbook Author

Last week Richard Westney posted a list of recommended NZ HR bloggers that he thought are worth reading. I was very chuffed to be on the list!

However Richard referred to both of my books (Management Bites and Employment Bites) as HR textbooks. At first I was really disappointed that he thought of them this way. I particularly wrote them NOT to be textbooks. People who have read them often email or tell me they really enjoy the chatty style I use, the plain language and real stories and practical examples. To me my books are both non-fiction business.

But I really respect Richard’s opinion and had to consider why this bothered me so much.

I thought about what I consider a textbook is. To me it’s a book that sets out research and methodologies about a particular subject and is then used in courses and workshops as background reading.

Now, at Elephant HR our management programme is based on Management Bites, and our Refresh HR programme is based on Employment Bites. While both my books focus on practical tools and techniques of how to manage people or put great HR in place – this does include research and methodology.

So actually they are text books!!

What had bothered me was that I had defined them as non-textbooks, so I didn’t like they were being seen as something else.

And then I realised that this often happens in HR (and in life in general too). We define something the way that WE see and want it to be seen, but actually our managers or employees see it a completely different way.


We may not like that it’s different to what we wanted it to be, but actually it shows us what it really is. My books are textbooks and that’s actually okay!

So I don’t think we should keep trying to find the perfect name for HR. Calling it ‘People and Culture’ or renaming our roles ‘HR Business Partners’ doesn’t mean anything to our businesses.

I think we should focus instead of delivering game changing HR. When we stop seeing articles calling us the HR police, or blockers, or creating friction – then we will have changed HR. Our managers will start calling us something else, something that we may not even have thought of. And that might end up being what transformative HR really is.

I’m interested to see what they call us? Are you?

To read Richard blog (which I highly recommend!) visit

As for Management Bites and Employment Bites – both are sold out right now, but Management Bites will be available again for purchase again from 1 October and the second edition of Employment Bites release date is planned for 1 December. For more visit


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