Summary: Just because these sayings get repeated around the office does not make them true.

3 Dangerous Dime-Store Philosophies in Human Resources

A dime-store philosophy is defined as a “cheap, one-size-fits-all explanation about life.” They consist of clichés, banal sayings, and empty truisms. 

Much advice about business ends up being taken out of context. A seemingly clever saying can catch fire and become quite popular. However, just because it is repeated over and over, it does not always make it true.  

Common “dime store philosophies” many of us grew up with include:

  • “A penny saved is a penny earned.” 
  • “You need money to make money.”
  • “It’s better to be safe than sorry.”
  • “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
  • “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”


As it relates to HR, these dime-store philosophies can be quite pernicious. 

Oftentimes it is helpful to review one’s previously held beliefs about a certain subject, so as to look at the same reality but with a more evolved and higher elevated viewpoint. 

Human Resources have a responsibility to “catch themselves in the act” and see if they are repeating these mottos. 

These low-value myths are mottos that are still around in 2019. Three common HR-related dime-store philosophies are:

1. “Human Resources is responsible for setting the culture of the company”


Myth: HR sets the culture.

Not true. Human resource management is not just the responsibility of the HR Department. 

Reality: Everyone sets the culture of the company. We all get a chance to lead by example. 

Case Study

The Publix store manager who led by example

Jim was the store manager of a 60-person Publix store in South Florida. He demonstrated stewardship,led by example, and practiced what he preached. He consistently bends down to pick up trash off the ground, and makes it a point to throw out wipes, receipts and other refuse left in the shopping carts. One time, when a gum scraper could not be located, he even went as far as to scrape a piece of gum off the floor with his fingernail.  

Jim treated each janitor with the same level of respect that he treated each manager. 

Fellow workers look at Jim’s behavior and model it. They probably think to themselves: “Wow if the manager of a store is willing to do this, then it is in my power to keep this place as hospitable as possible. I am proud to work here because my leader demonstrates how much he cares.” 

Remember the movie Titanic?

“A good captain gets on the life raft last. He ensures his crew is safe first” -Edward John Smith, who perished when the ship capsized in her maiden voyage 










Remember Vietnam?

Lieutenant General Hal Moore
“A good military commander must be the first one on the battlefield, and the last to leave.”  -Lieutenant General Hal Moore, Vietnam War 

We all get a chance to choose. We all get a chance to lead by example.

2. “What gets measured gets managed.” – Peter Drucker


Similar quote: “If you can not measure it, you can not improve it.” -William Thomson

A project manager we interviewed in remote work said: “It’s easy to measure the production of a worker whose task is to produce 800 widgets; he either does it or he doesn’t. However, it’s much more difficult to measure the production of 8-hours of creative work completed by a UX designer on a website project. The KPI’s for success are less objective and more subjective here.”

Indeed, when it comes to intellectual labor, both Quality and Quantity have to be taken into account. Since each project may be unique, it is hard (and in some cases may be counterproductive or redundant to measure the work). When there are no employees higher up in the hierarchy to check on the project assembled by a master technician, the company often ends up completely reliant on the technician’s expertise. 

When Frederick Taylor published the Scientific Management in 1909 most work was manual. A lot like an assembly line worker producing 800 widgets. Taylor initiated the idea of “a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay.” 


However, 100 years later managers are finding that knowledge work in the intelligence economy is much harder to objectively define. (To come back to the idea of the UX designer working on a website, a project manager may ask all of the following exhaustive series of questions in relation to the KPIs and still not be able to determine if the designer did a good job.  

  1. What programming language was the digital asset built in?
  2. Was that the most proper programming language for the job?
  3. Are there any bugs that were not checked?
  4. Did the UX designer do everything to ensure that the asset works well in 5 years, or is the project prone to code rot, and security breaches?

“Because knowledge work cannot be measured the way manual work can, one cannot tell a knowledge worker in a few simple words whether he is doing the right job and how well he is doing it.” -William Hennessy, Consultant

3. “You should only hire Ivy Leaguers”


We tend to assume in the selection process that success in one domain carries over into another. Ivy-league schools, undoubtedly offer a world-class education. But it is too tempting to want to hire someone based on who they know, not what they know. Too many hiring managers have been clouded by the halo effect. If they do not look underneath the surface enough, they may find themselves with a candidate that only looks good on paper.


And while it’s tempting to take a shortcut, we encourage that HR leaders, HR directors, and hiring managers pick individuals based off measurable talent, not snazzy dress and eloquent words. 

Tammy Klein giving an interview
During the Interview: Provide a work project to an incoming candidate, ask for samples of work, and always, always, always check references.

We believe in making the selection process more fair. We believe in giving each person a fair chance and looking outside the traditional modus operandi of a company.

Tammy Klein interviewing candidate
Tammy Klein interviewing candidates. Learn more about Klein HR Outsourcing Services on this page.

We believe in being pleasantly surprised! Click here to see how Klein HR Solutions recruits talent in a non-biased way


Concluding Thoughts 


These “dime-store philosophies in human resources” create a lack of accountability when they are repeated. Oftentimes they are repeated with the best intentions.  They may be innocuous, but they can also hold the company back from leading-edge results. 

“We sometimes use jargon to avoid dealing with problems head on,” says Prof Joe Nellis, director of Cranfield School of Management. 

Alistair Cooke agreed: “Muddy language proceeds from muddy minds.” 

Human Resources have a responsibility to “catch themselves in the act” and see if they are repeating these mottos. 

What dime-store philosophies do you find spoken around the water cooler? Let us know in the comments below; we may feature your answer in the article! 

Tammy klein High Five

Related: Training and Development

Related: Define Your Core Values

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