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Weary HR leaders are leaving for consulting, VC, retirement

Protocol Workplace

Welcome back to our Workplace newsletter. This just in: Amazon exec Pravin Raj is leaving AWS. Raj is one of several of the cloud giant's top leaders named in a discrimination and harassment lawsuit by a former employee. Also today, chief people officers are taking breaks and switching gears after a trying two and a half years. Plus, teams are bogged down by software applications, with the average office worker switching between apps 1,200 times per day. Yeesh.

— Allison Levitsky, reporter (email | twitter)

Break time for CPOs

Senior HR talent is hard to find. Lately headhunters have noticed that it’s a challenge to find great people leaders. Many of the extraordinary challenges of the last two and a half years have fallen on the shoulders of chief people officers, leading some of them to step away from operating roles or leave the workforce altogether.

The last few years have brought a world of macro-level uncertainty, shifting power dynamics, and political tensions, both within companies and in the world at large. Between the pandemic, the economic downturn, and social changes, HR leaders are tired.

  • “A lot of them have decided, ‘Yeah, it’s been a pressure cooker for a number of years now, and I need to step back,’” said John K. Anderson, managing director in the HR practice of the search firm Allegis Partners.
  • HR leaders have been “literally dealing with the life and death of their employees,” said Brian Kropp, managing director at Accenture. Not to mention taking teams remote, hiring rapidly, planning for hybrid work when employees don’t want to return to the office, facing slow gains around DEI, and supporting employees through everything from social justice movements and U.S. political tensions to inflation, economic downturn, and war.

All of this is pushing senior HR talent to leave operating roles, either for retirement, sabbatical, consulting, or VC jobs. Greg Selker, managing director and North American technology practice leader for the recruiting firm Stanton Chase, has seen many HR leaders opt to go into consulting rather than another operating role.

  • “A lot of them are stepping away to do something else, taking a break for a year from work, whatever it may be,” Kropp said.
  • Consulting gigs allow execs to focus on the aspects of people leadership that they enjoyed the most while letting go of the rest, according to Anderson.
  • Traunza Adams left her last CPO role after six months when she found that she had “values misalignment” with the company’s leadership. She still advises startups formally and informally, and while she says she “absolutely loved” being a people leader, she’s not planning a return to an operating role anytime soon.
  • “Once I stopped working, I realized just how stressful it was,” Adams said. “And how nice it is to not have people depending on you every day and being beholden to people and having to fight for what you feel is right.”
As a result of all this, chief people officer searches are, well, “taking a bit longer,” Anderson said. “We’ll see what happens at the end of this year and the beginning of next year,” Anderson said. “And whether that changes or people feel they’ve had enough rest and they want to get back in.”

App attack

Office workers are inundated with software applications: The average business now runs 187, up from 77 in 2015, according to a report from Okta. Despite all these tools, federal data shows that worker productivity has slowed.

The rise of SaaS has led to some of this “software bloat,” Protocol's writer-at-large Joe Williams writes, and tech leaders have ended up stuck with extraneous software. Software companies are moving toward building tools to manage entire processes, with more integrated “workflows” and plugin capabilities (think Asana and Slack).

Read the full story.


Flexible work and resignations are at historic highs and employees are questioning if their compensation matches their worth. What are business and HR leaders supposed to do about this? BambooHR surveyed full-time, salaried employees and discovered the top 2022 trends surrounding compensation and what employees really want.

Read the takeaways

Conflict o’clock

How much time did your company’s managers spend on conflict last week? It may well have been over four hours, according to a new report from The Myers-Briggs Company that found managers are dealing with a half day of conflict, on average, per week.

  • Almost one in four respondents said their managers handle conflict “poorly or very poorly,” the report found.
  • 36% of respondents said they deal with conflict often, very often, or all the time, according to the report — up from 29% in 2008.
  • Poor communication was the biggest cause of conflict for in-office workers at 56% of the time. For hybrid workers, a lack of transparency caused the most conflicts at 32% of the time.

Some personnel news

Anyone else having a bad case of Great Resignation whiplash? It’s hard to keep up with which tech companies are growing, shrinking, floating, or sinking. We’re here to help.

⬇️ The cybersecurity company Snyk is reportedly cutting 14% of its workforce, or 198 employees, according to an Israeli business publication.

⬇️ Telehealth startup Cerebral is slashing 20% of its head count to match lower growth expectations, The Wall Street Journal reported.

⬇️ Snap is closing a San Francisco office that the company said was “lightly used” after it embraced flexible work, according to Bloomberg.

For more news on hiring, firing, and rewiring, see our tech company tracker.

Around the internet

A roundup of workplace news from the farthest corners of the internet.

Is the workday getting weirder? (ZDNet)

Big Tech is increasingly seeking tech talent in Africa. (TechCrunch)

Emoji translation: Your Gen Z employees might find your 👍 rude. (Axios)

San Francisco offices have hit a record high for vacancy levels. (SFGate)


Low pay is the top reason employees decide to quit, followed by a lack of opportunities for advancement. Learn how an effective compensation plan can help combat these two major reasons.

Learn more

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