John Prescott tells an instructive anecdote about the fallout from his now infamous punch-up with a protestor on the campaign trail in 2001. Having landed a left hook on a man who threw an egg at him, making headlines around the world, he was assigned two new bodyguards, over and above his regular security detail, to prevent a repeat of the incident.
On a meet and greet a few days later, another furious member of the public began heckling Prescott menacingly. The bodyguards duly stepped in – not, it transpired, to keep the angry citizen away from the then deputy prime minister but to hold Prescott back in case he threw another punch.
In organisational terms, the HR department is those burly bodyguards. Ostensibly there to ensure managers don’t have to deal with the tedium of paying and processing their people, in reality HR exists to save the organisation from itself: to keep terrible bosses in check, eradicate bias, nepotism and unfairness and banish the sort of egregious practices that end up in an employment tribunal.