Well, hate is a strong word, although that hasn’t seemed to stop the many blogs and other publications churning out articles about why everyone hates HR. For instance, here, here and one that started it all: here.
Certainly, there are bad, inexperienced or just plain clueless HR pros out there; just as there are in any profession. But they don’t exist in any greater numbers than in other professions, either.
Just as there are those who think all HR pros are evil incarnate, we HR pros have a few things that really set our hair on fire, too. So, it’s time to highlight a few things that HR folks really don’t like, or even "hate".
It’s our job to help our organizations by way of recruiting, retaining and developing the best employees and with making sure the organization is in compliance with the hundreds – no, thousands - of laws and regulations dealing with the employment relationship. That right there is enough to make us cranky. These two goals among the many we have can seem to conflict in that the same people we are supposed to help succeed sometimes seem to be working hard to destroy the organization. What we hate is that people, both employees and managers/supervisors, often fail to understand this. Their view is that we are being obstructionist and a pain in the ass. Nope, we’re just trying to get it done.
We are not counselors or therapists. But you’d never know that sometimes. Employees sometimes have personal problems, but that’s not the issue. We can refer you to the EAP or legal assistance, offer leaves of absence, etc. We're sympathetic; after all, we’re human and sometimes have problems, too. But, please don’t expect us to solve your personal problems and don’t get ticked off when we won’t hang out our "psychologist" shingle. We can help you navigate your relationships with your manager or your coworkers, but we aren’t qualified to fix your marriage and that really falls into TMI, anyway.
In a related area, we can show you how to do something. We can even show you how to do something several times. But, eventually, you need to do it by yourself. Whether that something is using your health benefits, accessing your retirement plan online, or completing a performance evaluation, we really, really can’t continue to do it for you all the time. We have a lot of other things to do for a lot of other people. Please be an adult and be responsible enough to learn how to do these things yourself.
Whiners and high-maintenance employees (and managers) are the ones that complain about being overworked, even though they rarely work a full day; about being treated badly by their manager who simply told you to do your job; about how they need to be paid more, even though they make as much or more as their comparable coworkers; about the quality of the hand towels in the bathroom and the sodas in the vending machines. They are forever being harassed, discriminated against and clearly don’t know the meaning of those words in the workplace (even though we’ve explained a hundred times). They take up inordinate amounts of our time and energy, leaving less time and energy for more legitimate issues. You exhaust us. Grow up.
The manager who knows everything, and takes every opportunity to tell you about it. She may be smart and graduated with honors, and she may get the job done well. But she’s absolutely sure she’s never wrong – about anything. When she inevitably makes a mistake it’s a mess to clean up, but she still refuses to believe she was wrong. She’s usually the one that gets your organization sued.
Next up is the exec that thinks his title means he doesn’t have to follow the rules (or the laws) any more. Actually, you don’t even have to be an exec to make this designation – managers and supervisors reach this point, too. Yes, you have to take the harassment training, just like everyone else; no, you can’t fire people willy-nilly, you need to follow the guidelines and policies, too, you can’t violate the FMLA or EEO laws just because you don’t agree with them or refuse to remember what they mean – the EEOC doesn’t care about your title or your bad memory; no, you can’t make changes to your benefits elections outside of open enrollment without a qualifying event – the IRS doesn’t care about your title.
Don’t shoot the messenger…..Some people think we in HR sit around all day and make up policies just to make your life difficult – and because we’re, well – evil. Nope. Oftentimes, we’re implementing the decisions and policies set forth by the executive team. Other times we’re simply complying with one or more of those thousands of employment laws that get passed each year. It’s our job and we have to do it, even if we sometimes don’t agree with those policies or laws, either. Just like it’s your responsibility to do your job even if you don’t like parts of it. Life is tough, isn’t it?
Most of us really don’t like party planning. In fact, a lot of us hate party planning, especially when it seems like employees and management think party planning is a major function of HR. Guess what? It’s not, and shouldn’t be. Let someone else do it; create an employee party committee and have at it. Being the party planners only serves to minimize the importance of our true function.
Employee satisfaction surveys – or as they’re more popularly referred to today – employee engagement surveys – can be helpful, but more commonly are pretty useless. But again, it’s our job to get them out, get them in and try to make use of the data. Which is pretty difficult (hence the uselessness) when hardly anyone will turn them back in. Another thing is that it’s most often the case that the people who are most dissatisfied, and a few who really are satisfied, are the only ones who respond. So, together with a low response rate in general, the data isn’t really a reliable indication of anything. And then, when nothing comes of the results, nothing ever happens with the feedback, we get the blame. Remember, HR is not always responsible for making the decisions.
So much has been written about how we should get rid of the traditional performance evaluation. We’d probably love that, if someone would come up with a viable alternative. An alternative that supervisors and managers would actually support and implement instead of just bitch about. Don’t like writing evaluations? You have too many, you say? In my years as staff HR, I read every single evaluation. You may have had to write 5 or 10, or even 50; but I read all 350 of them. I had to make sure you didn’t write that your employee’s FMLA protected leave was a detriment to her performance; and make sure you were consistent in your ratings when compared to your written summary; and make sure you were clear in your expectations for your employee’s performance for the coming year; and make sure you told your employee that only occasionally showing up for work is not acceptable.
Dress codes. Oh. Dear. God. How we hate dress codes. Do you really think we like being the fashion police? Do you really think most of us care what you wear, as long as you get your job done? My philosophy has always been if what you’re wearing is neat, clean, in good repair and not revealing (we don’t need or want to see your boobs, your butt, or your underwear), then it’s probably all good. While there are some jobs and some environments where specific types of attire are necessary for good business, most do not require a particular mode of dress. But you need to be an adult, be reasonable and be fairly professional. Leave the daisy dukes and jammie pants at home; put on a belt and cover your private parts. This is work, after all. And remember, even if HR doesn’t much care if you wear jeans to work, executive management may have decided they don’t want you to wear jeans to work.
But maybe most of all, we really don’t like when people say everyone should hate HR and throw it out, especially when those who write those articles clearly don’t understand. These are supposed to be business people; I’m surprised they don’t have a better understanding of why HR operates the way we do.