Why do employees hate HR so much?

ManagementSo, why does everyone hate HR?

It’s pretty well agreed upon that employees have overwhelmingly negative perceptions of the profession, which really shouldn’t be news to HR people.

But it is unfortunate, all the same.

There are plenty of stats to back it up. A recent poll from Careerbliss.com found that:

  • more than 70% of employees think HR is management’s pawn
  • barely 20% of HR pros stick up for what’s right, and
  • just over 5% of HR people look out for workers.

You're Fired!
Go ahead. Type “hate HR” in a Google search box and hit “enter.”

See what I mean.

The stories are endless, and they are not going away anytime soon.

Can anything be done? Should anything be done?

And if so, what?

Here is a breakdown of the problem from the eyes of the typical employee:

  1. HR is never my side.
  2. HR always says everything is confidential, until it isn’t.
  3. Policy is king – even if it doesn’t make sense.
  4. HR people are friendly strangers. Can you ever “really” know an HR person?
  5. HR is the henchman for senior managers.
  6. HR does engagement surveys, then disappears into their office for the rest of year.
  7. HR speaks gibberish and revels in red tape.

So, does any of this ring true to you? I’d love to hear your comments.

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  1. Laura Brinker says:

    I think that there are clearly 2 schools of thought on what HR should be. There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground; either you’re great or you’re evil. We have had our share of both. The young lady in HR at our site very clearly understands that Human Resources is the advocate for the employee and has created communication boards to try to reach out to those who won’t go near an office. Unfortunately, my opinion used to be that you had to be interested in “stirring the pot” or on an incredible power trip to be in HR, as that was the only experiences I had ever had with HR.

  2. In my experience, HR execs are loyal to two people — the CEO and themselves. One example: When I was VP Marketing at a Fortune 50 company, on a par with the HR exec, I thought we enjoyed each other’s company and would get together after work occasionally. To my chagrin I found that things I had told him got back to the CEO. Fortunately I hadn’t told the HR guy anything that significant so it didn’t do much harm.

    Another situation, many HR people think that using trendy psychological gimmicks work instead of just relying straightforward, proven management techniques.

  3. I have been in HR and line positions for more than 35 years. The problem as I see it is HR folks are now tethered to a PC. Long gone out of the profession is the MBWA concept where you get to know the employees, relate to their needs so they can be represented at the “table” with management and most of all learn of potential problems so they can be addressed at a lower level. HR folks can be very effective and contributors but they have to have the self confidence and intestinal fortitude to speak up and correct wrongs. The reliance on a policy is acceptable for an answer as long as it is applied consistently and fairly….too bad someone doesn’t get the answer they want to hear, they just deserve a response and an explanation. PC’s and churning data don’t do just to an answer alone, it has to be personalized…..a lost art in HR. OK, so I am a dinosaur, but it works. HR is a great field and a person in the field can contribute if they get out of the office and find out what is really going on. HR has a bad reputation because we deserve it. Rarely do we hold our selves to the same employee relations concepts we teach and expect managers to follow. Physician heal thyself!

    • Jim Booth-Although my experience as an HR person is only about half of what yours is, I agree with most all you have to say. What I would like to know though, is how you have NOT become “tethered to a PC”? Of course, straight answers are the best way to handle situations, however in our line of work, straight answers are rarely black and white, but usually varying shades of grey. The internet is a tremendous and quick reference guide to get ideas on how to handle tricky situations on the fly. Not perfect for everything, but incredibly useful. Secondly, although I agree that you can learn so much more from getting in the mix with employees, and I still do to some degree, this is also a sure way to rocket yourself towards HR burnout. Our company only has 125ish employees, and nearly every one of them “needs” HR to do something, fix something, scold someone, help figure out something, or simply just be a shoulder to cry on or vent to–all of the time! Although I do my very best to be all things to all people, I cannot physically or mentally take on and solve everyone’s problems, all the time, especially when many of these problems can be solved by employees on their own. I’ve become very skilled at helping people solve their own problems–“I can point you in the right direction, but you must handle XYZ”. The mental strain to always be professional and not tell people to ‘go pound salt’ is incredibly taxing. So yes, my PC has become a very good friend. Helping me gain knowledge, solving problems and asking me for nothing in return. No, I’m not the weird guy from the movie who falls in love with his computer, but it is a much better option to help keep myself sane rather then going home and hitting the bottle or kicking the dog (neither of which I do…), so as much as I respect what your post said, there is nothing wrong with occasionally being tethered to a PC, in fact it might actually extend HR people’s careers.

  4. As an HR Professional, I have found that keeping the HR department “small” by partnering with each department manager and supervisor is key to having HR closer to every employee. Remaining truly available to each and every employee and publicly advocating for them, even if that means disagreeing with (challenging) policy of C-class officers is required. Getting agreement from C-class officers that this is HR and the organization’s best approach first is key! Then employees feel heard through daily relationships rather than waiting for an annual survey to “let the company and HR have it”.
    HR Professionals that see themselves as service leaders get it. They do not have to be divided by the organization and the employees… they see the organization is the employees and they work to keep this vision with each and every leader in the organization. My “evil plot” is to make every manager an HR Manager!

  5. Having 30 years in the profession I would say many HR’s don’t understand what there role is. Many see it I like people so its a good professional fit. What they don’t understand is that it means taking a tough stand for or against and associate. Another factor is when we are speaking with one person, we by profession should thinking how it will impact everyone else, can you say yes to one request without saying yes to others. To Neil, I will say sorry, because that is not what an HR should do.

  6. Bridgette Moore says:

    HR professionals get a bad name because sometime people are selected for the position and they dont care or even like people. I have seen HR professionals that should NEVER have been put in the position. I believe HR professionals get a bad rep due to the fact that they have a hard job as they are the first and last person that employees see usually when joining and exiting the company. Many people wear thier feelings on thier shoulder and do not understand that the HR person is just doing thier job. Also The HR people in the position that should have NEVER been placed in the position needs to realize that HR professionals are the go between for Management and for the employee. There is a line they must ALWAYS walk. You cannot cross the line as you need to have the best interest for the company, along with the best interests for the employees while making sure company policies and procedures are followed along with constancy for all.

  7. Judy Nelson says:

    I have been in HR for eight years and have been told by staff that “I am the best HR Person” they have ever dealt with. I know every person in the Agency I work for. I do the on-boarding so I meet them at least on their first day if not before and am in contact with them throughout their probationary period. I make a point of remembering when they are out sick or on vacation to check in with them when they return to the office. I believe in being as transparent and fair in administering the agency’s policies as possible. I make no promises of confidentiality so that anyone coming to me with a problem is aware immediately that depending on the topic(s) discussed I may have to let the Executive Management Team know what was discussed. I certainly speak up for the employee when warrented. Have I had difficult conversatiions? Yes. Have I had to do termination proceedings on employees who I have personnaly liked? Yes.

    Being in HR, for me, means straddling the line between staff and Upper Management while keeping the best interests of both the Agency and the employees in mind. That being said until I worked in HR I felt that HR was simply a puppet of Management. I work hard to not be viewed that way and for the most part I believe I succeed. I try to keep the “Human” in Human Resources.

  8. Terri Napier says:

    I have been working in some capacity in HR for 20+ years. I ‘fell’ into this field right out of high school when I took a clerical position that supported Recruiting. Over the years I have had the privilege of work with, and getting to know hundreds, perhaps even thousands of people through the various HR positions I’ve held. I have found that, like all stereotypes or opinions formed through negative experiences, the best way to correct them is to BE DIFFERENT. I demonstrate that I am an advocate of employees, a partner for managers, and ensure that employees are treated respectfully, as individuals, with compassion, and understanding, and I ensure consistent application of policies, explain the reason for a policy so that even if they don’t like the policy they understand it. This is sometimes difficult and bridge building is not for everyone. It is often a thankless job, but then there is that one employee you help through a difficult situation or season, the supervisor you help to improve morale, or to development and carryout a Performance Improvement Plan that turns someones performance around, and knowing that you had a part in that makes it all worth it.

  9. Jim McGowan says:

    I see another issue we face in HR: we do a poor job or defining our roles. We are advocates for the employee, managment, and company. Too many times this is blurred and managment wants to use HR as the “heavy” and do all the perfromance coaching and terminations, etc. HR folks need to stand up for themselves and push this back on those who are responsible to lead and coach the work teams. HR ensures policy is fair and consistent. HR makes sure we don’t break any laws or regulations so everyone is protected. HR doesn’t coach the individual employee on thier inability to meet performance expectations, managment does. Many of us fall into this role and perpetuate the HR is evil reputation because our managers think this is what HR is for and we let them get away with it. We should help managers so they do not say or write anything in a coaching that is wrong/illegal, but we shouldn’t deliver the message.

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