Four Secrets About Human Resources Departments

Ever wonder what really goes on inside the hallowed halls of human resources? According to a piece by Alison Green on U.S. News & World Report, there are a few things employees and job seekers alike should keep in mind.

1. HR isn’t there to be your advocate. Their goal? Serve the business needs. The former chief of staff at a nonprofit writes, “Now, in some cases, that means advocate for employees against bad managers, because it’s in the best interests of employers to retain great employees, identify and address bad management and stop legal problems before they explode. But plenty of other times, what’s best for the employer will not be what’s best for the employee, and the best interests of the employer will always win out. That’s not cynicism; that’s simply what HR’s mission is.”

2. HR isn’t obligated to keep what you tell them confidential, even if you request their discretion. If you think what you’re disclosing is confidential such as mentioning your boss is harassing your team, that confidential information needs to be shared in order to address an issue. Actually, if human resources representatives had relevant information and ignored it, they would be negligent. Can you still talk to HR in confidence? Yes but keep in mind they may need to report certain findings and escalate it depending on the nature of the conversation.

3. HR knows things that they aren’t telling you. Maybe there’s a lay off coming down the pike as departments are getting outsourced to overseas locations. HR often has access to information they aren’t tell you nor should they.

4. HR’s job is to support the company’s managers, not to dictate how they operate. As mentioned in the piece, HR’s clients are the business units and although some companies give HR the ability to make promotion decisions that impact that bottom line, others do not.

Green dishes, “In general, if you’re a manager and your HR department is creating obstacles to your work (for instance, making it harder for you to hire great people or hire as quickly as you need to, or making it difficult for you to address performance problems forthrightly), you should push back. Escalate the situation, or find an ally higher up in the organization who can overrule HR or push for different procedures.”