Scott Hardie | March 6, 2023
How tired I am of hearing that "HR is not your friend." I've heard and read variations on this idea for many years, from jaded people who insist that every HR department in the world exists solely to help its company and never to help you the employee, and that it will only protect the company while falsely pretending to care about your needs as some kind of trap to get you to expose yourself.

Believing that every HR department is evil is like believing that every boss is evil or every company is evil. It's false, it's cynical, and it's silly. It's an absolutist way of looking at the world that people typically grow out of in their twenties.

Of course HR is not going to do something that hurts the company! What people misunderstand is that your interests often align with the company's. If you are whistle-blowing about illegal activity, or you are reporting sexual harassment or racial discrimination, a competent HR department will know that the company is in violation of the law and thus at risk of criminal and civil penalties, so it will take the investigation very seriously and will shut down the bad behavior by appropriate means and will protect you from retaliation.

The fact that some HR departments are not competent for a variety of reasons does not make them all malicious or untrustworthy as a rule. And the fact that most HR departments will not do anything about the many unserious complaints that they receive (such as entitled employees miffed that their bosses are "mean" and demanding "justice") also does not make them useless; they are not genies who exist to grant magic wishes. If you work at a healthy organization, and if you use HR for their intended purpose, they can accomplish a lot for you.

A good friend of mine has worked as an HR director for years, so I asked his opinion about this idea that "HR is not your friend." He said that the job is often like being a marriage counselor: While either party (employee or management) can end the relationship at any time, it's usually in each one's interest to continue together (smart companies know that good employees are difficult and costly to replace), so you try to get each side to see reason and continue in the relationship. But he says it only works when HR has a backbone and will tell senior management when they're wrong, and when senior management is smart and ethical and doesn't compel HR to do the wrong thing.

Do you disagree with me? I can count at least one Funeratic member among the friends and family who I know that have been burned by bad HR, so I'm curious what response this will get.

Samir Mehta | March 9, 2023
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Scott Hardie | March 10, 2023
Excellent analogy about the police! That makes so much sense.

I think I'm just getting hung up on the absolutism of people's attitudes on this. Sure, there are many bad HR departments, and many circumstances under which even good HR won't help, but it's far from all of them. And yet, smart people who I know to be reasonable, and not at all absolutist on other matters, are convinced that 100% of the time you should never talk to HR because it will only hurt you, and they insist that they mean it literally when I ask. That's... just not true.

Erik Bates | March 11, 2023
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Samir Mehta | March 11, 2023
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Scott Hardie | March 16, 2023
Interesting thought experiment. There are ways to take it further of course: Up to a certain level of wealth, anyone in my community who makes more money is going to spend more money, which means more capital moving about in the economy and thus more opportunity for everyone including me to earn more, so Dave's raise is arguably good for me as his neighbor. Plus, Dave getting a raise means more money earned by labor and less money earned merely by ownership of the company, which I consider a symbolic win regardless of how I feel about the people at the top or about Dave.

I've discussed this with a few people now and haven't come up with a good answer: The phrase "Human Resources" is so trapped in business-speak (are we just resources to you?) and needs a plain-English replacement. I vote for "Employment" but that's not inclusive of all that the department does. Can anyone think of better?

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