Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Whose Side Are You On? The Perils of HR

I have often said that being a front line supervisor is the most difficult job in today's workplace. I think that is still true for a specific position. But if there is a department that is fraught with peril, it has to be the Human Resources group.

This came to mind because of a great article by Alison Green, 5 Secrets You Should Know About HR.
The points Green makes, that HR knows things they can't tell you, that their job is to support the managers of the company not employees, to list  just two, are true, but point up one of the problems for HR in the modern world.

Too often, the constituency that they are asked to serve is not made clear, or at least not explicitly so. Is HR an employee advocate, looking out for the interests of the employees? Maybe, and clearly that has a role, but in reality, the responsibility is more often in support of management, although that support often comes in the form of being the compliance policeman.

This topic certainly deserves a lot more attention than this brief post. Until this issue is resolved at any particular company, HR will forever be sentenced to a very unhappy existence.

Yeah this has a lot of truth to it. I've always felt HR people are shady. They smile and act as if they're on the employees side and they're there to support them, but it never seems that genuine. It always seems like they're hiding something. So I can definitely relate to this post.
Hi Michael Fox, good post!
It's upsetting that employees in companies categorize all HR professionals the same. Walk a mile in the shoes of someone int he HR professional and then judge. Not all people are alike, just like all HR professionals and departments are not all alike. Yes, this topic does deserve more attention and we need to hear from both sides.
I don't necessarily agree with this position ... my view is that the HR professional is in large part a compliance officer. As such, not unlike in-house legal counsel, HR's "client" is actually the employer, which is not necessarily the same thing as management. I believe that HR's legal and ethical duty is to act in the best interest of the organization, which in my experience has put me at odds with management from time to time ... I've always negotiated that role up front, so that my boss and upper management is well aware of my role ... FWIW.
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