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Why are HR departments often so bad?

Why are hr departments often so bad?

Considering the fact that Human Resources primary duty is to look after the needs and rights of employees, there is an incredible amount of apathy towards HR from many employees. There are various reasons for this, but it often results in tension between employees and the HR department which can cause serious issues for businesses. But this doesn’t have to be the case, and a business that can foster trust and cooperation between HR and other departments will be a more harmonious one.

To help businesses rebuild bridges, here are some reasons why many employees say they dislike the HR department.

1. HR staff are untrained and inexperienced

Some employees find that on the rare occasions they have needed to interact with the HR department, they have found that the people working there are untrained or inexperienced. This often comes as a shock because most of us never have to deal with HR so we assume that it is staffed with quality people. The perception is that HR is staffed by rejects from other departments who either got bored or were shifted over because they were not doing well at their actual jobs. This means that whenever there is a problem, those people don’t actually know what to do, so they will either obstinately bat away concerns or try to avoid the issue altogether.

2. HR staff are dishonest

Another common complaint about HR staff is that they cannot be trusted to tell the truth. Employees feel HR departments deliberately withhold information from them and also lie to the company about what happened during employee interactions. For in-house legal disputes, employees are always told to make complaints through the proper HR channels to legitimise them and create a legal paper trail. If HR then claims that an employee never made a complaint or they mischaracterise what happened then this can cause major problems for the employee when it comes to the resolution of the issue. 

unhelpful HR employee

3. HR staff are loyal to the company

The role of HR staff is quite peculiar in that they are employees of the company but are supposed to be the conduit for complaints to be made against their own employers. Many people’s experience of dealing with HR staff is that they are only interested in themselves and are reluctant to go against the company in case it ends up affecting their own careers. Particularly in situations where it is one employee’s word against their superior, HR is seen as usually siding with the more senior person whether through self-preservation or as a result of pressure from above. Part of the issue is possibly the structure of the command chain with every department ultimately answering to the same higher-ups. If businesses were able to create an environment where HR was totally independent, then the perception of the HR staff being loyal only to the company could perhaps be resolved. Unfortunately, this is not the easiest or most desirable set up for many businesses and so changes are rarely made.

4. HR staff don’t treat employees like people

Many employees feel that when it comes to dealing with HR, they are definitely treated more as resources than they are humans. This can manifest itself in various frustrating ways such as employees not being permitted to take days off for legitimate reasons like a wedding or to look after a sick child for a day or two. HR departments are seen as being far too quick to quote company policy and employee regulations rather than being empathetic and listening to individual cases. This may be a result of them following procedure, but is still very frustrating for anyone who has a legitimate request or complaint. Furthermore, many employees feel like HR staff always seem to get the time off they need and so it seems like one rule for them and another for everyone else. 

HR employee on phone

5. It isn’t always clear what HR does

While employees may not know exactly what their colleagues in other departments do, they will usually have a good idea. Depending on the industry, many projects will require multiple departments to collaborate and so there is always an awareness and an appreciation of what other departments and team members are bringing to the organisation. The HR department, however, can appear like an island of secrecy, and the only thing that is certain is that whenever an employee has to visit that island, the results are dissatisfying. In reality, many HR departments (good ones anyway) have a major role to play in the company, as they help to design and implement company policy, act as the liaison between the employees and upper-management, and ensure that everyone is following the rules. Some of these rules are incredibly important for the safety of everyone involved and so when done properly, HR duties are vital.

6. HR staff are lazy

As a result of not understanding what HR does, many employees come to the natural conclusion that the department and its staff do nothing. They are seen as sitting around just waiting to refuse vacation requests or ignore legitimate complaints. There is no doubt that in the world of business there are many lazy HR staff, just as there are many lazy people in IT, accounting, and sales. Unfortunately, due to the natural divide between HR and the other departments in an organisation, it is easy for suspicions to arise and unfair judgements to be made about the people that work in HR. In some cases, the department may be unproductive, ineffective, and slow to act on behalf of employees, and while this may be down to the staff, it may also be the result of some structural or operational issue in the department.

The reality is that it is impossible to tar all HR departments with the same brush. There are undoubtedly some departments who are the embodiment of all the issues mentioned above, but there are also many which do their utmost to look after the employees in their companies. 



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