Human Resources is one of the most misunderstood departments in business. From mean to lazy, bureaucratic to unnecessary, HR professionals have heard it all.
But the truth is, whether you are dealing with HR in your job search or in your workplace, HR is not there to punish, annoy, or fire you. In fact, with these 5 common HR myths busted, you’ll see what this department is really for and learn to collaborate with HR professionals in the world of work.
Myth #1: HR makes all the decisions
While HR plays an active role in some decisions, it does not have the final say. Think of HR as more of a consultant or guide, providing insight based on their area of expertise: The company’s employees. HR may create analytical reports or give recommendations to help executives make informed business decisions, but that is often the extent of its involvement in the decision-making process.
But, you may wonder, surely HR makes the hiring decisions.
As a job seeker or new hire, many of your first interactions with a company involve HR. However, just like everything else, HR facilitates and assists the hiring process, often by posting job ads or conducting interviews. But the hiring manager makes the ultimate decision.
So, if you’re trying to get a job and want to speak to the person in charge, target the hiring manager, not HR.
Myth #2: If HR is in the room, someone is getting fired
Many people believe HR only appears when there’s some unpleasantness to deal with, namely firing.
It’s no mystery how this common HR myth developed. In many companies, the average employee has limited contact with HR until the very end, when they are let go. But, in reality, HR has many responsibilities outside of termination.
In fact, in some small companies, HR is involved in so many aspects of the business, they don’t handle firing at all. And many HR departments don’t have the authority to enforce disciplinary actions or termination without direction from a superior.
In all companies, HR exists to foster a more positive work environment, support employees, and help the company run more smoothly -- and firing people is only one small part of that.
Myth #3: HR only protects the interests of the company
This is a prevalent HR myth, stemming from an “us vs. them” mentality and completely misrepresenting the actual role of HR. These days, peeved employees can easily air their grievances online and perpetuate this belief. But the truth is, while HR does protect the interests of the company, it protects the interests of employees just as much.
A company can’t function at its best if its employees are unhappy, unsupported, or fighting. HR is responsible for maintaining and improving employee engagement and job satisfaction rates to boost retention and productivity. HR helps employees resolve issues and protects employees from workplace discrimination, bullying, sexual harassment, and more.
While you may feel like HR isn’t on your side, HR strives to uphold the values of the company while balancing its responsibility to the employees, and that isn’t easy.
Myth #4: HR only exists to enforce policy and implement punishment
Legal compliance is an important part of HR. After all, if a company is fined or sued and goes out of business, everyone loses their job. HR needs to manage risk and liability to keep your employer compliant and functional.
So while HR does enforce policy, this is only because HR’s larger goal is to support the company and its employees. And the same goes for punishment.
Contrary to popular belief, HR does not exist to punish rule-breakers. Again, its interests lie in liability mitigation and supporting a safe, productive work environment.
Myth #5: HR never does anything
Many people have experienced this scenario: They put a complaint in to HR and nothing happens. You may think HR just doesn’t care, but, in most cases, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
To resolve even the smallest issues, HR needs to coordinate with other departments and investigate the problem. Even with their best efforts, this process can take a few weeks or even months. So if your complaint isn’t resolved, you may just need to wait a little longer.
You could also be asking HR to fix something that is outside their purview. If this happens, they should tell you and direct you to the right department.
However, incompetent HR departments exist, and you’ll likely know if you’re working with one. In that case, you should follow up with HR to ensure all your complaints are taken seriously and addressed properly.
Of course, every company’s HR is different. But one thing is always the same. HR is there to manage a company’s most valuable assets: Its employees.
One frustrating HR experience can color your feelings with HR going forward. But in your current job or the next, better understanding HR will help you more easily navigate your workplace and collaborate with the very people who are there to help you succeed.