Everybody hates HR. Employees hate HR because they always seem to take the management side. Management hates HR because HR is always saying no, or requiring documentation, or making demands on their already busy schedule.
Usually, when we understand why someone behaves the way they do, we accept their requests and their decisions more readily. And one of the big reasons why people feel so negative about HR is that they misunderstand why we act as we do. There's a big belief that the Human Resources department is an internal customer service department. It's our job to make things right and to make the customer--employee or manager--happy.
HR expert Alyssa Hernandez shared a story where a boss told her that if she was going to go into HR, she needed to learn to sugarcoat things if she wanted to be in HR. She disagrees and wisely clears up the misconception:
Here's the thing--HR is not customer service.
Do we have a client base? Yep.
Do we have to be polite and professional? Absolutely.
But not every person is going to walk away from your office happy, and that's okay.
She is 100 percent correct. While it would be lovely if everyone could leave happy, it's not what HR is supposed to do. It's not what you actually want HR to do. You don't want to end up in a lawsuit or trending on Twitter because your HR department made you happy rather than doing what was right.
If an executive is telling dirty jokes in staff meetings, you want that executive to leave the meeting with the HR Business Partner with an understanding that this is a very serious situation. If he does it again, termination is on the table. You don't want him to walk away feeling like the HR person understands where he's coming from and that she's only saying knock it off because she *has* to, but really, it's okay to continue.
If an employee is on a performance improvement plan (PIP) because of poor performance, you want her to walk out of the HR manager's office with a complete understanding of what she needs to do to meet the terms of the PIP. Hopefully, she leaves feeling like she can accomplish those goals. But, the worst possible thing for the employee and the company is for that person to leave the office feeling like she can continue doing what she's been doing.
If you understand that HR is looking to protect the business and make the employee experience better, you'll appreciate some of the answers that bug you. No, you can't punish someone for taking approved FMLA time even if it was during the busy service. Yes, you need to clock in and clock out on every shift. No, you can't hire your girlfriend. Yes, you must document employee behavior if you want to start a disciplinary process.
All of these things protect the company even if they don't make you happy at the moment. The goal of HR is not to make you happy--even though a positive employee experience is high on the list. The goal is to help you do things that help the company succeed and protect the company legally, even if that's a bit difficult.
Does this mean that HR always does the right thing? Of course not. Some of HR's bad reputation is well earned. But, if you're angry about what your HR manager is telling you, stop and ask, "How does your suggestion help the company? How does what I want to do hurt the company?"
She should be quite capable of answering that question. Listen to the answer. To the employee who comes in late, the answer should be something like, "This is a client-facing job. When you come in late, we have clients waiting. It throws off the schedule for the entire day and places unfair burdens on your coworkers." If the answer is "because that is the rule!" then it's a bad answer, and she's not doing her job.
You'll probably often hear, "federal law/state law requires..." If you don't like it, take it up with your elected officials.
But never confuse HR with the customer service department. Yes, you're a client of HR, but their job isn't merely to make you happy. It's great if they can, but don't get upset if they can't. It may be you that needs to change.