5 reasons your HR department is driving everyone crazy (and what you can do about it)

header_HRDrivingEmployeeCrazy

Crystal Spraggins, SPHR

Bad HR has become a bad, sad cliché. The situation has gotten so dire, hardly anyone actually expects great things of HR anymore, because that would be like expecting a used car salesman to be honest, or a professional basketball player to be faithful—it just isn’t happening.

It doesn’t have to be this way. A competent, courageous, and supported HR professional (or two) could do awesome things for your organization. Awesome.

But instead, HR just drives everyone crazy. Here’s why, as well as some ways you can stop it from happening.

  1. HR gets stuff wrong all the time.
    Errors in paychecks, bad information about benefits, misinformation about basic employment laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), missed compliance deadlines, and sloppy, choppy, ineffective hiring practices make your employees wonder who’s more capable—the Keystone Cops or the folks in the HR department?

    SOLUTION:
    Set your standards high, and make changes if they aren’t being met.
    Has your company outgrown its HR talent? If so, it’s time to get serious about employee development. You say you’ve never had a “real” HR professional and have no idea how to find one? Hire a consultant to help you out. The HR function serves a need, and it’s hurting your business to let that need go unmet.

  2. HR doesn’t have any answers.
    Need training recommendations? The solution to a tricky employee relations issue? Perhaps you’re wondering whether the company’s contribution toward your health savings account will be counted as taxable income? Whatever your question, HR doesn’t seem to have any answers. Eventually, employees stop asking.

    SOLUTION:
    Insist that continuing education and good customer service are more than “nice to haves.”

    Good HR professionals know a lot about a lot, and the knowledge didn’t fall from the sky. Instead, the best HR pros can claim a commitment to
    life-long learning, because stuff is always changing, and employees want (and deserve) answers.

    That said, no one knows everything, and that’s where customer service comes along. If HR doesn’t have the answer, they should be darn sure to inform whoever’s asking that they’ll get the answer—and then promptly follow through.

  3. HR focuses on stupid stuff.
    Your staff has serious problems that need attention. Bad management. Underperforming employees. Overworked departments. Tight budgets. Lagging sales, or maybe, all the challenges that come with rapid growth.

    But, while everyone else in the company is sorting out the important issues, HR is in a corner somewhere trying to drum up participation for an upcoming CPR training that no one asked for, no one needs, and no one wants to attend.

    SOLUTION:
    Invite HR to the party.
    If HR is focusing on matters of insignificance on a regular basis, it’s probably because they don’t have any matters of significance to handle. Why not? HR pros provide a much-needed and unique perspective to your company goings-on. HR understands your culture, and they know a lot about your employees. If you’ve hired wisely, HR also knows a lot about your business. Put that knowledge to good use.

  4. HR is powerless to resolve problems.
    Frankly, your HR department has no juice. Toxic manager? Oh well. HR is sympathetic but can’t offer more than a listening ear and a box of tissues.

    SOLUTION:
    Give HR some juice.
    Employees really do need someone to have their backs every now and again, and it’s to your benefit when they do. If an employee can’t get his issue addressed inside the organization, he may be motivated to go outside the organization. Not good.

  5. HR can’t keep a confidence.
    It’s an open secret at the company that HR is full of gossip mongers and other untrustworthy types that no one in his right mind would ever entrust to keep a secret.

    SOLUTION:
    It may actually be time to clean house.
    Oh man, this is bad. An HR professional who blabs employee business simply may be unsuited to the job. This is HR 101.

Yes, there are many ways for your HR department to get it wrong. But, there are many ways to get things right, too. Turning your department’s reputation around might be a matter of new talent, improved talent, more support from you, or a combination of the above. But whatever it takes, it’s worth it.

Like I said. Awesome.

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22 Comments

  1. 22 Ann 25 Nov
    With 30 years as a general counsel, an HRO and now as the president of a multi-billiion dollar revenue company, I can tell you that people should look closely at these criticisms. They smack of "pink collar" mentality. Women still dominate the function and this type of insidious discrimination has existed and continues to exist.. I fought hard to eradicate these stereotypes and after 30 years it is sad to see that "Payscale.com" would put out such inflamatory and unsubstantiated stereotype of the function that is their lifeblood. Shame on you. Please remove me from your mailing list.
  2. 21 Bob 13 Nov
    How about the fear and toxic blame culture a poor hr dept can cause, I work in local government and started 12 months ago confident highly qualified and skilled, now I'm no longer confident, under utilised, depressed and at times suicidal
  3. 20 SR 04 Sep
    I have to say HR is the only function I ever hear being so publicly critical of it's own role and value in business. Having built and turned around several global HR functions over the last 25 years it really is not so difficult. Hire good people, get them focused on the right things, build business support, get the level of resourcing right and DELIVER. Each time it has worked. The pivotal question is whether the business want an effective HR capability, as some of the comments above suggest, if there support is not in place, every effective HR action will result in an equal and opposite reaction from the business. It can become a game for them just to undermine HR in order to avoid being confronted by their own need to change. The culture of self criticism and reflection that seems endemic in HR is not so evident elsewhere in other functions, and I don't think it is always helpful, it tends to underline the belief that the function is overly reflective, soft, irrelevant and not at all commercial. Take heart - the potential in our function is the greatest of all the specialisms, we are still in our infancy though.
  4. 19 IWI 23 Jul
    At the heart of every successful business is HR.... I feel sad after reading this surely every CEO/CFO knows that people are the emotional, inspirational and sometimes the confrontational.
  5. 18 Andrea 22 Jul

    This article really saddens me. What HR departments do these people in question work for and in what roles? I agree with some of the above comments that change needs to be driven and that support needs to come from the top, but if you're making financial errors that are impacting employees and the organization overall, providing misinformation on basic laws, and pushing initiatives that are valueless, then this is how your department is going to be viewed and treated. In order to be respected, you must earn respect, and that comes from within.

  6. 17 Mark 01 Jul

    Unfortunately, as an HR professional with 15 years experience, I have seen time and time again the bureaucracy that exists within the HR department, especially for HR candidates. For some reason HR hires to the level of their own mediocrity. HR is one of the departments that is most threatened by hiring top talent. They are also the department most likely to operate in silos. We know that only an integrated HR function can deliver outstanding services, yet, they still won't do it. 

  7. 16 Mark 01 Jul

    Unfortunately, as an HR professional with 15 years experience, I have seen time and time again the bureaucracy that exists within the HR department, especially for HR candidates. For some reason HR hires to the level of their own mediocrity. HR is one of the departments that is most threatened by hiring top talent. They are also the department most likely to operate in silos. We know that only an integrated HR function can deliver outstanding services, yet, they still won't do it. 

     

  8. 15 Mark 01 Jul

    Unfortunately, as an HR professional with 15 years experience, I have seen time and time again the bureaucracy that exists within the HR department, especially for HR candidates. For some reason HR hires to the level of their own mediocrity. HR is one of the departments that is most threatened by hiring top talent. They are also the department most likely to operate in silos. We know that only an integrated HR function can deliver outstanding services, yet, they still won't do it. 

     

  9. 14 Mike 28 Apr

    Cynthia on march 20th hit the target.

    We need power from the top to drive change.

  10. 13 Stan 20 Mar
    what was discussed under closed doors and what needs to be shared to employees are what hr is being blamed for...so i agree come up with articles as well for CEO/COO/CFOs to understand and utilize properly their hr...again...given the opportunity... hr has big potential to make the company better place for everyone..
  11. 12 Cynthia 20 Mar
    There should be more articles about CEO's ability to correctly function in the new business model, and understand and embrace HR as an instrumental partner.  I'm tired of hearing how HR needs to step it up, when we are inundated with more responsibilities than most other Execs (eg: Purchasing, Sales, Project Mgrs only responsible for their area _ HR you name it we have responsibility for it, safety, hiring, terms, legal, ee relations, benefits, discipline etc. all company wide) and unable to effect change because CEO's don't want us to ruffle any feathers, won't hold others accountable, poo poo any ideas from HR because we are "party planners" even if you have the data, the numbers and the ROI. 
  12. 11 Maria 20 Mar
    It cannot be explained better than this, so true.
  13. 10 Crystal Spraggins 19 Mar

    "...there remains so much opportunity available for great HR!"

    Yes, indeed! My wish is that more CEOs/COOs/CFOs would realize that!

  14. 9 Crystal Spraggins 19 Mar

    @Joe. Lol. 

    Yeah, that's a tough one. I'd have to speak with you personally to strategize about that. (Seriously, you can call me.) 

  15. 8 Crystal Spraggins 19 Mar

    @RJC. I know, it sucks. I just want to say to management, "Don't do that!!" It's a waste and, as you say, makes it hard for those of us who love this profession--and I do love it!

  16. 7 Crystal Spraggins 19 Mar

    @Sandy. I agree. I've said more than once that leadership gets the HR department it deserves. What I'd like to encourage with this article, however, is for more leaders to see the potential in their HR departments, because that's to everyone's advantage.

  17. 6 Crystal Spraggins 19 Mar

    "Most people, HR or otherwise, have quite a bit to say and offer, and are just waiting to be asked!"

    Amen to that!

  18. 5 GSM 19 Mar
    I agree wth everything in this article.  Having been an HR professional for 30+ years I have seen this coin from both sides - the company executive with a seat in the C-Suite and from the up-and-coming HR person.  I can tell you that if management doesn't want to embrace change, even when it is the law, and they actually want to keep HR in the corner so they aren't being told they should stop doing something, it makes it tough for HR.  Maybe there is a reason they have retreated to their "cube farm".  But the best HR folks are those who truly want to see employees grow and develop, and who actually take an interest in the business.  If they don't, then invite (demand) that they spend a week shadowing other dept managers or employees to get a taste of the real world.  Most people, HR or otherwise, have quite a bit to say and offer, and are just waiting to be asked!
  19. 4 Sandy 19 Mar

    I get so frustrated with these types of articles about why HR is ineffective, Why CEO's "hate" HR, etc. etc. As business leaders, these HR departments are a reflection of the roads being built by the company, not necessarily the lack of talent or oversight of HRP's. It screams: "Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way.

  20. 3 R.J.C. 19 Mar
    Interesting article.  However when your organization is one that (A) is not willing or able to invest any resources into HR, (B) puts a manager in place with NO previous HR knowledge because they don't know what else to do with him, and (C) rewards their HR professionals who flirt with those in power and/or "play the game" really well, it makes it very difficult for those of us who truly love what we do to do it well and with the passion it deserves.
  21. 2 Joe 19 Mar
    This is a good article overall and some useful stuff for my particular company.  However, the solution to number 4 is like telling a rock to run.  How does HR give itself more juice?  I'd love to inject some juice but when the "client drives the business" and that dreadful manager gets things done for the client who loves them... Good luck HR.  Here's a box of tissues.
  22. 1 Don Phin 19 Mar
    Great article and oh so true. As with any role in a company there are
    those who want to be excellent and then there are those who want to be
    comfortable. Unfortunately you can't be both. This type of HR exec may
    be limited in their abilities to address these opportunities either due
    to a lack of experience, skills or motivation. While you can invite
    folks to step up to the plate they may not have the ability to do so. In
    my experience it is the rare HR executive who lives up to the standard
    set forth in this article...which is exactly why there remains so much
    opportunity available for great HR!

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