Sunday, September 16, 2007

Credibility and HR

The greatest mistake that can be made by Human Resources departments is to lose credibility.

Unfortunately, many HR professionals act as if they wish to do precisely that.

Among the credibility-destroying actions are:

  • Acting like a paralegal for management. The wise HR department will be an honest broker who will admit when management has made a mistake and will lobby to correct poor practices. HR people who become toadies quickly earn contempt.

  • Adopting a cynical attitude toward employees and their concerns. As an executive once remarked to me, "We don't have a personnel department. We have an anti-personnel department." Labeling some employees as whiners and troublemakers can result in a failure to listen when those individuals raise valid concerns.

  • Failing to keep up with important changes in the law. The HR people need to know when the attorneys are on target or are being overly cautious. There are many legal defense strategies that have terrible management repercussions.

  • Being too much of a cop instead of a consultant. There are times, of course, when conflict is appropriate but on most occasions HR should be an ally and not an adversary for the other departments.

  • Failing to keep employee confidences. Gossiping should be treated as a cardinal sin in any HR department. One instance of breached confidence can damage an HR department for years.

  • Focusing on turf instead of mission. HR departments that actively seek to prevent employees from getting management information from other sources only demonstrate their insecurity and limit the education of their workforce.

Much of the above can be encapsulated in a simple standard: It is more important to do right than be right. HR departments need the guts and insight to maintain that standard even if doing so means being willing to walk away from the job. An HR director who will do anything to hang onto a position has started to walk down a smooth and grassy path that leads to a very unpleasant place.


Scott D. McArthur said...

So true! I also get mad when people talk about HR Business Partners. So you don't really work for the business HR but we will partner with you!

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Great post. I love the phrase "paralegal for management."

Michael Wade said...

I'm glad you all liked it. It can be pretty frustrating to see the same problems surfacing over and over.