IT Employment

Poll: Is HR an advocate for the employee?

Is the function of the Human Resources department in your company just to coordinate insurance benefits or do you feel it's an advocate for you?

The role of corporate HR varies by company. In some companies, HR is merely a department that handles medical benefits, 401k paperwork and helps in making new hires. In others, HR is instrumental in retaining and promoting top talent.

But is HR an advocate for the employee? If the feedback I'm getting from my readers is any indication, it is not. I've heard from staffers who say that HR is there to serve and protect the needs of management and make sure the company has what it needs to be profitable.

Many readers have reported that they do not get satisfactory results when they finally go to HR about an issue in the workplace. In fact, a couple of people have reported feeling "punished" in some way after having gone to HR.

So let's take an informal poll and see what the overall feeling about HR is among our audience:

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

46 comments
RevGrizz
RevGrizz

I am management & I can tell you that it DOES NOT do anything for hourly employees. in fact, it is used by most management to do the 'dirty work' like keeping files on individuals & building a case to back up termination. where my wife works, if a person goes to HR to file a complaint, by the time they get back to their work area, their manager had already been notifyed about the person's visit to HR. then retaliation is usually the result.

AV .
AV .

Employees don't matter. We're all replaceable resources, not human beings. HR wasn't like that when I started working 40 years ago. Back then, companies realized the value in retaining good people. They offered career paths. Today, companies don't care. They just want a warm body. I always try to keep that in mind when they ask me to "go the extra mile." If a company has that attitude, I'm not going to give them my best. It isn't worth the effort. They're replaceable too. AV

jeff.allen
jeff.allen

I don't think it was ever set up to be an employees' advocate. Their task is to provide workers to get a job done. If those workers turn out to be "troublesome" in some way, then their task is to "make it go away" and to again, provide workers to do a job. There's nothing in their goals about helping workers. If you have an issue, approach your line manager. If they can't or wont help (and most will, by the way), go to your Union.

queensmum42
queensmum42

Unfortunately, in a government postition, HR has little or nothing to do with making my life as an employee any easier. Rather than advocate and recognize hard work, they spend their time finding ways to deny recognizing anything that resembles going above and beyond. Even then, there are no opportunities for advancement if your name isn't on a hiring list that you have to take a test to get on. Too bad you've spent all your time on that cost analysis we're using, you're still just the office assistant. Our HR people also organize quarterly employee recognition events that only thinly veil management's contempt for the people who actually work. I have ceased to participate, partly because even if I am just the office assistant, I have this cost analysis to finish; but also because the "team feeling" they're trying to promote is decidedly unappealing - I can look stupid anywhere, I'd rather not do it at work.

webwonk49
webwonk49

No, they are there to confuse, obfuscate and grease the rails on the fast skid towards the back door...

mjd420nova
mjd420nova

HR is sometimes tasked with being the go between for the union and its members and the company. Too often the HR person has their own agendas and is biased in its own way.

cgiefer
cgiefer

I have had co-workers tell me that they have been specifcally told by HR that HR supports management only, not the employee.

esalkin
esalkin

Who pays HR? End of discussion.

MurphysLaww
MurphysLaww

They are in the pocket of management now, it appears. I was recently railroaded into a write-up specifically, it appears, to keep me from applying for jobs in other parts of the company as my Technical certification grew. This was simply because it kept me on probation for 6 months and stuck in my current position. It was actually a quite creative machination, I was suitably impressed. Every person that had acquired the last cert I attained had left, so I guess they had to do something. All I could do during the write up was look on incredulously.

clhooleygis1
clhooleygis1

Not only is HR not an advocate for the employee they are an advocate for the company they work for. I have seen this time and time again. HR will not help the employee they do what the company and or the senior management wants. This is really unfortunate, but true.

Barshalom
Barshalom

Take a look at a Real estate agent. Are they an advocate for the buyer or the seller? The seller of course. The same with HR. They are an advocate for the business that employs them. Should this be any different from any other employee? No, every employee should be an advocate of the business that employs them. The best interest of the company/organization is what HR is there to do. Are you all surprised by this?

mbell
mbell

HR is the agent used to mete out what mANAGEMENT decides about things and to generally make sure that employees keep their heads down.

ApplSecurityGeek
ApplSecurityGeek

The HR leadership at our organization make their distrust of employees evident at every opportunity. For example, they remind us that "working from home", otherwise known for the past 20 years as "telecommuting," is not supported by Company policy. However, when the offices were shut down after a natural disaster, we were all "strongly encouraged" to work from home if we had power. Evidently "working from home" is fine when the Company is desparate. They see no irony in encouraging us to make one of our performance goals for the year to "reduce our energy consumption" and still not allow us to work from home, even one day a week. And yet somehow it is OK all the time for outsourced IT personnel to telecommute from overseas locations.... HR an advocate for employees? LOL

asics447
asics447

From what I have leanred and I never went to college but what I was told is HR is for the employeer to protect the company. Everytime my civil rights were violated and illegal practices were done it always came back on me and was my fault. THEY ARE THERE TO PROTECT THE COMPANY and I either quit or was fired

Charles Bundy
Charles Bundy

I worked with HR on a routine slew of Internet abuse investigations. As a manager my job is to look out for the best interests of the compnay, but in my view employees are the company! Silly me... I fought long and hard to try to get through to the HR manager that an employee wasn't abusing the Internet if they were using it to do their job (real estate). At the end of the day the HR manager was angry and accused me of sounding like "an advocate for the employee". Told her that was the nicest thing anyone had ever accused me of. She fired him anyway, but I believe he prevailed in civil court.

edh1215
edh1215

The name of the department says it all. We are only resources to the company and that's what we are treated like. HR is basically there to help the company fire you. They know the legal crap to help the company let you go. SO, going to HR with "problems" or "concerns" only gets you in trouble.

HLecter
HLecter

No, HR is not an advocate for the employee. Just thinking about HR makes me sick to my stomach. Thanks for ruining my breakfast :(

m@rcel
m@rcel

No they do what their boss tells them to do. Which means use as little money as possible for the employees. They are no use to anyone(except the boss).

VDA Enterprises
VDA Enterprises

Everyone here has already stated the oh so obvious VERY clearly! "HR treats employees as a resource to be used, rather than human beings", "HR exists to protect the employer", etc. ad nauseum. In fact, helping a friend with problems of workplace bullying where HR is instrumental in helping employer fight back....this after helping my wife with SAME COMPANY a few months ago during which I had to quote labour law to them when they tried to mislead my wife on her rights regarding "emergency family leave". To put it plainly, HR personnel are generally the Nazi SS of the workplace...no offense to those new HR graduates with honest intentions who still wear rose-coloured glasses. It's just the reality...

andreswynter
andreswynter

Not in a million years!!! I've been on both sides employee and manager so take my word for it... A wolf in sheeps clothing......

smrutimandal
smrutimandal

Never. So, its better to spend time with your Reporting Manager in solving the issue. If he doesn't and you think HR would, you are wrong. Higher Management should make policies which give HR some authority on what the employee wants and at least some over stepping authority or at least equal with the manager. Otherwise they are just the Megaphone for the management. Absolutely of no use.

benmiller001
benmiller001

Your statement "In fact, a couple of people have reported feeling ?punished? in some way after having gone to HR." rings very true. I lost my job after reporting a "toxic manager". Somehow, this person found out and set me up for failure at every opportunity he had. HR didn't see or wouldn't see the pattern. My job was eventually eliminated and my responsibilities were taken over by two newly created internal hire positions.

HypnoToad72
HypnoToad72

union is an advocate for the employee. Not many of them these days. They've been said to have outlived their usefulness, are not needed, cost too much, blah blah blah. (Note: Somebody was wrong when they said that...)

oldbaritone
oldbaritone

HR's job is to be an advocate for the COMPANY. The employee is secondary, and viewed in the capacity of a necessary evil that requires upkeep, maintenance and ongoing monitoring.

angiek
angiek

HR is about protecting the company and its management/executives. HR ensures enough warm bodies are provided when the company needs them. HR ensures the warm bodies are disposed of safely with little or no exposure on the company when they are no longer needed. When HR has the appearance of a protector, e.g. making strong public statements about supporting whistleblowers, etc... the real goal is to protect the company from additional, more serious litigation. I've been involved in several incidents personally and observed many more as a spectator where employees that approach HR in confidence end up being singled out quickly by their unit managers. I've also seen a newly hired manager (harvard MBA no less) who would spend days looking for a corner in a circular room protected by HR and top performing employees told to find another team when the employees file grievances with HR about the manager incompetence and inability make decisions. Employees are faceless resources to be managed by HR departments that report to and advocate for company management.

abc123a
abc123a

HR has only one single function. Keep the employer out of court.

flhri05
flhri05

No.. HR is a quasi- intelligent police force that is a contradiction of existence and was created or evolved to protect the interests of most public corporations. HRs? fa?ade pretends to support the laws of the land and individual constitutional rights by holding seminars and required yearly presentation subjects on diversity and discrimination guidelines. Employees are comforted by the responsible position the corporation holds on its valuable resources, and HR has the corporations ass covered for any lawsuits or bad publicity for stockholders an investors. HR supports executive decisions to create more success of the corporation by supporting resource actions to cut costs that find legal terminology to displace as many employees needed to increase profitability without attracting a lawsuit and public misconceptions.

SheltieJim
SheltieJim

The very name of the department, "Human Resources", is a dead giveaway of its true purpose. Back when the department was called "Personnel", there was at least some lip service given to the notion that persons (i.e., living human beings) were involved in the company's activities. But the name change merely cemented what was becoming de facto truth: that humans are merely another kind of resource to be exploited and they are viewed by most senior management as fungible as grain or microchips.

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

If there is ever a time where HR appears to be advocating for you, it is really just the company's interest in you that they are advocating for.

jck
jck

In most organizations, HR seems to be a mix between risk mitigation and legal when it comes to employee-oriented factors. I know that where I work, one-quarter of the HR staff is "risk management". Essentially, these are people who dictate how you handle issues that arise in the workplace as well as making policies for how situations are to be dealt with. And to be honest? If I had less than a 100% solid legal case about something in the workplace, I would not go to HR with it. I know that within hours, the circumstances would be out amongst my co-workers. How do I know this? Because, I have heard detailed information about "investigations" and "pending decisions" that I should not have been privileged to know. Plus, HR really doesn't protect an employee from retaliation. They do "the best they can" and then if someone in management figures out how to harass or annoy or ridicule someone into quitting, they do. That's why I leave a job where work conditions are not good instead of going to HR to resolve the problem.

zefficace
zefficace

As a lawyer in Quebec, I've seen on many occasion cases where HR did mislead the employee on specific questions. If the misleading was willful or not, it isn't the main question. The main question is the presence of a conflict of interest. HR is a direct organ of the company and therefore has for primary goal of serving the company with a specific mandate. A problem that an employee has will be treated by HR as if it is a constituting part of the company, not a "friend of the employee". Even if the problem was properly managed, to the satisfaction of all parties, there is still a conflict of interest. The risk of receiving bad counsel from HR is very high at all times due to that very conflict of interest. Whether is was made out of bad faith or not really doesn't come in to the equation but to compound the original problem. Employee favorable counsel, or independent counsel would be better for the simple lack of conflict of interest. I'm not saying that all HR depts. are bad, just that conflict of interest will screw with what you do and often move you away from the truth.

AV .
AV .

HR is NOT an advocate for the employee. You're better off not saying anything. I don't think its fair at all. HR only represents the company. Where is the employee representation? I've seen what you're talking about many times when I worked in Corporate America. Its just unfair, because its very stealthy. Someone decided that you should be fired because . . . and then you are. AV

Tommy S.
Tommy S.

...to me more accurate. The SS are more likely the middle management.

TheProfessorDan
TheProfessorDan

The HR department where I work does a lot for it's employees, of course we are 66% union which is the real advocate for the employees.

oldbaritone
oldbaritone

angiek, your story made me chuckle In March, we had a company-wide "happy session" where a consultant was brought in to talk about how we were going to "work together" for "customer service excellence" We were asked "Is there anything you need to do your job better? We're making a concentrated effort to be sure everyone has everything they need to do their job." I mentioned a piece of equipment to my supervisor. The equipment was ordered and promptly delivered. And it's still in the box, sitting on the supervisor's floor. It's a pretty-expensive door stop. And HR doesn't have a clue. Neither does the manager who walks past that door stop every day.

iShango
iShango

I have had direct dealings with our HR and their main task seems to be mitigating the company's exposure to risk of personal grievance proceedings. They comply with legislative requirements as employers but they are NOT employee advocates and the only way to get one is pay a specialist lawyer or join a Union. Can I come and work with you?

ian
ian

Of course the only advocate for the employee is the Trade Union. But in a well run unionised company HR will have good relations with both management and unions and can often act as a helpful intermediary. Where there is no union HR will always take the management side.

jeff.allen
jeff.allen

Perhaps I have misunderstood. If you need the piece of kit and it is delivered, why not start using it? Oh, and my feelings about this? "HR" stands for Hiring and Redundancies... If you have an issue, DON'T approach HR. You WILL be singled out - in some way or another, for derision and stagnation. How do I know? I had occasion to approach HR. The result? a 5-year wage freeze...

jck
jck

Sounds like where I work. Of course, HR here says they want to make this a place where people are comfortable and that they deal with all infractions of the code, and instruct their management to be intolerant of violations. Of course, almost every week I will hear either my boss or his secretary swearing out loud, one of the sub-managers talking sexual innuendo to a male co-worker, etc. I swear if I was a very religious person, I could have sued the first month I was here and be retired. Maybe I can find Jesus this Sunday, and be rich before June. :^0

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

place, or you misunderstood it mate. You do not want to go anywhere near HR at a big firm.

TheProfessorDan
TheProfessorDan

I do agree that generally HR has the companies best interest in mind.

BubbaGlock
BubbaGlock

Although Jesus is the way to go, as far as workplace rights, Christians have none and are not protected. Yet if you are Muslim, you could sue and retire.

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