Understanding Workplace Politics: HR Is Not Your Friend

Here is part 3 in our series on understanding workplace politics. The dreaded entity that is HR.

As I wrote in an older take for men on the job Advice for Guys: Avoiding A Sexual Harassment Case , one of the biggest mistakes people make about HR is believing that it’s there to help them. HR’s purpose is to protect a company from liability and lawsuits. It is not about helping you like it appears to be, and is actually one of the most useless and corrupt entities in the employment world. Does this mean HR never does anything right or solves problems? No, but more often than not people don’t get the resolution they’re looking for.

Understanding Workplace Politics: HR Is Not Your Friend

HR doesn't operate based on what's right or wrong

If you have a workplace dispute, HR will not do much if the person you’re complaining about is valuable, dangerous, or both. And this goes for both men and women, and both need to understand this. So what do I mean?

If you are a female who experienced misconduct from a male employee that isn’t directly sexually threatening but is annoying to you in some form of harassment, HR will only discipline or terminate that guy if he’s not particularly valuable or dangerous to the company. But if he’s been a successful manager, etc., very knowledgeable, has a great track record for bringing the company significant profits, business, and improvements, almost nothing will be done about him. HR will give him a slap on the wrist or he may be put on temporary administrative leave, but he’ll keep his job. Both the valuable and less valuable employees did the same wrong, but HR picks and chooses which one to keep.

Understanding Workplace Politics: HR Is Not Your Friend

The reverse also applies for men: if you are experiencing difficulty with a female who is known for being malicious or troublesome, HR will only help you if she is not particularly valuable or dangerous. But if she’s been successful for the company’s image, a ball player to bring in money, has had sex with people, or even a relationship with someone in the company, or she knows a lot of dirt that she can blow the whistle for, HR will also do nothing about her either.

Another reason situations can go like this is because an employee's manager can go to bat for them with HR. They can defend that person to HR first before HR starts doing their part. Sometimes this is a good thing, especially if you really were innocent in a situation and you have a good relationship with your manager. And other times it's bad if the manager wants to keep the bad guy/girl around because they're great for the company or having sex or a relationship with them.

Be careful getting into your own situations

I'm sure I don't have to tell you this, but a little reminder doesn't hurt. You want to be careful of what you do at work because there are times where HR can be investigating you and you don't even know it. This will usually happen if you've gotten into a particular situation more than once, and this investigation can last for weeks or even months. HR is also incredibly good at playing mind games with you, and it will work if you're not very perceptive and unprepared. They will play the game in a way to get you to say something about what happened so that they don't have to ask you based on what information was given to them.

Understanding Workplace Politics: HR Is Not Your Friend

Ultimately, HR is not the helpful friend many people believe it to be. In fact they actually don't want to hear your cries most of the time, and will just ask you if you tried resolving it with that person and/or your manager first. But they're not realizing that most people don't try to because they fear retaliation from that person, or fear that they are going to say you were the one being confrontational with them, which will then get you in trouble. Sick minds exist all over the workplace, and unfortunately you will never escape them.

An unfortunate truth is that if you are just another ant on the hill at work, HR is unlikely to do much about your concerns. And even less so if you have a history of being problematic yourself. Jobs think with money, not morals. They see with dollars, not doing what’s right.

This ends our third Take in the workplace politics series. Next up: dealing with managers, and this one you won't want to miss. Stay tuned.

Understanding Workplace Politics: HR Is Not Your Friend
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