Dilemma of the Month: Bias in Human Resources

by Evil HR Lady on June 11, 2018

I am the chief financial officer for a 90-plus person firm and the head of human resources reports to me. Several employees have told me they feel uncomfortable going to the HR manager with complaints or concerns, because she’s really good friends with some of the people here and they’re afraid she’ll be biased. She does a good job otherwise, so I was thinking about outsourcing our employee relations arm. What do you think?

To read my answer, click here: Dilemma of the Month: Bias in Human Resources

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Mr Cautious June 11, 2018 at 3:15 pm

Basic issue: perceived conflict-of-interest. Can HR be strong friends with some employees, yet objective about their possible mistakes or flaws? Can managers be friends with some subordinates and yet objective?

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Goober June 11, 2018 at 5:49 pm

I’ve known people who could, and did, exactly that.

They’re few and far between. and live their lives in a minefield.

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Maria Rose June 11, 2018 at 7:47 pm

As most people are not saints, imperfect HR representatives need to acknowledge they can be biased in a job that requires total non-biased decisions. They would have to rely on evaluations which don’t use bias perceptions.

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Nacho June 11, 2018 at 9:00 pm

My manager goes to the gym with one of her direct reports after work. Coincidentally, that direct report has been getting a lot of opportunities for job growth that the rest of us haven’t. I know for a fact that one of them really was a coincidence, because she was explicitly asked for by another site to fly down and train them on new procedures, since she’d worked with them before. But because nobody told the rest of us that, it looked a whole lot like favoritism, and caused a lot of complaining when it happened.

If you’re going to be friends with a report, you have to be 120% transparent with every decision you make that benefits them in any way.

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Kristen June 12, 2018 at 9:38 pm

This perceived problem is exactly the reason I left the HR profession. The employees in any company are wary of HR to begin with, and those who aren’t friends (or friendly) with HR find this as further cause of suspicion of HR. In my own experience, I loved HR in almost every way – but the constant spotlight on my friendships was too much, because I enjoy making new connections and friendships, and found that it only increased scrutiny on me in an already-high-profile position. I’d rather make friends than be an HR manager. That decision is not the same for everyone, but I do think office friendships and being in HR are mutually exclusive and one should choose one or the other.

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Dorothy June 13, 2018 at 3:11 am

Whether she can be objective isn’t the point.

An HR manager must not only be unbiased, she must be SEEN to be unbiased. She needs not only to be professional; she must APPEAR professional.

And she should know this.

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