Is the Human Resources Department a Joke?

I got this lovely comment on an article about how to treat your employees better:

The human resources department is an absolute joke. Do you realize, that if it weren’t for all the people that you trash talk about, you wouldn’t have a job??? If this were a perfect society, there would be no need for useless women like you. I wish businesses didn’t have to waste money on the HR position, which by the way, the only reason it’s always women, is because The only thing they are good at is being bossy, back stabbing, shady morons.

Thanks, Jim! I love a great comment. My favorite part is why you bothered to click on a blog titled “Evil HR Lady” if you hate HR so much. Maybe the evil part drew you in–and you were hoping this would be a place for stories about horrible HR people.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. There are certainly horrible, awful, HR people. There are HR people who gossip. There are HR people who are bossy and backstabbing and shady morons. Absolutely. But, let’s be honest (shall we, Jim?). There are Finance people who are awful, backstabbing, shady, gossiping morons. There are Marketing people who are awful, backstabbing, shady, gossiping morons. There are food service workers who are awful, backstabbing, shady, gossiping morons. You might get the picture.

Some of the things HR gets blamed for, HR has no real power over. Let’s talk raises. “That horrible HR person won’t let me have a raise!” Well, who sets the budget for raises? Finance. Who determines how that budget is spent? Your boss and your boss’s boss. Who gets blamed? HR. Yeah! Blame.

For the record, I point out bad HR when I see it. But, because there are some bad HR  people doesn’t mean all HR people are bad. I mean, we’re not politicians.

You want to know why there are so many HR people? First of all, there’s all sorts of government regulations that someone has to keep track of and make sure that the company is compliance.  You’ve got affirmative action, FMLA, ADA, health insurance and a zillion other things that your HR department handles behind the scenes.

Second, you need someone to handle the recruiting. It’s not feasible to have every manager handle all recruiting by themselves. You need someone to handle that. It’s not just the act of getting new people in the office, it’s knowing how to find and persuade the right people to join the company. It’s knowing how to seek out specific skills in inch thick stacks of resumes. It’s knowing about people.

But, the real reason you need HR people? Because of people like you who have refused to leave Jr. High. You need HR because people don’t always do their jobs. You need HR to handle disciplinary procedures because John can’t be bothered to show up to his meetings and Sarah can’t bother to do her work. You need HR to tell Kate that she needs to shower regularly and Jose that he needs to wash his hands after he goes to the bathroom. You need HR to tell Harold to keep his hands to himself and Carol that someone’s compliment on her outfit wasn’t sexual harassment.

You need Human Resources because companies employ humans. And humans are deeply flawed. You need help with that. And that’s not just a general you. It’s a specific you. Jim, you need someone to help you learn how to be a good employee, because right now, you don’t know.

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59 thoughts on “Is the Human Resources Department a Joke?

  1. I think Jim’s problem it’s not only with HR, but with women. I would worry for the women in his family and friend circle. They must fell quite bad when he’s around.

      1. Haha he’s kind of right though. HR is usually useless. They don’t see what really goes on and are so brainwashed with company loyalty.

  2. Susan,

    In my humble experience, most of the HR people I’ve ever dealt with have been truly great. When I was laid off by a horrible, awful boss it was the HR person who was able to extend me 3 months time/3 months salary/3 months medical benefits, even though horrible awful boss made those three months a living hell.

    When I needed to put a worker on a PIP, HR helped craft a plan based on successes and guess what? The employee succeeded and for many years now has been awesome. It was a case or round peg/square hole and until the plan was mutually and properly crafted we didn’t know this.

    When I had a long-term family emergency it was HR who worked out a way that I didn’t need to come into the office at all for two weeks and didn’t need to take any time off either. No FMLA, no short-term anything, they just somehow made it work.

    Now please don’t get me started on those bloggers. They are the real evil ones.

    1. Well, HR bloggers are, as a rule, more evil than those who don’t blog. That’s a given.

      There are lots of great HR people. I’ve worked with lots of them.

  3. Nothing like a letter from “Jim” to get your creative juices flowing. I would have loved to see all of your draft responses before finalizing this piece of excellence. Loved your passionate response! Keep them coming.

  4. By the way–not all HR “women” are women. I have been successfully working in HR for 20 years.

  5. Oh Jim, come into my office and have a sit. Tea? Coffee? Water? It seems as if you have had a bad experience or two with HR folks, which is absolutely a thing. I got into HR for two reasons. First, as a child, I listened to the stories my mother brought home from work that included a serial sexual harasser for a boss. He not only hired women into positions for their physical attributes, he would also use his position for, let’s say, gratification of certain biological imperatives there were better left out of the workplace. Here’s the thing, HR in those days existed as Personnel and, even though the majority of the employment laws we have today were in place then, were not enforced. So, HR grew out of the need for order in a world where people were mistreated at work, and not just women but people of color . . . basically anyone different from those in charge. And secondly, my mother was single for a good portion of my childhood and had quite a few barriers put up to not just do her job but to care for my sister and me. As an HR professional, and yes I’ve studied it, have two degrees in it, and have one certification, now I’m working on my second, I can tell you that we are not all shady, bossy morons.
    Little kids do not grow up wanting to be in HR, many of us come to it through a circuitous route. But I have found that the majority of us in the profession want to do right by our employees; that’s the reason we’re here. We are here to make sure that we can act as a buffer between management and employees. While the interests of one do not always intersect with the other, quite often they do. But in those instances where they don’t, we aren’t sitting back trying to formulate the next evil plan, we are trying to figure out how to align the needs of the many with the needs of the few or the one. My purpose is to remove barriers (problems with insurance, with other employees, just to name a few) so that my employees can go about their day and be successful.

    1. I agree with you. Most get into HR because they want to help people. Sometimes we get cynical, but most of us desperately want to do the right thing and we often get push back from others on the the management team.

  6. “You need HR to tell Kate that she needs to shower regularly and Jose that he needs to wash his hands after he goes to the bathroom.” – The struggle is so, so real. Thank you for pointing out all of the things HR has to deal with behind the scenes to make work bearable for everyone else. I pity the HR person (obviously a woman, of course) that has to deal with Jim!

  7. Love your reply. Hate that you had to reply to this misogynist moron. My least favorite HR person of all time was a guy. (Jason C – you!) He was not evil, just spineless. I dealt with a wonderful HR person yesterday. I was interviewing and she put me at ease instantly- magical, professional, wonderful lady. I bet “Jim” is a ray of sunshine. Keep applying SPF 30!

  8. The comments of Jim on 2/13/2015 express emotions and opinions shared by many employees in many places and you responded articulately and professionally to defend the HR function. I will say, though, that with 15 years as an HR Manager and many others in management roles outside of HR, I can honestly say that a gossipy HR person can be the single most devastating employee a company employs. A person of that nature can truly undermine the work of many others in the role at a company. I’m uncertain of Jim’s specific experience, but I will acknowledge that an interaction with an unprofessional HR person can turn more than one person at a company against the department.

  9. Yeah Jim sounds like an idiot, great response to him. There are 10% of this world that are idiots (i’m being conservative), these are the same idiots that are unemployed and cannot for the life of them understand why they can’t get a job…oh and they blame the economy or the president or whatever the flavor of the day is, when in fact they are unhireable because they are just plainly bad employees and people do not want to hire them.

  10. I heart you EHRL! Such an awesome response to Jim. I agree that he certainly has an issue with women. Kathy the only thing worse than a gossipy, malicious HR person is “upper” HR Management that will not allow middle HR management to address the problem because they are afraid the gossipy malicious person will pull the race card. Caused me to leave one of the best jobs I ever had, at least it was until this “upper” HR manager became my boss.

    1. True! People forget that HR is NEVER the boss. If you have a horrible HR person, the Senior Mgmt team is allowing that.

  11. Best post ever! The exchange only bolsters the need for HR. I picture a dropping of a mic, too. 🙂

  12. AMEN! We also get to deal with every issue that no one else in management wants to handle, like cleaning up after yourself in the lunch room and leaving a few drops of coffee to burn up in the bottom of the pot. A lot of the employees here are refugees; my boss actually had to teach them what toilet paper is and how to use it. If, however, Jim wants to take on all these things and the myriad others you mentioned, he would be more than welcome to do so.

  13. This is such a great post. Jim’s post is sorta self-explanatory – no need to comment on that. Your post is great. As the finance, HR, admin, marketing, etc, etc, etc person at my office, I get blamed for everything. It’s excellent. But the part of HR that I do very poorly (and really appreciate HR people for) is the legal part. I greatly respect your ability to keep current on all the little laws that we need in a human society (where people like Jim sexually harass every woman he lays eyes on). And the fact that there are eligibility requirements written into 401k ‘s, medical insurance and life insurance that I totally didn’t think about in my wildest dreams! Anyway, I really, really respect those of you who do it right, and Suzanne, where do I start? Not only do you keep me on top of things with your blog, you answer my stupid questions for free via email You’re the best!!!!!!!

  14. Will you be my valentine? This is incredible.

    I like to think of HR as a “thankless” position. No one has a clue what we do, unless something goes wrong – like you said, most of the time out of our control. And I agree with Beth – these kind of comments are what we need sometimes to get a day-brightening post from creative individuals like yourself.

  15. My manager, two other managers, and I are working with one of our HR GUYs to reclassify a position so the incumbent can get paid what his work is worth. About half our HR department is male.

    That said, in 40 years working for assorted governments, I have yet to meet the elusive white male EEO Officer.

  16. Love this and your comment to him. I hope to be an Evil HR Lady just like you one day!! Love your blog and the information you help us think more about.

  17. Just to join the chorus. The HR team walked with me through a year and half PIP. I wish I could say the employee improved and is now an essential member of our team. Step-by-step they assured me that I was going in the right direction. EHL was also there keeping me sane through an insane experience.

    1. You need to write a book. Seriously. A full book. Although, people who haven’t been through it won’t believe half of it.

  18. Evil HR Lady, there are definitely jerks in all departments, and knowing that a raging jerk works in business development or marketing is just as good a reason to not to work for Company A or Company B.

    While there are no shortages of rude hiring managers (like the one who drunkenly spouted a racial diatribe at me in a social situation with a common friend a week after an interview), HR is the most outward-facing department in most situations, so they are disproportionately known as being rude.

    I will always contend that companies should leverage their departmental managers to recruit staff and use HR to deal with internal ‘personnel’ issues, benefits, and payroll. Hiring, their outward-facing role, is just not suited to a department that lacks specialized sectoral industry knowledge.

  19. I’ve come to the conclusion that HR departments are like House Elves in Harry Potter. When they really work and are doing a good job you don’t really notice they’re there but when they’re not doing a good job they’re in everybody’s road.

    1. Ha, ha, Perfect analogy. Unfortunately, when everything is running smoothly, Finance says, “hey, we can cut our HR budget. We don’t have any problems.”

      1. “Hey, we can cut our budget. We don’t have any problems.”

        I work in IT an yep, true as well. It happens to all non-revenue generating departments. Finance rarely seems to appreciate the reason for a lack of problems and how much those problems can cost.

        For example: Previous employer didn’t want to incur the expense of a firewall (roughly $1,000.00) because ‘we didn’t have any problems’. One day, we did have a problem due to lack of said firewall. $150,000.00 in revenue went up in smoke while we cleaned up the network.

        For HR, I bet it would play out as an employment law violation along with a big fine and compensatory damages after eliminating a costly but much less expensive subject matter expert.

    2. I’m still upset that they cut the. House elf Winky out of the movie Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. She was my daughter’s and my favorite character in the book and we were so excited to see the movie to learn what the filmmakers would make her look like.

      Not even a single reference to her. *cry* Freed house elves have feelings you know.

  20. As an HR Director I enjoyed your comment. We do get blamed for a lot, and would get blamed for more if people realized the level of influence we have behind the scenes (at least in any role I have had). I will say one thing, though. We handle a lot of sensitive things, and anyone that can’t maintain that professional ethics that are required for our job should be fired. I have taken that action to move people out of my organization when they did not meet the standards that we need to meet. As an IT director I worked with says, certain roles have the keys to the kingdom (like a network administrator) and when that is used inappropriately, there is no fixing that.


  21. Great response, Evil HR Lady! HR all too often takes the blame when in most cases, they are simply the messenger!

  22. i know an HR manager who emailed a department manager saying how terrible an employee is. my point is why not confront the employee first rather than backstab the employee.

  23. One self-evident truth is that HR works for the company… that should be obvious to all. What makes their lies even more disgusting is when they walk around: 1) with an ear to ear grin as if looking like they are happy will make anyone trust them, 2) when they say stupid stuff like, “we loooove you.”

    An acquaintance of mine who is a CEO of a wireless company said, “They just aren’t real. They are like the robots from Westworld.”

    Bottom line is that they are a necessary evil not to be trusted. All companies should be unionized. That puts a bug in their bonnets.

  24. In my experience, all HR people are absolutely useless, but they sure do love to make themselves look important and indispensable to the company.

  25. Nice try. Everyone knows that HR [squids] are useless company [squids]. And yes, they are middle-aged women who don’t have any useful skills, so they end up “managing” (pushing around) people who are actually smart.

  26. OP Jim along with the Nadia who replied on August 12, 2016 is absolutely correct. He articulated it in a mediocre manner, but there is nothing factually false that he stated; HR is a useless department created by management to create favorite employees and find ways to discharge ones they don’t personally like.

  27. I agree that typically HR departments are useless and only exist to fill quotas pertaining to women in the work force. The biggest issue with creating these departments with no purpose is not the money paid out in salaries + benefits, but these positions get filled with people who are so completely incompetent and out of touch that they cause more harm than benefits. I’m not saying that HR staff are bad people but there’s a reason that people go into HR which is a department which requires no skills or knowledge of anything. It’s equivalent to companies hiring diversity officers in order to not be attacked publicly.

  28. HR SUCKS. They lie and have lied straight to people’s faces because they are anything but human and they offer even less resources. It’s 1984 where the Ministry of Love tortured people.

    1. Companies are like family; sometimes dysfunctional. At its best HR is Helpful and Resourceful, like mom! Sometimes mom tells you guys to shower regularly and you gals not wear miniskirts (yes, there’s a difference between an intern and a “skin-tern.”) At its worst, the acronym HR should be bookended by the letters WE with another round letter in the middle; it’s just there to please the MANagement.

  29. Jim sounds hateful but HR is a joke. Your comment of people dont leave jr high. Well sadly most places I have worked HR is the jr high click. They are worthless example, investigating water cooler talk or heresay is more important than dealing with violent employees or employees causing very visible issues…That is a major problem.

  30. At the end there you talk as though you are God, saying that humans are flawed and we HRs will take care of these stupid flawed humans.
    Talking about recruitment, yes you know exactly what person to select for a hardcore Engineering job because you have a PHD in Machine Design.

  31. I have yet to meet any HR personnel that were there to favor anyone but the company.

  32. HR is the most [squidlipping] useless department to be ever created in the world. HR is made up of nasty sloppy lazy [squidlips] who like to talk a lot but do nothing. Its mostly made up of old [squidlipped] ladies who are in their 70s and who don’t know ANYTHING about the job they are hiring for. Like seriously? You think an HR person who majored in [squidlipping squidlipped squidlippery] liberal arts or useless fucking art history in the old ass 1800s would be the best person to hire smart hardworking computer engineers or electrical engineers. All HR does is be little snotty brats to hard working employees while they sit there playing [squidlipping] useless games on their [squidlippy] phones and take naps all day. I hope the whole HR department becomes extinct one day. Companies are realizing how [squidlippy] of a department the [squidlipping] HR is. A lot of companies are doing away with those ugly [squidlipped] morons. [Squidlipped squidlip] people get paid to do absolute no [squidlipping squidlips]. A special place in hell is reserved just for the [squidlipped] HR people that scru up everyone’s lives every single day. Every single HR dumbass will lose their [squidlipping] piece of [squidlipped] job in the next decade. That’s a bet you evil [squidlipped]HR lady. [SQUIDLIP] HR AND [SQUIDLIP] DUMB [SQUIDLIPL] RECRUITERS.

    1. Wow! This one took a bit of time to edit. I haven’t used so many squidlips outside of an aquarium before.

      1. I love this post. And some of these people are just insane and must work with awful, “useless” HR people. I work as the staffing partner, some HR generalist work, and HR systems.

        So I wonder how the above thinks we can’t find a tough engineering person without having a PhD. I have a chemistry degree and recruit for the scientists at our company but also the senior director roles for a variety of departments. The managers screen for technical skills but these idiots commenting above don’t get that we know the culture and who will work and won’t work. I am praised by our CEO who loves that I am skilled at hiring people who share our mission and values.

        Also- all the systems that the employees use for vacation, benefits, bonus, specific access- guess who does that? HR. HR systems is very similar to an IT job and I am implementing and troubleshooting them constantly.

        Additionally, when it comes to adhering to all the federal and state laws (I’m in CA where you can be sued for anything), who should manage that? Jim the janitor or Nadia the entry level admin or Maggie above? Seems they know a lot about EEOC, ADA, FMLA, disability, workers comp when you all get hurt or need help to be with your family. Oh and benefits too – who gets those medical insurance costs down and researches and implements new programs such as tuition reimbursement and wellness programs to help their staff.. oh right it’s HR. I want even continue to go on as there’s a thousand other things I could list, but I feel truly sorry these people have had such bad HR experiences. I have met and worked with incompetent, cold and useless HR people- but to say it’s useless and we’re all useless in general is pretty disgusting.

        The next time one of your bosses mistreats you, an employee calls you a derogatory name, your spouse is dying of cancer and you need FMLA or help to care for them, you’d like better benefits, to go back to school, or anything else that the needy employees always gripe about-please keep in mind who is facilitating that for you. If your HR isn’t doing that, find another company to work for.

        Thanks EHRL! You’re my favorite to follow and always speak the truth!

  33. I love this page “Is the Human Resources Department a joke”.
    It is absolutely increasingly aligned to the current dynamic industrial scenario.

    It is the most sought when it comes to attrition during any downfall of the company may be due to any reason say global, regional etc

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